Monday, August 13
After a quiet morning at home we went for a wander around Roskilde and the shops were open. In the general excitement, I said to the kids that they could wander around and buy something while Mr. Waffle and I had a cup of tea. The upshot of this was that Michael ended up spending €30 on a hoptomist which, design classic or no, is basically something you could have picked up in a €2 shop at home. It was broken by the end of the day also, but we plan to superglue his head back on so, not a complete loss (currently in the “to do” side of the ledger). I very actively considered buying a Danish birthday calendar which featured extravagant Danish flag imagery on every page (the most modest was November where the picture was of a girl doing her homework with a small Danish flag on her desk because, of course) but I managed to restrain myself.
I was still dutifully doing my Danish lessons on the phone (duolingo, since you ask) but I was finding the rather limited vocabulary which featured turtles strongly less useful than I would have hoped. A turtle is en skildpadde which is more difficult to work into conversation than you might expect. Though Mr. Waffle did find this at the supermarket.
The plum wastage had been gnawing away at me inside so while the children kindly made dinner Mr. Waffle and I went for a stroll by the seaside and picked plums.
Tuesday, August 14
We went back to Copenhagen to spend the day in Tivoli. This proposal was greeted with initial suspicion by the children who have been fooled once too often by their parents’ saying that something would be great fun and having it turn out to be another opportunity to inspect medieval butter knives. However, following close inspection of the Tivoli website, they were pleased to approve this proposal.
It was one of the best days ever. Before I went I had heard of Tivoli but I thought that it was a palace garden or something like that. It’s not, it’s a fun park (175 years old this year). It’s like something in a film or a Norman Rockwell drawing of a fun park. It’s quite beautiful to look at.
There were no queues for any of the rides and we let the children off to enjoy themselves. They truly did.
The park has more than 30 restaurants and we had lunch and dinner there. There was a concert, there was a parade, there were deckchairs where Mr. Waffle and I could sit in the sun. There was a shop with Danish designer stuff and a very nice tearoom.
They even had the horse racing game that we played in the funfair museum in Paris last summer.
I kept comparing the experience very favourably with our trip to Disneyland Paris last summer which was pretty grim. The complete absence of queues was delightful. The area is small and we could just let the children go and do what they wanted and meet with them later without worrying that they might be lost forever. I would go back again like a shot.
Lads, they even had en skidpadde:
While I was in Denmark I read a book by an English journalist about the Nordic countries and he said that Tivoli is so central to the Danish identity that when Iceland was rich – before the crash – and they were buying up Danish brands, at Denmark v Iceland football matches, Icelandic fans chanted “We’re coming for Tivoli next”. Iceland and Denmark enjoy an interesting relationship. I recommend this Icelandic comedian’s turn for some mild appreciation of this. I digress. Basically, Tivoli is amazing and you should definitely bring your children there and forget EuroDisney.
Wednesday 15 August
We had a quiet day following our extravaganza in Tivoli the day before. Mr. Waffle and I abandoned the children to their fate mid-afternoon and went into Copenhagen for a stroll followed by dinner at a very nice restaurant where we spent their inheritance. I never fully got my head around the conversion from crowns to euros (hence the €30 hoptomist) but even I could tell that we had possibly enjoyed our most expensive dinner ever in a relationship characterised by a love of expensive dining. We got the most amazing brioche and due to the quantity of food we needed to get through, I was unable to finish it. To the almost concealed shock and horror of the four staff lovingly tending to our needs, I asked whether we could possibly take the remaining brioche home as I knew it was going to go in the bin. When the bill came, one of our waiters came out with a plastic box with a sticker with the restaurant’s logo on it and a full new brioche inside. I was pleased.
After our enormous dinner, Mr. Waffle and I wandered around the delightful streets of Copenhagen.
When we got home, I gave some brioche to herself (babysitter in chief) who was sitting up and it was still delicious but by the next morning it was stale (photographed post late night depredations below). Alas. And the toasting arrangements were, as described earlier, suboptimal.
Thursday August 16
We all went in to Copenhagen again. We went to the Guinness book of records museum and the Ripley’s believe it or not which were both commercial linked enterprises, curiously dated and not at all right on. The Guinness one, in particular felt almost voyeuristic looking at pictures of these misfortunate people who were clearly ill and died young (tallest, fattest, most bicycles eaten). Ripley’s was a bit more three headed calf, largest snake etc but there were some unsavoury aspects to this also. On the plus side, Michael discovered in himself a talent for cup stacking.
We were pretty much alone aside from another family who were speaking in a language I could not place: Dutch, German, Afrikaans, something else? “Luxembourgish” said my genius husband. Because I have no shame, I checked. They were quite pleased as, apparently, no one ever recognises Luxembourgish. When they heard we were Irish, they were extremely excited. “Do you know Rea Garvey?” asked the son. “Who?” we said in unison. “See,” said the boy to his mother, “I told you no one knew him in Ireland.” She was disbelieving but it’s true; he may be a star in Luxembourg but in his home country we have never heard of him. Or, Irish people, are we just out of touch?
We went to La Glace café again because I enjoy spending my children’s inheritance on expensive buns as well as elaborate dinners.
We went home and had another walk on the beach to recover from our day in the big city.
Friday, August 17
Our last full day in the socialist paradise. Mr Waffle and I decided to have a wander around the tiny local town of Vellerup which we had consistently bypassed on the way to the greater excitements of Kirke Hyllinge (two supermarkets – a Meny and a Facta). It was pretty in a tiny village kind of way with a church and a duckpond.
Graveyards in Denmark are immaculately kept with little box hedges around the plots and hoes and watering cans to hand for grieving relatives to keep them in good nick.
OK, sample size 2 (in fairness, I didn’t spend all my time in Denmark visiting graveyards) but I bet they are all like that.
Daniel said of Denmark at one point, “It’s like Disneyland, only real.” I know what he meant, the countryside is dotted with lovely little houses appropriate to their setting. There are no hacienda style bungalows or, in fact, anything that looks out of place and it is super-clean. I was struck by how few pigeons and seagulls there were in the towns and even in Copenhagen and, basically, it’s because they are so clean. Whereas you will regularly see seagulls foraging in the bins and eating on the streets of Dublin and whole flocks of pigeons pretty much everywhere, this phenomenon seems unknown in Denmark or at least the parts I visited. It was enchanting and a little bit like living in a flag bedecked fairy tale land. Look at the careful children sign, look at it; isn’t it lovely?
In the afternoon, I singularly failed to get any of the family to come with me to visit the local big house – Selso Slot. I set off on my own. My first adventure was managing to fill the car with petrol at a self-service petrol station. Low level of achievement you might think but I was pretty pleased with myself navigating the Danish petrol experience. Sometimes, I think I probably need to get out on my own a bit more.
I loved Selso Slot – it was owned by an important Danish figure in the 1700s (von Plessel – nope, me neither) and his niece by marriage ended up living there alone until she died in 1829 and it was just left empty until the 70s when a couple bought it and tried to do it up. Now, as far as I can work out, it’s part of a trust owned by the family. I had the place to myself.
There was a young woman working in the shop and I asked if she was a student working there for the summer to make conversation and she said no that she was the museum and castle director. I think I have now reached the age where everyone under 35 looks about 14 to me. Once we got over that slightly unpromising start to our relationship, I was able to ask her loads of questions about the house and she was very knowledgeable and interesting. I also asked her about the role of the turtle in the lives of Danes and she opined, cautiously that although the words in the sentence “En skildpadde spiser ost” made sense individually the sentence itself was a bit unlikely. She gave me some invaluable assistance on how to pronounce the letter d in Danish words. I bought a postcard from her. I thought it was 40 crowns and a fortnight of Danish living prepared me for paying over a fiver for a postcard but in fact it was only 4 which is about 50 cents. My new friend was appalled at the prospect of me spending a fiver on a postcard as, it turns out, the Danes are pretty thrifty and great bargain hunters. I suppose that they need to be.
The castle itself was like a film set. Great dilapidated rooms with a sense of grandeur and romance (now waterproof since the work on the roof last year). I really loved it.
I went for a cup of tea in Skibby. Tea room in a glass house in the supermarket car park; not entirely perfect but in rural Denmark, you take what you can get in the line of tea rooms.
Later in the afternoon Daniel and I went for a final paddle down to the ice cream kiosk in the kayaks.
We all had a last walk on the beach.
And I baked the plums.
Saturday, August 18
We said goodbye to our lovely house.
The drive to the airport was uneventful but the trip through the airport took a lot out of all of us. I managed to put the baggage tags on wrongly when doing the self service check-in (you cannot judge me as harshly as I do myself for this schoolboy error) so we had to queue and do it again; Mr. Waffle inadvertently printed out the wrong boarding passes for the boys and we found this out after the Princess and I had passed through the self-service control but before he and the boys had, so we had to split up and the boys had quite a tense time with their father going to the Ryanair desk (he swears never again) before managing to locate copies of the passes on Dropbox (wonderful Dropbox). Meanwhile I had realised that I had checked in the only copy of our house and car keys we brought with us in the hold baggage because right at the start of the holiday I had put them in a pocket in my washbag so that we wouldn’t forget them. In one way, my plan totally worked but it probably needs some refinement. Our luggage did not get lost and we were at home and cleaning up cat vomit from Daniel’s bed room rug by mid-afternoon.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, we all really liked Denmark. My only caveat, and it’s a significant one, is that it’s really dear. As my father says, everything multiplied by five is expensive and for a family holiday Denmark is expensive. But it is lovely. And it has a very hygge flag.