We landed in Copenhagen in early December and made our way to our room in Nørrebro. We generally like edgy gentrifying neighborhoods to stay in, which is often more interesting, but usually because it’s cheaper.
In Nørrebro, you will feel the swirl of all the impactful influences of our time – diversification, local and sustainable, and ingenuity and craftsmanship. Historically it was the working-class neighborhood outside the city limits, but today it is an interesting and affordable places to live and visit. You can also see the amazing impact of immigrants over the years through food and shops. This is a neighborhood, where one in six people carry a non-Danish passport. The neighborhood also has a notorious history of violence and protest, but today it seems like an up-and-coming place to live. Young entrepreneur, artisans, craftsmen picking it to be the places to start building their business. For instance, we lived only a couple of blocks away from Relae, which is one of the top restaurants in the world.
We split our time in Nørrebro and Vesterbro. Vesterbro was going through major renovation while we were there, but it was clear why this was such an appealing neighborhood to live in. The streets were lined with intimate shops, restaurants, and pubs and family strolling with their children was a norm. Or sometimes parents stopping for a quick bite and drink and kids in the stroller parked outside the restaurant. This is something we would never fathom in the US, but common place in Denmark. Vesterbro, like the rest of the city, puts a lot of trust in its fellow citizens.
When we wander through out the city, we continue to see the same things over and over again – trust and respect for others, accessibility of resources, creative and ingenuity that spans everything from foods to architecture, and an active lifestyle. On the latter, it is a sight to see rush-hour bike traffic on major roads like Nørrebrogade, watching mass numbers of bikes orderly maneuvering to get home often in rain or snow. Copenhagen is a wonderfully progressive place!
For more, check out our video about our visit, but here are a few tips:
The Danes are well known to be some of the happiest people on earth, but for Copenhagen, if I had to come up with a brief description, it would be that Copenhagen epitomizes all the best of what makes a hipster community with little pretense. Fantastic! It's a place we can imagine calling home.
P.S. We took some time off in late December for the holidays and now we are both sick with the flu, but expect more post soon!
Grocery Beer Price Index: 18.95 DKK for Stenol Ale 500ml ($3.10)
We visit Copenhagen to see what makes Denmark the happiest country in the world. After our visit, we got a little glimpse of why. Copenhagen is a fantastic place to visit for food, architecture, and culture. A place that can only be crafted by happy people!
We forgot to mention in the video that the street food on Paper Island is closed on the 22nd of December, 2017. We were there just a couple of weeks before they closed. Hopefully, they will be back in the new development.
Real-time photos on Instagram of our trip and where we are currently:
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Vu + Bella
After leaving the arctic and the northern lights, we look for a little holiday cheer in Stockholm. Stockholm is an amazing place to visit for the holidays! We also hear that Santa Claus is hiding out in Stockholm and we set out to find him and see the city. ;-) Merry Christmas!
After leaving Split Croatia, our main focus was Tromso and the northern lights. We had very rough weather and didn't know if we could see it during our week visit. We share what happened in the video blog.
You can also check-out all the past episodes here.
The Nordic countries are renown for some of the most balanced governance - better wealth distribution, investment in higher education, more environmentally focused, open and free press, little government corruption, and thriving economies. So, what do you expect when you land in the largest city of the Nordic countries? The bar is set high.
There are certainly classic architecture, amazing monuments, and grand parks. Stockholm has an abundance of museums and theaters. Everywhere you turn is a school. The public libraries and other public spaces are filled with kids “studying”. Then you have the world shaping Swedish brands (IKEA, Spotify, Skype, H&M, Electrolux, AstraZeneca, Volvo) that help drive a healthy Swedish economy. Of course, you have the classic people-centric European city planning (communal plazas and pedestrian and cycling pathways) designed to connect people. So, the city lives up to expectation!
Although with every major metropolitan, there is always an unsavory underside; however, in our brief visit, we were a bit surprised to not really find it. It was a little unexpected.
Here are some unexpected things about the city:
We really didn’t explore enough of Stockholm to truly understand it, but from what we saw as a tourist, Stockholm might be the perfect city. It at least makes us want to come back to see and discover more of Stockholm and Sweden. It’s amazing!
After Tromso, Stockholm was a little friendlier to the pocket book, which was nice, but don't expect a bargain.
Grocery Beer Price Index: 15.90 SEK for 33cl Bordsol Nils Oscar ($1.92)
When we downsized and got ready to move across the world to get ready to set sail, we never figured that we would ever need winter clothes again, but with the boat not ready, we found an opportunity to wander to places we’ve not been and do something we been wanting to do.
So, before we are in perpetual summer, we want to experience a proper snowy winter. There’s only one place for that. The arctic circle!
My only reference to a place like that was this show called Northern Exposure. I never really watched it, but I caught enough episodes to get a sense of what it was like to live in a small town near or in the arctic. For me, Tromsø has the quirky personality and out-of-this-world seasons of (fictitious) Cicely Alaska meld with Viking modern aesthetic and culture. Personally, that is attractive enough to come see this place of polar nights (sun never rises) and midnight sun (sun never sets)!
However, we are here to see the northern lights or aurora borealis! Tromsø is one of the places in the world where you can pretty much see the northern lights all the time, if the sky is clear and dark. With it in the arctic circle, you can look up and see the aurora circle all around you above. It’s pretty amazing! We were definitely not disappointed.
Within the city, there are several really great tours to help you see the northern lights or you can head out on your own with a rental car (you should have experience driving on ice). We personally like meeting new people and driving didn’t seem that appealing. To chase the lights, it was a no brainer to go with guides who knew the best places and were in constant contact with other guides on the best places at the moment. For us, it made all the difference on a day where it was very cloudy and the aurora was weak. They were amazing!!! We would recommend these guys.
Tromsø is setup for tourism and there is a lot of options for outdoor adventures. Unfortunately for us, either the weather was bad or the adventure wasn’t available on the day we were free. So, it can be unpredictable, but even on the down days, Tromsø can be spectacular (see more below)!
Here’s our thoughts on Tromsø:
Seeing the aurora is an amazing experience! Something worth doing. Of course, there are many places where you can see the northern lights, but we can definitely recommend Tromsø.
If you want to see what it was like, check back in a couple of weeks. We will have a video that shares some of the things we experienced.
P.S. If your are looking at the Grocery Beer Price Index (GBPI) in the blog, Tromsø definitely set a new high.
Grocery Beer Price Index: 29.50 NOK for 500ml Mack Pilsner ($3.58)
Just about a month ago we had a long layover in London. In that 11-hour layover, we actually had enough time to see many of the major tourist attractions. So, what did we do this time?
Being on a budget is really a blessing for us on this visit. It forced us outside the tourist areas and into a neighborhood that we had never explored and saw so much more of what London is about. Walking and exploring the neighborhood is how you really discover the soul of a city. So, we were excited to land in Battersea and wander. From our home base, we spent much of our time roaming Battersea, Clapham, Chelsea, and Westminster. Each of theses neighborhoods (district/city), were so unique. You can see the gentrification and diversity of Battersea and affluence of Chelsea. Clapham was vibrant with young professional, but maybe a counter to Shoreditch edginess and liveliness, which reminded us of home in the pacific northwest. Tip: Eating in the many great takeout (mom-and-pop) places in Battersea is the best way to stay on a budget, but the really amazing things are the owners. They are super friendly and really want to get to know their customers. Each place made us wandering nomads feel like we were at home. That's a win in our book! Oh, they also only accept cash.
We were also able to do a quick getaway to Stonehenge and Bath. We did it on a tour coach versus public train. It allowed us to see the country side and it was in the end cheaper and more convenient. Often people pack their day tours, but we looked for a tour solution that provided us the most free time versus being ushered around and not being able to experience anything. Oh, and we really enjoyed Bath and Stonehenge! Definitely go! Tip: The most common day tour from London is Westminster, Stonehenge, and Bath with a lunch stop, but you are in a constant rush from one place to another with a bunch of driving in between. The Stonehenge and Bath only (no food) trip gives you guided information on the bus, essentially entertaining transportation, but provides free time once you get to the destination, which was perfect for us. We had about 1.5 hours at Stonehenge and 3.5 hours in Bath to do whatever we liked. It was a long day though, starting at 8:30 am and returning around 7:30 pm with traffic. If you have extra time, I would spend a couple of days in Bath.
Although we were in London for more than 4 days, it was fast. We had an American Thanksgiving in London, which was the first Thanksgiving abroad for us, and then dinner and cocktails into the early morning on Black Friday with our friends. No shopping for us. Sites are nice, but nothing beats time catching up with friends!
Grocery Beer Price Index: 2.1 pounds for 500ml Fullers London Pride ($2.75)
We came in late October just as the tourist season began to wane. It was an interesting transition from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and festivities to near silence. There were days in mid-November we would barely see a tourist until a cruise ship would arrive. Some of the restaurants and shops in the old town closed for the season and the ones that were open often adjust their schedule based on the arrival of the cruise ships. The touristy old town goes into hibernation until the spring when the next season starts.
It was definitely an intriguing time to visit, especially for an extended stay. We really enjoyed it!
We wanted to share some thoughts and tips, especially for visiting Split in the fall.
There’s a lot to do in Split and the surrounding area, including many beautiful UNESCO sites, which we didn't cover. Also, there are amazing outdoor adventures and intriguing local foods. For example, if you want a food adventure, right outside of Split there are towns that specializes in frogs and lamb. Split and Croatia seem like an endless adventure. We will be back for sure!
Come to Split and go exploring!
P.S. Sorry we have not provided updates about our boat as we promised, but I did sneak in a photo in the slide show above.
Grocery Beer Price Index: 7 kuna for 500ml Karlovako ($1)
Imagine having to get rid of everything you own. That's what it means to move from a house to a boat. During this transition to minimalist living, I learned a thing or two about downsizing.
The process officially kicked off when our house was sold after listing for only a day. At that moment, there's a real deadline and we needed to move quickly. Where am I going put everything? What to keep? What to bring?
At first, we looked to store the furniture we've collected and love over the years. However, with the buyers accepting our offer on the furniture that meant we didn't have to rent a storage space anymore. That was a great relief! We really hope they love the pieces as much as we do.
Now that all the big items were taken care of, sorting the rest should be easy right? Umm, not really. The reality struck when we realize EVERYTHING needed to fit in 3 bags weighing 20 kg/44 lbs each and 1/3 of a single garage for storage. From then on, every day after work and weekend was about sorting closets of clothes, deciding what household items stay, packing tubs to give away, and boxing all the essentials and documents etc. That felt like forever, but it was about two and a half weeks and we finally had to leave our West Seattle home.
While it was a super exhausting process, when we finally moved into our apartment, it was quite liberating. Everything seemed a little simpler, easier perhaps. It's pretty neat I have to say.
If you ever want to give this a try for your house, closet or garage, here's what I've learned that might help...
Maybe this is not for everyone, and maybe having less will become more in other ways. We will see!
ps, can't believe it's been 3 months and going!
No Dragons! This is probably the biggest disappointment after a week in Split. Of course that is a Game of Thrones reference. And we love GoT! Visiting and staying in Croatia you get to see many of the spots that the show was filmed in (scenes from Split). It's fantastic! Oh, you might catch us reenacting a scene or two as we walk through the city. It’s like waking someone sleepwalking – it's dangerous, be careful. ;-P
Split is so much more than GoT. It is the second largest city in Croatia behind Zagreb. It’s not only a tourist attraction with beautiful historical sights, but a city people actually live in. So you can find a genuine experience here.
After the first week, here are our top things to do.
It's not always perfect. Our apartment is beautiful and is built within the Diocletian Palace. The palace is more than 1700 years old, but living in a place like that has a few drawbacks. First, there are a lot of tourist/tour group that go by our door all day long. It’s busy and can sometimes be loud, but most of the time just festive. We are right next to the bell tower and the bells ring starting at 6am every morning and does so several times throughout the day. This hasn’t been a problem for me since I’ve been up before 5am every day, but I imagine once I get over jetlag it can be a problem. Finally, living in the old town, you can smell sulfur (or sewage) every so often. We’ve stayed in 3 apartments/hotels now in the old town and this has been a problem for all. You can even smell it on the Riva at times as well. Probably not a big problem for a short visit in town, but maybe something to think about if you are here for longer stay.
That is our impression after a week. It’s a great city to start our adventure. No dragons, but it’s been pretty amazing!
The next few weeks will be about working through more of the boat details. I know folks have been very curious on our social media accounts. We will be sharing some of that soon!