Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 15 (and 16) - Emeryville

Day 15
- (Repeat) Quotes (expanded) of the day
- In Transit
- Our Danes being themselves
- One more quote

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds.
Ain't no use jiving
Ain't no use joking
Everything is broken.

Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters, broken saws,
Broken buckles, broken laws,
Broken bodies, broken bones,
Broken voices on broken phones.
Take a deep breath, feel like you're chokin',
Everything is broken.

Every time you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face
Broken hands on broken ploughs,
Broken treaties, broken vows,
Broken pipes, broken tools,
People bending broken rules.
Hound dog howling, bull frog croaking,
Everything is broken.

Head to the airport, the fare is a 20 kroners more than when we arrived. DB exchanges remainder of money, with the exchange fees taken out we might as well have thrown half of the kroners in the canal before we left and donated the other half to the Visa Signature Orphans of Denmark fund.

Wait in a line for 40 minutes just to check our bags, SAS tops United’s SFO record. Plane is then delayed as one of the passenger’s visa is not valid (different kind of visa? Maybe not, this is Denmark after all) and his/her baggage needs to be taken off the plane. We’re in the exit row with tons of leg room and a 20 kilo door to be thrown off the wing in case of an emergency. I take the window seat just in case.

Arrive at London for our 3 hour layover (shortened slightly due to bad visa), or so we think. It takes 45 minutes to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 where the United check-in is located and we have to go through security again, another 20 minutes (slowwwwwwww). We have already checked in and got our SFO boarding passes in Copenhagen for the London-SFO flight, and thus once again have encountered the “tear up the existing boarding pass and replace it with a very fresh, new, looks a lot like the last one and functions exactly the same way” board pass. We now find out that Wagamama is in Terminal 5 and it is another 30-35 minutes each way between Terminal 1 and Terminal 5. Sartre’s No Exit is starting to seem the appropriate stand-in-line read.

Believing we don't have enough time to get to Wagamama, we eat a truly horrible meal at Giraffe, in Terminal 1, because DB remembers the truly horrible meal she ate at the pub in Terminal 1 and won’t eat there again. If this keeps up, we will start booking 14 hour layovers (as we did on way to India) to ensure we get a good meal in London, anywhere outside Terminal 1. The restaurant takes Visa, it works with one simple swipe, and we know we are getting ever closer to the land of easy credit again.

Finish up and head to the gate, get there exactly 1 hour and 5 minutes before our flight departs because Heathrow doesn’t assign gates to flights much before departure, so you are stuck out in the generic shopping district longer (oh, and provides the airport flexibility of assigning gates, sort of, within a range of gates since United can’t be anywhere but within a few gates of each other in Terminal 1).

At exactly 55 minutes before the flight is supposed to leave there is an announcement that the flight status will now be announced at 3pm (about 2 hours from now) at the earliest (and 50 minutes after departure), due to mechanical troubles. Oh, and they move us out of the gate area because Air NZ needs it.

In our new waiting spot down a few gates, we now get someone giving shouted announcements. And, of course, the delay means that we had enough time to get to Wagamama for lunch. No, that was not the announcement, that was just the thoughts running through my head!

Our new fear: we will be able to eat there for dinner (so maybe Wagamama is on after all). The shouted announcement is that they have had a computer malfunction and are reinstalling it and it should only take 20 minutes (for those of you old enough to remember this, DB and I immediately think the same thing: is the quote in computer room time or real time, they are definitely NOT same-same, they are same-same BUT different).

And, why does the plane need it a computer, it is just back-up to all those that are really flying the plane by leaning the opposite way when the plane takes a turn, pedaling faster through turbulence, and using telepathy to tell the pilots how to handle the controls. Strictly backup…

We finally board (they had to bus us three gates down because we're not allowed to cross through Air NZ gate space anymore, we might contaminate them), and we have the best premium economy seats ever, we’re in the two seats behind where the crew gets to relax and their seats can fully recline so the ones right behind them have massive leg room. Damn! We leave a little over two hours late, Katie picks up at the airport and we are eating Arizmendi pizza by mid Saturday night. End of the story, thanks all for reading along with the blog.

OOOPS, not the end of the story! The next night we get an e-mail from our Danish exchangers, they got in late after many hours traveling (gosh, wonder if they had the same exact experience we did in London? No, their similar amount of travel has put them in even worse shape, they feel things so much stronger than we do, like the weather) and they report we have ruined their $10,000 leather chair. How could we do that? We knew it was precious to them. What do we propose to do?

What a bookend, they have managed to put us in a tizzy at the beginning of the exchange AND at the end. Pretty impressive!

After much discussion amongst ourselves and with a few friends, we draft a reply that basically says: if you don’t want someone to sit on your furniture, you need to either tell them explicitly or put the stuff away. Normal use is basically what happens on an exchange (although during this drama I loved the story about the people that parked their motorcycle in the middle of the living room…guess nobody suggested NOT to do that).

Best advice we got: don’t send anything back right away, wait another 12 hours. We go to sleep, and lo and behold, here comes another e-mail, we are so sorry, our neighbors (the ones we got motorboated by and treated to lunch) have come to our defense and said the damage existed before we go to Denmark and we were the sort of people that would not abuse furniture.

Maybe karma does work, though I sure believed eating a ton and half of Danish pastry in all its myriad forms would have inured us from all this in the first place.

Thus, the story ends.

One last (I promise!) (repeat) quote:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? — To die, to sleep

Friday, July 24, 2009

Copenhagen (and Berlin) Wrapen-upenen

- Final Quotes
- Copenhagen Final Quiz
- Book Reviews
- Copenhagen Observations
- Copenhagen vs. Berlin

This is I, Hamlet the Dane!

Now, he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused,
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill.
All he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies.

Copenhagen Final Quiz:
THB commends all those that managed to not submit their scores for the final Berlin quiz (that being everyone), and makes the same recommendation for this quiz: that you not try for too high a score, that might put you in running for the prize.
1. Did DB sleep through the TV going off at 11:45? Five points
2. If you have 385 euros on you, enter Denmark and get 2250 kroner from an ATM, find a loose $500 bill in your wallet, and decide to visit Noma for dinner, how much money do you have left at the end of the evening? Ten points for coming within 5,000,000 rupees.
3. How many days did it rain in two weeks:
a. 4
b. 8
c. 12
d. 16
e. 20
Five points for correct answer
4. If you buy a ten ride metro pass for $26 and you take two rides, how much does it cost per ride? 1 point, and minus five points for an incorrect answer, and minus ten points for skipping this question
5. Which night did we get a good bottle of Chilean wine? Which night did we get to drink bad Chilean wine? Ten points
6. What day did they come around on some sort of people-crane and wash the windows? Was it raining? Ten points for right day, zero points for answering correctly to “was it raining?”.
7. Would you pay $17 per person to just stroll around Tivoli Gardens? Five points
8. If there is one artist THB does not want to see an art gallery, who might that be? Five points and a picture of skull encrusted with diamonds signed by someone who is paid by someone who may or may not know the artist
9. If the access to the computers is up a steep flight of narrow-rung stairs, which person checked their e-mail more often: DB or THB? Which person checked the Dow level more often: DB or THB? Which looked at the baseball scores on ESPN more: THB or THB? Five points for each correct answer
10. How many times did THB buy something at Lagkagehuset? Ten points for correct answer, and a bonus of 10 points if you can correctly translate Lagkagehuset (into Lithuanian Spanish)
11. Is it easier to find somewhere if you have already been there? Five points for correct answer and additional five points if you correctly state the number of maps THB consulted during bike rides
12. Name the one appliance you should go out and purchase right this minute? Five points, and an additional five points if you pronounced it arrow-chino when reading it to yourself, and fifty points if you pronounced it that way when telling someone else to go out and buy one
13. What makes mail carriers stand out in Denmark, five points:
a. They ride bikes to make their deliveries
b. They ride three wheeler bikes with a big yellow box on the front
c. They wear striped shirts with the cuffs unbuttoned and maybe rolled up
d. They wear shorts, regardless of the weather
e. It takes some getting used to recognizing these casual types as having some well defined purpose in life
f. All of the above
14. If a Dane says “please” what can you discern from this? Twenty points
15. If you visit a restaurant in Fyn and see a dish being served and the waitress tells you it is an omelet yet looks like a soufflé with potatoes and vegetables piled on top, and later you ask a waiter outside a café in Copenhagen if they have that dish and he laughs wickedly and says in perfect English: There is no special omelet dish in Denmark, whom do you believe? Five points
16. If the flower pots needed watering, would you contort yourself over the edge of the lip of the canal and try and insert a key into a lock, turn on the water and then pull out a 20 foot hose now full of water, or would you fill up a small pitcher and make numerous runs from the kitchen to the backyard? Ten points for identifying which method THB used and which DB used, and twenty points for correctly identifying which one DB suggested THB try after her own attempted method
17. How much money (in kroners) do you need to keep in your bank account if the only method of payment other than cash is a debit card, ten points
a. 5000
b. 10000
c. 20000
d. 30000
e. 80000
f. More
18. Is it better to do the “easy” house exchange first or second? Ten points
19. Metaphysical question, award yourself as many points as you like for your answer: if Ikea is a Danish company that makes extremely well-made low cost furniture and furnishings, how is that Denmark is the most expensive city in the world? If you realize that Denmark is a country, then give yourself at least a few metaphysical points and a few more if you believe Ikea is a Danish company
20. Will you think of Bob Dylan the next time you hear anything having to do with William Shakespeare? One thousand points for correct answer
21. Twenty points for correctly Identifying any of the pictures, 100 points for figuring out the theme of the pictures

The person replying with the most number of points within 5 days of this posting is entitled to one Emeryville Arizmendi t-shirt; please send your size with your answer. Oh, and you must “post” your answer as a comment on the blog, so please make sure to identify yourself with your point total if you post anonymously; e-mail answers not allowed (except with special dispensation, so make your plea sound better than the others who respond via e-mail or posted their answer via blog comments)

Book Reviews:
• Gertrude and Claudius, John Updike: The love affair between Hamlet’s mother and her brother-in-law, the future king, while the King was still alive. Quite good (best thing I ever read of Updike’s, I am not a big fan) and a fast read (not read on this trip). Available in Kindle edition.
• Spiral Jetta, Erin Hogan. A trip through the southwest to visit the great earthwork art projects or, in one case, to attempt to visit the great earthwork art projects, plus a visit to Marfa for the Judd experience. This book definitely reads like a travel blog, though shorter and easier to read than some you may be familiar with. It is informative, includes a bit of art history and recent commentary from Kimmelman, Tompkins and a few other contemporary profilers of the artists. The title is a play on words, the author drives a Jetta and her first stop is Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Available in Kindle edition
• The World Is What It Is: Patrick French. Biography of V.S. Naipaul. To paraphrase Naipaul himself: He is NOT a nice man, HE is not a nice man, he is not a nice MAN, and he is (really) not a NICE man (the guy had a verbal tic of repeating himself, emphasizing different words in the sentence each time). However, he did enable French, giving him free and unlimited access to archives and friends, and did not retain any rights of censorship on the book (he couldn’t have!). The book itself is reasonably well written, not too wordy when it comes to the books written by Naipaul, and a great look at a man in his time since Naipaul was more journalist than novelist. I have read several of Naipaul’s books (fiction and non-fiction) and the books do not really reflect at all what he is like in real life, not a clue. If you want to read a book that exposes a well-known guy as a truly, completely arrogant asshole, in his own words and those of his first wife (through her journals), this is the book for you. I couldn’t stop reading! Available in Kindle edition
• Beginner’s Greek: James Collins. A novel about a 25-30 year old guy that has a chance encounter on a plane with a young woman, falls in love with her on the flight, loses contact and then re-encounters her when she has hooked up with his best friend. A well-written fluff piece with a Hollywood ending. Probably submitted as an ironic movie script. Available in Kindle edition
• Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell, takes me 30 pages to realize I have already read this book, and at that can't remember finishing it. NOT recommended

• The Danes dress very casually, and seem to realize that they live in a very expensive country with good social services provided in exchange for very high taxes. Much friendlier in person, and everyone we met here seemed for the most part interested in helping out once they “knew” us
• Hey, it rains a lot here in summer, day after day, and is a lot less humid than Berlin, a lot less
• Once you get used to it, getting around via bikes is terrific, until you realize it rains a lot here in summer and that it must be really brutal in winter. Good to know that the public transportation is also quite extensive (except in the newer housing development south of Copenhagen, which was a very expensive ghost town)
• Danes are even more rule followers than what we saw in Berlin; best example was early on Sunday morning where a jogger was waiting patiently for the light to turn green and as best we could tell there was not a car coming anywhere near the intersection she needed to cross, it was clear for miles (other than us, and we weren’t crossing in front of her).
• Countryside is full of wheat fields, not too many animals (we saw more horses than cows or sheep)
• They don’t eat a lot of leafy green vegetables, and most vegetables come in some sort of sauce, and they do love their new potatoes
• Driving was pretty easy and most things are very well marked until it comes to reading the street signs with their long complicated names and changing every few blocks to another long complicated name
• Ice cream here is overrated, though heavily indulged in; a six scooper waffle cone was on every open air menu and we saw plenty of people order them. Somehow with all the great pastry and ice cream eaten, they look in great shape: lots of people exercising and plenty of bike riding instead of getting around in cars
• There’s smoking here, and maybe it is about what you would see in the US give or take a few percent, and way less than Germany
• DB felt that the famed Danish design was somewhat limited and you saw the same items over and over again. I thought the best store we found was Moomentstore and it turned out to have not a lot of items, many of which were from Japan, US or Germany (sometimes done in collaboration with Danish designers)

Berlin vs Copenhagen: 5 points awarded for each category won
Accommodations: Berlin, mostly because everything was so easy and accessible, though the swimming in the canal right outside our back door was a huge plus for Copenhagen. Sleeping separately and climbing the stairway to computer heaven huge drawbacks in Copenhagen
Art: Berlin even if the galleries in Copenhagen had been open. Though Louisiana makes it a pretty tight category, the museum in Leipzig was even more of a wonder
Bath tub: Copenhagen had one and Berlin did not
Cars: Copenhagen by default, though on second thought, the cost of gas and bridge tolls gives this one to Berlin (and the train to and from Spinnerei was driven by someone else and required no navigation)
Cost: DUH! If you don’t get this one right, you stopped reading after we left Berlin
Dress: Both towns are extremely casual, to the extent that anyone wearing what we would call business casual really stood out. The Danish women seem to be in one uniform, combinations of black and white, black and grey, black and black, and black and anything else. They definitely looked good in their uniforms! Copenhagen
Drinking: Beer and wine better in Berlin
Entertainment: Then we take Berlin, Leonard Cohen in a landslide over five days of Metallica
Exchangers: We know the Danes were disappointed at the beginning of their beach stay, so Berlin for now (they come next August)
Food (unprepared): The best bakery in Europe and good produce in Copenhagen overcomes the much better prices in the Berlin stores
Neighbors: Gerry the Indian aficionado vs. Helle and Jergen, category winner is Copenhagen; though Gerry was wonderful, he didn’t mortorboat us
Outdoor cafes: Berlin, available all day long and the city is basically one large sidewalk café that never ends.
Reading: I had read one book that took place in Copenhagen, The Exception by Christian Jurgersen (translated, available in Kindle edition), which is a very good psychoanalytic thriller. However, I had trouble finding other recent releases dealing with Denmark. Berlin was not a problem, three books all read while in town. Sounds likes Berlin, except the quotes of the day were from some obscure work that takes place in the north of Zealand. Toss-up
Restaurants: Berlin, on overall quality and price, though we think we had a few better meals in Copenhagen, we also had some real duds
Smoking: Copenhagen, with about 40% fewer of the population lighting up at all times of the day
Sports: Wimbledon vs. Tour de France, Copenhagen, because we were biking all over town while Contador was leading Astana to the yellow jersey (and we don’t play tennis), even with great show by Williams sisters and Roger achieving 15 slams
Touring: Interesting comparison, Leipzig and the infamous trip to Spinnerei vs. Fyn and the Funish group. Bad food in both, better scenery in Fyn, great art in Leipzig gives points to Berlin
Transportation: Bikes vs. the S- and U-Bahns. Toss-up, both great
Water: the water in Copenhagen was much nicer, we actually felt like our hair was clean after shampooing, and we were actually able to get tap water with a meal in Copenhagen, impossible in Berlin
Weather: Copenhagen, even with all its rain, over the humidity of Berlin
Overall: Berlin, by a small margin

Day 14 - Copenhagen

Day 14
- Quotes of the day
- Lunch with the three pigs
- THB is bitter, how bitter? Very bitter!
- BBQ in the hood

The rest is silence.

Senor, senor, let's disconnect these cables,
Overturn these tables.
This place don't make sense to me no more.
Can you tell me what we're waiting for, senor?

We begin our last full day in Copenhagen with a E-ville Friday tradition: we walk to the bakery for breakfast, and buy a giant half of a cinnamon bun done up as a circle. Mighty sweet!

Organize the packing, do a bit of cleaning, revel in the fact that stock market is higher than we left, then do a bit of touring our area on bikes. Notice that they kill the weeds on the sidewalks and meridians by burning them, they carry a stick and tank like you might see when pesticide is sprayed on the weeds, except this stick has a flame coming out of it! Take in the Foster-Partners architecture museum (I guess it is a museum, maybe it is just a branch office recouping costs). Kind of a novel idea, put up a bunch of big pictures and text illustrating your major projects, some of which will never be done (and not Terminal 3 in Beijing Airport), and charge admission. We are pensioners so only pay $5 each. There are actually other people there. Hmmmmmm...

We get on the bikes for the final ride, head across town past Lele’s to Les Trois Cochons. Order moules med frites and hunks of bread, glass of wine and one good (gourmentbyrgghery) beer. Excellent meal and the waiter throws in the frites for free (not sure why). They aren’t busy, so of course we chat him up a bit. He is Danish, speaks English to the Canadian chef (from Toronto), and the chef also speaks Icelandic in order to speak with his girlfriend. Nobody appears to speak French, though the menu is in Danish and French, meaning we can read it! The waiter’s a nice guy, gives us a $40 gift certificate to use at Cochons or one of Cochons’ sister restaurants, problem is they can’t take us tonight on our last night so we are passing it along to our exchangers.

Why is THB bitter? The total for lunch is $60 (hey, this is a bargain, and the $40 gift certificate comes along too, THB is NOT bitter at all about that). The Visa machine is broken! Gosh, really? Yep, since yesterday. THB is trying to manage the last of the kroner so that we don’t get stuck with a bunch upon leaving. Pay in cash (the only option).

As we are touring the neighborhood after lunch, we spot an item that would be perfect for the nice person picking us up at Bart, and the store doesn’t take Visa unless you use a pin. We don’t have enough cash to pay for item and cab to airport tomorrow. Better to use ATM, because we can pay store and recoup dollars for rest of stay.

Off THB goes down the block to the nearest branch, and the bank rejects his ATM card. Back to the store to use the ATM card there with pin code. Store Visa rejects THB’s Visa and ATM card. Two rejections, one broken machine, and one “we don’t take Visa with signature,” all in the space of 20 minutes or so. Gosh, maybe THB is wrong, this is really a third world country masquerading as a first world country. Store clerk tries her Visa debit card and after a long wait, it works. THB tries his Visa debit card (using pin) again and after a long wait, it works. Then THB goes to an ATM (at a different bank) and it works. By now, you are bitter that THB is taking up a lot of room in the blog with his bitterness. It’s bitter out there, very bitter.

Dinner tonight at the place we ate our first meal out in Copenhagen, BBQ. Wanna bet if Visa works this time? DB makes a reservation and confirms they take Visa (again).

Back to house to rest up, time for a dip, and it is awesome! Bright blue sky, warmth of the sun, water is refreshing, the perfect temperature. THB feels the bitterness sliding off him into the Baltic. Take advantage of the weather to sunbathe, which lasts maybe another ten minutes when the next (brief) storm arrives. Hey, another day with rain! That’s novel, too.

Walk to dinner, first we take in a pretty weak art opening for Lyst, a gay organization that is timed to coincide with the Out Games taking place this upcoming week. Not much art, everyone buying a beer for $3.

Dinner at Bastionen and Loven, first course is “pocket” off the grill of goat cheese, yellow beets, olives and sliced almonds, and is very good. Help-yourself to green salad and tomatoes and mozzarella salad, then a choice of salmon, lamb or chicken cooked on the grill, with sides off the buffet of corn on the cob (surprisingly good) and new potatoes (NO surprise). The lamb and salmon are perfect, and we talk ourselves into asking for seconds on the salmon, which they give us for free. With three glasses of wine, $120. And, yes, Visa works and the bitterness is somewhere out near the middle of the Baltics. However, THB forgets to pay partly in kroner, so DB is now faced with spending the extra $40 or so in the Copenhagen airport, I am sure she will manage somehow.

And, in true Copenhagen style, we see lightning in the distance as we are settling up, and it starts to rain on the walk home. Gonna really miss the rain, I sure am.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 13 - Copenhagen

Day 13
- Quotes of the day
- Rain, thunder, and lightning
- Roskilde
- Dinner in the hood

Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed

We are seeing an amazing number of kids under 5 and lots of pregnant women (even very pregnant women on bikes).

We get a brief note from our exchangers, they have managed to hang on at the beach long enough that the sun came out for a few days (and there was fog all around them, north and south). Here, we are having torrential storms. Seems pretty clear that we are locked into some zero sum weather pattern with them.

Lunch is sandwiches from Lagkagehuset, tuna and chicken, eating in today. We both notice they don’t quite get the filling all the way down the baguette, hmmmmm…$23 including some crackers I can’t resist.

As we drive out for Roskilde, we decide to head west through Copenhagen. This gives us our first (and only) opportunity to personally activate the lowering of the bollard for us to cross over from Holmen the short way out. Down goes the bollard, green goes the light, over we go, nervously. All is fine, we decide to come back via freeway and the back route, so that is why it’s our only experience with lowering bollards (demeaning bollards, cutting down bollards, putting bollards six feet under?).

Then with the weather clearing to just overcast, we complete the 40 kilometer drive and head for the Viking ship museum and a tour on the fiord. The museum has pieces of real ships sunk a thousand years ago (see pics). They also have replicas floating in the water outside; you can even book a trip on them. We go to pay the museum fee ($20 each) and one of the Visa devices is broken and the other will not accept our card (debit only). This causes a bit of friction between us, I think that three museums in a row (prime tourist spots) that don’t take an international credit card sinks the country to second world status (overstated, I admit), and of course DB is telling me I have it wrong. Other than Germany, where tourist spots did take Visa, it was only the restaurants that didn’t and they didn’t pretend to take only certain types of Visa cards, I haven’t been anywhere including China and India and Argentina where they are this adamant about not taking Visa. Doubt this is part of the financial crisis, it sure doesn’t make all that much sense to me in a country that is so damn expensive.

The other semi-plausible possibility is that since they charge a 2.5 - 4% fee to use Visa, nobody does and the staff doing the ringing up has grown so rusty they can't remember how to use the machine when signature is required. That does happen, shouldn't at places with as high Visa traffic as tourist museums.

We head over to the boat ride on the fiord, they are sold out for the 3pm tour, the only time other than Noma something has been booked full and we can’t get in. We decide not to wait for the 7pm cruise, tour the town on foot (KB: check out the pics of the Danish Fat Boy recliner), clearly this is not the chi-chi area of Copenhagen we are used to, more like Modesto than SF. The other two pics: famous cathedral (massive, brick, done over different eras) and a nini-model of Roskilde.

Then head back to our place to once again find the Tour de France at just the right spot with top contenders on the time trial course, and another spurt of heavy rain. Lance climbs back on the podium, Alberto is golden.

It is still raining lightly, we decide for dinner to ride our bikes over to the local spot where we had brunch on Sunday, Yes, you read correctly, we rode our bikes in the rain to dinner. Einor unenes Copenhagenerens. Rhetorical question: they do this in winter?

Frederiks Bastion (or is it Christians Bastion? Maybe next year they change the name?) for dinner. We are two of the only five diners tonight. And, the food is extraordinary, a first course of potato and onion soup topped with burnt onion salt (rich and extremely good, made to be shared) and four small (very small) fresh Icelandic shrimp with 4 small elderberries (I think) and some other exotic local seasoning and herbs, served on a plate of ice, with dry ice underneath so the dish comes in its own fog. We eat these with our fingers, almost too delicate and beautiful to eat with forks. Too small to share and too good not to, we each get two exquisite mouthfuls. UNBELIEVABLE! This guy could be a top sushi chef just on presentation alone.

Main courses: one of chicken, the other of rooster, both excellent, one with beets done three different ways, the other with fresh carrots, and of course the bowl of new potatoes. Then we share a dense small (phew!) slice of chocolate cake (sort of like a decadence, though I think there is some flour) and served on shregr (my spelling), which is a tart yogurt made by the restaurant. Bottle of sauvignon blanc/viognier blend, total is $180.

We chat up the chef over dessert, not hard as his night of cooking is over. He’s local, spent two years cooking in Oslo. His food is very impressive and he is really working hard to get the natural flavors of the ingredients to shine through and enhance what you’re eating, not overwhelm the food, my kind of guy!

Ride back, it isn’t raining, thankfully. We hear from our exchange partners that things have looked up at the beach, they’ve been roaming up and down the coast and even playing tennis and sitting by the pool (on other hand, my dips have come to an end with the eternal overcast and intermittent rain).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 12 - Copenhagen

Day 12
- Quotes of the day
- Breakfast from the bakery
- Climbing Mt Everest
- Lunch at Le Cheval, er, LeLe’s
- Contador and a nap
- Dinner at home

But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.

Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore
you may not see me tomorrow

Department of amplification: the pic of a clock sitting on the windshield is the way Danes tell the meter maids when they got into their parking spot. It can't be fudged because if you set it to a time that is before the mm shows up, it is pretty obvious you were trying to get some extra time. Clever way to easily allow everyone to be honest about how long they've been a free parking spot (ie, a two hour zone, you would set the clock to your arrival time). Appears every car in Denmark has one of these, and now we do too, got an extra to bring home! Hmmmmmmmm, now to hope that the all the meter maids that meet our car are Danish.

Another sloggy start after our late night out, at least semi-enhanced by five different pastries from the best bakery east of Lakeshore. DB does seem to sum it up: they use a lot of butter! $12

Off after 11 to visit the spiral church and for $5 each we start our way up the narrow inside staircase. There are many fellow climbers on their way back down, so there is much halting as we hit various landings to let the steady downward flow go by. 400 steps later, we have spiraled our way to heaven, though because the weather today is overcast we don’t get the vistas of yesterday. It is still one impressive sight, a 360 of Copenhagen. See pics of church and view from the church.

Continue our walk and after much back and forth discussion of where to eat, DB remembers the Vietnamese restaurant on our list of recommendations, and we trudge out (we decide to be walkers today) past centrum to LeLe’s, It is your typical spot as you would find in any major California city. One bowl of noodles with spring rolls, one of grilled pork, two limonades (terrific, and only $8 each), total $55. Oh, guess it is not exactly the typical spot, since the same meal in Oakland would be almost less than half that!

Stroll back and find the best design store in Copenhagen, Moomentstore (extra o intentional on their part). They don’t have that many items, most are from outside Denmark. We chat up the young couple that own the place (gee, they are wearing black, what a shock) and they have those small wooden beginner bikes from Berlin. We are soooooo au courant!

Somehow, today the men are all wearing black t-shirts; the daily dress code memo appears to not have been delivered to our residence. And, we do a very sloppy analysis of the bike riders and helmets, and decide very few men wear them, maybe 10-20% of women do, and a lot of the kids are wearing helmets.

Pick up our afternoon treat of soft ices med toppings.

As it starts to drizzle, we semi-hustle back to our place, stopping at the second best bakery in the world for dinner rolls. THB caught holding the bag. Nearing the house, it starts to rain. Nap to another stage where Contador solidifies the yellow jersey. Quiet dinner in, tortellini and salad.

Day 11 - Copenhagen

Day 11
- Quotes of the day
- Visiting the ghost of the Quote of the day
- Art done right
- Dinner with friends

O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?

It is glorious out: clear, breezy and cool (it stays that way all day, clarity of air matches Patagonia!). Decide to walk to the church near us with a famous spiral staircase on the outside of the spire. Get there a bit after nine, and along with three Brits, find out that access to the spiral isn’t until 11am. See graffiti being cleaned off store sign (see pic of truck) Walk back to house and decide to take bike ride to see some unusual buildings near the beach near us. Ride over, the main street we want to take is under construction, they are building bike lanes. Take the detour, can’t find the buildings we’re looking for, bike back using a shortcut we learned about while driving out of our hood.

Lunch is top shelf, and then we drive off to look at a Scandinavian furniture store, Paustian, not easy to find as it is behind some other buildings on a wharf just north of city centrum. After overshooting once, we find it (and the pic of a sign saying don’t let your car fall into the canal, something our exchangers would not treasure). Walk through the store, DB will have to eventually report, didn’t seem all that special to me.

Aside: DB is not reading the blog before or after publishing, guess she doesn’t want to taint or mislead the author with details that match reality, after all this is a strange and not-so-true adventure story. Or is it just a (very) long sad tale? She’ll catch up when we are back in E-ville.

We continue north to meet up with Soren, whom we met with his son Simon (Simone, as in Nina, in Danish) while we were touring Viet Nam, on two different stops. Drive up, and get a tour of his townhouse. He and his wife Michala got married within 4 weeks of our date in 1969. They also lived in a large house (which Michala designed, we see it later after dinner and it is very nice and a bit different than a lot of the traditional houses), and decided to downsize a few years ago.

Michala is out golfing (she’s a jock, Soren is not and he was in a serious accident 6 or 7 years ago and has residual back problems as well). Off the three of us go (see pic of THB and Soren) to visit:

• Frederiksborg Slot (see pic) (a royal castle in a spectacular setting basically in middle of a town, HIllerod, north of Copenhagen We tour the church and the large main room, full of crests made up for visiting royalty and personages of fame. Three levels of crests, the elephant ones are for royalty, ranking ahead of crests with crosses, wonder if the third level is a pastry and if so, is that ahead or behind the elephants?
• Soren shows us the beautiful plot of land that his father owned, on a lake and now mostly fields of wheat (used to have orchards also). Soren sold it shortly after they were married because he had to make a choice of being a farmer and a fruit broker (like his father) or just a fruit broker. Now you can see the makings of a fabulous summer place just a short car ride from where they live now.
• Fredensborg Palace Gardens, where Soren sweet talks us in for free because we are just looking at the gardens and not taking a tour (in Danish) of the Palace. Note the similarity in names and what a great job THB has done in notating them 100% accurately. Since the kings have alternated being called Frederick and Christian for the last 20 generations (they have a Queen now, and I am pretty sure she doesn’t go by either Fred or Chris, is it Marguerite?), saying the name of the place is something like Frederick-whatever or Christian-whatever gives you a 50% chance of being damn close).

• On to Helsingor (ell-senor, with a lilde over the n), the (faked) ancestral home of the lead character and name-sake of the greatest play ever written. Some guy with the name tag of Fortinbras makes sure that we have a handicapped card before allowing us through the main gate in Soren’s car. Just across the water is Helsingborg, Sweden. Back in the 1400s, ell-senor was a fortress and there was a duplicate fortress on the now-Sweden side that could, with cannons, command the entire strait and thus collect taxes before allowing any boat to pass. Every other year a British theater comes and performs one of Willy’s finest, though not always Hamlet, on the inner courtyard. DB and THB pay appropriate homage and have picture taken.

• Then to Louisiana (Loo-ees-ee-anna, maybe that didn’t help, the stress is on Loo), a tremendous art museum. They don’t break any rules: well lit, art well-attributed, no Hirst. Like Berlin’s Modern Art Museum, they also have a room with photographs of famous painters. The art looks great, sculpture outside is terrific, overall effect is stunning. They have a great Oppenheim puppet piece, see pic. The building itself is very well designed and the vistas over the water towards Sweden are magnificent. Soren leaves us alone while we tour the first half, then we join him for a mid-game snack, and the three of us finish touring. One of the better museum shops (not that THB has any clue as to what is a good shop vs. a bad shop other than a place with wide aisles and no people is a good shop), they have so much stuff the store is on two levels.

We tour the coastline south to a restaurant where we meet up with Michala and Simon. Very easy conversation, food is very good: three men have 3 course menu, with first course cold salmon (with a lot of flavor), venison and veggies (and of course, nye potatoes) and strawberries with ice cream. Michala has soup, DB skips first course to share with THB, and they both have red fish over noodles, also quite good. GOOD Chilean sauvignon blanc, and Soren graciously picks up the check. Lovely all around.

Back to Soren and Michala’s place, where we get an intimate tour of the bathroom so we can discuss Michala’s design (she did the interiors here, the exteriors are untouchable because of the local architecture board designating it so), particularly the bathroom, then coffee and biscuits (British cookies?) and we drive back in what passes for darkness here.

The part I have left out: last November, Soren, Simon and daughter/sister Katrina (yes, they have a daughter with same name as Katie), were on a S.American tour, first Quito, then Amazon for boat tour, then Quito, Galapagos, and back to Quito and Machu Pichu. (I doubt I have this sequence right). They get to Galapagos, do a bit of sightseeing, then get on boat for touring. First night on boat, a few of the tour members stay up chatting, and then decide to take a dip. Katrina dives in, feels something, and then realizes she has been bitten by a shark, near her calf and ankle.

She is flown to Quito where for 17 days the hospital puts her back together including transferring a bit of her thigh to her calf. Soren goes back to Copenhagen after a few days, Simon stays for duration. Katrina is in and out of anesthetics every day as they handle the repairs. Hospital care is terrific, Simon is communicating regularly via Skype and e-mailing pictures (we see a subset, not pretty yet fascinating because it is someone you know (of)). Katrina is very lucky and has made a full recovery, though she still has signs and scars of the attack.

We drive back without consulting maps (hey, it seems dark out), when we get close to centrum we follow our bike route, works perfectly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Days 9, 10 and ? Pics

back side of power plant, taken when boating with Helle and Jergen, front side had been taken during our bike ride (entered here for thoroughness, THB is nothing if not thorough)

a typical house in a nice seaside town (a bit reminescent of nice house pics from India)

They run a tourist train, we got stopped a crossing or we would never have known about it

Another very large house, pic is of the drive through stables/offices area

Icelandic poppies

Days 9 and 10 - Copenhagen

Day 9
- Quotes of the day
- What the Danes said when gas hit $4/gallon in the US
- You guess HOW MUCH
- Touring for fun and Fyn
- Hveldholm Slot

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder

Department of Clarification: DB thinks maitre donaldo was only giving us an example of his salary and taxes, those aren’t the actual figures, they must be higher!

Breakfast at home of muesli with great berries from the local fruit stand, we decide to give the best bakery in the northern hemisphere an extra day off to replenish their stock.

Head out in our Saab sedan (see pic), no trouble finding the road to Fyn, the Danish island just to the west of Zealand, home of Copenhagen. Car starts out about half full, quickly moves closer to empty. Per our instructions, only Shell’s V-Power qualifies for gassing up. Note: V-Power is the most expensive gas per liter in Denmark (Hmmmm…the guy bought a car that takes the most expensive gas?). Miss one Shell; have to retreat to other side of freeway. Fill up the tank, time for the first Pop Quiz of the day.

What do the Danes say when gas hit $4/gallon in the US?
1. Gosh, that reminds us of the good old days
2. I think if we send our cars there, it will be cheaper to fill up there than here even with all the shipping costs
3. If they think that’s high, they have another kroner or two coming
4. No wonder they can all afford to drive SUVs and Hummers

And, the answer is: $105 for a fill-up! That is not a typo: One hundred and five dollars for a fill-up of a regular sedan car, not totally on empty. The Danes are driving our Prius, which we left on full for them. I sure hope they have left it full and left us another $50 in gifts for driving such an economical car and letting them use it (something tells me that ain’t gonna happen, there won’t be much love and appreciation coming our way from sunny California).

Now we are back on the freeway, after backtracking 12 miles (or, $15 in gasoline) to make sure we visited Shell and only Shell, and hit the bridge (see pic) between Zealand and Fyn. Yes, remember one small scoop of ice cream is $4. How much was the toll to cross the bridge (one way, they charge in both directions)?

1. $5
2. $10
3. $15
4. $20
5. $30
6. $40
8. 1000 euros
9. 2 bllion rupees
10. 4 billion Argentinean pesetas

I hope everyone got the right answer…well, not really, I hope that the real answer was somewhere between 1 and 4. The toll taker did not come up with a number between answer 1 and 4. She came up with answer 7.

On to Fyn, mostly an agricultural island with lots of small sea towns, castles, and many, tons of wheat fields, many small help-yourself-put-money-in-the-jar fruit and vegetable stands. Many! We stop at one of the first we see, and this one turns out to have a farmer actually attending the stand (see pic with another couple shopping). Which is a good thing, because he is selling potatoes, cherries, peas, and berries (or was it cauliflower?). In any case, the little pre-set quantities are different prices, and THB cannot tell which price goes with which item because other than kartoffel THB cannot figure out what the Danish name for cherries is, same for the other items! Buy cherries, excellent, and peas, also excellent. Small amounts of each, total $7. THB has exact change, farmer very happy (well, not really, totally deadpan).

We also see: thatched roofs (see pic), castles surrounded by moats (see pic), horse-drawn carriages, lots of very pretty wildflowers including Icelandic poppies, some cute little sea towns, a few bikers and not too many cars. DB does an exceptional navigating job as the names of the roads are difficult to read and discern from one another, plus we are following the scenic road trail that is marked (occasionally) with a small daisy sign.

Eat lunch at the Hotel Faergegaarden in one of the ferry towns, not a lot of parking left as people leave their cars for the weekend or all day while ferrying around. The lunch is whole fried plaice and a piece of breaded plaice on bread, two small beers. Starts to rain as we are finishing up, have to raise the big beach umbrella on the table to keep from getting really wet. Food just okay, $50.

Continue touring on to several other small islands over bridges without tolls (amazing, after they see what you can get for a big bridge, you’d think they’d have no trouble with smaller tolls for smaller bridges, say in the $20 range). Stop for a soft ice and decide to get toppings, DB chocolate mixed with nuts and THB a dusting of cacao. The toppings are eighty cents, the first item we have seen for sale under $4 anywhere in Denmark. See THB’s pic of raising his cone in homage to this fine establishment, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We spend the night at Hvenholm Slot, room Hofjaegermesteren (aka, nr 26). It is a converted castle (or mansion) on lovely grounds: $220 a night plus breakfast. The bed appears to be somewhat unique; we can both sleep in it at the same time (see pics of bed, Bake Sale Betty and Alec accessory, ). At first, I think they have forgotten to give us towels, and then realize the thin, small white things in the bathroom ARE towels.

We decide to have dinner here as well, and we think they have 10 guest rooms (out of about 50) rented out for the night because there are 20 people in the dining room. We order the two course meal: amuse bouche of salmon on pea mush (good!), scallops on a very salty beurre blanc med veggies (ok) and supposedly veal (it’s not) with mashed potatoes and one spear of asparagus and one green onion (lousy), and the three course wine pairing (lousy, two of the wines are from Chile, not their finest). Total for dinner: $200, DB thinks I am too hard on the ratings. Maybe she’s right, yet I am growing nostalgic for the meals we had in Germany.

Here’s my early assessment of Danish food: I think the food in Germany was better (and of course a lot less money). We clearly are getting good bakery stuff, and an occasional decent to above average meal. L’Atrio was very good food overall with some very good individual items and wines, and after that it has been pretty mediocre (and expensive).

Day 10
- Quotes of the day: see above, rained off and on all day, sometimes hard
- More fun in Fyn
- Dinner on the deck: NOT

Breakfast was a buffet: steam tray scrambled eggs and bacon, muesli in two flavors with fixings, four different cheeses, brown wet rye bread, pate, fruit from elsewhere (no cherries or strawberries, clearly in season in big quantities right down the road).

Tried to check out, nobody shows up until after 9:30 (supposed to be there at 8am) and the waiter from last night is now handling the desk. Summer staff? Also noted that in a bizarre way, the art is pretty interesting, they’ve hung a ton of recently done paintings that look like the old-time portraits and other scenes from the 1700 and 1800s. Not great, at least ironic!

THB decides to soften the blow of a full fill-up and heads to a Shell to fill up while still having at least a half-tank of gas. Cost is $55, strategy appears to work. Go to pay an the clerk says they don’t take Visa without a pin (ie, debit cards). I explain that the last Shell took this card. She says: this card won’t work in the entire of Denmark. At that point the receipt for signature starts to print out. Does she say anything like, Oh, you must be right! Nope…THB may be showing some bitterness here.

Stop to buy more cherries, $5. DB notices that right across the street they are only $3. THB says it was worth the extra $2 for the picture opportunity (see pic).

Touring continues to be quite pretty. Stop for lunch in Odense, the biggest city on Fyn. Lunch at small place, have shawarma, hot dog, fries, coke zero, $17. We’re the only customers; chat up the only guy working there. He’s Iraqi, he and his entire family came to Denmark 5 years ago (2004? Makes sense…). He was happy that Bush deposed Saddam, and he is very happy Obama got elected (along with just about everyone else). He also, unsolicited, comments on the racism in Denmark towards people of color. This guy would not really stand out in the US, here he is obviously a foreigner. He is hoping that he and his family will be able to return to Iraq at some point. He also comments on the summers in Denmark (we have rain, sometimes very hard) off and on all day long. Still, seems better than baking in the desert.

Before we continue touring, we bump into the best design store in Denmark (we had researched via the internet and found it) right down the street from the lunch place. Closed on Mondays.

Back in the car, and head to Kertminde for a visit to the Johannes Larsen house and museum. He was one of the leaders of the Funish group (not to be confused with the Fonish or Funenish groups), lived from 1867 to 1961. In his house, he painted on the walls (see pic) and there are lots of pictures by his wife and sister on the house walls, I don’t like any of it, DB likes some of Johannes’ paintings. There are free cherries! Oh, and the Visa machine is down and thus they only take cash for admission and purchases, and the change comes in small coins (sort of like someone giving you a roll of nickels when the change is 50 cents).

Then right down the road is an imprint of a Viking ship from 900 or so (see pic). Fascinating, it is just the impression as the wood as all rotted away and just left the bones of animals (see pic) and some pieces of iron. Very much like Goldsworthy had done his version of a ship, it is what you don’t see that is the piece. Of course, this provokes a question of whether this is a real 1100 year old artifact or something dummied up to attract tourists, just as THB believes happened in Lascaux (Hey, Jacque, get some of that pigment and let’s hold up one of our hands and pretend we are blowing it on the wall with our mouths, the yahoos will eat it up and we can charge mucho francs and become very rich You do the antelopes, I’ll do the bulls). Still, the non-ship is a great thing to see, real or not. See pic of THB astride the burial mound on top of Viking ship, wearing attire from year 909.

Oh, and the Visa machine is down and thus they only take cash for admission and purchases, and the change comes in small coins (sort of like someone giving you a roll of pennies when the change is 50 cents). Another smiling clerk, shrugging, so it is.

Back to Copenhagen, where this time we use a credit card to pay the FOURTY THREE DOLLAR bridge toll. Can’t you just see our exchangers wondering how to pay for the return trip from SF to Emeryville? What, we get both directions for less than 25 Kroners, who made THAT up?

Stop at supermarket, very nice, and buy next few meals: roti chicken, potatioes, arugula, wine, beer, herring, wet rye bread, etc, (gosh, he used etc? does that mean he actually left things out of the blog? Incredible!), total $66. Turns out the roti chicken was dry, so we’ll have to go back to upscale department store for reliablility.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 8 - Copenhagen

Day 8
- Quote of the day
- Driving to Malmo or Arken
- Como se dice: carne roja?
- See the quote of the day

I smoke two joints in the morning.
I smoke two joints at night.
I smoke two joints in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright
I smoke two joints in time of peace, and two in time of war
I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints,
And then I smoke two more

Visit the best bakery in Europe, this time for a large almond semi-circle croissant-like beast and a swirl with chocolate on top. It could’ve been worse, much worse. I saw 3 or 4 more things to buy, and somewhere from deep inside muster up the will to resist. Chat up the guy helping me (everything is boxed and bagged by the staff he’s helped me before) and find out they are open 6am to 7pm, every day. Am I here every day? Total: $13

Quick note on Helle and Jergen: they have been married for about 10 years, six of which they lived in Switzerland as part of Jergen’s job for a Danish shipping company. He has also lived in Angola, and been all over the world for his job including Houston and Connecticut (no connection to the Bush clan). He speaks at least 5 languages and studied Latin for four years as well. Helle worked in the unemployment office before they got married and moved to Switzerland. They have three places, a summer house about 2 hours north of here and a house in Switzerland. They are retired and move around from house to house.

Rest up, it is raining this morning, then eat top shelf for lunch: left over pizza, potatoes, carrots. Then take the car out for the first big drive, 16 miles south of here to the Arken Art Museum. It is undergoing major renovation (we didn’t know, it isn’t that old), and is meant to remind you of a large boat. With the scaffolding, a new entrance being (re)constructed, and parking lot near empty, we are worried upon arrival that it is closed!

It’s open. There are three things I really don’t like when visiting a museum:
1. The light is too dim to see the art well
2. It is hard to figure out who the artist is when looking at a piece (sometimes because of #1 or small print, or both)
3. There is more than one piece by Damien HIrst
This museum has all three conditions, with #3 being abused dramatically, they make it clear they are major collector of Hirst. They also have a large collection of recent Chinese art (only the Danes can afford to have gone deep on Chinese art and Hirst in the last few years). There are a lot of videos, as well.

As for driving, we have no problem finding the museum, we are really only faced with one turn where we are confused, and pull into a gas station to make sure. Then we are really only faced with one turn where if we screw up it is a major calamity: when we get to the freeway, there are two choices: heading southwest through Denmark, or ending up on the bridge to Malmo, Sweden. Fortunately, both times we finesse this on/off ramp cloverleaf with no problem. On other hand, we do want to go to Malmo, at some point so it wouldn’t have been too big a tragedy.

Pictures: The sign warning of the bollards that are up, then the bollards up with car waiting, then one with bollards up and the car having backed down the road because they do not have a transponder to lower the bollards! Also a picture with the bridge up (slightly), a few times a day they raise the drawbridges to allow tall boats through. Plus two bonus pics from yesterday, one showing the beach action along the canal (many people out sunbathing and a power boat tied up alongside) and the other a non-Calatrava pedestrian bridge.

Off to dinner, we decide to walk the canal near the best bakery in Europe and end up in an Argentinean parilla (pah-re-sha), for a red meat meal. Order steaks and Malbec. Maitre donaldo is from Argentina and is amazed that we’ve seen the glaciers and Iguazu Falls (big pics on the wall). After dinner we end up chatting and he has an immigration story: he was staying with a friend and decided to see if he could find work. He put in three applications on a weekend, by Tuesday he had two interviews and by the end of the week he had a job, a bike, a cell phone, and a new place to live plus all his paperwork completed (and no corruption involved a la Buenos Aires). He makes $20k and pays $6k in taxes (he wasn’t wild about that part). He was planning to stay for a few months, now in his 8th month. Oh, and our dinner total is $170, something tells me maitre donaldo is not eating out much.

And, he gets to speak Spanish on the job, the other guys working there are from Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico and Lithuania (I am not making this up...does the guy from Lithuania also speak Spanish? Guess so!). Several other parties in our room also spoke Spanish (one was made of 5 people from Peru and Bolivia, plus a baby).

We saunter back through Christiania, the hippie area that was overtaken by squatters in the early 70s and has yet to be really reclaimed by the authorities. Lots of graffiti, dope, live (free!) music, dope, beer, dope, wurst, and beads and tie-dye for sale, plus dope and beer drinking. Even a vegetarian café hidden away. And, obviously, plenty of 15-30 year olds. We walk through the residential area – think old Mendocino - connected by bike paths, for quite a ways, then hit a street which finally takes us back to pretty much where we walked in. It’s 9:45 and the sun is starting to set, won’t really be dark for another 3 hours (if feels more like 3 months)