Sunday, 18 November 2012

My morning coffee: Den franske plads, Fælledparken

The rain today is the type that we folks from the north of England would call 'mizzle' - something in between a mist and a drizzle. You know it because an umbrella is useless on days like these, the moisture in the air seems to 'fall' and then back up on itself. You don't get wet, you get damp. But, as they say in Denmark, there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing - and so, with my son off to a birthday party, my daughter and I wrapped up and headed out to play. Her in her polka dot snowsuit and me in my red poncho - bright colours for a grey day. 

Her favourite place to play these days is the new playground on the eastern side of Fælledparken known as 'den franske plads'. Newly renovated it is a mecca of outdoor fun for the children of Østerbro with its mass of sunken trampolines, wooden climbing frames, oversized red swings and spinning roundabout type things (that are guaranteed to keep the children and the parents pushing them giddy). For my daughter its all about the trampolines and she's as happy to jump as to watch the bigger kids do their tricks with flips and somersaults. Of course, this means a trip to the playground for me amounts to standing and watching (although I have also been known to have a go at jumping myself from time to time). Since becoming a parent, I've often thought a mobile coffee truck would have a roaring trade at a play area on weekends and this morning the little green van from Kalles-Kaffe was there to greet me.

Even before I got to taste the coffee, I felt the draw of a kindred spirit. I knew that whoever it was who had shared my thoughts and was cashing in on the weekend weary parents at the playground had also had the good sense to add some colour to the grey landscape and was making a statement with his bright green van. It's one of those curious things about Denmark that while the Danes have bright white interiors in their homes, when it comes to outdoor clothing, dark colours are the order of the day. Maybe its a metaphor for the Danish psyche - I couldn't possible comment - save to say that in our colourful clothing, my daughter and I stand out from the crowd in a very non-Jante sort of way.  

Dry in our weather-tight clothing and with a warm cup of River Kaffe in my hand, we spent the morning happily sipping, bouncing, swinging, spinning and climbing. For a good cappuccino-on-the-go, the Kalles-Kaffe hit the spot, though the barista told me that the franske plads playground isn't a regular location for the truck as there is more money to be made elsewhere.

Cost: a double cappuccino costs 30 DKK
Coffee hygge factor: 4 out of 5 (which other coffee place can compete in terms of children's entertainment?!)

Find out more about the Kalles-Kaffe concept at their website

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

My morning coffee: Democratic cafe, Hovedbiblioteket

We're incredibly lucky as my husband rarely travels for his work. He takes on more than his share of the childcare, drops the children at school at least twice a week, is home in time for a family dinner every night and never works at weekends. However, today he left for a trip to New York and then on to Canada. And so, I'm gearing up for a stint of solo parenting and its going to be a shock to the system! I'll need some tricks up my sleeves for the more challenging hours in the lives of 2 and 5 year olds. Without a doubt, I find the end of the day the most stressful - when the peace and quiet of sleeping children is tantalisingly within my grasp but there is still bathtime and storytime to get through. As a special treat (and to get maximum return on my parenting efforts) I have promised the children bedtime stories together in 'the cave' (a.k.a the cosy space under my son's raised bunk created by hanging a blanket down the sides). The children love this change to the routine and will happily snuggle up with me for stories behind the blanket on the bed of cushions. I've also decided to go for the jackpot and stock up on a new collection of library books for our first night without daddy. So, having waved off my husband, it was off to the Hovedbibliotek for my morning coffee...

One doesn't usually associate beverages with libraries - in England, its forbidden - but if I've learned one thing here in Denmark its to challenge my preconceptions. Danish libraries never cease to amaze me - they're about so much more than just books. The cafes, the extensive magazine collections (including the chance to borrow archived issues for 14 day loans), the music and DVDs, the text messages when your loans are due back and the online facilities for renewal, the readings, the concerts, the gallery corners, the IT facilities - its all there. The library stock seems to know no bounds and the system for getting to it is free and simple. And yes, you're allowed to take your drinks (and snacks) into the library to enjoy while you browse. If you don't want to leave the comfort of your armchair at home you can access the music streaming via the Bibzoom website (for free - a serious rival to Spotify) or watch your favourite movie (up to 5 films per month - for free!) via Filmstriben. All you need is your trusty CPR card to register.


And don't get me started on the children's sections....stocked with picture books and story books in many languages - there's a very impressive English book section and fantastic collections of toys, puzzles, drawing materials, dressing up clothes and push-along vehicles for indoor play on rainy days. Most libraries have computer terminals for children and the main library on Krystalgade has iPads for the little ones. I've even heard rumours that on Wednesdays children are invited to 'climb the shelves' although when I was there this morning the kindergarten group that was visiting was content to run around in an elaborate (and noisy) game of knights and princesses.

We spent many a happy hour sheltering from the elements in the local library during our early days here in the middle of a particularly cold and snowy winter but since then the trips to the bibliotek (whether its the local one near home, the one near school or in the centre of town - one card fits all!) are now a weekly outing whatever the weather. This morning I had a leisurely read of the paper, whilst sipping my cappuccino and left with a bag full of new books for tonight's bedtime stories in the cave. 

Cost: double shot cappuccino at the Democratic Cafe costs 35 DKK
Coffee hygge factor: 5 out of 5 (yes, its a library that provides the perfect setting for a good cappuccino, it turns out)

Find out more about Copenhagen's libraries at

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Strik og snak!

Yes, I was so looking forward to a break from my Danish classes - to have my evenings back again and to have more time to eat dinner and wind down with the children at the end of the day. I had no idea that I would miss my twice weekly routine of closing the door on the domestic chaos of bathtime and bedtime, hopping on my bike down to Studieskolen and the challenge of grappling with the wonderful Danish language. But it turns out that I do! I've been moping around and, dare I say it, twiddling my thumbs! Until my new neighbour asked me if I wanted to join her at a knitting cafe in Norrebrø.

I haven't done any knitting in a long time. Both my mother and my mother-in-law are accomplished knitters and so the children are the very lucky recipients of beautifully handknit clothes. My last attempt at manipulating the two needles to my will was a blanket I started for my daughter made up of knitted squares (24 of them) that I made but that I promptly unravelled defeated when I couldn't sew them together to my satisfaction. The balls of yarn have sat in the corner of my bedroom taunting me and there have been a couple of evenings, when I've seriously flirted with the idea of braving the whole knitting debacle again. This invitation to the knitting cafe was my chance. I grabbed the bag of yarn and jumped on my bike.

This was one of the most pleasant evenings I have had in Copenhagen. The group of knitters meet in the cafe at Norrebrøhallen and is organised by Maibrit Nielsen, the lovely lady behind the online yarn shop Frøken Strik. Its a pop-up knit cafe really - they meet every Tuesday at 19.00. There seems to be a bit of a craze for knitting socks at the moment as those around me (including my neighbour) were braving the whole 5 needles thing. I remained content with a mere two needles, between 8 and 20 stitches and a large glass of red wine. Feeling all fingers and twisted yarn and awkward with my conspicuous English style of holding my knitting (yes, apparently, it is just us who hold one needle under the arm!), I was welcomed into the group and put at ease. These knitters are an inspiration:  I sat next to Katrine, a pattern designer from Good Life Knitting and so when I asked about a particular stitch, not only did she demonstrate how to do it, she explained why it had to be done that way for the desired effect on the pattern!

My neighbour and I had so much fun. As we found our knitting stride, we were reluctant to stop the needles clicking - and we were the last to leave (a good 30 minutes after everyone else!).

I may have unravelled my work a couple of times as I lost track of the stitches mid conversation (I was trying to chat in Danish!) but my knitting and I have reached a truce - it is the start of renewed and beautiful friendship. Tusind tak Frøken Strik - vi ses på tirsdag!