Tag Archives: Copenhagen

Our Year in Travel, 2013

Yes, I realize it’s a little late to be looking back at 2013, but I’m a procrastinator, so this is how I roll.  Better late than never, right?

64,373 miles.  That’s the number of miles I flew last year (Dawn’s number is a bit less thanks to my extra trip back to the States).  I’m a numbers and a list kind of guy, so it’s probably no surprise that I know how many miles I flew.  Granted, the only reason I know that number is thanks to Tripit (for keeping track of all my flights throughout the year) and OpenFlights.org (for taking all of my TripIt data and sorting it out).  Half of those miles (right at 32,000 actually) came from my Thanksgiving and Christmas flights back to the States, and another 8,000 miles came from the flights I took to move to Doha.  With only a solitary work trip from Kansas City to Minneapolis and back (about 800 miles), that leaves me with about 23,000 miles that I flew for ‘fun’.  Even without all of those flights back and forth to the States, that is a pretty decent amount of flying.  I’d love to bump that number up even farther this year, but I don’t really see that happening.  Two and a half trips back to the States is some pretty serious mileage, and I don’t foresee that many trips back to the States this year.  Even if I was to make that RTW flight in business class that I want to take at some point happen in 2014 I still don’t think I’d get up to 64k  again.  It’s amazing to think that there are business flyers that put in over 100,000 BIS (butt in seat) miles a year, year after year.  Even I might get a little sick of flying at that rate.  Well, maybe, maybe not.

Ok, enough boring you with the numbers.  Let’s take a look at where we went.

My US routes courtesy of openflights.org

My North American routes courtesy of openflights.org

Prior to moving to Doha, Dawn and I got in some really great weekend trips.  The first trip of the year was a single day turnaround in January to meet up with some friends for shopping on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.  It was the first time I’ve ever flown in and out of my destination on the same day.  To be honest, it was a little ridiculous, but when it comes to flying and trips, the more ridiculous, the better in my opinion (typically not Dawn’s opinion, although, in this particular case she was completely on board due to the friends we were visiting).  The fact that the flights were free (maybe $10 each in fees) thanks to my British Avios stash made it completely worthwhile.

Our second trip of the year was a long weekend to San Antonio.  Neither Dawn nor I had been to San Antonio before, and it just seems like everyone should see the Alamo at some point in their life.  The Alamo was pretty commercialized, but we did really enjoy visiting the other forts in the area.  Flights were courtesy of my Southwest Airlines credit card sign up bonuses and the Southwest Companion Pass that I had earned in early 2012.  Thanks to SPG points we stayed on the Riverwalk at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel for free.  The property was beautiful, the location was perfect, and we even got upgraded to the lounge floor where we had access to free breakfast, snacks, and drinks thanks to the $20 trick.  Money well spent.

In March we took a pilgrimage down to Florida to enjoy the warm(er) weather, outlet shopping, and, of course, spring training.  We planned this trip as our delayed Valentine’s Day present to each other.  We much prefer travel experiences to gifts, and this trip was a lot of fun.  We only saw two spring training games – Rays vs. Orioles in Port Charlotte and Phillies vs. Blue Jays in Clearwater – but it was a very relaxing trip knowing that I was about to move to Doha in a few short weeks.  Thanks to a blog giveaway I won, we stayed one free night at the Westin Tampa Bay.  We stayed the other 2 nights in a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Brandon, Florida that was somewhat convenient to the ball parks.  While I love staying in luxury hotels on points, I’m a sucker for a deal.  And, at 7,500 Marriott points/night, that was too good of a deal to pass up.  My Southwest Rapid Rewards account and the companion pass picked up the flights again.

It doesn’t get much better than hot dogs and baseball.

Just before moving to Doha, we flew to Indianapolis for Dawn’s brother’s wedding.  The wedding was a lot of fun, and it was great to spend some time with family right before my flight overseas.  Once again Southwest took care of our flights, and I think we stayed at a Comfort Inn.  I can’t remember if we used points or paid cash, but I know we chose it due to convenience as it was close and some family and friends were staying there.

Looking back, it’s pretty amazing how much traveling we did in the first three months of the year, and it’s even more amazing that we didn’t pay cash for any of the flights, and we only paid for two of our eight hotel nights on those trips.  Certainly, there were airline taxes ($5-$10/each per flight), rental car expenses, meals, and other miscellaneous costs, but if you’re not paying for flights or hotels, traveling really isn’t that much more expensive than staying home.

My Europe, Asia, and Africa routes courtesy of OpenFlights.org

My Europe, Asia, and Africa routes courtesy of OpenFlights.org

While I mentioned the majority of my traveling (at least in terms of mileage flown) was done on my flights back and forth to the States, Dawn and I did a decent amount of exploring this half of the world as well.  While I’ll always think we should be traveling more (I’ll probably never be satisfied unless we’re traveling full time), we were able to visit quite a variety of different places.

I stayed in Doha for four months straight before traveling, and I’m really hoping that’s my longest streak of not leaving Qatar.  While Greece in July was Dawn’s first trip from Doha, my first trip wasn’t until we headed to Scandinavia in August.  It was just what I needed as it was cool, green, and the exact opposite of Doha in the summer.  While I posted about our 24 hours in Copenhagen, I had hoped to eventually catch up with posts on both Stockholm and our Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Getting back to it will take a little extra motivation as we lost almost all of our pictures from that trip due to an external hard drive failure.  The fjords of Norway were certainly the highlight of that trip, but I really enjoyed our short time in Copenhagen more than I expected.  We didn’t stay in any hotel more than two nights as our trip consisted of six different hotel stays in nine days.  It was quite a fast paced trip, but I was pretty excited about how much we got to see.  Thanks to a combination of Club Carlson points, Hilton points, and a certificate for a free Marriott night we only paid cash for half a night (using Hilton cash and points in Denmark) out of our nine hotel nights.  Flights were bought with cash.

Preikestolen

Yeah, that’s us with our arms up in the air on Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) 1982 feet above Lysefjord below.

In October my parents and aunt headed over to visit for a few weeks before we all headed to Kenya for our nine day African safari.  Traveling to my seventh continent with my dad was a pretty cool experience, and it was even better that most of the family was there to enjoy the trip with us.  The camps were crazy luxurious, and seeing the sheer quantity and variety of animals in their own environment was an experience that I won’t ever forget.  Africa is high on the revisit list as Victoria Falls and Cape Town are both calling my name.  All lodging and flights were paid with cash (thanks, Dad).

Lake Nakuru National Park

The whole country was this beautiful.

You can’t live in the Middle East without visiting Dubai.  It’s a world renowned city, and as it’s only a 50 minute flight away it was a no-brainer for a short weekend trip.  We spent two days and a single night there, and I actually enjoyed the city a lot more than I thought I would.  The highlight for me, of course, was getting to visit the observation deck of the tallest building in the world (for now at least), the Burj Khalifa.  It’s amazing what men can build these days, and I thoroughly enjoyed the videos and exhibits on the design and construction process.  Watching people snow ski in a mall in the middle of the desert is so ridiculous that it was quite entertaining.  For our one night in the city we stayed at the newly opened Conrad Dubai, a beautiful hotel right on the main street of Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road.  As this hotel typically runs for about $300/night we burned one of our Hilton weekend night certificates.  As it was my first stay at a Conrad I had pretty high expectations that weren’t quite met.  It might have been that it had only been opened a few months or maybe my expectations were too high for this particular property.  I’m glad I only used one of our weekend certificates on this hotel.  Again, our pictures from Dubai were a victim of the fried hard drive, so most likely no post on our short stay.

The weekend after Dubai we took a 4 day trip to Cambodia and fell in love with Southeast Asia.  Beautiful countryside, kind people, and cheap food and lodging.  Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and we were able to spend 3 days visiting the temples all around Siem Reap.  Our final day was spent visiting a floating village far away from city life.  A post to come on that incredible trip in the future.

Angkor Wat

Exploring Angkor Wat

Dawn headed back to the States for the holidays the weekend after we got back from Cambodia.  I joined her the following weekend on my Thanksgiving pseudo mileage run and actually didn’t hate myself afterward for booking such a short trip.  As much as I tried to plan a quick solo trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas while Dawn was in the States it just didn’t happen.  Working six days a week makes it difficult to take weekend trips.  I rejoined Dawn back in the States for 10 days over Christmas.  Doing nothing but relaxing at my parents house for the majority of the trip was just what I needed.

It was an incredible year in travel for both of us, and I’m hoping 2014 brings more of the same.  We’ve already got a couple of big trips lined up for January and February, and I hope to share those with you soon.

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Hilton Copenhagen Airport Hotel

As we only had a little over 24 hrs in Copenhagen, we were looking to find a hotel convenient to the center of the city as well as the airport. The Hilton Copenhagen Airport is very convenient to both. It’s located right across the street from the airport, and a short 15 minute metro ride from the center of the city. It couldn’t have taken us more than 10 minutes to walk from exiting customs to the front desk of the lobby. It has a beautiful, spacious lobby with plenty of seating to wait for friends arriving on different flights or just coming down from their room. The staff checking us in were very polite and incredibly helpful with suggestions on restaurants and directions how to navigate the city.

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Lobby

Welcome to the most convenient hotel in Copenhagen

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Lobby

It’s hip, it’s modern

As a Gold HHonors member (thanks to my Hilton American Express) we were put in a room on the executive level where the lounge is located. As you can see, the room was nicely decorated and certainly a nice sized room for the two of us. We hardly ever use much of the furniture in hotel rooms, but having a small sofa in the room was nice. I loved the floor to ceiling window, and I’m glad that they didn’t locate the desk in front of it like I’ve seen at some other Hiltons.

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Executive Room

Not a bad place to start a vacation

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Executive Room

Hotels in Scandinavia like to put two twin mattresses together to create a king size bed

I would have loved to had a view of the airport where we could watch planes land and take off, but we were on the other side of the hotel. The funky shaped building to the right is The Blue Planet aquarium that just recently opened. In the distance you can also see the giant wind turbines located in the sea. It was very cool to fly over so many of those coming into and leaving Copenhagen.

View from the Room

Few people would prefer an airport view over this. Sadly, I’m one of the few.

The real highlight of this hotel was the lounge. I haven’t visited many hotel lounges in my travels, but the combination of the views and the décor made it one of my favorites so far.

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Executive Lounge

I could have spent all day here

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Executive Lounge

A sofa, chairs straight out of the 70’s, and plane watching. What else could you ask for?

Hilton Copenhagen Airport Executive Lounge

The fireplace certainly wasn’t needed when we were there, but I bet most of the year that bad boy is cranked up.

The lounge was on the South side of the building facing the airport so that you could enjoy watching airplanes land and take off.

Airplane Spotting

Views from my favorite part of the hotel

Airplane Spotting

#avgeek

Airplane Spotting

We probably could have seen a bit more of Copenhagen if I wasn’t so busy watching planes.

The fridge was well stocked with water, soft drinks, tea, juices, and even chocolate milk. There were plenty of snacks available as well. We took full advantage of grabbing some food and drinks before heading off into the city when we first arrived. I believe there was a happy hour as well later that evening where there were free alcoholic drinks available, but we weren’t in the lounge at that time.

Lounge Drinks

For some reason Coke tastes so much better out of a bottle.

Lounge Drinks

High class water

Lounge Afternoon Snacks

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Lounge Afternoon Snacks

I love me some kiwi

Lounge Afternoon Snacks

That plate of mini éclairs may have been full before I got to it.

As a Gold HHonors member, we were also entitled to a free breakfast, which was provided in the lounge at this hotel. Again, there were plenty of food and drink options to choose from, especially when I think of a typical European breakfast being bread, jelly, and maybe some cold cuts. It’s always nice to start the day off with a free breakfast.

Breakfast spread

I have greatly missed bacon while living in a Muslim country.

Breakfast spread

Fruit, jams, jellys, peanut butter, and nutella

Breakfast spread

Breads and pastries

Breakfast spread

Cold cuts and veggies

Breakfast spread

Cereal and juice options

Breakfast spread

My starter plate

Overall, this was the perfect hotel for us. Great location and great amenities for such a short trip. As the rates are quite pricey I’d highly suggest booking it on points as I’ll discuss in a later post describing our hotel bookings for the entire trip.

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24 hours in Copenhagen

As I mentioned previously while outlining our itinerary for our Scandinavia trip, Copenhagen was a bit of a tag on to this trip.  The original intent was to visit Stockholm and the fjords in western Norway.  As it turned out, it was quite cheap and convenient to add Copenhagen onto the beginning of the itinerary (it actually saved us a little bit of money flight wise to include Copenhagen).  The only downside was one less day in western Norway which was actually pretty tough for me to give up.  Checking another country off the list and visiting another world class city won me over.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Welcome to Copenhagen

With just over 24 hours in Denmark, we only really had time to skim the surface of Copenhagen and hit the highlights.  We made the most of our time by staying at the Hilton Copenhagen Airport Hotel which I’ll review in a later post.  We arrived in Denmark around 2 pm and after going through customs were greeted at the airport by workers from either the tourist board or some random milk company who were handing out free samples of Danish milk to arriving passengers.  I found it quite odd, and I’m not really a milk drinker so I passed.  Dawn tried it and said it tasted like any other milk.  So, if you’re headed to Denmark for the milk don’t get your expectations up.

We walked across a covered walkway to our hotel, and were able to check in immediately.  We headed to our room, dropped our luggage off, grabbed some snacks at the lounge, and headed into the city.  A friend of ours had just been to Denmark and recommended we pick up the 24 hr metro pass so we did and then took the 15 minute ride into the city.  One of the things on our agenda was to climb to the top of the Church of Our Saviour’s external spiral staircase for views of the city.

Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour

As we headed towards the church we walked along one of the canals.  As it was a beautiful day, plenty of people were outside enjoying the weather.  As Copenhagen is what some might describe as a very liberal city, there were a couple of guys enjoying the weather by sitting by the edge of the canal completely naked enjoying a picnic.  We were again reminded that we were very far from Doha.  Coming from a place where the local women are completely covered except for their eyes and hands, and where most men wear long pants (even the non-Qataris) seeing a couple dudes with nothing on is a little bit of a shock.  Quite entertaining, but a shock nonetheless.  

A canal in Copenhagen

Some locals opted to be at least half dressed

We were a little concerned that the church’s spiral staircase wouldn’t be open by the time we got there as we had gotten conflicting information as to it’s hours, and we knew it wouldn’t be be open the next day.  We headed in that direction anyway, and were happy to see tourists heading in to start the trek to the top.  The church’s spire is 90 meters tall, and there are 400 steps to the top with 150 of those being on the outside (thanks Wikipedia!).  It gets pretty tight at the top, though, and as that’s where everyone wants to be it gets a bit crowded.  It wasn’t exactly designed for two way traffic, so getting up and down the spire near the top was a bit of work.  It was quite a hike, but as you can see from the pictures, the view was well worth it.  

View from the top of the Church of Our Saviour

A great introduction to Copenhagen

View from the top of the Church of Our Saviour

Boats lining the canal

After enjoying the views we headed to another tourist hotspot – Nyhavn.  It’s a picturesque part of the town right on a man made canal lined with a bunch of overpriced restaurants and bars.  Again, due to the great weather, the place was crowded, but it made for a fun atmosphere.  The locals knew better than to pay the high prices of the area as there were plenty of them sitting around on steps and ledges drinking beer they had brought from home.  We were hungry, and as the restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel concierge was closed we had dinner outside at one of the overpriced restaurants there in Nyhavn.  If I recall correctly, my sandwich cost around the equivalent of $30 US.  It was good, but not $30 good.

Nyhavn

The locals enjoying the weather by the water

Eating in Nyhavn

$30 sandwiches are overrated

McCoy's Choice

Gastro Pubs – kind on the stomach, cruel on the wallet

We wandered around the city a bit more and found the opera house.  I think because I had seen pictures of the Oslo Opera House, I was a bit underwhelmed by the Copenhagen Opera House.  As I hadn’t really researched it or seen pictures, I think I was expecting something more architecturally stunning.  It was nice, but nothing to write home about.  After wandering the streets for a bit longer we headed back to the hotel.

Copenhagen Opera House

Copenhagen Opera House

The next morning after breakfast we headed out to catch a free walking tour of Copenhagen.  One of the things I first discovered on my Eurotrip back in 2006 is how there seems to be a ‘free’ walking tour in every decent sized city in Europe as well as many other places.  I’ve taken a free bike tour in Munich and free walking tours in Sydney, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and probably a few other cities that I can’t recall right now.  A tour guide (typically a college student or someone just out of college) walks you by the highlights of the city about for 1.5 to 3 hours for no cost up front.  You just tip them at the end what you feel like the tour was worth.  The tour guide is usually very well informed and enthusiastic about their city and full of stories to tell.  At the end of their tour they typically offer to give restaurant recommendations and suggest other things to do/see while visiting.  I’ve found it’s a great introduction to a city, and I try to take advantage of those types of tours the first or second day I’m in a city so that I can better decide where I want to spend more time during my trip.  The free walking tour in Copenhagen was, as expected, a great introduction to the city.

The Memorial Anchor, Nyhavn

The Memorial Anchor, Nyhavn

Changing of The Guard

Catching part of the changing of the guard was one of the highlights of the walking tour

Free walking tour group at the Amalienborg Palace

Our tour group at the Amalienborg.  People come out in force for free stuff.

A Royal Life Guard at the Amalienborg Palace

Dude loves his job and it shows.

After our walking tour we contemplated skipping seeing the Little Mermaid statue as we read it wasn’t that impressive, but I fell into the tourist trap and decided since we were in Copenhagen we should see it.  It was only about a 10 minute walk away, but we had a little trouble finding it.  Once we got close enough it was easy to spot though as there was quite a crowd around it.  As expected, it wasn’t too exciting, but I can check it off the list of things people expect you to see while in Copenhagen.

The Little Mermaid statue

Been there, seen that, got the picture

Using the excuse of maximizing the little time we had left in the city, we took a bicycle tuk tuk ride from the statue to closer to the center of the city where we needed to be to eventually get back on the train.  I’m not sure a trip to Denmark is complete without visiting the Lego store as Denmark is where Legos were invented.  It seems like they could have done more with the flagship store there, but it was worth the visit anyway.  As a kid who brought creations made from Legos to show and tell every week in kindergarten (yes, every week) I loved seeing the few models they did have.

Model of Nyhavn in the Lego Store

Almost as good as the models I made in kindergarten

We were running out of time, so we passed on trying to squeeze in the National Museum.  That will leave us something to check out the next time we make it back.  It was honestly a tough call whether or not to include Copenhagen in the trip due to the limited amount of time we had, but I’m very glad we did.  There was a lot we didn’t get to see in Copenhagen, and certainly even more we missed out on in the rest of Denmark, but we at least got a small taste of the city and country.  Who knows, maybe we’ll be back some day to catch some of what we missed this time around.

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A Scandinavian Escape

I’ve been in Doha for 4 months and 2 days.  Straight.  124 days.  That’s a very long time.  Especially for Doha.  That’s roughly 3 months longer than I’d like to stay in the country at any one time.  Don’t get me wrong, I love living here.  It’s an incredible opportunity, but sometimes you just need a break.  Working six days a week is wearing me out, and I’m ready for a change in scenery.  It’s about time to get out of this country.  Go see something green.  Maybe even catch a cloud or two.

Olden fjord, Norway

Olden fjord, Norway by Kenny Muir, on Flickr

With Eid Al-Fitr (the Islamic holiday to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan) coming up the office is closed for a few days.  Combine that with a couple of weekends and a few days of vacation and I had myself a 9 day trip to plan.  Before moving over here, Dawn and I came up with quite a list of must see places that we wanted to visit during our time here.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to see them all, but we tried to prioritize them as best we could.  Thailand, Jordan, Cambodia.  All very high on the list.  Sometimes the best laid plans are thrown out.  Those places all have something in common.  They’re all ridiculously hot.  Yeah, maybe they’re not Doha hot, but while I’m in Doha I’m sitting in an air conditioned office, car, or apartment for most of the day while it’s 110ºF outside.  I’m not out trekking around visiting temples and ancient ruins.  That did not seem like a good idea at this time of the year.

It turns out Scandinavia can be quite green this time of year, and I think they even have clouds.  More importantly, though, it has highs in the 60’s and low 70’s.  Exactly what we need.  Scandinavia wasn’t really on our radar as far as places to visit, but after talking with a coworker, I remembered that Dawn had mentioned that she’d like to visit those northern countries.  I started looking at flights, and all of a sudden I had a pretty nice looking itinerary.  

I have read quite a bit about how everyone loves Stockholm, and the fjords in Norway are not to be missed.  So, Oslo and Stockholm were definites, and I figured if I’m going to be close, why not try to work in Copenhagen as well.  I may be (I know I am) cramming in too much into a 9 day trip, but if I’m shooting for that Traveler’s Century Club membership I need to visit as many countries as possible.  Actually, as I was searching for flights I looked into  flying into both Copenhagen and Stockholm, and out of Oslo.  And the other way around.  And probably a few more iterations in there as well.  I love searching for flights.  It’s odd, I know, but I enjoy it.  Anyway, for the flights and times I wanted it was actually cheaper to fly into Copenhagen for a little over 30 hours and add the one way from Copenhagen to Stockholm than it was just to fly straight to Stockholm.  Of course then we had to add in our flight from Stockholm to Norway (we ended up with a flight to Stavanger), and then we had our return flight from Oslo to Doha.  Our flights look like this:

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger; Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

Doha to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Stockholm; Stockholm to Stavanger (via Oslo); Oslo to Doha; map taken from gcmap.com

As I mentioned, we only have about a day and a half in Copenhagen, three days in Stockholm, and four and a half days spread out in Norway between Stavanger, Bergen, and Oslo.  It was really tough divvying up only 9 days between the three countries, but I’m looking forward to getting at least a little taste of each country.  Over my years of travel I’ve determined I really enjoy visiting the rural parts of a country over their cities, even while I tend to prefer to live in cities.  My wife certainly prefers the time spent in nature over cities as well.  I think that our Norway in a Nutshell tour of the mountains and fjords of Norway will be the highlight of our trip, and so I’m glad that it’s last on our itinerary (except for Oslo of course).  From the little reading I’ve done on Copenhagen, I have a feeling that there will be a lot we’ll miss out on having such a short time there, but the great thing about major international cities (especially in Europe) is they’re pretty easy to get to.  I hope that three days in Stockholm will be enough, at least for a trip of this length.  We don’t have a lot planned for much of the trip as of yet except for the Norway in a Nutshell tour, but I’m hoping that will change by the time we head to the airport on Friday morning.

No matter what we end up doing and seeing, it’ll just be great to get out of the heat for a few days and experience another part of the world.

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