Dave and Cathy's Family Blog

August 31, 2015

August 2015 – Family Updates

Filed under: 2015 Denmark,Lilah and Luke,Mom and Dad — dave9169 @ 3:45 pm

August Highlights (lots more pictures this month from Denmark trip — click on numbers above to see them all):


Two years ago, Ruben, an old friend of mine, came out to vacation in California with his family. While he was here we had a chance to catch up and do a lot of things together. In the course of one of the many conversations we had, we talked about me coming out to Denmark to visit him and his crew one day. That’s how Lilah and I found ourselves on a plane bound to Denmark two years later.

As usual, Lilah fretted over going — Why were we going over there again? What’s there to do in Denmark? What are we going to eat there? Couldn’t she just stay home? Typical teenage resistance. But as the trip drew nearer, there were little signs that Lilah was warming up to the voyage — messages were sent to friends, the itinerary was inspected, and outfits were purchased — and looking forward to the new adventure (although she would never admit it aloud).

The First Day (well, evening really)

We arrived in Copenhagen at 6:00 PM in the evening just in time to celebrate the birthday of Ruben’s daughter, Anna. Keep in mind we flew all night, and stopped in Dusseldorf, Germany for 3 hours before arriving in Denmark. But hey, when you travel to a new place, the initial excitement of getting there is usually enough to keep you awake for a few more hours. We spent our first evening in Denmark eating at a great place called Stix and Sushi perched atop the Tivoli hotel, which provided a nice view of the city. Lilah devoured the Sushi, Ruben and I imbibed some good beer, and we all enjoyed listening to Ruben’s wife, Caroline, talk about her experience at the Ashram in India where all meals were eaten with your hands (without utensils) and in complete silence. In the spirit of Caroline’s Ashram story, we complied with the first part of the eating rules, but traded in the silence for conversation, camaraderie and celebration.

Day Two (Nyhavn)

Another part of the appeal to visiting Denmark (at least for me) is the fact that Ruben is also a triathlete. This meant that in addition to all the sightseeing Ruben had planned for us, he also made sure to include a few swim, run and bike workouts for us so that we could maintain our fitness (Lilah took a pass on these activities). Day two started with a gorgeous run along the coastline which is bordered by slightly hilly green countryside for the local horses and cows to graze upon. We had arrived at Ruben’s house the prior evening in darkness making the morning run more special as I was seeing my beautiful surroundings for the first time. Most of the days started this way, with Ruben and I doing something active in the mornings, while the girls slept in until 10 or 11 as they were also trying to keep their normal routines in tact.

On our first full day of sightseeing we went to Nyhavn and partook in a canal tour of the city. The canal boats are a very convenient way to navigate the city. You don’t have to stop for traffic signals or look out for pedestrians and cyclists. Instead you sit back, take in the sights and listen to the tour guide as she tells you about the history of the place and the various sights along the way, including the Copenhagen Opera house, Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, the Maersk building, and, of course, the Little Mermaid.

After the tour, we partook in some Danish street food. Lilah had the French hot dog, which is a long thin hot dog that sticks out of a tubular bun that covers about two thirds of the dog. Ruben and I ordered the traditional Danish dogs which were topped with fried onions (that are dry and crispy like chips), thinly sliced sweet pickles and a bit of Remoulade if you desire (a Danish condiment that reminds me a bit of tartar sauce). Good stuff. That gave us enough energy to visit the Marble church, the Queen’s castle, and a military academy conducting exercises in a nearby park. We capped that excursion off with some coffee and sweets (I ordered a Danish just to be cute) before heading back to Ruben’s place where later that night I prepared a traditional Chilean stew (Cazuela) for the entire family.

Day Three (Tivoli)

This was the day that Lilah had been anticipating the most because it was the day we would visit Tivoli, the amusement park she had read about online. Ruben and I began day three in similar fashion to day one, only this time we hopped on two wheels for a two hour bike ride through small Danish towns, farms, and plenty of countryside — most of the course we road is part of the Copenhagen Ironman. If I ever do an Ironman triathlon, I would seriously consider doing it in Copenhagen because the weather is temperate (at least in the summer time — not too hot, not too cold) and the bike course is relatively flat with just enough small hills to add some variety to the ride and keep different muscle groups engaged.

After the ride, we ate our breakfast — Mussli cereal, Danish Rye bread, and eggs — fed the girls, and drove into the city to Tivoli. It was a bit crowded but the lines were never as long as what you’ll see here on a busy day at Disneyland or Magic Mountain. Visually, I think things seem a little more congested at Tivoli because the pathways are not very wide and the waiting areas aren’t very big. I guess you can say things are a bit more intimate, but at least the girls didn’t have to wait in line forever to get on rides. Ruben said the park was a tad bit more crowded than usual because a big contingent of Greenlanders were visiting on the day we went (apparently, Greenland is a territory of Denmark, something new I learned in preparing for the trip). In any case, the girls and Ruben’s son, Julius, had a good time at the park. Lilah said the rides were fun, but not as crazy as Magic Mountain (and she was fine with that).

We capped off the day with a delicious BBQ prepared by Ruben and an awesome pasta salad from Caroline. The trip was still so young and already I felt we had seen and done a lot.

Day Four (Harbor Day)

After such such a jam packed first two days, Lilah and I took it easy on day four. Ruben had to work and Anna had waterskiing lessons which left us with a leisurely morning and afternoon. Some of us had a little more chill time than others however as I went for a run in the morning and did a little reading before Lilah sauntered out of her room somewhere around 11:00 AM. Ruben gave us access to his “city bikes,” so Lilah and I could do a little riding together. By the way, if you’re a cyclist (athletic, casual, or commuter), Denmark is like a dream. There are separate bike lanes (set apart by curbs) everywhere and no matter where you go — suburbs, countryside, city — you’ll see people pedaling to their destinations. Ruben has city bikes (like most people do) — with fenders, bells, baskets, and more comfortable seats —  as well as bikes for racing. Lilah and I rode to the harbor together to explore and also have ice cream.

Later in the day, I joined Ruben and his friends, Carsten and Mark (good guys), for an ocean swim at the harbor adjacent to the one I visited with Lilah. These were the guys that Ruben teamed up with later in the month to do the Copenhagen Ironman triathlon where they competed as a relay team, coming in fifth place out of a total of 50 teams.

To conclude the day, I took Ruben and his family back to the harbor to dine. Typically, there is always some kind of breeze in the atmosphere, but on the night we went out to dinner, it was so still that we were able to comfortably enjoy dinner (monster-sized cheeseburgers and fish) on the outside patio. Later on we had ice cream again — much to Lilah’s delight — and took a walk along the shoreline at dusk where the lighting was perfect and the ocean was pure glass.

Day Five (Hamlet’s Castle, Sweden)

On day five, Lilah and I decided to visit Hamlet’s Castle and Helsingborg, Sweden. One of my favorite things about this adventure was how we got there. We rode our bikes to the train station, then took the train to Helsingor where we got off and walked to Hamlet’s Castle about a mile and a half away. It was an impressive structure but Lilah was not into staying there very long. She wanted to visit Sweden instead so shortly after our castle visit we boarded a ferry bound for Helsingborg, Sweden. The ferries in Helsingor leave every 20-30 minutes and it takes about 20 minutes to reach Sweden. The ferries are a hit with the Swedes who come over to Denmark to buy cases of beer, alcohol and cigarettes which are much cheaper in Denmark than in Sweden.

Lilah took a liking to Sweden almost immediately. She liked the architecture there, the color of the buildings, the way the streets were laid out. While there we visited an old cemetery (a pastime I told her mama likes), hung out at a park, walked through the city center and visited another castle, before taking the ferry back to Helsingor. Once back in Denmark, we stopped at the Seven Eleven (they are all over Denmark) and picked up a brownie for our ride back to Ruben’s town where are bikes were. On the train ride back, I met a Chilean lady who had emigrated to Denmark 30+ years ago. We spoke in Spanish for a while until it was our turn to get off the train. Lilah and I then pedaled our way back to Ruben’s house where I remarked to her how cool it had been to use all the different forms of transportation we did — bikes, trains, ferries — in one day to visit another country. Lilah looked at me as if if to say, “Okay, if you say so.”

Later that evening, I joined Ruben and Carsten for another bike ride. The beauty of Denmark in August is that it stays light outside really long so you are able to really lengthen your day and make the most of it. During one of our rides I remarked on how cool the hay stacks looked out in the fields, but that only brought a sigh from Ruben as he told me the stacks only served to remind him of the pending fall and the cooler darker days to come. Like the Swedes, the Danes really appreciate the sunshine when they get it, taking the opportunity to go outside and sunbathe in it as much as they can before it goes away. I told Ruben that we get so much sunshine California that I look for ways to stay out of it as much as I can 😉 especially since so much of my training activity for triathlons takes place outside —  interesting how geography can change your perspective.

That evening, Caroline prepared a delicious Indian meal for us. It included lentils, rice, naan bread, lamb and some greens. Her goal was to prepare a meal that was similar to what you might eat at the Ashram she stayed in with her friend. We also ate the meal the same way she had there — with our hands (no utensils). The bread helped us to scoop bits of food but, unlike eating sushi on our first night in Denmark, there was no way around getting messy with this meal. However, the food was so good nobody complained. All of us ate happily on the bench in the backyard patio while we talked and listened to romantic Cuban music from Buena Vista Social club. One of those “it doesn’t get much better than this” moments for sure.

Day Six (Christiania, Sweden Take Two, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art)

I thought that on day six we would have a reasonably relaxing day as we only had one place to visit in the morning and one place to see in the evening. We began the day by visiting Chritiania. Lilah thought that we would get lost for sure because she never seems to quite trust that I’ll find where we’re going, especially when not being guided by Ruben or Caroline. I proved to her that although I may not always get us to a destination in the most direct way (after all, I’m not a local of Denmark), I do eventually get us there. Christiania is a really large commune that is largely self-regulated by its inhabitants. The outward appearance of the people there is hippy-esque — picture the vendors, the artists, and the various characters of Venice Beach. Lilah thought the place was “interesting” but quickly decided it was not a place she wanted to spend too much time getting to know. Since it was our last day, she asked if we could go to Sweden again before heading back to Ruben’s place to meet up for our museum of modern art outing that she was also not too keen on attending. She was definitely not in the best of moods.

Well, back to Sweden we went to make Lilah happy — at this point, I felt a bit like Veruca’s dad in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory trying to make my “little girl” happy. This time we strolled through the shopping district where Lilah picked up some clothes, including a new dress she planned to wear on our visit to London the next morning. The trip and shopping there seemed to change Lilah’s mood entirely. She still wasn’t thrilled about going to see “a musuem” but at least she wasn’t complaining about it anymore.

Sometimes it’s hard to communicate with teenagers. No matter how I tried to explain that the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art would be much different than what Lilah imagined, I really couldn’t get my point across to her. I think she was convinced that all she’d be seeing were some old paintings in a dark drab environment similar to the inside of Hamlet’s Castle.

That’s why it was so cool to see Lilah completely enthralled with the Lousiana MoMA. There she witnessed what modern art was about, including special exhibits (like the one we observed on Africa), sculptures, abstract paintings, industrial artifacts (twisted, broken apart or welded together into different shapes like giant spiders), and multimedia experiences such as the dark room with the twinkling colored lights that made you feel like you were floating in space somewhere and communicating with the universe.

For Lilah, the MoMA became one fascinating discovery after another. She took more pictures here than I saw her take all trip. She took her time, studied things more closely, and took great delight in deciphering messages she discerned in the artwork. She also loved some of the colors the artists used in their works and getting really close to the paintings so she could see how the brush strokes had been applied by the painters. In addition to studying the art in the museum (which included works from Picasso and Jackson Pollock), Lilah became more playful in this environment, asking me to take several pictures of her in various poses throughout the museum. When Lilah later commented that visiting the museum had been one of her favorite experiences of the trip, Caroline was happy to hear it because the MoMA was really special to her too as she had studied art in school and is herself an artist in her own right. Caroline had also been the one to recommend visiting the museum as our final outing in Denmark (well done Caroline!).

The lesson here is that sometimes you just have to take your kids to new places without making a big production about it or over explaining the activity’s importance. They may protest at first, but once they are there, their reactions may surprise you. Seeing Lilah’s response to the museum was a wonderful way to conclude our Danish adventure.

Day Seven (Denmark > London > Seattle > LA > Home)

I knew Day 7 was going to be a long one. After all, I booked the trip. The day began with Ruben graciously taking us to the Copenhagen airport at around 5:30 AM so that we could catch our 7:30 flight to London. Thank you Ruben!

In London, it took us a good 45 minutes or so to get through customs. Then we proceeded to look for the company who would be giving us the personal tour of the city, London Magical Tours. Much to Lilah’s chagrin, I had to ask a Heathrow worker where to meet the company and he pointed me in the right direction (Lilah hates whenever I have to ask for anything as I should just automatically know things).

As we approached the area the employee told us about, I saw a guy with a London Magical Tours sign and knew we had found our guy. I remember really debating over whether to pay for a guided tour or not because I thought I could probably show Lilah the sites by using the Tube. I’m definitely glad I didn’t make that decision because it just so happened that the Tube was closed on the day we arrived because of a worker’s strike. If we had gone with my original plan we would have been stuck at the airport — although I guess I could have booked a black cab to see a bit of the city, but that would have been way more expensive.

Paul, greeted us warmly and told us he was there to show us around with his driver. Paul’s hairstyle, blue eyes and manner of dress reminded me a bit of Hugh Grant. In addition, he had a good personality and a facility for good conversation. Even Lilah seemed a bit smitten with him as she asked him a lot of questions and later asked me if I had noticed how blue his eyes were. I believe that’s the only time she’s ever asked me about a man’s appearance in such an enthusiastic tone ;).

On our way into London, I told Paul how I had lived in Kensington during my junior year of college. He asked me whereabouts and when I told him Kensington off of Gloucester road, he instructed our driver to take us through my old neighborhood so I could share a little of my nostalgia with Lilah as we drove by Cornwall Gardens. The only bummer was we did not have time to stop there as we only had 3.5 hours to see as much as we could before heading back to the airport.

Paul did his best to show us what he could of London (Buckingham palace, the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Piccadilly, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St. James Park, The Mall, etc.) using his traffic app to direct our driver to the least congested routes (if only by degrees) and having him drop us off at certain locations so that we could walk through the sites and meet up with him later on a different street. Regardless of the traffic, we were having a nice time riding through London, but we could tell our driver was getting frustrated. At one point, his frustration culminated in a horn blowing tirade he directed at a bus that was blocking our path. The driver had apparently parked the bus in an inappropriate area and our driver protested by repeatedly blowing his horn and saying some choice words aloud in Spanish. Lilah and I smiled at each other as Lilah loves it when she sees people “dork out.” In the end, our tour guide calmed our driver down and other cars moved out of the way to allow us to proceed to our destination. This allowed our driver to get a glimpse at the bus driver who had been the subject of his serenade. We all cracked up when we learned the bus driver was a woman and that our guy had been guilty of bullying a poor lady behind the wheel.

For lunch, Lilah and I had traditional fish and chips at an old pub called Bunch of Grapes. Lilah loved it. Except for the ice cream, we had eaten very healthy in Denmark so our decadent fried food lunch was a welcome treat as far as she was concerned.

Before we left Paul and the city, Lilah indicated that she wouldn’t mind coming back to London to visit. Paul was happy to hear that and I was happy Lilah enjoyed the experience.

That left us with a 10-hour trip to Seattle, which was pretty uneventful until we arrived and custom delays had us scrambling through the airport via terminal-to-terminal trains and escalators only to miss our flight to Los Angeles by about 10 minutes. This was also a chance for Lilah to see me “dork out” when I initially couldn’t locate our passports only to discover (a few minutes later) that the passports were in my pocket just as Lilah had suggested to me earlier. But dork out aside, we lucked out and were able to catch another flight an hour and a half  later. Just two and a half more hours I told Lilah during the flight, but that was easy for me to say as I slept through most of it.

In Los Angeles we had one last connection we had to make with our airport shuttle. It took a while for our shuttle to arrive, but the good news was that we were picked up in our own Roadrunner Lincoln Town car since we were the only ones arriving that late (about 11:30 PM). Lilah said she had not really been able to sleep on the plane but wasted almost no time falling asleep in the car after hour 30-hour day.

That gave me a chance to reflect back on all we did. When you spend that much time together there are bound to be ups and downs and dork out moments in between, but overall I believe we had an excellent trip. We were hosted by good, kind friends who really went out of their way to show us around, we traveled by air, sea and land, we reached our destinations without getting lost, we had good conversations, we ate great food, we exchanged laughter and knowing glances in numerous situations, and we arrived home safely with plenty of pictures to download and memories to share.

That’s all for now. More next month.

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