Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Trials of Traveling - New York City to Copenhagen

Journey’s to JFK on a Friday night are tough.

Journey’s to JFK on a Friday night when you park at a random fried chicken joint in the ghetto of New York City makes for an interesting one.

Adam was coming from Ocean City, New Jersey and I was coming from work in Old Lyme, Connecticut.  We left at 3pm to make a 10pm flight for one big reason…. Interstate 95 to New York City on a Friday evening.  It's a two lane highway backed up with traffic for miles on end.  All it takes is one fender bender and you are missing your flight.  Living off 95 in Connecticut, we are all too familiar with this gave of bumper cars and knew we had to allow time for traffic and accidents.  We also needed extra time for parking and shuttling, long baggage check-in and security lines and finding our gate in a big airport.  Good thing we did because we hit a lot of traffic and ended up parking at the sketchiest parking lot I have ever seen.  

I gave Adam the address, advertised as a discount parking lot just outside the airport.  As we drove through a less than desirable neighborhood, I got my first call from Adam who cannot find said parking lot.  What he did find was a few guys sitting at a picnic table outside a fried chicken joint with a small makeshift sign that said “Park”.  

Now read this closely: You stop in the middle of a busy street where you leave your blinkers on and your car will sit for 15-20 minutes until someone takes it away to an unknown location.  It isn’t a parking lot, just some guys working out of a restaurant which I couldn't tell was even open for business.  We were told 20 minutes for a shuttle which turned out to be a mini van that could not fit us all.  After much complaining, we finally got in an unmarked van (1 hour later) and made the 10-minute drive to the airport. 

So, if you are looking for discount parking in New York, do not park at "Queens Discount Parking JFK Airport" in Jamaica New York. 

Danish Krone - DKK
Finally at the airport, those with luggage had to wait in a long baggage line to drop of their suitcases.  Because we had carry-ons only (I love my Chester carry-on, use code "kwanders10" for 10% off!) we had just enough time for a quick dinner of barely edible microwaved sandwiches (at the cost of $80 for three sandwiches and 1 beer) before taking a redeye on an awful airline (Norweigan which gave us so much trouble on our way back) from New York to Copenhagen Denmark. 

So for more don'ts:  Norweigan is like the budget Spirit airline of international travel.  You have to pay to pick your seat, for a bottle of water, and the carry on allotments are ridiculous.  More on this when we get to Paris. 

We battled insane traffic, left our cars at a chicken joint, endured long airport lines, consumed a barely edible overpriced meal and battled no sleep on a  budget redeye.  This my friends is what traveling really looks like sometimes.  And Copenhagen, we needed to be won. 

Copenhagen Central Station
We landed in Denmark about 11am their time (with the 7-hour flight and 6-hour time change) jet-lagged and in search of coffee.  We were planning on taking the train (most budget-friendly and generally easy option) and found the ticket machines (lined in a row in a corner) where we purchased seven one way tickets from the airport to Copenhagen Central Station.  

Traveling in foreign countries can be challenging and Copenhagen can be a little challenging.  Thankfully, there are a row of machines and a friendly steward there to help get you on the right train.  

Getting from the Airport to Downtown Copenhagen

The train station is located by terminal 3. You can take a free shuttle bus from terminal 1 to terminal 3, which will take 5 minutes.  The trains run every 10 minutes during the day and will get you to Copenhagen Central Station in about 13 minutes. During the night the trains run 1-3 times an hour.  You will need a ticket for three zones, which costs DKK 38 ($5.60 a person).

Citypass tickets can be bought at the ticket machines in terminal 3 just above the railway, and at the DSB ticket sales counter, also located in terminal 3. Please note that the machines only accept coins and all major credit cards, not notes.  On the machines, look for Kobenhavn City Center as your end destination.  I had a hard time trying to find the right track (comparing our tickets to the screens at the station) but eventually, we ended up showing our tickets to someone who sent us to the correct track.  From there, it was a 15-minute ride to Copenhagen City Center and a 10-minute walk to our hotel.  

Shop my dress on Amazon Here (only $27)

We were staying at Best Western Hotel Hebron, located just a few blocks from the train station and Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagens famous city center theme park.  Seven jet-lagged travelers walked into the hotel and only two of them received a room with air conditioning.   

The hotel was beautiful, with a lovely courtyard, a danish breakfast included, a gorgeous modern lounge, bikes available for rent, espresso and alcohol for purchase, and clean spacious rooms.  I was amazed to see how much nicer Best Westerns were in Europe.  What it didn’t have was air conditioning on every floor.  

Thankfully for Adam and I, we were booked on the fourth floor (equipped with AC) while my parents, brother, aunt and uncle were all on the third floor, sans AC.  Regardless, we were happy for showers and a place to put our things down.  We immediately took showers, I put on my first fun dress of the trip (only $27!) and we all agreed to fight the jet lag, staying awake through the overnight flight and 6 hour time difference to see what Copenhagen had to offer. 

Walking the canals of Copenhagen
Copenhagen is not a car city.  It is a huge bike city with more bikes than people (a whole biking post coming to you soon).  For our first jetlagged day in the City, the plan was to take a boat tour to learn about a few of the major sights. 

Lucy had booked a boat tour to get an overview of the city without having to traverse 10 miles, enjoying the sights and some history with a tour guide.  But the beauty of traveling is how much of a learning experience it is, how it tests your patience and always keeps you on your toes. Literally on your feet as you walk 10 miles around the city looking for a boat tour. 

The information on the prepaid tickets were vague and we were having a hard time figuring out exactly where we picked up this boat tour.  My mother gave me the name of three ports to plug into my map (tutorial on my amazing offline maps coming soon) and the closest one was our destination.  With this offline map, even on airplane mode without wifi, I could see all my pinpoints on a map and get directions via GPS.  You can’t search destinations, but you can navigate to preplanned and pre-dropped pins.  

Mussels and Frites at Cafe Katz

We walked, and we walked, and we walked, enjoying the sites of the city but quickly losing steam due to a lack of sleep and a decent meal.  Despite our traveling troubles, we were all amazed at how beautiful the city was.  We walked along canals, beautiful cobbled streets, past busy bikers and intricate bike lanes and along side beautiful buildings.  Eventually, we stopped for lunch at Katz where we ate our first real meal outside by the canal.  It was my first European meal of the trip - mussels and frites with an aperol spritz (10/10 recommend). 

After a great lunch, we continued walking, up and down various streets, looking for these ports on a map. The closest was still a bit of a way and after traveling for what felt like hours (it was certainly miles) we reached our furthest point only to discover it was not it.  In fact, we had passed the departure point a while back.   

Boat Tour along the Canal
At this point, there were some irate and tired travelers.  Adam and I tried to keep the mood light but a lot of the group was not prepared for an 8-mile walk around Copenhagen.  After asking no less than five people, several which were very unsure and pointed us in different directions with descriptions like "the building with the cube on it", we were pointed in the right direction, the end of the canal in famous Nyhavn.  We celebrated and clapped our hands when we finally saw the sign offering the "Grand Tour of Copenhagen".   Unfortunately, buying these tickets in advance did nothing but create more problems for us.  We were committed to this tour we had prepaid although we had passed several others, and the pre-purchase was useless as we still had to wait in line to scan our receipt and pick up tickets.  Another lesson to be learned: Think twice about prepurchasing tickets to an attraction if a new location, especially if they have specific time requirements. 

Finally, seven tired, happy and somewhat defeated jet-lagged travelers toured a large portion of the city by foot, and now thankfully by boat.  

The boat tour was about an hour-long, winding its way up through the channels of Copenhagen, traveling under low bridges, making its way around tight corners, all while passing famous landmarks as an informed tour guide gave us the tour of the city.  The history was interesting and we loved learning about some of Copenhagens famous spots like Christiania - the hippie commune, the famous Little Mermaid statue, gorgeous bridges and buildings, and some of Denmarks most famous and expensive apartments. 

We were impressed by just how beautiful. clean, quaint, and generally cool the city was.  No trash, no chaos.  Just beautiful parks, people relaxing drinking wine along the canals, party boats and swimmers enjoying the beautiful day and bikers making their way around the city.  We all agreed Copenhagen was one of the cleanest cities we had ever been to, and some of us even classified it as a new favorite.

Danish Minced Meat

We ended the long day with dinner at an authentic Danish restaurant with high ratings right next to our hotel.  We navigated the foreign menu, past the pickled herrings and homemade aquavits where we ordered some interesting (and expensive) local fair.  I had the Danish Minced Meat, lured by the fried egg and sauce that came with the dish.  After talking to the waiter, I realized I was basically ordering a bunless hamburger but decided “When in Denmark”.   I wanted to try something local, convincing myself that anything can be made into a good meal with the addition of a fried runny egg and a good sauce.  

As our plates come out, I noticed a few things about Danish cuisine.  The big thing was nothing can touch.  Food is compartmentalized in tiny dishes and sauces are always on the sides and are offered family-style.   We also noticed that vegetables were rare unless they were pickled, and the quality of the meat was pretty poor.  Nonetheless, my bunless burger was saved by a runny egg and amazing sauce we enjoyed trying to local danish food, homemade (walnut) aquavit included.  

Copenhagen at Golden Hour

Day 1 in Denmark had some highs and lows.  We loved seeing this beautiful city by foot and by boat.  Architecture and outdoor dining, beautiful streets and boats along the canal, so many bikers and a lot of charm.  But it was also a reminder of the stresses and challenges of traveling - airports and car drops, tickets and tour guides.  Behind the pretty photos were travelers who had spent an entire day getting to Copenhagen after wrangling crazy traffic, busy airports, a dicey parking situation, and a much longer than planned walk.  

Day 1 was rocky but I promise you, Copenhagen showed off the rest of the week and won us all over.   Stick with me. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

Let's Chat!