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.

 

Thursday Doors – In The Pink

I spent this past weekend in Wales, my favourite place in the world, which is where I saw this lovely pink door. It belongs to a cottage high on a hill overlooking Swansea Bay on the Gower Peninsula, a picturesque part of South Wales.

It was a lovely weekend. We were with family, and visited several different beaches including one where, during the war, my grandparents had their honeymoon. The house where they stayed is now a hotel, but the views, and the hidden church in the trees, remain the same. The Wales National Air Show was also on in the area so, as we sat on the beach in the morning, we were treated to the sight (and sound) of the Red Arrows flying past.

The little road with the pink-doored cottage was a narrow one, with room for a only single car in some places – we had to flatten ourselves against the old stone walls several times coming back up! It was also very steep, but the views were spectacular – almost worth the thought of lugging your shopping all the way up if you lived there.

Whenever I see an interesting door I wonder about what it must be like to live in that house, about the stories inside its walls. I think I’d enjoy living in this little cottage with the pink door, looking out at sea and mountains.

Maybe one day…

This is my response to the Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s site and click the link.


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.

Wednesday Wander – Royal Albert Hall, London

This week I’m taking a wander to somewhere I visited fairly recently. In fact, it was only yesterday.

It’s half term, so my daughter and I have been spending time together, and yesterday we went to London. We planned to do some shopping in Covent Garden, then head to Embankment to meet hubby. After that, dinner in Kensington beckoned, and a visit to somewhere we’d never been before: The Royal Albert Hall.

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the Hall was built as a memorial to her beloved husband, Albert, who died in 1861. Prior to his death, he had envisioned a series of public buildings in London, and the Hall, with its large monument opposite, was seen as a fitting tribute to his vision. Constructed of red brick and terracotta, the circular Hall is crowned with a huge steel dome, which was constructed off-site and brought in pieces to be placed in situ.

However, the massive dome, while seen as a miracle of engineering, also created acoustic issues – not ideal in a venue designed for performances. Various methods were tried to reduce the echo, but it wasn’t until 1969 that the issue was finally resolved, with the installation of fibreglass acoustic disks. The effect is quite beautiful, like an abstract artwork.

The Hall has seen many famous names grace its stage, from Wagner to Adele, as well as hosting events such as the Eurovision Song Contest and the yearly Proms. Last night it was Cirque Du Soleil, with their latest offering, Ovo. It was a beautiful, mesmerising performance – we were spellbound for the entire two hours.

When it ended, we went out into the cold night, walking past the dark mass of Hyde Park as we looked for a taxi. We sped towards the station and caught the next train home, our minds full of gilt and smoke and tumbling lithe figures.

Thanks for coming on a Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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.

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Wednesday Wander – Singapore

It’s Wednesday, and time for another wander. This week I’ve been inspired by a book I just finished reading, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. When I say I read it, I mean I picked it up to read on Sunday and didn’t put it down again until Tuesday, when I’d finished. It was a delicious, decadent, funny read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also set mostly in Singapore and so, in honour of that, I’ve decided to wander back there again.

Some of the action in the book is set in and around Orchard Road, the famous shopping thoroughfare. Thought to have taken its name from the nutmeg, pepper and fruit orchards the road once led to, Orchard Road is now home to gleaming shopping centres and the finest names in fashion – I did joke to my husband that there must be some sort of law that you have to have a Louis Vuitton store every 500 metres, because there were so many along there (not that I went into any of them). Interestingly, many of these shiny new buildings are built over what used to be burial grounds, with Chinese, Sumatran and Jewish communities all having graveyards along the road during the 19th century.

When we visited Singapore it was just at the turn of the Year of The Dragon, so there were decorations everywhere. We had a few days there, stopping over on our way to live in the UK, so we wandered through the heavy heat and gleaming buildings, eating icecream and marvelling at the variety of architecture. There was a little bit of shopping, of course, and we also visited the famous night zoo, watching elephants sleep under the stars.

Looking back at my photos of this visit made me realise the way I take photos has changed since I started blogging. Most of my older photos have people in them, so I won’t share them – I’ve chosen to mention my family only in passing on the blog, as they prefer it that way, and so do I. So now, whenever I go anywhere, of course I still take lots of photos with people in them, but I also take plenty without, making sure I capture enough images for whatever blog post I have in mind.

Anyway, I digress. This is the famous Marina Bay Sands building, with its rooftop bar and infinity pool complete with palm trees. It’s also where the final scene in Crazy Rich Asians takes place, so it seems appropriate to end this post here. Oh, and you can’t see it, but there’s a Louis Vuitton store in there, too.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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 Weekend Jaunt

img_5399If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably know that I spent this past weekend in Paris. A quick trip, leaving London early Saturday morning and arriving back (late) last night, I went with a close friend from Australia who arrived in England on Friday.

img_5423And it was wonderful. Paris is one of my favourite cities – I’ve felt at home there since the first time I visited, almost thirty years ago. The streets, the language, the way the light falls, the art, the architecture and the atmosphere – something about it speaks to me.

img_5413Even though it rained most of the weekend, the streets shimmered with light. And the sun did, eventually, make an appearance, further gilding an already golden city. And, despite the rain, there was shopping and sightseeing and sitting in cafes talking, catching up on five years of distance and time.

img_5477It was a fabulous weekend, even with the two hour delay at Gare Du Nord, which meant I got home close to midnight, rather than the more civilised 10pm I’d had planned. And so I start the week tired but happy, the scent of coffee and roses lingering with me.

img_5456Happy Monday, everyone!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty – Supermarket

img_1205It’s day twenty of the Thirty Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Supermarket.

I was going to write a little piece about how I have to go to the supermarket tomorrow, and how at this time of year it’s heaving with people pushing overloaded trolleys and looking perplexed, as though they’ve never been in a supermarket before. But then it dawned on me that I may also be one of those people tomorrow…

So instead I’ve decided to set a timer again and see what happens. Twelve minutes. Here we go:

‘Christ,’ I mutter under my breath, as I see the last packet of carrots being scooped up. ‘Bastard.’ I shoot daggers with my eyes at the broad back ahead of me, pushing my trolley faster, the wobbly wheel screeching in protest.

‘Sorry, sorry!’ I smile, although it’s more like baring my teeth as I manoeuver past two old ladies, trying to resist the urge to shove their trolleys out of the way with mine. But there is no way I’m letting him get the last packet of Extra Fine Baking Potatoes. I need those potatoes. He’s already got the damn carrots.

Victory! I screech to a rattling halt, breathing hard as I grasp the corner of the packet with my outstretched hand, managing to flick it into my trolley. ‘That’ll teach him,’ I thought, as I glimpsed a cable-knit jumper clad arm reaching around me. ‘Too late, haha!’

Not very Christmassy, I know. But really, it’s every man (and woman) for themselves in the supermarket at this time of year. The chocolate aisle looks as though it’s been attacked by locusts, the few sad roasts remaining puckered in their plastic wraps, as though they’ve been prodded by many hands.

And I only have one thing left on my list to get. Executing a skillful manoeuver, I manage to dodge around two trolleys, then bypass a third, sliding through a gap between two young men and a pile of boxes to emerge in the baking aisle. There they were.

Eggs. There weren’t many left, and those that were left were the eye-wateringly expensive organic free range kind, but I don’t care. Six eggs are all that stand between me and victory. I surge forward, reaching out, when a hand comes down, claiming a box. A hand at the end of a cable knit jumper clad arm.

‘Dammit!’ I may have shouted that out loud. Heads may have turned. But I was so close! Then I heard laughter, felt arms come around my waist, a trolley bumping gently against mine.

‘Too bad, darling. Looks like you’re paying this week. And so close to Christmas, as well. Well-played, though.’ He laughed again, but a nice kind of laugh, as he came around to survey the jumbled mess of groceries in my trolley.

‘Well, I don’t care,’ I said. ‘And, did I tell you how nice you look in that jumper?’

‘Flattery,’ he said, ‘will get you nowhere.’

‘Just wait till next week’s shop’, I thought.

Well, there you have it. Twelve minutes done. Not sure what to think of it, though.


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Three – Faces In The Street

It’s day three of the challenge, and today’s prompt is: Faces In The Street. This prompt is quite apropos, as I happened to be in London today – I love the city but find crowds overwhelming at times, so it’s always nice to return to the relative solitude of home. As it’s been quite a long day I decided to keep this post short and simple, with a haiku.

img_0076Faces in the street

A wave, breaking around me

Upon me, recedes.

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If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.