Last Thanksgiving, I sat around with friends and we all talked about our plans for 2019. I piously declared to my friends that I couldn’t plan any trips for 2019. No, it was going to be light on travel, while I paid off student loans and saved my pennies.
When I found out I was being sent to London for a week in February for work, all my frugal plans went out the window. If work was sending me to Europe and paying for it, how could I not take advantage? I mean, did you know you can fly between cities in Europe for less money than it costs to buy lunch in downtown San Francisco? You can either be enraged by that or you can start mapping out the city hopping you will do once in Europe. Obviously I did the second thing.
My first planned stop was Copenhagen, because I figured such an expensive destination would be as cheap as possible and less crowded in winter, yet March was late enough that I would have more hours of daylight for exploring. Plus, going to Copenhagen first meant that it would be easy to then go to Berlin and then Prague, two other cities high on my list.
I sent out an invite to join me to my friends, but in the end, I wound up on my own for the time in Copenhagen. Coming on the heels of a week alone in London, those two days were a test of my positive attitude towards traveling solo. I was more than ready for company! Most Danes speak English, and everyone was very friendly, but I’m not very good at meeting people while traveling, so I was still on my own for now.
So, I decided to make the best of it and try a different style of travel. I was staying in a nice hotel instead of an apartment rental, so I took full advantage. I went out and explored during the day, but I came back to the hotel each night for the free wine o’clock in the evenings. I ate dinner the first night in the bar next door, and treated myself to a fancy dinner in the hotel restaurant on the second night. I didn’t beat myself up over turning in early, since it was dark outside anyway, and whether the nightlife was safe or not, it’s not really that fun to go bar hopping solo. Turns out, letting myself enjoy the hotel part of traveling was actually pretty relaxing!
I didn’t completely hole up in the hotel, though. The weather was a bit rainy and chilly at times, but I decided to be like the locals and venture out regardless, if only on foot instead of by bike. I walked all over the city, exploring palaces, the Danish museum, Freetown Christiania, and the Kastellet. I peeked at the greenhouses at Noma, tried the Netflix-famous tacos at Hija de Sanchez, and ate cute breakfasts in tiny cafes. I oohed at the candy-colored buildings lining the Nyhavn canal, and walked up and down the length of it too many times, hoping for a blue sky to turn the colors even more brilliant.
I never got the blue sky, but I still got hit by the charm of Copenhagen. Its multi-colored streets seem like something out of a dollhouse version of a city, with cobblestone paths and manicured parks to complete the design. There’s vast water and sleepy canals moored with boats, and homey, comforting food that helps explain why northern Europe is so synonymous with the word “cozy”. Despite the weather and my loneliness it was cozy, and sometimes that’s all you really want out of a vacation.