If I had to give 2017 a theme it would have to be cheap flights.
Thanks to having a base in Portugal, which made return flights a viable option for the first time in six years, I’ve been bashing out round-trips at incredibly inexpensive prices this year.
My flight to the U.S. was no different.
I try to visit the States at least once a year, because I adore how beautiful, diverse, and delicious the country is. I always fall harder and harder for the US with each visit, and after having an amazing music-themed road trip in 2016, I knew I wanted to knock out something just as special this year.
A jaunt up my long-standing favourites along the west coast – Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland – followed by my next big road trip: to see the fall foliage in New England. I’m going to be checking out Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island on a mega road trip, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Especially as I managed to score a flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles for a ridiculous $120.
I’m currently writing this post on that flight. Here’s a photo of my view over Iceland:
What I loved second-most about this flight, however, was that it was leaving from Copenhagen, a city that had been top of my wish list for a long time. I’d never been to Denmark before, and Copenhagen sounded like one of the cities I’d fall deeply in love with.
I immediately began making plans.
Walks around Tivoli Gardens, lazy afternoons sipping drinks and sunbathing in beer gardens, exploring Christiania, snapping photos of beautiful Nyhavn, and cycling around a city that looks absolutely stunning.
We touched down Copenhagen after a horrendously early start in Lisbon and I blinked.
It looked awful.
After exiting Central Station, I stared glumly up at the grey skies as a large raindrop splashed across my forehead.
And then another.
And then another.
“How far is our apartment from here?” I asked Dave.
“Wanna grab an Uber?”
We sought shelter beneath a coffee shop awning for several minutes until we discovered Uber wasn’t available in Copenhagen.
I scoured the streets in search of a taxi, but there were none in sight. Shivering, I wrapped my arms around myself and marched on the spot to keep warm.
Now is the perfect time to tell you that I had not prepared for rain on this trip. In fact, I was ridiculously under-prepared. I wasn’t travelling with an umbrella or a rain jacket, and the only sweaters I had were flimsy and thin. After six years of travel with very little rain, I’d grown complacent and assumed the forecasted bad weather wouldn’t come to fruition.
Such a great traveller.
With the deep grey clouds showing no sign of shifting, we decided to suck it up and walk to our Airbnb apartment.
I had a series of awful experiences with Airbnb last summer in Europe, and swore off it for good afterwards. It’s a decision that was validated when I moved to Portugal and saw the negative impact it’s having on the city — these days, it’s a city full of tourists, a city where you hear little Portuguese, a city where few locals can afford to live in the centre, a city where locals are being kicked out of apartments at alarming rates so landlords can put them on Airbnb, a city where it’s damn near impossible to find a long-term apartment in the centre of town without paying London-level prices. After experiencing the damage Airbnb causes first hand, I don’t feel comfortable contributing to it.
That why when I do decide to opt to stay in an Airbnb apartment (usually when hotels are prohibitively expensive), I opt to stay in a private room rather than renting out the entire place. That way, I’m staying with a family who actually lives there, and therefore not contributing to the slow removal of locals from their homes as people buy up more and more places solely to rent out on Airbnb.
Of course, that doesn’t negate many more of the annoying aspects of Airbnb, like co-ordinating our arrival. After 15 minutes of rushing through the rain, we arrived at the apartment and realised we had no idea which number apartment we were staying in in the block.
“This is why I hate Airbnb,” I muttered, as we frantically tried to get in touch with the owners to find out which buzzer we should press.
I think it’s safe to say our trip to Copenhagen wasn’t going quite how I’d planned.
Still, I’m British, and I’ve spent most of my life grimacing through torrential downpours in inappropriate clothing, so after a quick shower to warm up, I pulled on four t-shirts, a sweater, and a cap, and trudged outside in search of the Copenhagen I just knew I was about to fall in love with.
“Where do you want to go?” asked Dave.
“Nyhavn,” I answered without a moment’s hesitation. I’d been craving photographing the colourful waterfront in Copenhagen from the moment we’d booked our flights.
“Well, it’s a 45 minute walk…” he said.
“Awesome,” I said with a grin. “It’s barely even raining anymore.”
And it was true.
By the time we reached the glorious waterfront, I could almost tell you I was warm.
That is, until it started raining again.
I wasn’t deterred, however, and began braving the water with my camera and gazing skywards in awe. Nyhavn was beautiful even with grey skies and even while standing in soggy socks.
I made Dave walk up and down that street with me for half an hour as I grumbled about how grey skies made my photos ugly, and he consoled me by saying that at least they were better than the ones he was taking on his four-year-old phone.
“Where next?” Dave asked me.
I didn’t even need to think about my answer.
“I want to be disappointed by the little mermaid!” I cried out.
I’ve read enough blog posts about Copenhagen by this point to know that every single person who makes the effort to see this teeny-tiny statue has ended up wondering what all the fuss is about.
I wanted to be disappointed, too.
The Little Mermaid was a 20-minute trek from Nyhavn, and with the sky rapidly emptying itself on our faces, we ducked inside a nearby café to take shelter.
Once I’d shaken the rain from my hair, I squinted through waterlogged eyelashes at my warm surroundings and very nearly burst into happy tears.
This café? This café was so hygge.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed with all things hygge.
This Danish concept (pronounced hoo-guh) is essentially the concept of feeling cosy, and it’s usually associated with soft lighting, candles, cushions, intimate get-togethers with friends, board games, and blankets. It’s about enjoying the simple pleasures in life and being content with what you have. After throwing my all into creating a comforting sanctuary in my Lisbon apartment to keep my mental health under control, you could say I am all about that cosy life these days.
And this café was the cosiest café I’ve ever had the pleasure of randomly wandering into.
In front of us, a middle-aged couple was sinking into a pile of cushions, on the verge of dozing off. To the right, a twenty-something girl was wrapped up in scarves while reading a book and sipping tea. There were candles and cushions and soft lighting and I immediately began cancelling my plans to see the Little Mermaid.
I paid the equivalent of $6 for a lemon and ginger tea that was literally a teabag in a cup of boiling water (yes, Copenhagen really is expensive as hell) and settled beside a candle to warm up. I loved the interior of this cosy café and as I watched the rain pound the streets outside, I decided there was nowhere else I’d rather be.
But traveller’s guilt always finds a way of catching up to you. I had just 48 hours to see as much of the city as I could and I knew I didn’t want to spend it doing something I could easily do at home. After an hour of warming up, I dragged Dave back outside to check in with the Little Mermaid.
It was, as expected, a disappointment.
It was also, as expected, a poor decision for us to go.
From the moment we left our cosy sanctuary behind, the rain picked up, lashing against our shivering bodies. Copenhagen provided little respite from the storm, so we trudged onwards through the cold and wet, hoping that it’d be worth it in the end.
We took stood beneath a bridge for twenty minutes in foolish anticipation of the rain blowing over, but even if it had, I would have still been well and truly drenched. It was 12 degrees Celsius (53F) in the city, I was soaked through to the bone, and I had yet to spot a store that sold umbrellas or coats.
Still, at least we had an underwhelming statue of a mermaid all to ourselves.
For the first time in many years, my teeth began to knock against each other.
With resigned sighs, Dave and I flagged our sightseeing tour of Copenhagen, turned around and began the hour-long slog back to the apartment. By this point, we were far too wet to flag down a taxi and a bus would take just as long to get us back.
We continued to walk.
We made it half an hour before we ducked into a tiny restaurant in a desperate attempt to dry off.
Our waitress greeted us with a gasp. “Coffee?” she asked. “I think you’re more in need of some warmer clothes.”
She was correct.
Outside, it continued to pour, while inside, I continued to shiver. After singeing my arm hairs on a candle, I unsuccessfully attempted to use the hand dryer in the bathroom to dry my clothes.
For the next little while, Dave and I nursed our drinks in silence, too disheartened to make conversation and too cold to think. Our first day in Copenhagen had been a disaster, and the following day was set to be even wetter. I was in serious danger of falling in hate with the city I was so convinced I would love.
Back outside again, Dave and I were closing in on our apartment, on a hot shower, on a cosy bed… when I had what might have been my best idea ever.
“Man, how good would a steaming hot bowl of pho be right now?” I hinted to Dave, hoping he would detect the neediness in my voice.
Within seconds, he had his phone out and was researching whether there were any Vietnamese restaurants in our neighbourhood. To our delight, there was one a 10-minute walk away and it had amazing reviews. We turned on our heels and hurried in its direction.
And when we got there? I daresay it was the best (and most expensive) pho of my entire life.
What to Do When the Weather Threatens to Ruin Your Trip
You change your expectations.
Rather than moping around and complaining about how awful my trip to Copenhagen was, I woke up the following morning, erased my list of planned activities in the city, and decided to do something entirely different.
Obviously I went in search of hygge.
That day, I removed the internal pressure to check out the tourist activities I had left in Copenhagen, and instead decided to spend my day café-hopping around the hipster Vesterbro neighbourhood.
I took my Kindle with me, and spent the day sinking into cushions and reading while surrounded by flickering candles. By the time we were walking back to the train station — under brilliant blue skies, of course — I felt relaxed and rejuvenated, determined to return to Copenhagen at a sunnier time of year.
And sure, I didn’t have the trip I’d dreamed of, but I managed to make the absolute best of what the weather gods had chucked into my lap.
My Copenhagen Recommendations
We stayed in this Airbnb apartment in the super-cool Vesterbro neighbourhood. It wasn’t super well-located if you were keen to explore the tourist attractions in Copenhagen, but if you were there to café-hop, eat amazing food, and get your hipster on, it was perfect. The only downside was getting woken up at 7 a.m. by the owners getting their young children ready for school.
The cosy café near Nyhavn was Cafe Ermanno, and I highly recommend it if you’re keen for some cosiness in Copenhagen. It was expensive for what we had, but given its location, that wasn’t a huge surprise.
I had a delicious bowl of pho at Pho Hanoi. If you’re in Copenhagen and craving authentic Vietnamese, this is a great option. Expensive, of course (they charged $2.50 for tap water!) but delicious and comforting.
And, um, you should probably check the forecast before you arrive in Copenhagen. And if it says it’s going to rain, don’t shrug and assume it’ll probably clear up while you’re there.