Saturday, June 19, 2022

I’m so glad COVID confinement is easing up.  I was busy enough with 34 people traveling in June, not to want to deal with another COVID test.  I worked my butt off seven days a week, until the last group flew to join their ship on June 16.  Then I got myself ready and found time to party with friends, Andrea and Jim from Magog, Patrick and Rose from NDG and Denis, who needed to meet some of my buds before he ends up cooking for them at Ginger’s on Ile Bizard, when I get back.  Denis is a chef, you see.  He has a PhD in Food Science, and taught it for years, while running a few restaurants.  He still has one but it’s simple, a Take and Bake” pizza place.  So, I call him “Chef Dr. Pizza Guy” Good title for an 80-year old.  Way better than most of the alternatives. Speaking of titles:

The invitation to what must be our 11th, maybe 12th  annual summer party, started off like this:

“Canada is a safer place, now that Ginger is an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, for life, no less.  As safe as it gets:

Ya think?  I sure do.  And I don’t know about Canada but summer wouldn’t be summer without our annual party at Manresa.”

And that party will be happening the first Saturday in August.  I have a month off in Europe first.  I am flying to Copenhagen to meet Mariann Sheldon, my old Napa neighbor, who’s a Dane and had volunteered to take a privileged few back to see some of her favorite Danish things.  When we first booked this trip for 2020, the Norwegian Fjords cruise that preceded it, was a Distinctive Voyage and I was its host.  It wasn’t this time and SilverSea at full price, single occupancy, was a little rich for my blood, particularly as I had already sailed the Reykjavik to Copenhagen itinerary.

For the three passengers that started in Sacramento, getting to Reykjavik had not gone well.  That’s an understatement.  Alaska Airlines delayed their flight out of SMF such that they would miss their connection in SFO bound for Reykjavik.  I was all over SilverSky, who had booked it, but they were powerless, and all over SilverSea, for compensation for my poor travelers.  For the very first time, my efforts failed.  It ended up taking them 60 hours, to get to Reykjavik, when it should have taken less than 12.  It has to do with the chaos at the airports, and the number of things that are going wrong with flights all over.  The cruise lines are fed up with paying for the airlines’ incompetency and have decided to put their keels down.  My explaining that it was SilverSea that had taken the passengers’ money for the flights didn’t make a ripple once that decision had been made.  I did what I could and compensated them as best I could.  It couldn’t be enough. 

I managed to upgrade my Air France flight to Copenhagen at check-in, so for $404 more, I was in Business and enjoying the lounge at YUL after Denis dropped me off.  Like every other one, my flight took off a little late but it made most of it up in the air.  I took a taxi to Phoenix Copenhagen, where the Danes stay, according to Leona, and was greeted by the friendliest hotel staff, ever.  Mads the Bellman was just darling and as cute as they come, and Isabelle answered my countless questions and organized our taxis to the airport for 5 days hence. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

I had slept a little on the plane, but not very much.  My room at Phoenix Copenhagen was ready and Mads took me there, but all I did was drop my bags, backpack and rolling carry-on, brush my teeth and leave for the RDYC, which I wanted to check out.  It turns out the Royal Danish Yacht Club has three facilities and the restaurant is in what is probably the most uninteresting.  It’s on the water, of course, and has a few yachts in its harbour, but it’s not the old one with all the history.  It’s a modern building in a waterfront development.  I had a nice table for one, right at a window overlooking the yachts and the menu was interesting.  It was a typical Danish lunch.  Look at my lovely tartare, mache, and potato chip sandwich.  I had mignardises for dessert and they were delicious, too.

I went to the office to introduce myself and see what I could buy and came up with a very interesting tubular scarf, navy with crowns all over it.  I can keep it in my raincoat pocket and slip it on whenever the weather feels like it might get at my throat.  Brilliant.  I liked it so well that I bought another for Mariann.

I used the YC phone to call Oliver at Great Dane, our purveyor of cars and drivers, to make sure all was in order for me to meet the ship tomorrow morning, with a van.  My passengers needed this transfer to go smoothly.  Then I went home to the Phoenix.  I walked out a bit to see if the local Telco shop could figure why I had no phone service in Copenhagen.  It couldn’t, so I walked home again, observing the Danish bike culture and was in bed by 6 pm. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

I slept well, and since I don’t eat breakfast, I was ready when Per showed up with a nice Mercedes Sprinter van in the morning.  We found the Silver Moon all right, and picked up our passengers, Mariann, Carol Berg and her sister Cindy Clot, Barbara August and her daughter Lee Simpson.  Off we went, back to Phoenix so everyone could check in. The rooms weren’t ready, so mine became the loo, cum luggage storage.  That done, Mariann took us on a mini-walking tour around the palace, before we went to Nyhavn to meet our canal boat tour.  Mariann, you see, went to the private N. Zahle’s School in Copenhagen with the present Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, when she was a little princess.  She is a much beloved queen and Mariann says she was always a very nice, fun person.  She’s 82 now and she still smokes like a fiend.  Those are some good genes. 

Mariann took us on a little detour to show us the palace grounds and we made our reserved canal boat tour at 10:30 am.  The weather, which heretofore had not been anything to write home about, turned very nice for us and we toured the canals of Copenhagen in glorious sunshine. 

Mariann’s friend, Kirsten, met us for a typical Danish lunch, right near the dock in Nyhavn, at Nyhavns Færgekro.  Most of us had the open-faced sandwiches.  Mine was gravlax.  We didn’t do herring and schnaaps, likely more’s the pity, but our digestive systems ain’t what they used to be.  Sorry to disappoint.  We had some free time after that and it was just as well, as Mariann and I had plenty to do.  We all met up again around six o’clock and asked the bell desk for a taxi or taxis to the famous Tivoli Gardens.  He found one for six, but he probably shouldn’t have.  Barb and Lee were most uncomfortable in the back row and it cost within about a buck of the price for both of the taxis we took home. 

Tivoli was fun.  We didn’t go on any of the rides, but we walked around a bit and had dinner from assorted kiosks in the food hall.  Since we have a couple of vegetarians, three omnivores, and a vegophobe, that worked well.  I had a lobster roll and it was pretty good, washed down with a nice white wine.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

We were all down in the lobby on time and our guide, Uffe Folkmann, arrived in a couple of minutes, with a decent sized van, for our excursion into the countryside.  We later learned that Uffe was the CEO of the company and had picked our tour for himself because Mariann wanted us out in the countryside and that would be a minivacation, read busman’s holiday, for him.  After two years of you-know-what, the tour and travel business has exploded and this is the beginning of high season in Denmark.  His phone hardly ever stopped ringing but that didn’t stop him from being excellent at the job.  We kind of toured Copenhagen on the way out, him telling Danish Royalty stories the whole time.  I liked the one about the queen who had four lazy sons, so she turned them into bulls to pull her carriage:

He was also really good, with the juicy stories of fornicating royals of all ages and stages, but always named either Frederick or Christian.  Denmark was an absolute monarchy from 1660 to 1849, when the king and queen stepped down. It was her idea, of course.  Better to step down and remain titular heads, that spark a revolution and be deposed.  By noon, we were in Nyborg, where I broke my fast early for a Danish pastry, in a Danish bakery, with a cup of very delicious hot chocolate.  Then we moved on to Egeskov Slot.  Slot means castle in Danish and this tour is all about slots. 

Like everything else in this world, Egeskov has evolved and lunch was a pretty disappointing affair, read hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries.  I was a vegetarian for that.  The castle was nice, though.  It still has it’s very politically incorrect trophy room

and a nice toy exhibit.

  I enjoyed it.  It’s on the island of Fyn, where we would stay a couple of nights.

The best slot of all was the one we stayed in.  Our rooms were very large and well appointed with antiques, which was as it should be.  The housekeeping left a bit to be desired in Carol and Cindy’s, which probably hadn’t been used in a couple of years, and they had to dispose of a good few cobwebs.  The grounds were lovely

and dinner was delicious.  I had tomato soup, cockerel, and a white chocolate panna cotta with fresh local strawberries for dessert.  Mariann and Uffe and I had the wine pairing with it and it was excellent.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

My intermittent fasting caused me to miss a yummy pancake breakfast, I was told.  But I used the time to keep up with my exercise program, which is no longer optional, as I age less than gracefully.  The grounds are beautiful here.  Compare this photo with the first one here.  They remind me of Ginger’s, 

We got on the road around 9:30 am, bound for Jutland and Koningshus, which Mariann particularly wanted us to see.  It’s beautiful countryside, not unlike that around Montreal, which isn’t a stretch as we are pretty much at the same latitude. 

There was trouble on the highway, in the direction coming towards us.  We hoped it would be cleared by the time we were coming back, as Carol and Cindy had a train to catch, and we had a specific time at our next stop.  As we approached Jutland, Uffe started coming out with Jutland people jokes, which are the same as Canada’s Newfie jokes and America’s Polish jokes.  I understand that the Danes make fun of the Swedes, too. 

Koldinghus was fabulous and I would put it on anyone’s list who can find the time.  I have seen a lot of ruins in my travels, and lately governments are making attractions of them, but I have never seen one done like this.  When a castle catches fire, and most of them do, being under siege regularly and all, the wooden interiors burn, but the stone walls hold.  So, you can just tour the walls and read the story, or you can do something like this with it:

The current exhibition commemorates HRH Crown Princess Mary’s 50th birthday. It paints a portrait of the Danish Crown Princess and her four predecessors in the Glücksborg dynasty.  It was very nice. They did lunch really well, too.  It was a real Danish smorgasbord with herring, eel, chicken, frikadelles, lots of cheeses, desserts, the works.  We just loved it.  Then we had to deal with the traffic jam, which had definitely not cleared.  Google knows where the traffic is, and it was everywhere.  It was one of those accidents where the 18 wheel semi-trailer jackknifes and blocks the entire highway.  In this case, it was the new (1970) bridge. Those are not easy to clear away.  This one had been three hours and counting.  Uffe called ahead to H.C. Andersen Hus to say we wouldn’t make our appointment but would get there as soon as we could.  They were very nice about it.  We weren’t the only call on the subject. 

We got there with enough time for Carol and Cindy to see a bit before their train.  The architecture is stunning but Hans Christian Andersen is doubtless rolling in his grave, chewing tacks and spitting nails.  Uffe’s wife Joan took the train down from Copenhagen to have a very tiny holiday and replace Carol and Cindy in the van back to the city.  She is delightful, and gorgeous, to boot.  We were happy to have her along.  She summed H.C. Andersen Hus best when she said “There is no spirit of Hans Christian Andersen here”.  The fairy tales have been distorted almost beyond recognition for the sake of clever display.  Methinks it’s a failure.  Don’t waste your time. 

This was Skt Hans day, the longest day of the year and first day of a week of celebrations.  There were thus a lot of people on the Island of Fyn for the holiday.  Barb, Lee, Mariann and I, Joan and Uffe ate at the coast in a seafood restaurant they had chosen, Hvide Pakhus, in Faborg.  I had a gravlax appetizer followed by moules frites and the dessert of the day, which was very good but I have forgotten what it was. 

Then we walked around the restaurant to a parking lot by the water to see the local bonfire.  There are bonfires all over Denmark this night.  They used to burn witches but this one was just an effigy.  We were all back in bed at the castle, except Uffe and Joan, when a group of partying guests set up a bonfire in the courtyard, pictured above.  I heard the noise but was too lazy to get dressed again and go out. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

I missed another wonderful breakfast but I am keeping my body going, so all’s well and off we went, back to Copenhagen.  This is Uffe and Mariann, loading up the van, in front of Hvedholm Slot

and this is Uffe and Joan, saying goodbye at the door of the Phoenix Copenhagen. 

I shall remember them fondly and use Great Dane, whenever I need a tour supplier in Denmark.  We were there by noon, time for the Sacramento people to check in for their SAS flight to SFO.  Barb and Lee had no trouble, but SAS had jerked Mariann’s seat out from under her for the third time.  My favorite thing to do is to hang on hold, standing up at the front desk of a hotel, the only place in Denmark where the call was free for me.  SilverSky said they couldn’t help me because SAS now owned the reservation but while I was on hold for SAS, Mariann tried again and managed to check in.  So, either SilverSky did something or SAS did what it was going to do all along.  The seat Mariann got was a business class seat, but it wasn’t the one she had purchased.  That was 2A, beside Barb and Lee’s 2D&E.  I had watched that one disappear months ago and replaced it with 8A.  The A seats have both an aisle and a window on the plane in question and so are very desirable.  8A held until a week before flight time, which was the last time I checked it, before we tried to check in.  So Mariann flew in 9D, still an aisle, but in the middle section.  You have to wonder why the airlines think they can just jerk their paying customers around like that and you have to believe it is to suck up to their very frequent flyers, no matter how late they book.  It’s pretty disgusting. 

Mariann went back to her room to finish packing and I went out to get some plastic folders.  I have been wondering for almost 30 years, now, why the rest of the world files in see-through plastic and North America hasn’t given up the manila folder.  I recycle them every year at tax time, but I keep needing more.  What other 77-year old do you know with a growing business?  I must be nuts.  It was only Mariann and I for dinner on our last night and we just walked out and found ourselves a restaurant where we could eat with a view on the street.  It turned out to be Mexican and the Margaritas and enchiladas went down pretty well.  To add to the fun was the reason we wanted to eat on the street.  It was the day Denmark’s high school graduates were out celebrating.  Each class rents a bus and goes around to every parent’s house, getting food and drink every time the bus stopped.  By seven o’clock, when we saw this one, they were pretty schnockered. 

And so, farewell to Denmark and thanks to Mariann for putting together a fabulous tour.