It might seem odd to take a day trip to Copenhagen in the midst of our trip to the UK. Hey, the idea seemed odd to us. But, as it turned out, we were one restaurant short of having dined at all five of the restaurants at the top of the San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the world list. In fact, with the return visit to The Fat Duck, we’d already been to three of the five this year. (We tried for the long-shot return visit to El Bulli, but the restaurant was closed during the dates of our Spain visit.) The one restaurant in the top five of the “List” that remained, Noma, is in Copenhagen. We could have waited and visited later, but the San Pellegrino list changes yearly so there is no guarantee that we’d just have to visit one more restaurant to have experienced the Top Five. With the cheap flights in Europe these days, a day trip from London to Copenhagen was possible and reasonable. (The cost of the flight was close to that for a train ride day trip out of London.) And with that, we were up early in the morning and off to Copenhagen for the day.
From our room, a short walk through the dark cold took us to the Farringdon train station. An hour later found us at the EasyJet counter at London’s Gatwick Airport as the sun was still contemplating rising.
It seemed simple enough until the counter person asked, “Are those all your bags?” She was indicating our clutch of three small bags that, combined with a couple of footballs, would easily fit under a single airline seat.
“Yes,” we replied, stating the obvious.
“I’ll need a credit card for the 25 GBP extra bag charge,” she continued.
I began to suspect that I had missed something in the details of the EasyJet booking and indeed I had. “One Carry On” meant one bag. Not, as it does in the States, one bag plus a small item. The 40 USD they wanted to charge us was 40% of the combined one-way price for both of us to Copenhagen!
We pleaded absurdity to the agent. The charge was crazy, we implored. Eventually a manager came by and told the counter agent to turn a blind eye. They let us take the extra bag onto the flight for free. And, by the time we reached the gate, we’d figured out how to attach two of the bags together thus qualifying as “one” bag. This trick would come in handy on the return trip.
The flight itself was efficient. With few bags, and not too many passengers, the flight boarded quickly and we were on our way. Of course everything on the flight was sold a cost, including water. And the seats did not recline. Fixed upright seats would have become seriously uncomfortable on a much longer flight. But the flight was cheap and short enough. Airfare from London to Copenhagen cost us a little more than the train fare from London to the Gatwick Airport.
Usually we have worked out some of the arrival details before we enter a foreign country. As this was a day trip and we had been to Copenhagen before, we hadn’t given it any thought. We’re world travelers. It should be pretty casual by now, eh? Out in the terminal we were quickly reminded that (1) Denmark does not use Euros as currency and (2) we had no idea of what the exchange rate was. Copenhagen is a particularly easy place to travel, but missing these little details made it feel like we were actually in a foreign country. It took us a little time, but we sorted the currency and transportation arrangements and were on the Copenhagen Metro heading downtown.
Beyond paying attention to the travel issues of going to Denmark, I’d also only paid casual attention to another important little detail—the location of the restaurant. For some reason, I recalled that the restaurant was near Nyhavn (pronounced by the Danish as “New-houn”; pronounced by American tourists in unimaginable ways). Outside the Metro, near “New-houn”, we searched until it became clear that we were not near the restaurant at all. Though we had the address, we had no map and no guidebook to appeal to. Eventually, Becky’s Blackberry came to the rescue and we determined that Noma is located across the channel from Nyhavn in the warehouse dock area of Christianhavn. We’d have to hoof to get to the restaurant in time taking route near identical to a walk we took on the last visit.
Under the low angle light, partial high overcast, and with a chilly wind, our route took us to Christianhavn. It would take some searching to find Noma. Though our stop in Copenhagen would be short, it encourages us to return. Copenhagen is our type of city.
We met Becky’s nephew Paul for lunch at Noma. He traveled down from Sweden to join us. Lunch ended around 4:30 pm. We had a little time left to explore before we had to catch our flight back to London. Paul suggested that we head over to Freetown Christiana.
Freetown Christiana is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in Christianhavn. Some would say that it is an anarchist squatter area. Indeed, the area was established starting in 1971 as a squatter’s community. It is effectively self-governing. Many artists now live in the area. Pot and hashish is openly sold on “Pusher Street” though this element of Freetown Christiana has been known to come and go with the vagaries of the Danish drug enforcement efforts.
I was first aware of this area from Rick Steve’s TV travel show. Perhaps it is not so surprising that Rick would visit this area, as he is a public member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Who knows, filming this segment of Rick’s show could have doubled as a shopping trip?
Though the Danish pot and hashish laws are typically not enforced in the area allowing pot and hashish to be sold openly, there are a number of rules. The posted rules include no hard drugs, no stealing, no guns, no body armor, no biker colors, no private cars, no violence, and no photos. I might be able to live with all that, though the last rule could be a challenge.
We saw what we could see at night. There are no streetlights. Becky and I will have to return. Freetown Christiana is a very interesting area. We really need to come back to carefully examine the extensive array of street art in the light of day. Yeah, yeah, we have to come back to look at the street art. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Leaving Freetown Christiana, we were back on the Metro, on the plane and train, and back at The Zetter in London around midnight. London looked distinctly downscale compared to Copenhagen. It was a good, long day.
More on Freetown Christiana: