Saturday, May 05, 2007

Eating in Copenhagen - Lunch at Café Zeleste

In the quaint Nyhavn area, you find Café Zeleste. This charming cafe, is a very popular place to eat in the area. I decided to eat "frokost", a Danish lunch, here and was recommended the "fish of the day." And I am glad that I did!

Location: BBBBB

Café Zeleste is located in Store Strandstræde 6, close to Nyhavn and Kongens Nytorv. These are among the most popular areas of Copenhagen with many good restaurants that serve traditional Danish food accompanied by "en bayer" - a glass of cold beer. And do as the Danes do, try an additional Aalborg Jubileumsakevit to you "frokost".

Atmosphere: BBBB+

Café Zeleste is located in a charming small house and during spring and summer you can also eat in the back yard. Inside it has a classic, pale blue interior. If you choose eat outside, as we did, you can enjoy your food in a charming continental setting. We were placed at a table for two, by one of the walls.

We were well seated, but the cobblestones on the ground made our table and chairs unstable. I also found that the space to the table behind us was uncomfortably small.

Price: BBBBB

We chose the Skt Annæ Special, the fish of today, at DKK 89 and we shared a cheese platter at DKK 55. With a bottle of white wine at DKK 150 we paid DKK 400 (€45) for the whole meal, and it was definetely worth it.

The service: BBBBB-

The service was good. Our waitress was kind, and we did not have to wait long to order or to be served.

The food: BBBB+
Café Zeleste has a small lunch menu, a soup, a few different platters, and a few meat and seafood dishes. For dessert you can choose a chocolate gateau, cheese or petit fours. They have a larger evening menu and offers an opera menu as well.

We chose the Skt Annæ Special, the fish of today and we shared a cheese platter.

As we waited for our fish, we were served fresh bread with aioli, mayonnaise with garlic.

We were served fried turbot with beurre blanc, fried potatoes, and vegetables. It was definetely the catch of the day, perfectly prepared, i.e. slightly undercooked. The presentation however, was not very inventive.

But it tasted very good, the beurre blanc worked perfectly with the turbot. None of the tastes competed with the delicate flavour of this great white fish.

We had a good dry white wine with the fish. At Zeleste you can order a bottle of the restaurants own wine, and you pay for what you drink. We, however, managed to drink the whole bottle during our meal.

The cheese platter consisted of both Danish and European cheese. It was a perfect end of the meal, but do order your own platter, as the amount you are served is a little small for two.

We were served a white cheese that reminded us of a young Spanish manchego, a brie and a blue cheese . To this we shared a small bowl of walnuts and olives. The cheese was well tempered, and the mild brie and "manchego", were well balanced by a strong aromatic blue cheese.

Overall rating: BBBBB- (4,69)

I do recommend the lunch at Cafe Zeleste, if you are travelling to the Danish capital. But if you are hungry, you can easily enjoy a three course dinner here, and still not feel stuffed. The fish of the day was a good choice.

Adress: Store Strandstræde 6, Dk 1255 København K
Phone: +45 33 16 06 06

Friday, May 04, 2007

Where Hamsun wrote Segelfoss By

A story of a hotel

These last days I have been to Bodø, in the North of Norway, on business. During these two days, I have stayed at Clarion Collection Grand Hotel. This hotel dates back at least a hundred years, and has a very interesting history.

Sadly, much of the history of the hotel and the city has been lost, due to the senseless German bombing of Bodø on May 27th 1940. But the hotel has numerous pictures displayed throughout the building telling its long history. At the reception you'll find a mirror that survived the dramatic day in 1940 and the old marble columns are also pre war details.

One of the most famous guests at the hotel was the Norwegian Noble Price Laureate Knut Hamsun. He stayed here in 1916, and wrote one of his works here. In Segelfoss by he describes the industrialization of an old feudal society.

Another charming story is told of Sarah Nielsen, called the Grand Dame of Grand hotel. She came to Bodø to marry as a young woman, and she became an important figure in Bodø, both as leader of the Conservative womens assocation and head of Bodø Discussion Club.

The hotel today

The hotel is today a Choice Hotel, belonging to one of the large hotel chains in Norway. The new wing of the hotel (image), completed just before World War 2, miraculously survived the bombing raid of May 27th, and a new addition was added just after the war.

The hotel has now been renovated and has a beautiful, clean interior. I particularly loved the very light and airy rooms with beautiful hardwood floors. What may confuse you is the charming difference of levels of the pre-war wing and the newer part. As the hotel is placed in a hill, the difference of elevation means that my room, number 360, was situated at the same level as the 5th floor on the other wing. As the hotel lift was very slow, I particularly enjoyed using the staircase. On one level you found yourself on a bridge between the wings overlooking both the dining area and the reception area.

The staff is kind and service minded, and I will look back on my stay at the Grand Hotel in Bodø as a very nice hotel experience.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tourist in Paris: Basilique Sacre Coeur
The basilica of the Sacred Heart is one of my favorite places in Paris. In spite of the thousands of visitors every day, it is a quiet place where you can be soothed by the sound of rattling rosaries and the smell of burning candles.

By guest writer Susanne Koch

Strong opinions
Many people have strong opinions about Sacre Coeur. Some find its Neo-Byzantine style way too much. Others find the devotion to the heart of Jesus to be antiquated and associate it with a pre-counciliar conservative brand of Catholicism.

The Neo-Byzantine architecture that was so popular in France hundred years ago may be an acquired taste, but I find it charming and colorful. As for the devotion to the Sacred Heart, it is an ancient kind of spirituality and should not be reserved for the nostalgic or conservative.

Enjoy the park
As a visitor you don’t have to have an opinion about either Neo-Byzantine architecture or Catholic devotions. You are free to enjoy the lively park that climbs the hill to the church, with its merry-go-round, the tourists and the pilgrims. You can take in the splendor of the exotic building, which might just as well have been located in India for all its oriental ambiance.

A moment of silence
As you walk around the ambulatory – the walk which passes all the little chapels that line the outer wall of the church – you can see hundreds of burning candles and people from all continents and walks of life. In front of the main altar is where the pilgrims come to talk from the bottom of their heart straight to the heart of Christ.

If you come at the right time you can hear the Benedictine nuns sing their prayers. You are invited to sing along or just to pause for a while to enjoy the song and the serenity.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

If I had a million dollars

Memories from a vacation in the Big Apple shared on Susi's Souvenirs

"I just came back from a week in New York City. I went to attend a conference, but I managed to attach three days of holiday. These days were spent walking the streets of this teeming city, watching the people, the incessant waves of people on the sidewalks and of yellow cabs in the streets."

Read more from her New York experience on Susi's Souvenirs

Tossa Del Mar

Memories from a Spanish vacation shared on Susi's Souvenirs

"These are my favorite photos from my glorious 3 week holiday on Costa Brava in Spain in the summer of 2006.

We stayed in Tossa de Mar, which is a pretty place with two good beaches, some excellent sea food restaurants and great hiking in the hills."

Read more on Susi's Souvenirs and see her vacation photos

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - the night sky

On your way down you can admire this beautiful depiction of the night sky. Is it the zodiac, or symbolic pictures of the star constellations, or both? I do not know, as the boundaries between what we today call science (Astronomy) and what we call superstition (Astrology, Alchemy) were not as sharp then as now. Whatever, these remains of a time long gone by, fills you with awe, as there is so much we do not know.

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - he panorama

Here you can admire Rosenborg Castle the beautiful renaissance summer home of Christian IV. It is situated in Kongens Have, a beautiful garden going back to 1606.

At Rosenborg Castle you can admire the Danish Crown Jewels.

Visit the official website of Rosenborg Castle including the Danish Crown Regalia

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - the panorama

- Foreground right: Helligaandskirken (Church of the Holy Spirit)

- Background middle: Christiansborg Palace, the home of the Danish parliament - Folketinget

- Background left: Sankt Nikolaj Church tower

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - the panorama

Facing west you see

- Left: Vor Frue Church, a neo classical curch built in 1829

- Right: Another of the countless churchtowers of this city, that I have not managed to identify

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - the walkway to the top

I was told that in order to get the astronomical equipment to the top, building stairs was out of the questions, as much of it was so heavy that you had to wheel it up. So Hans van Steenwinkel constructed a paved walkway that spiral itself to the top of the tower.

I have never seen anything like this on my travels, and it is intriguing to circle yourself around the core of the tower until you get to the small, narrow spiralled staircase that brings you up to the observatory deck. You are left with one question.

If the equipment had to be wheeled up, how did they get it up on the deck?

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory - the Trinitatis Church

The Trinitatis Church is connected to the tower and was finished in 1656. You can get access to the church in Rundetårn. Sadly this beautiful baroque church was closed when I visited the tower.

Sights of Copenhagen

Rundetårn Observatory

In the middle of Copenhagen you find the Rundetårn Observatory, a remarkable tower constructed during the reign of Christian IV. He was king of Denmark and Norway. He founded several cities that still bear his name, Kristiansand, Kristianstad, and he rebuilt Oslo in 1624 after a large fire by the walls of Akerhus fortress and called it Christiania.

He also commissioned buildings as Rosenborg Castle and the Stock Exchange in Copenhagen. Christian IV also rebuilt much of Akershus fortress in Oslo during his reign.

The design of Rundetårn was made by architect Hans van Steenwinkel the younger, and the work started in 1637 and lasted for five years. In 1656 he finished the Trinitatis church that is connected to the tower.

Rundetårn is the oldest functioning observatory in the world and from the top, you have a great view of Copenhagen.

Visit the official Rundetårn website here

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blue Riband - good food in a chaotic hangar

The Blue Riband is the à la carte restaurant on board the M/F Pearl of Scandinavia. It is situated in the front of the vessel.

Location: BBB+

Easy to find, as you are on a ship. But The Blue Riband is a big and a little dark restaurant - so no wow factor to talk of.

Atmosphere: BBB

If you end close to the window on the side or at the front of the ship, I would add another B. If you are seated in the middle as we were, Blue Riband and the other restaurant 7 Seas, are more like hangars where huge numbers of people eat and drink. An overcrowded and slightly chaotic experience with a lot of noise. So talk to the staff and get one of the tables by the windows.

The tables were nicely set though, and we were comfortable seated and each of us had a reasonably good space to eat.

Price: BBBB

Food was included in the price, but the general price level of the restaurant is reflected in the quality of the food. The price of a three course dinner is favourable.

Service: BBBBB-

The staff was very pleasant and did work hard for their salary. The were no waiting time to talk of, but we did not get personal service in such an environment.

Food: BBBB

The food was good.

We were served sliced cold turkey, with a salad and cream dressing as an entrée. It was not very interesting. We were served a glass of chilled dry white wine.

As main course we had a Surf and Turf, a large piece of exceptionally tender meat garnished with a grilled langoustine. The latter was a little overcooked and tasteless, but the meat was to die for! Served with roasted potatoes and red wine sauce. We were recommended to swap the Ships wine with a Bourdeaux, and that was a good idea.

And the dessert - YUM! Chocolate mousse served with a chilled glass of Muscat wine. The mousse was creamy and it was heaven with the wine.

Overall rating: BBBB (3,89)

Decent food, good service but overcrowded and noisy.

M/F Pearl of Scandinavia - bathroom on board

The Hotel Experience

And here is the tiny bathroom

M/F Pearl of Scandinavia - interior of cabin

The Hotel Experience

Another peek at the interior. This cabin had a TV (most cabins do not). minibar (included, but there were one can of beer and one coke in it) But the good thing, a bottle of sparkling wine served at departure, is waiting for me in front of the TV.


Rating the M/F Pearl of Scandinavia experience

The Hotel Experience

The Pearl of Scandinavia is a large floating hotel, housing more than 2000 passengers. The price range is from €200 for a round trip ticket in the cheapest cabins, but you may easily spend €600-700 for a Commodore class cabin. I enjoyed a Commodore cabin with a view, breakfast and a small bottle of Sparkling wine included in the price.

Location: BBBBB

Staying on a boat cruising along the coasts of Norway and Denmark is the ultimate location. You can sit by the table in your cabin and enjoy the crossing, at least when the weather is good
- and it was.

General hygiene: BBBBB

Reception, restaurant, room and other areas were squeeky clean!

Room: BBBB

If you compare the size of the cabin with an ordinary hotel room, you will find it quite small. But as I have travelled on different classes earlier I will know that my cabin had a decent size. And it had two large windows making it light and airy. It had a good airconditioning system, TV, Minibar, two chairs and a little table and a desk. However, the design was a little outdated. The bathroom was tiled, but very small, and it had no space to place your personal belongings.

But you were served a chilled bottle of sparkling wine on departure from Copenhagen and Oslo.

Breakfast: BBBBB-

The breakfast buffet is included in the price. You could hardly expect more. Fresh bread and rolls, coffes served in a french press can, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and other warm alternatives, as well as cured meats, ham, cheeses, and much more. The only thing to put the finger on, is once again the orange juice.

Facilities: BBBB+

A small swimming pool and hot tub at the rear end of the ship. Very small and difficult to get access to during peak season, I would believe.

There is a cinema on board where you can enjoy some of the latest filmes for DKK 40 pr. person.

There are several bars, nightclubs, dicos, ans three gourmet restaurants as well as a café and a bistro.

Price: BBB

Is it worth the price? Paying €600 for a commodore class cabin for one- no! I could get cheap airfare and two or more night in another European destinaton at the same price. For two - maybe, but I would have expected more space for that sum of money. For €200 in a another cabin - yes! But my rating reflects the price you have to pay for a Commodore class room.

Overall rating: BBBB+ (4,3)

A nice getaway for the weekend, but you have to pay much for the little extras.

Copenhagen - again!!!

April 23rd I was off to Copenhagen, again. This was serious stuff, though, as it was a seminar on security, arranged by the Norwegian Society of Security and Safety. In short, this was a business trip for my part, but we were given 8 hours off in Copenhagen, to enjoy the city.

We travelled on the M/F Pearl of Scandinavia, the sister ship of the M/F Crown of Scandinavia. Both ferries to and from the Danish capital are large floating hotels with a conference centre, restaurants, several bars, night clubs, swimming pool, and shops.

I will rate the hotel experience on board the M/F Pearl of Scandinavia, as well as share some culinary memories from two of its gourmet restaurants, the Blue Riband and 7 seas.

And I will show you a few more sights worth visiting in the Danish Capital.

Tapas - great food for an evening around the table

I love blue cheese! They range from the mild and creamy Gorgonzola, to a pungent Roquefort or Stilton. In fact, try a Roquefort with a glass of sweet wine - a Sauternes, a Muscat, or as the Britons, take a glass of port, as they do with their Stilton!


Tapas - great food for an evening around the table

This quiche is made with shrimps and broccoli. But a good quiche can be made with what you have in your refrigerator. The traditional Quiche Lorraine with ham and if you add onion you end up with a quiche Alsacienne. Or you use bacon, chicken, or make a vegetarian pie.

Serve with a green salad!

Tapas - great food for an evening around the table

As you would know by now, I absolutely love tapas. Traditionally, small bowls or plates with e.g. sausage or cheese used to be (and still are) served when you ordered a drink in a Spanish bar, often for free. As social food - tapas brings people closer as you can solve world problems as you enjoy your beer and a slice of delicious Jamon Serrano.

Now the tapas has been turned into a separate food tradition that has conquered the world.

This table was set for a party yesterday, Saturday April 28th. It was a success indeed, both for Tone, the host, and for us, the guests. As we left around midnight we were moderately influenced by the effect of several good Spanish wines. And the food - yum!!

What did she serve us? Let me tell you:

  • A quiche with broccoli and prawns, easy to make. Prebaked shortcrust pastry with a filling of prawns, broccoli and cheese. Then a mixture of eggs and cream are poured over.
  • Manchego cheeese, the famous spanish speciality made from sheeps milk
  • Reypenaar VSOP, well matured dutch Gouda - my contibution
  • French Roquefort
  • French Brie to be served with 2 different Spanish jam varieties, one made from green tomatoes the other from figs
  • Shrimps in Spanish marinade
  • Peppers and sundried tomatoes in an aromatic olive oil
  • Serrano ham - thinly sliced and to die for!!
  • Pico Torre - Chorizo Cantimpalos Extra that I bought in Barcelona during christmas
  • Three different types of mayonnaise, aioli, regular, and I brought my homemade herb variety.
  • Tomato salad
  • Blanced asparagus tips with balsamic vinegar and freshly grated parmeggiano reggiano
  • Olives
And all this was followed by Bread or Melba toast. No wonder we indulged in all these delicacies. And at the end Tone served two different Sorbets with fresh berries accompanied by a cold glass of Muscat wine.