When in Copenhagen...

Trip Start May 14, 2010
Trip End Jun 08, 2010

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Flag of Denmark  , Zealand,
Friday, May 28, 2010

As was the theme of this week, and especially the weekend that was beginning with this Friday, I had another early start and full day of travel and activity. Thankfully I was organised and booked the taxi the night prior as when I checked out at 5:45am there were some other people also waiting, but had only recently called. As such a taxi that was specifically for me arrived first and I was set. I asked where the others were going but they were headed to the airport instead of the train station like me so no cab sharing occurred.

My TGV was on time and boarding was this time not complicated by an express train restricting the already limited platform space. I enjoyed the space and relative emptiness of my first TGV premiere classe experience. However, like 2nd class the seats failed to satisfy. They were comfortable enough but the default setting was at their full recline and the electric seat control seemed to mainly move the seat upwards, rather than reduce the recline. To make matters worse the seat would slowly but surely creep back down to the full recline. A glance around the cabin showed that most other passengers were in a similar predicament. I choose not to eat on the trip, taking in the scenery and somehow managing a nap as the train kicked around at 300kmh.

Upon arrival at Paris Montparnasse I was greeted by my friend Olivier, an engineer who works in Paris on rail and other infrastructure projects, that I'd met when he was visiting Perth earlier in the year. Meeting him was actually a bit weird because we had first communicated online at Australie-Australia, an online French-Australian penpal website that we'd registered for as part of learning French at high school. We caught up over breakfast at the station, with Olivier expressing his disappointment about the weather in France and not being able to go surfing in Brittany (where he's from) due to falling off his bike requiring stitches recently. Next time I'm in France I'll need to organise a proper meet-up, as this was too short an encounter, having been arranged after the trip had been mostly planned.

Olivier accompanied me on the the Metro and RER for part of the way before he had to connect to get to his work at La Defense. The RER B trip out to Charles de Gaulle Airport was uneventful and was even devoid of buskers and beggars which seemed a bit abnormal. Although, there were some buskers and beggars at Montparnasse and on the Metro, so don't think I got away with travelling through Paris without encountering a single one.

My SAS flight to Copenhagen was departing from the funky original 1960s Terminal 1 so I had to take the relatively new CDGVAL Siemens people mover from CDG 1 Station to the terminal itself. There were some Americans travelling at the same time and they clogged up one end of the platform while waiting, making it difficult for the public transport literate ones among us to get to the other end of the platform and spread the load.

Terminal 1 is a cool architectural concept and has a pretty functional design, although the current set up is less than ideal. Security checks are not done until passengers reach the end of the piers where the gates are, taking up a lot of space so that the departure lounges are very restricted and crammed. They also just say that individual flights are leaving from any of the gates on the pier, without specifying which actual gate until the entire pier is full of wandering passengers.

The flight had been upgraded from originally being operated by an MD80 to an A321 and, besides the airport staff trying to bring the wrong airbridge to the aircraft when it arrived, departure was delayed by the schedule not being adjusted for it taking longer to board the extra passengers. Despite the size of the single aisle aircraft (the Airbus equivalent of the 757 that I flew in the US) it didn't take that long to get everyone on and off – people moved out of the aisle to get themselves ready to sit down and put their backs above them. There was an American couple near me and they disrupted the flow when they piss-farted around in the aisle for ages contemplating the stowing of carry-on luggage and which seats are which.

As I'm not that familiar with the A321 and there are no decent SAS A321 seat maps anywhere online, including the SAS website, I instinctively chose seat 8A, the furthest forward in economy. As it turns out this seat was in front of the first exit row (A321s have extra doors for emergency exits; one before and one after the wing instead of the standard wing window exits) and this had no window! Thankfully the flight was short and I could just see out of the window in front so I could cope.

Copenhagen airport was nice enough and terminal was noticeably larger than Paris or Oslo. Due to my seat allocation I was one of the first off the plane but this only meant that I got to arrive at the baggage carousel to see it estimate the arrival of bags from the flight in 21 minutes rather than a lower number. It's cool that they have an estimated bag arrival time, but not so cool that the number was so high.

Once free from the whims of baggage handlers the airport isn't bad – the train station is just under the entry and trains run frequently to Koebenhavn H (Copenhagen Central). A train was waiting on the platform for me so I hopped on and travelled non-stop to ěrestad station (skipping the 1 other station), from where my hotel was a 300m walk. ěrestad is a redevelopment area in the south of Copenhagen so all the buildings are new, with the precinct around the station consisting of a shopping centre, offices a few apartments and my hotel. Although the hotel wasn't in town (8 minutes to Koebenhavn H by train or 18 minutes to central Copenhagen by Metro, which is co-located with the mainline train station) and not right at the station I paid only 385DKK for the night, the equivalent of about $75AUD, which I think is a steal for these parts.

Even with low rates WiFi was free so I took some time to get updated, do some of this blog and then power nap to ensure that I lasted the night. There was still some time to quickly explore the other new development around the hotel on my way to the station to head into town.

Tivoli, or Tivoli Gardens as it's often known in English, is just across the road from Koebenhavn H and as such I've seen it every time I've been in Copenhagen. The difference with this visit was that the park is actually open at this time of year, making this large part of central Copenhagen much more active and engaging than in winter time. I had preordered an all-inclusive ticket online which included park entry, an unlimited ride wristband, dinner, a free onride photo and free entrance to the Tivoli Aquarium. I guess that indicates that I had high hopes of achieving a lot of things during my time in the park. What it doesn't include is what happens when the weather has other plans.

First up I headed to Vertigo, one of the newest rides and arguably the park's most unique. It's basically seats on the end of a large 360 degree pendulum with the ability for the speed and rotation in 2 planes of the seats to be controlled by the passengers. Therefore the ride can be as fast, slow and intense as you desire. As the capacity is low and the appeal high queues can be quite long and I had about a 20 minute wait ahead of me when I joined the queue. As I was nearing the front of the queue it started to sprinkle. I hadn't brought any rainproof clothing, anticipating that the sunshine of earlier in the afternoon would continue despite coolish temperatures. This soon turned into rain but I was still willing to stay in the queue and get on the ride. My outer layers started to soak through and then the hail came. The ride was closed and it was time to quit, which involved everyone in unison running into the nearest cafe, which was already quite full of people sheltering from the weather.

I could see my plans washing away like the torrents of rain down the windows of my shelter. What if I never got any rides that afternoon? How long would queues for food be if there were no rides to soak up the crowds? What about all the free entertainment, including a large open air concert at 10pm – would they be cancelled? Had I wasted my time and money in coming to what would be a hail fest? I had my concerns but I didn't give up, playing the waiting game until the weather slowly started to clear up after about 20 minutes. The rain was back to sprinkling so I headed out to check out more of the park that I was yet to explore and see what rides were operating. I noticed that there were still lots of people coming into the park so I was taking that as a good sign that the weather would be improving. Within about an hour of the hail the weather had cleared and the sun was out in force.

By this time I was in a queue for dinner at one of the venues that accepted my all-inclusive package. When in line I started chatting to a nice young Danish couple who and due to the rain making dining a popular option we were offered to share a table, along with 2 others who I think were Dutch. The Danes assisted by translating the menu and explaining the ordering system to me. As it turned out tables became available so we were all given our own, however it wasn't long before I was asked if I would be happy to share my table for 4 with a dad with 2 kids, to which I obliged. The family was friendly and the 2 boys would tell their dad things that they wanted to say to or ask me so that he could translate. It was great to meet and chat to the locals but the awesome chick who was allocating seats felt bad for making me move and change so much so she gave me a large beer on the house, which capped off a great dining experience.

With my stomach full there was around an hour until the open air concert in the centre of the park and crowds were starting to crowd around the stage. I took the opportunity to ride some rides and try to squeeze some value out of that part of my ticket. One of these included an on ride photo so that was also my opportunity to get my free photo. With 20 minutes before the concert and the sun setting I found a space amongst the crowd of beer drinking locals in front of the stage. It's a great atmosphere in a concert where there are lots of people drinking calmly and being friendly without simply getting drunk and stupid.

Alphabeat, a local Danish band, were giving this night's Fredags Rock (Friday Rock) concert, which was included in the Tivoli entry price. Although unknown and pretty much unreleased in Australia, Alphabeat are a big deal in Denmark, where their song DJ was the most played song on the radio for a few months earlier in the year. They also have a following in the UK. Their status as one of the biggest local bands was confirmed during the gig by the constant singing and dancing by the crowd, who seemed to know all the songs off by heart. It was a pop concert with a rock concert attitude – the crowd could've been seeing any rock band, except that they were dancing more. The atmosphere was electric and it was hard not to have a good time when such a diverse group of people – old, young, male, female, student, arty, working, alternative etc. were all just having fun without worry together. I can't think of such a broad showing at a gig like this at home, people would be too uptight about what box they want to fit in to have a good time.

At the conclusion of the concert it was slow going to get out of the park but it didn't matter because everyone was on a high from such a fun gig. I ended up travelling to the airport by train and returning from there to the hotel on the metro due to the trains from Koebenhavn H to ěrestad running irregularly at that time of night. This was my first outing on the metro and it's not a bad system but there's potential for improvement, mainly in the trains. It's driverless and runs 24 hours a day, the stations are architecturally interesting, but the trains are a bit spartan, noisy and prone to irregularity. I had to change lines halfway through my journey but at the change station the train just sat there without openning the doors. Everyone that wanted to disembark had to travel to the next station where the train did decide to open the doors. I guess that I should be happy that the train even ran, considering that it was made but the notoriously dodgy company Ansaldo-Breda in Italy.

It was time for another time-reduced sleep back at my cheap, functional and clean CABINN hotel (think a Danish Etap) ahead of the anchor and highlight of the trip, even if it would be hard to top the gig I had just experienced.
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