Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wynn's in print!

Teachers, be watching for the TREND catalog to arrive in your mailbox around the 4th of July...

Wynn's on the inside front cover...

And the page 4-5 spread!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Copenhagen Trip - Conclusion

This was an amazingly great vacation, and we wouldn't hesitate to come to Copenhagen again. Denmark is such a friendly place, and so easy to get around in. There's plenty in the city we didn't see, and outside of town there's of course Sweden as well as other museums and castles on the Danish side.

We came out really well on budget, too, spending only about 60% of the cash we'd expected to use. Having that kitchenette in the hotel room was a real money-saver - and we still got to experience fresh, healthy Danish food. Ann appreciated the ability to just relax - read - and not have to rush anywhere. Wynn loves spending every hour with us. And I light up exploring a new culture and figuring out how to get around.
Ann finally got the time and space to read a few novels just for enjoyment, instead of for school

Monday morning we set out at 7 am for the train station, catching the 7:11 to Copenhagen's airport to allow plenty of time for our 10:15 to Amsterdam. (I like lots of time in airports...) And it was good that we arrived early, because when we went to the KLM/Air France/Delta counter to check in and drop off our luggage, the agent couldn't find our reservation.

Turns out Delta had cancelled the Amsterdam-Minneapolis flight we were supposed to be on, and rebooked us on another flight instead. (They emailed us, but in the middle of the night Copenhagen time, so we didn't have a clue...)

Instead of being put on a Delta flight directly from Copenhagen to Atlanta or New York, instead we were routed on a British Airways flight to London's Heathrow Airport, to connect to Delta's London-Minneapolis nonstop. It would add another 2 hours to our travel time, and we didn't have seat assignments on the Delta flight, but our little family is a band of explorers, after all, and what choice did we have?
It gave us an extra half-hour in Copenhagen's airport, which may well be the nicest airport on the planet. Wood floors, friendly security agents (great with kids), a full-on shopping mall airside, including an H&M, lots of places to eat, plenty of windows and sunlight and green plants. And enough seating for everyone to be comfortable.
Plus, a teensy Little Mermaid on the international wing for little girls to pose next to...
None of us had ever been on British Airways or through Heathrow before, so this was going to be interesting
Spare time to goof off at Copenhagen

Arrival at London was a little early, but the way Heathrow is set up - with five different terminals spread around the outside of the property instead of next to each other - required a long shuttle bus ride from BA at Terminal 5 to Delta at Terminal 4. (But we got to see all sorts of airplanes really close up, so I'm not complaining about that.)

Where we will complain is about the decidedly third-world setup for transfer passengers at Terminal 4, and how Delta and its partner airlines manage their London operation. We waited in line in the bowels of the building for a half-hour, bouncing from unmarked line to unmarked line and among three staff before obtaining boarding documents - but still not seat assignments.

We hoofed it up to the gate level to get to the gate for seat assignments (our worry being that we were going to be split up with neither of us next to Wynn) - to find no agents at the gate. I stayed at the gate area with Wynn while Ann ran back to a Starbucks for drinks and a sandwich - by the time she returned a few agents and another hundred passengers had shown up, all wanting to ask questions. (No monitors or self-service terminals for passengers to figure things out on their own - and the computers the agents were using were laptops, with tractor-feed paper printouts to try to determine last-minute seat assignments.)
These weren't Delta staff, by the way, rather a mix of Alitalia and contract agents, whose fist language was not English. The Olympics are in 14 months, are these people going to be ready?

We did end up sitting near each other - Ann and Wynn together, with me in the next seat across the left-hand aisle. Wynn was awake most of the way, only sleeping for the last two hours of the flight. We landed at Minneapolis about 5:20 - and waited another 15 minutes for the jetway to be repaired so we could get off. At least we didn't have to wait for our luggage!
Wynn likes having the personal touchscreen system - she hung out with Elmo most of the way over...

We finally got home about 7 pm last night (or about 2 am Copenhagen time) - I was in bed and passed out by 8:30 (and down for the count as well); Wynn and Ann only got a couple hours' sleep and have been up and down all day today.

Even though the last bit was messed up, we still got home safe and sound with all our stuff, and having had a marvelous adventure. Tomorrow, back to everyday life.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Copenhagen Trip - Day Six

11 pm last night – looking toward downtown under clouds. Copenhagen – the city of steeples.

We decided not to go to Malmo this morning, as we hadn’t really finished our souvenir shopping in Copenhagen. The stores in Sweden weren’t opening until noon, and we would have had to buy both roundtrip tickets to cross the Oresund Bridge, as well as transit passes in Malmo, since the places we were most interested in weren’t easily connected on foot. And we would’ve needed to convert more money, since neither Sweden nor Denmark use the Euro, and neither country wants to use the other’s currency. By the time we got back to Denmark, the stores that were open here today would have closed...

The weather was cloudy and sunny with gusty winds and occasional sudden drenching downpours, or, as it goes, another typical day. Ann remarked we’d be huddling under an awning in Sweden, too, if we’d gone over there.

Instead, we headed back downtown and worked our way from Central Station out through the shopping streets and back.

These polser trailers are EVERYWHERE - you can get your sausage fix at pretty much any public square in the entire country. There's even one set up at baggage claim at the airport...

Wynn found several more elephants to pose with:

Posing with some kind of royal elephant-dragon-griffin critter in front of City Hall.

The Stroget after a nice stiff rainshower. Not nearly as many tourists out on a Sunday morning; it was a good idea to come back here as we could really take the time to look instead of just get pushed along by the crowd.

We went into Tivoli Gardens again (the Copenhagen Card gives free admission, so why not?) and had a very nice Scandinavian lunch. The music stages all over Tivoli were featuring high-school and college bands and singing groups – a very Glee-kind-of-vibe going on, including the songs being performed (“Forget You” – but since this is Denmark, the uncensored version… yes, with little kids walking all over the place… no, nobody got fired or even seemed concerned… the adults and teenagers seemed to be enjoying it…)

After returning to the hotel, I picked up a few last-minute items for dinner and treats to take back to the States, and then we went for a swim in the hotel pool. Ann & Wynn took a nap afterward while I worked through the leftovers in the fridge.

Tonight we’re running one last load of laundry and have the suitcases opened up on the floor, figuring out what gets packed where. We’ll head out bright and early to the train station – leaving the hotel about 7 am; our flight leaves at 10 for Amsterdam, where we have about 2 hours to connect, and then a 9-hour flight back to Minneapolis.

We still have Danish cash to blow at the airport – here’s 91,50 DKK just in coins to burn (that’s almost US$20). They don’t make 5 Kr coins for some reason, just 50 ore, 1 Kr, 2, 10, and 20. At 50 Kr (US$10) they switch over to bills – under that it’s only coins. And they won't convert Danish coins back into US$ at the Travelex at MSP...

Here's one last photo from downtown

This will be the last posting until we get back to the States. Happy Fathers Day, Happy Gotcha Day, and wish us good luck on our travels tomorrow!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Copenhagen Trip - Day Five, Part Two

Everyone needed more rest after naptime, so I popped down to Netto for some ground beef, pasta sauce, and rotini, and put together dinner here at the hotel.

Afterward, no one was up for another train ride, so instead we walked over to the harborfront to see today’s cruise ships pull out of port. The rain really started coming down hard so we took cover under a tree. The gals were wearing hoods, but I had the umbrella, so I ventured out to take some shots...

Several reproduction sailing ships puttered by with dinner parties going on

We found a few more statues along the cruise ship dock, including a pair of elephants. The shops here are open every day so perhaps we’ll visit tomorrow night to buy grownup-size T-shirts and other souvenirs. Remember I said earlier that most shops are closed on Sundays - these cater to the international travelers. Prices that we could see through the windows (everyone was closed by the time we were there) weren't too bad compared to downtown.

Our neighborhood after a rainburst, with the sun coming out brilliantly. The condo buidling attached to our hotel is hosting a midsummers' eve party tonight - the families there have put up a party tent and bouncy house for the kids, have a couple big grills going, and are having a cosy, neighborly good time together.
Kung Fu Panda 2 opened here on Thursday and the movie posters are everywhere. Wynn's thrilled of course - she saw it a couple weeks ago in the States - and can't help but show off her kung-fu moves...

Tomorrow is our last full day here. In the morning we think we’ll be going over to Malmo, Sweden for a look-around. Tomorrow night we'll pack our bags and get to sleep early...

Also, we’ll be celebrating not only Fathers Day, but this will also mark four years since Wynn joined our family!

Copenhagen Trip - Day Five

Afternoon post!

Another slow start this morning, but we weren’t too ambitious today. Took the train down one station to Norreport and walked a block over to the Kongens Have park and Rosenborg Palace. Yes, Wynn got to walk around a castle today!

Copenhageners like to spend their Saturdays hanging out with family and friends, and the scene in the park this morning was fun and peaceful despite the occasional short spatters of rain. We saw some of the Royal Guard get ready to march from Rosenborg (the “old palace”) to Amalienborg (the “new palace” out by the open water.)

The palace was built 1606-1634 and used as the main residence until 1710. It was re-purposed into a royal museum for the public’s enjoyment as early as 1838. We walked through the main two floors – saw artwork, thrones, decorations, and armor - and down in the basement, where the crown jewels and other priceless treasures are displayed.
Afterward, we walked back to Norreport and had lunch at a very slow McDonald’s, then, strolled around the pedestrian streets a bit more. Time to start shopping for souvenirs…
Norreport station entrance; shops along either side of the street. Car and bike parking right down the middle of the street.
Here's the value menu - divide Kroner by 5 to roughly get US$ prices - so a hamburger is US$2 - a Coke is $3

More painted elephants!
Here's a Chinese-run Danish gift shop on the Stroget - where we decided to drop some change for a T-shirt and pencil set for Wynn. Keepin' it in the extended family, you know... She got real chummy with the lady running the shop, of course. Didn't get any freebies, but she did tell us the shirts shrink a lot & recommended the bigger size...
Radhusplasen - Copenhagen's city hall

This is a Netto supermarket. The sign in the window says, "open daily 8am- 10pm" which is a big deal as shops here have only recently been permitted to even be open on Sundays.

A bus ride back home put us here a bit before 3 pm; Ann’s taking a nap and Wynn’s watching TV quietly. We’ll probably go out to dinner tonight.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Copenhagen Trip - Day Four

A late start this morning – we didn’t get out of the hotel until after 10:00 am – but we managed to cover a lot of ground nonetheless.

Our exploration today took us first to Copenhagen’s Central Station – a vast and magnificent building from 1911. Virtually all the long-haul, regional, and local trains pass through here and the place is alive day and night. There’s a small shopping center inside the main hall, and hotels ring the station for blocks around.

A big model railroad diorama inside the train station - how perfect! For 20 DKK you can run the trains around, too.

Our next train took us 35 minutes west to Roskilde (pronounced ROASH-keel, rhymes with “roast eel”), the ancient capital of Denmark. Narrow streets, cute houses, six-hundred-year-old graveyards, ethnic restaurants – plus the home of one of Europe’s biggest annual music festivals (happening in another few weeks), and also home to the Viking Ship Museum.

Inside the museum they’ve partially reconstructed various vessels that were recovered from the fjord outside. They’ve also built a new vessel using ancient plans, and sailed it all over the North Atlantic.

While the reconstructed ships are quite delicate, most of the museum is actually hands-on, and there are a couple replica boats in the main hall kids can romp around in.
Here's the replica longship the researchers built and sailed - the performance was better than anyone had expected. These guys were really tough to have this in the open ocean!
Wiped out, passed out on the train back home.
For dinner tonight: fresh Danish strawberries, mixed greens salad, multigrain toast, and chicken breast sauteed in creamy sweet Danish butter.

The train back to Copenhagen delivered us straight to our home base, and after cooking dinner we headed out again to Central Station and across the street to Tivoli – the famous amusement park. It’s not terribly large, but the location downtown can’t be beat, and there are dozens of restaurants, several live performance stages, thrill rides, and private halls for ticketed concerts. The mix of food, activities, and people-watching appeals to little kids, teenagers, and grown-ups equally. At night the entire place is lit up with thousands of electric bulbs on every tree, ride, and building.

We walked all over the grounds, and Wynn got to go on a couple kiddie rides. We left about 7 pm – the crowd was getting pretty thick as we headed out – it’s a nice Friday evening and Tivoli is the place to be to start the weekend.

In front of the Chinese Pavilion - they stage pantomime shows here. Wynn wants to go back tomorrow for more rides...