A Trip Into The Past – Den Gamle By, Denmark

In my previous post, I talked about a recent trip I took to Denmark. It was an impromptu trip, so there wasn’t much time to plan any activities. However, sometimes that’s a good thing, as you can ask for recommendations from locals when you get there as to the best places to go.

We had a great time exploring Aarhus in the few days we had, but hands down my favourite place we visited was Den Gamle By, a ‘village’ created from historic buildings brought from all over Denmark to create a living museum.

One of Denmark’s top tourist attractions, Den Gamle By was opened in 1914 and, at the time, was the first open-air museum of its kind anywhere in the world. Consisting of 75 buildings brought from all over Denmark, some dating back to the 1500s, the museum is laid out like a town, with streets and a town square around a canal.

There are three distinct zones, each covering a different period of history; the 1840s, the 1920s and the 1970s, and there are actors in each zone, enacting scenes of everyday life.

The complex also houses a museum, running beneath the modern section, with examples of European art and Scandinavian craft and design. There are also a couple of gift shops, a bakery selling traditional pastries, a bookshop and several food stalls, all designed to fit into whichever era they are part of.

Each building has a blue plaque on it, detailing its history and where it came from, and I really enjoyed details such as the cobbled streets in the old section, which really added to the overall feel of stepping into the past.

Other than the occasional glimpse of a crane or modern building, it really felt like being in another world, in the best way possible, and a reminder of what many European cities and towns used to look like, before war and development changed their faces forever.

I really enjoyed visiting Den Gamle By, and will happily go again whenever I return to Aarhus – it would be lovely to see in the summertime! As a writer, I can never resist a place that makes me feel as though I’m stepping through a portal into another world, and the old buildings felt as though they were full of stories, just waiting to be told…


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An Impromptu Mini-Break … In Denmark

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to have an impromptu mini-break. My husband had to visit Denmark for work and the stars aligned in terms of child- and dog-care to allow me to go with him for a long weekend away, something we’ve not done together since before the gorgeous girl was born.

And our destination? Aarhus, Denmark.

Aarhus, on the Jutland Peninsula, is Denmark’s second-largest city, and also one of its oldest. Historical records and archaeological evidence show that there were people living in the area since the 8th century, and there are some wonderful old buildings, including the medieval cathedral, that bear witness to the age of the place.

I’d never been to Denmark before, so was excited to go. The flight was surprisingly easy, only an hour and twenty minutes, and we landed at the tiny Aarhus airport in early evening. The city is about a half-hour drive from the airport, our taxi speeding us through darkness past pine forests and rolling fields, darker shapes against the night sky.

Our accommodation was lovely – in the heart of the city, it was a French-style boutique hotel housed in an old building, our room overlooking a cobbled courtyard lit with fairy lights. Inside, it was all painted wood and cosy feather quilts, but I was keen to go out and explore, so we set off into the city centre to find dinner and see what was happening.

As it turned out, we’d picked a good night to arrive. It was a traditional holiday, celebrating the release of a specially brewed beer for the festive season. The beer wasn’t available to buy until 9pm, but the celebration meant the bars and restaurants were full, the shops open late and the streets full of people and light.

The town centre is a mix of old and modern buildings, cobbled streets lined with tiny shops and large open pedestrian areas, while the canal that runs through the city is lined with restaurants, all with outdoor seating areas (which were packed, despite the cold temperatures). The cathedral, the largest in Denmark, stands out above the old buildings – built in the 1200s, it has been a city landmark for centuries.

There’s also a large harbour area, with a fantastic futuristic library building, and ferries taking passengers to Copenhagen and beyond. I was also particularly enchanted with the crossing lights – instead of the green and red man we’re used to, they had little Vikings, complete with helmet and shield.

The weather wasn’t great, to be honest, but what can you expect when visiting Scandinavia during winter? It didn’t stop us from heading out and looking around, spending Saturday exploring the city centre, including a visit to the excellent art gallery.

From wonderful landscape paintings by Scandinavian artists to the surreal sculptures of Ron Mueck, the gallery was the perfect place to spend a rainy morning.

At the very top of the building is a circle of rainbow coloured glass – this is the rainbow walk, a rather splendid way to view the city and surrounds. Even on a grey misty day, the coloured glass shone.

Mid-afternoon we returned to the hotel, snacks in hand, to read and watch tv and lounge around on feathery pillows, having to remind ourselves that we didn’t have to look after the child or the dog or anything else (now that’s a holiday!)

On Sunday we decided to visit Der Gamle By, one of Denmark’s top tourist attractions. Ancient buildings from across the country were brought to the site, on the edge of the city centre, over the past century, to preserve them from demolition or decay. It was extraordinary, like stepping back in time, and really deserves a blog post of its own (which it will get). Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it as a destination if you’re ever in the area.

Then we wandered along the canal back into the city centre, heading back to the warmth of the hotel before heading out for a last-night dinner. The next morning was a busy one, my husband heading to his meeting, leaving me to check out and arrange transport to collect him later on the way to the airport. However, this was all arranged by the wonderful staff at the hotel, and I spent my last hour or so in Aarhus sitting on the comfortable sofa in the foyer lounge, reading my book.

Later that afternoon we headed back to London and home. I loved visiting Denmark, and am sure I’ll be heading back there again one day – although I might try and choose a time when the weather is a bit better!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

A Good Start

As I mostly work from home these days, I try to take myself out of the house at least once a week, and one of my favourite spots is a nearby cafe on the edge of the canal. The food is homemade and delicious, the staff friendly, and the interior replete with fairy lights, which suits me very well.

This morning I sat down with my notebook and my tea, and noticed this sign on their wall. I thought it a lovely way to begin the day (and the year).

And I thought I’d share it with you. Happy Friday, everyone!


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Saturday Reflections

I’ve written before about how I live close to a stretch of the Grand Union Canal, and how I often walk to work along the canal path (a rather splendid way to start the day, if I’m honest).

The walk takes me past modern developments and old lock cottages, passing by an ancient pub and under several bridges, though I’ve found no trolls to date, thank goodness!

There are boats I see regularly moored, people with whom I exchange greetings and conversation, such as the man who discussed collecting autumn leaves with me, peering out from the low door of his picturesque narrow boat. He felt the red ones were the most special of all, and would preserve them between plastic laminate.

The canal changes with the days, sometimes alive with ripples, or flecked with gossamer seed from the overhanging trees. I’ve seen silver fish jumping, kingfishers and herons, watched swans grow from egg to chick to graceful grey birds, following their snowy parents along the dark water.

At times the water is as smooth and flat as glass, an illusion so perfect you almost feel you could step on it and it would hold your weight, so solid does it seem. On these days it perfectly reflects; as above, so below.

And so it was the other morning when I walked to work. I couldn’t linger too long, as I had somewhere to be, but I couldn’t resist taking these shots. And I thought I would share them with you.

Happy weekend, everyone!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Ramble In More Ways Than One

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week! Not because I didn’t have anywhere to write about, but because I’ve been deep into Ambeth these past two weeks, doing a fine toothcomb edit of Under Stone, the fourth instalment in the series. The story has taken me over again and I’ve been immersed fully into it, emerging only to eat, sleep, go to work and take care of my (slightly bemused) family. Oh, and watch Game of Thrones, of course, because DRACARYS – how good was the last episode? It took me a day to recover, I swear.

However, last night I edited the final word in the final chapter, and so this morning I decided to take a break and walk to work along the canal, something I’ve not had the chance to do for a few weeks. Not much had changed along there – it was still green, lush branches almost trailing in the still water in some places, creating archways over the slightly muddy path. There were more ripe blackberries than before, reminding me to bring a container next time I walk that way, their juicy goodness destined for my freezer and winter pies. But mostly, it was just the same.

And that was just what I needed. A reminder of the real world. Not so far removed from the green gardens and hidden pathways of Ambeth, but real enough. The grey heron was in his usual spot on the fallen tree at the widest part of the canal, preening his feathers in the sunshine. Canada geese, ducks and swans sailed past, silver fish jumped, canal boats reflected in the dark waters. As I walked I felt in some way as though I were waking up again, from a self-imposed slumber where all I did was dream of another land.

This afternoon after work I watched the gorgeous girl in a show, caught up with friends and had dinner with my family. Later, I might take my tea and sit in the garden as dusk falls, watching the sky change colour and listening to the rustle of birds as I cradle my cup close, enjoying the warmth. The nights are cool, even though it’s August, a hint of autumn around the corner, my favourite time of year. The Perseid meteor shower is happening now, with the peak expected this weekend. If I can, I’ll sit out and watch the stars fall – I did so years ago, driving out to the countryside and sitting in the darkness, light streaking across the sky above. I’ve never forgotten it.

And then it’s back to work. A final edit, some work on the cover design and a few other related items, as well as another story begging to be completed. There are blog posts to write, as well, people to visit in their online domains. But for tonight I think I’ll just sit and consider, taking a moment to breathe and remember who I am before I dive back in again.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Nice Day For A Walk

I haven’t walked to work along the canal for the past couple of weeks. Early starts and unusual weather have meant I’ve not been able to do so. But this past Friday I managed to get myself organised and headed down the hill, backpack on, looking forward to the walk.

It takes me just over half an hour to get to the office when I walk, and it’s a time for me to think and clear my head. The canal, despite being close to a main road and crossed by a major trainline, is a quiet place. Birds sing, water laps, leaves rustle. It is green and lush at this time of year, the water still and smooth.

Cows were beneath the hawthorn trees, and the tiny cygnets I’d seen only weeks ago were now almost swans (although still very fluffy).

The old tree stump seat was almost overgrown with brambles and nettles, while the roses growing up the side of the old lock-keeper’s cottage had bloomed.

There were new boats moored along the way, some of them with bright potted gardens and unusual decorations.

I also found some fragments of pottery, blue and white. Probably over a hundred years old, little pieces of history tumbled among the flint and gravel, treasure to no one but me.

Along one stretch I walk on a narrow strip of land, the canal to one side of me and, hidden beyond a hedge, an angler’s lake to the other side. It’s an interesting feeling, almost like walking on water, even though I know the earth beneath me is solid.

I also found inspiration on my walk, a couple of blog posts and some more plotlines coming to me. I’ve been missing my old freedom these past few months – while I’m enjoying my new job and all that comes with it, I miss the time I had in the past to just walk and think. So I’ll make sure to do the canal walk regularly from now on.———————————————————————————————-If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.