Summer in Scandinavia Part 7 – Nakemiin, Hej Hej, and Goodbye

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Waiving bye-bye to Europe.  See you next time!

Summer in Scandinavia: Preview

Summer in Scandinavia Part 1: Gear Up and Go!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 2: Well Connected

Summer in Scandinavia Part 3: This Is The Way We Board The Plane

Summer in Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 5: Old Town, New Adventures

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 1

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 2

And now, the conclusion….

Our trip home was, admittedly, long.  We left early in the morning from the Copenhagen airport, which is relatively small and easy to navigate.  There are a couple lounge options for Oneworld flyers.  We stopped at the “Apartment” lounge, which was the best option at the time.  However, CET has been back to Denmark since and they now have an even better option near the British Airways gate, past passport control that’s worth a visit.

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Entrance to the non-Schengen (International) lounges.  There’s a business class and first class side.  First class for Emerald, Business for Sapphire

From Copenhagen, we connected back to Helsinki to catch our return award ticket to JFK.  This gave us a chance to spend a few hours in the premium first class Finnair lounge accessible from the international gates.  It’s always fun to check out the best lounge at a Oneworld airline’s ‘home’ airport.  This one is unmistakably Finnish, complete with a real sauna, right in the airport (yes co-ed and everything).

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We both took showers before the flight home, CET tried out the sauna as well.

There are also plenty of good food and drinks, as well as a nice kids’ are with all kinds of books, blocks, and other toys.  Baby Flyer had a good time making a mess, which in the Finnish tradition, we then cleaned up ourselves before heading to our flight.  This lounge, with or without littles, is worth a visit.  It’s less crowded (at our flight time anyway) and with a higher level of amenities than the Finnair Schengen lounge we went to on our way to Copenhagen, and even that one wasn’t too shabby.

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I don’t even know what half of this is, but I’m going to eat it.  Plus, their glassware game is on point.

The Helsinki airport is clean, lovely, and quiet in comparison to many others, so we were able to let Baby Flyer stretch her legs on the way to the gate.  She, of course, insisted on carrying her own passport.  If you’re so inclined, there’s also plenty of food and shopping options along the way.

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HEL Airport, middle of the travel day.  Blissful.

The boarding process was fairly orderly, and we pushed back on time for JFK.  With a few exceptions, flights from the US to Europe are overnights, with the return trips being in the day.  This is good and bad- you don’t feel like you’re up all night, but babies also don’t sleep for as much of it.  Plane time is play time, at least for awhile.

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Baby Flyer checks out her Junior Aviator Logbook.  Even though it’s an AA thing, all our Oneworld crews have happily signed it.

Finnair gave Baby Flyer an activity/coloring book, and another Moomins cloth/blanket for the flight.  We’d packed all kinds of toys and entertainment, so she made herself at home in front of our seats to play.  The food, drinks, and IFE were much the same as on the outbound, and we picked up a couple more of the Marimekko amenity kits to take home.

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Setting up shop on our Finnair a330.  Soft sole ‘airplane shoes‘ are a must at this stage when they’ll be climbing on you, as well as the floor and everything else for 8 hours.

We made it back to the US fine, but ran smack into a painfully long line at immigration/customs.  We have Global Entry, but Baby Flyer didn’t.  This meant we had to wait in the ‘regular line’ which was an hour long, even for the automated passport control.  This mistake won’t be made again, thanks to our Amex Platinum’s generous reimbursement program for Global Entry, all three of us are signed up now!

We did finally clear, and then had to pick up and re-check our bags to LAX.  That all finally completed, we had a brief stop back in the Flagship Lounge to recharge for a few minutes.  Really, the travel caught up with us when we boarded the flight home from JFK to LAX.  Thankfully, seeing this coming, we’d cashed in some AA miles and booked two business class seats on AA’s best domestic plane – the 321-T.  It’s business class is as good as many international routes, and features fully lie flat seats in a 2-2 configuration, which is perfect for two people and a lap infant.

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Feels like coming home.

We barely made it through the meal service before all three of us fell soundly asleep for the remainder of the five hour flight.  It was just what we needed to be in good shape to navigate LAX on landing, and get ourselves safely home.  What is nice about the return flights is that they land later in the day on the west coast, so even if you don’t sleep much on the flights, you can go home and get everyone to bed and beat the jetlag.

They say that travel with kids isn’t a ‘vacation,’ it’s a ‘trip.’  It’s a good way to put it.  You definitely have to plan more, improvise more, and have patience.  Overall, though, the memories are worth it, and sometimes it’s nice to slow down and just do simple things in another country- like watching street musicians, or hanging out at a playground.

This trip was definitely one we’ve since looked back on fondly, even though we definitely learned a thing or two about what works traveling with an 18 month old, and what doesn’t.  That’s all part of the adventure though, and as it turns out, we’re even going to try to do it all again, now with a 2.5 (!!!) year old.

Thanks for reading & Travel well.

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6 – Hygge With A Chance of Downpour, Part 2

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To catch you up:

Summer in Scandinavia: Preview

Summer in Scandinavia Part 1: Gear Up and Go!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 2: Well Connected

Summer in Scandinavia Part 3: This Is the Way We Board the Plane

Summer in Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 5: Old City, New Adventures

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 1

What’s a week in Scandinavia’s long summer days without a little rainstorm?  Both times we’ve been to Denmark in August we’ve had some rain, but this time around it was serious business.  The first full day we were wandering around town the skies decided to open up and absolutely dump rain on us as we made our way back to the condo.  Full on clothes-soaking, just have to give up and laugh, raining.  Some of our clothes never really did recover, but sometimes you just have to accept that there will be sacrifices to the travel Gods along the way.

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Baby Flyer stays dry in her Citi Mini Zip with Rain Cover

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case for the entire time, just light showers here and there the next day which didn’t stop us for getting out and around in the city.  However, Baby Flyer had her own plans.  Not only was she too proud to ride in the stroller most of the time, even though we’d thoughtfully gotten a nice rain cover for it, she also wanted to hold her own umbrella.

So, while all the (seemingly) well behaved Danish kids were quietly bundled up in their strollers, we were chasing our fiercely independent American child down the cobblestone sidewalks of central Copenhagen, in the rain, trying to get our umbrella back.

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Copenhagen, a portrait.

In retrospect, it was one of the cutest moments of the week, and we weren’t the only ones who felt this way.  We’re pretty sure Baby Flyer and her umbrella made it into quite a few people’s European vacation photos.

We took our time exploring the city, hitting some of the attractions, as well as a few old and new favorite restaurants and casual dining spots.  First, and most convenient was a stop by Torvehallerne in Norreport.  It’s a year-round market of kinds that includes shops selling vegetables, olive oils, deli meats, and wine, as well as some small restaurants and bars.  One of the most popular booths is definitely for smorrebrod, which is about as Danish as you can get.  It translates to ‘buttered bread,’ but is really a variety of open faced sandwiches with all manner of toppings that can stack up several inches.  One piece makes a perfect lunch, and a glass of wine to go with doesn’t hurt.

We also treated ourselves to a couple of nights out at some of the wonderful spots by our flat as well.  Just downstairs was a French restaurant called Honen & AEgget (roughly translated- chicken and egg!)  Along with a cozy atmosphere, the food was great, and the service was extremely friendly.  We went more than once.

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Our last night, we did things properly and had a true Danish meal out at Vaskt in Centrum.  This place is 100% scandi – cozy, just formal enough, farm to table, and homey yet decorative presentation.  Yes, we think we at the garnishes here too, but we regret nothing.

With all that food, we needed to get out and cycle it off.  This is Denmark, and really the only way to get around is by bike.  Plus, Baby Flyer was much more amenable to sitting in a kid’s seat on the bike than in her stroller.  There are various bike sharing systems in Copenhagen, but since we needed to rent the kids’ seat and helmet, we headed to Osterport to a rental shop.  In just a few minutes, we were on our way!  As a sidenote, it took us awhile to find the place- it’s actually down a ramp/stairs closer to the metro tracks.

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Baby Flyer LOVED it, and was inspired to try it on her own when she found a bike her own size in the courtyard of our flat.

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She is Danish now!

Now, as promised, we also spent a fair amount of time exploring the playgrounds around Copenhagen.  As a general rule, most of the larger playground designs that we commonly see in the US are designed by, or have their roots in, Danish companies.  They also are responsible for Legos, among other long lasting kid’s favorites.

What was funny, then, was that the playgrounds in Denmark don’t look a whole lot like ours, even our ‘good’ ones!  In Copenhagen, the parks are largely more natural- wood elements, terrain, bridges, and structures that in the US might make parents edgy – high ropes, BIG slides.

In short -they’re AWESOME!

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Playtime in Denmark- Sweater & Sneakers

The first one we stumbled on was just across the lakes from our flat.  A small, but imaginative local playground with ‘grass’ mounds, wooden planks, and a vaguely nautical theme.  It was off the beaten path a little, so we had it to ourselves most of the time.

We of course also spent some time at the iconic playground in the ‘King’s Garden‘ park in the center of town.  This playground was not only lots of fun, but really beautifully designed.

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It was nearly entirely made of wood structures.  Really, nothing overly ‘fancy’ but everything functional and inspiring to the imagination.

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It’s always interesting to go to some of the ‘local’ family spots on vacation to get a dose of everyday culture.  What we definitely kept seeing across Scandinavia was the independence of the kids (once they were out of their strollers).  Parents kept a watchful eye, but let their kids play more or less on their own.  This park was also perfect for that since most of the elements were simple and kids over 2 or 3 didn’t need assistance to get to anything.

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The King’s Garden itself was beautiful in Summer, especially after the rain.  The Danes both design, and use, their common spaces well.  On a nice summer weekend it can feel like the whole city is just out for a day in the park.  It’s not uncommon to see groups with elaborate picnics, complete with music and drinks.

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King’s Garden

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Bonus pic- Waterfront in Summer

All in all, we packed a lot into our four days in Copenhagen.  As always, you have to be flexible and keep your expectations simple when traveling with little ones, but the memories are worth it.

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Stopping to smell the flowers

Too soon, it was time to pack up again and say ‘see you next time’ to Denmark.  We had to start the long journey home to California.

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Baby Flyer at Christiansborg- historic city center and Parliament buildings.

Up next- All Good Things Must End – Hej Hej, Danmark – Kobenshavn Lufthavn to LAX”

~CET

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6- Hygge With a Chance of Downpour, Part 1

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A lovely break from exploring Copenhagen

The trip so far:

Preview

Part 1- Gear Up and Go!

Part 2- Well Connected

Part 3- This Is The Way We Board The Plane

Part 4- Hello, Helsinki!

Part 5- Old Town, New Adventures

It’s always a thrilling experience to arrive and feel at home someplace 5,000 miles from home.  It’s one reason that returning to the same place years later, even with other destinations on offer, can be worth doing.  It’s even more pronounced when you return, with a baby for the first time.

Almost exactly 4 years earlier, we traveled to Europe for the first time together as a couple, and Copenhagen was one of the first stops.  Last time around we stayed a block from Tivoli Gardens in the Radisson Blu.  It’s located right in the business/tourist district.  We rented bikes from a shop around the corner, and toured the city (somewhat aimlessly, but with a plan).

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Nyhavn- Probably the most iconic shot of Denmark.  All roads lead here eventually…

The weather was unseasonably warm, and we enjoyed taking our (admittedly well worn, budget priced) bikes on the train to Dyrehaven, frequenting a quaint wine bar with friendly service, and staying out late (ish) to have ice cream sitting on the edge of the Nyhavn canal as the nightlife spilled out onto the streets around us from nearby bars and restaurants.

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Copenhagen is (price point aside) a thoroughly livable city, which is what we liked about it.  It has plenty of attractions, architecture, and culture all fit into a manageable footprint.  There’s no high-rise skyline- few buildings are over 15 or 20 stories at most, and these are the exception to the rule.  The old parts of the city are well preserved, while the new structures are clean-cut, and modern to the point of being a Scandi version of avant-garde.

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Rosenborg Slot

Everything is accessible by bike or train, and with the possible exception of unexpectedly wandering into Freetown Christiana, easy to navigate without ever really feeling lost.  This is also the reason, along with the family-friendly culture, that we decided to give it a repeat visit, now as parents.

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So, back to the current trip report!  We took the short flight direct from Helsinki on Finnair.  Through our Oneworld status, we had access to the Schengen area lounge.  It’s nice and ultra-modern, with plenty of food and drinks for free.  We grabbed a few seats, and Baby Flyer thoroughly enjoyed going up and down the few steps nearby.  In fact, she managed them by herself for the first time!  It’s the little memories….

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It doesn’t get more Finnish than this.

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Mmmm….. Buffet with a view!  I should also strongly point out the plugs in the background.  Yes, you need to bring power adapters!  Everywhere, especially in Airbnbs!  We have two of the Targus Universal Adapters, and they’ve served us well.  Keep in mind that one may not be enough, depending on how many things you need to plug in at any give time.

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There was a small kids’ area in a corner, but it was smaller than one might expect for a lounge of this size, but a nice thought anyway.  Baby Flyer was having too much fun hanging out with us to play in it anyway.

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Kids’ corner.

Our flight went by quickly, and the service was good.  As Oneworld elites, we could check bags for free, pre-select our seats, and were served free drinks even though we had purchased the lowest level fare.  One more reason to pay attention to who you fly, even for short hops abroad.  What looks like a cheaper fare with a competitor can come with some hefty fees you’re not used to having to think about.

All that fun in the lounge finally tired Baby Flyer out, and she spent the trip taking her nap.  Quite unlike her, the nap even continued through deplaning, and all the way to baggage.

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She knows how to wait patiently for checked baggage…

Our next destination was our Airbnb townhome on Oster Farimagsgade, in the city center, near the botanical gardens and lakes.  We bought tickets for the Metro, headed for the Norreport station, but ended up on the regular train by mistake.  As it turned out, all ended well, and this train was headed for that station also.  Thankfully, no one checked our tickets!  For the return trip, we had it sorted out.  Both the trains and the metro here are good options to get to town, depending on your final destination.  The main difference at the outset is that the metro doesn’t go through the central station, stopping at Christenhavn and Kongens Nytorv instead.

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Welcome home!

Our Airbnb was wonderful, quirky, and homey- everything you want in a stay in Denmark, right down to the little Danish flags everywhere.  This is standard, the Danes put their flag on everything!  Might have something to do with it being the oldest one still in use…. might be a viking thing, who knows.

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Sorry, no you can’t have your place back. We live here now.

The place was two stories, with a terrace and loft on the top floor.  It was modern but cozy, and fully furnished.  As per usual, the thing that took the most adjusting to for us Americans was the bathroom, as the shower water just drained right from the tile floor, and would flood much of the space if it ran long enough.  But once again, this is par for the course in many of the old buildings in this area.  We (mostly) got used to it.  Plus, it would be far from the last water-related incident we learned to deal with on this trip.

More to come….grab your umbrella…

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

 

Trip Preview: Summer in Scandinavia

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen.  No, we’re not staying at this floating hotel….but It looks nice, right?

We’re packing again!!  This Summer has already been busy, with trips to Mexico and Seattle, among others, but this next trip is the one that’s been on our calendar for almost a year now.  We’re getting brave, and taking Baby Flyer to Europe!  It’ll be a week and a half of Oneworld award flights, Scandinavian Airbnb rentals, and a few side jaunts here and there.

Our itinerary starts off with a 787 Dreamliner flight to ORD and two nights in Chicago, which we added because our tickets start there.  Since we love that city, we added some time so we’ll have a day there to take Baby Flyer back to Millennium Park.  From there, we head to Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Copenhagen (Denmark).  The international part of the trip lasts 10 nights (plus one on the flight out), and includes plenty of planes, trains, but not really many automobiles.

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The canal in Ruoholahti where we’re staying in Helsinki

This trip was inspired by Finnair opening up some award seats to Oneworld partners in business class for the summer.  Since premium mileage tickets are notoriously hard to find without big taxes and fees, we jumped on them and booked a round trip ticket from JFK to Helsinki in business class for some miles and about $60.  It will be Baby Flyer’s first long haul international flight, but hopefully having the extra space and lie-flat beds will make it reasonably comfortable.

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How Finnair claims we’ll sleep** on their international flights.  **Baby not pictured

Once we get to Helsinki, we’ll have three days and nights to explore the city.  Given that this is a family trip, we’re planning baby friendly activities, and luckily, Scandinavia in general is overall safe and welcoming for family travelers.  Highlights we’re hoping to hit include the ‘Children’s’ Town’ museum- an interactive exhibit where everything is play-with-able for the little ones, and importantly, is indoors, making it a good rainy day option since we’re likely to get at least one of these this time of year.  We’re also hoping to take the boat out to Suomenlinna island, for a little outdoors time, hiking, and sightseeing.

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Tallinn’s Old Town

The next part of the trip is taking the Eckero Line ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia for two nights.  We’re staying in the ‘Old Town,’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  Our plans here mainly involve exploring the medieval town, food and shopping.  We may venture out to Kadriorg Park, which includes palace grounds, as well as gardens, and several museums, and checking out the KGB museum at the Hotel Viru.

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Eckero Line- M/s Finlandia

As for the ferry, we booked the Eckero Line through Direct Ferries.  It’s a 2 hour crossing on a ‘ferry’ that looks more like a small cruise ship, and we went all out (all extra $40 of it) to book a 4 birth cabin with our reservation.  It’s not really necessary, but since the crossing times just about hit Baby Flyer’s naptime, we thought we might find a little privacy nice.  It also means we’ll have a private bathroom as well.

Once we get back to Helsinki, we’ll be off to the airport once again to catch a short flight on Finnair to Copenhagen.  We booked these tickets separately, and they were reasonably priced, so we didn’t use miles.  Technically, if we’d flown Norwegian, we could have saved a few dollars on the ticket price, but this was one of those lessons for people who don’t look hard enough at discount carriers.  Given that we’re Oneworld elites, we have free checked bags, and free advance seat assignments as long as we stay on partner airlines.  Had we flown on Norwegian, our ‘savings’ would quickly have been more than eaten up by the added charges.  Plus, because we’re flying Oneworld, we’ll have lounge access at Finnair’s comfortable and full service lounges before our flight.

We’ve been to Copenhagen before, and it’s stuck in our minds as one of the places we really wanted to get back to.  We’re spending four nights this time, and are looking forward to seeing the city as a family.  Copenhagen has plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and things to do.  It’s full of parks and playgrounds in the city center (Danish companies design the majority of new playground equipment around the world), and since everyone bikes, walks, and takes the train, it’s easy to get around.

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Central Copenhagen

This trip will be the test of our planning, and also of our Airbnb skills.  We’re staying in a suites hotel in Chicago, but once we cross the ocean, it’s all Airbnb all the time.  To start things off, our accommodation in Helsinki is a three bedroom flat in Ruoholahti.  It looks to be an easy walk to the city center, or a very short tram ride.  It will be nice to have the space to give Baby Flyer her own room, so she can go to bed before we do (hopefully!)

Renting an entire flat or house really makes traveling with babies more enjoyable over a traditional hotel.  Having the space, as well as a kitchen, and if you’re lucky, laundry goes a long way.  There are of course some draw backs as well.  If you haven’t seen the property before, there’s really no guarantees on what it will be like, aside from reviews.  Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s really baby-proof, but the same goes for hotels in general.  If you’re lucky, you can generally find a reasonably priced rental as well, especially when compared to the pricey hotels in this part of the world.

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Deer Park (Dyrehaven).  One of my favorite pictures from our last trip there.

After our time in Copenhagen, we start the trek back home again.  We first have a flight back to Helsinki, then a couple of hours to enjoy the airport lounge and collect ourselves before flying Helsinki to JFK, and JFK back to Los Angeles.  That will make for a long day, but it gets us back home seamlessly, and I managed to find some award space in business class on American’s premium transcon plane, so we’ll have space for the three of us.

Wish us luck & happy summer travels to you all!!

-CET, CAR & Baby Flyer