Tag Archives: opera

It’s True: Copenhagen IS Wonderful

Can’t resist the cliché pic of all time! And despite the corny Danny Kaye song, we did indeed find it completely engaging.

Copenhagen is Scandinavia’s largest city, dating back to the 11th century. The reigning monarch Queen Margrethe II can trace her ancestry back to the Viking Age, making Denmark the world’s oldest kingdom. Cobbled squares, charming narrow streets, many parks and lovely old buildings provide a beautiful backdrop to a lively, modern city famed for its excellent restaurants and air of welcome.

IMG-0695It also has the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s most expensive cities, as we soon discover. It’s extra confusing to figure out what things cost, since 1 DKK is equal to about 15 cents US, a calculation I cannot do in my head.

IMG-0694Having booked this side trip rather unexpectedly, DH and I are woefully underdressed for the frigid, wet weather.  On the plus side, the city isn’t very crowded, but it’s easy to see why anyone who actually planned ahead would likely choose a different time of year to visit.IMG-0697We only have about 3.5 days, so we cram in a lot of walking, sightseeing and eating out, plus two nights at the opera (a fabulous production of Il Trovatore and a less-fabulous La Boheme). Definitely a highlight of our month away.

Day One: We check into our excellent hotel, 71 Nyhavn, which overlooks the harbor. IMG-0726We walk around to get oriented, taking a long trek to see the famous Little Mermaid, which is both smaller and closer to shore than I’d expected. Even in this freezing weather, she draws a crowd.

IMG-0701Dinner at Hummer restaurant, a short walk from the hotel, is delicious. They make an oatmeal-crusted whole wheat bread I need to replicate.

 

Day Two:  It’s Sunday and not much is open, plus the opera is a matinée, so we hit the Thorvaldsen, National Museum,  and Jewish Museum before our 3 pm curtain. We walk over to the opera house (OMG is it COLD!) and take the ferry back, which is much faster. Apparently you can’t pay on the boat, but the ticket taker takes pity on our ignorance and lets us ride for free. Good thing because I do NOT want to swim back to Nyhavn.

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Ugly costumes in lobby, but building is quite beautiful.

Dinner at Havfruen, featuring seafood (the name means “mermaid”) and an odd playlist of 1960s American rock music, is again near the hotel (hey, it’s too damn cold to be very adventurous).

IMG-0724IMG-0730Day Three: We do a little shopping, explore the Round Tower (very cool) and the botanical gardens to kill some time before our late lunch reservation. IMG-0737

Street view from the Round Tower

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Schonnemann’s is a landmark restaurant known for its traditional specialties, open-faced sandwiches and many kinds of schnapps. It’s been recommended by two different friends and is not my favorite type of food but turns out to be quite good and, although a tourist destination, it’s also popular with the locals.

 

Tonight it’s back to the opera house. We’ve now figured out the app for booking the ferry so getting there is a lot more pleasant. Too bad the production kind of sucks — it’s REALLY hard to screw up La Boheme.

Day Four:

Today we visit the Rosenborg Palace which is so dark inside that you can barely tell what you’re looking at, The National Art Museum, and — because we’re unlikely to come back here and should “check the box” — Tivoli Gardens amusement park.

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The sky has brightened by the time we get to Tivoli. It IS kind of amusing to watch the little kids squealing while slamming their bumper cars into each other, and it’s less tacky than most of these sorts of places. Anyway, it’s a good distance from the hotel so it provides an excuse for our last long walk.

 

We’re actually tired of seafood so we opt for a nearby Italian place called La Sirène.

IMG-0769.jpgIt’s dark, quiet and quirky, and the most fun part of dinner comes towards the end, when somehow we end up chatting with the group at the table next to us. They live up near Oslo, are about our age, one couple has a daughter who lives in Dallas, and all are opera lovers, so we find a lot to talk about.

A delightful conclusion to a very delightful getaway.

Last week of October, 2018

 

Sicily, Part 2

First, some overall thoughts:

  1. Sicily is BIG.  We barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to go back and see things we missed.
  2. Sicily reminds me of my earliest trips to Italy, when it truly felt different from home: few tourists, little English, no giant chain stores, and you could get right up close to anything that seemed interesting.  I loved it.

Day 7: Palermo

Waking late after our midnight arrival and feeling peckish after last night’s feast of sandwich, chips and minibar, our first order of business is to find somewhere for lunch. The desk manager at Hotel No Frills makes a reservation at one that specializes in typical Sicilian food and it’s in the direction we want to walk, so off we go.

It’s Sunday, so everything is closed except restaurants and gelateria (gotta love a country where desserts are a priority). Families are enjoying the mild sunny weather as they stroll through piazzas and wide boulevards and we make our way to Piazza Verdi, where we’ll attend the opera tonight.

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Anticipating that we’ll want a snack before the performance, we make a reservation at the Teatro Massimo’s restaurant and continue to the famous Quattro Canti, also admiring the elaborate fountain in Piazza Pretoria and the churches just behind it.

IMG-2912After lunch, we stop for gelato, leisurely wander back to the hotel to change for the opera… and discover that the performance is at 5:30 p.m! ACK! No wonder the guy taking our dinner reservation for 6:00 looked at us so strangely!!! It’s already 5:00 so we throw on dressier clothes and zip back to the theatre, where we see yet another silly opera: Andrea Lecouvreur.

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The plot is a mash-up of French farce, Oscar Wilde, and high drama involving many people who are suffering from unrequited love.  Although there are subtitles in English, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on. Mostly I am wondering why the pudgy middle-aged stage manager doesn’t hook up with the middle-aged countess, instead of everyone pining for someone hopelessly unattainable.

The nice couple sharing our box are from Poland and are traveling on to Noto, which sounds beautiful so we add it to our to-do list.

Day 8: To Agrigento

We pick up our rental car at Hertz, along with a printed sheet of dire warnings about crime in the countryside, a GPS we call Betty (for reasons lost in the mist of time, our GPS is always “Betty”), and drive to the condo near Agrigento which will be our home for the next few days.

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Betty is doing pretty well with directions until we get closer and realize that our destination, Villagio Mosé, isn’t in her repertoire.  Luckily we have GoogleMaps and a general idea of where we’re going.  After butchering most of the street names — Betty’s Italian is even worse than my own and Porto Empedocle comes out “Hokely Dokely” — we find our condo, which is off Via degli Asteroidi (Asteroid Street? Huh?)

Sabrina, the manager, is very helpful and gives us some local maps, pointing out where to find the produce market and grocery store. Unfortunately, we discover that most roads do not actually have street signs because who needs them when only locals live here?!

Never mind. A few wrong turns later we find the market and load up on produce using our sophisticated language skills of pointing, holding up the appropriate number of fingers, and sticking to nouns. We repeat the whole process at the grocery store, where we stock up on essentials like milk, coffee, burratta, Sicilian wine (insolio and grillo are delicious whites; nero d’avola becomes our house red), swordfish and pasta for future dinners.

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Day 9

We begin with the astonishing Valle dei Templi (valley of the temples) — a stretch of remarkably preserved ruins that is one of those “you have to see it” kind of sights. The temples are huge, majestic and incredibly beautiful. Walking the mile or so from one to another where people walked so many centuries ago, you can feel the grandeur and history of this magnificent former jewel of the Grecian empire.

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IMG-2935IMG-2960We’ve worked up an appetite and stop for lunch back in Villagio M before exploring Agrigento.

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Teatro Pirandello, Agrigento

Day 10: Out and About

Our laundry is drying outside in the sun, and we drive off for another day trip.

First we navigate interminable “roundy-rounds” (roundabouts), which adds a lot of time because Betty keeps telling us to take exits which are invariably closed for construction. (One town we pass is called Craparo; this pretty much sums it up.)

We eventually arrive in Racalmuto where Dear Husband is interested in seeing a little theatre he’s read about. The people who look after it seem amazed that anyone is visiting (sadly, there are no more performances because there’s no more funding) but they are excited to show us around, once we communicate (sort of) that DH is a university professor who teaches stage and film design.

Then, it’s on to Caltanisetta to check out another beautiful theatre (closed, dammit!), eat a wonderful lunch at Ristorante 900, look around the main square, and stop for pastry to bring back for dinner.  The Sicilians have quite a sweet tooth and the cookies are insanely good.

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