Eurotrip first days in Denmark: Skjern-dalous!

Yes, I know this looks like a lot of reading, but just get through the first part and you’ll be rewarded with some kinda pretty pictures and my eternal gratitude.

On Tuesday morning, we left for the Paris – Charles de Gaulle airport (you know, the nice one). Our flight was at 7 a.m., so my uncle (who happens to be a Parisian taxi driver, which is also why he’s been too busy to hang out with us the past two weeks) picked us up at 5 a.m. We thought we would have plenty of time, but the drive to the airport took longer than we thought. Due to traffic and minor snafus, we got there at about 5:40 a.m.

By the way, I will never complain about L.A. drivers again. Parisian drivers are frightening! Everyone drives so closely, they’re always two inches from crashing into or maiming each other. On the other hand, I heard that drivers in Paris are a lot more forgiving and “meh” about scratches and dents. In California, a slight scratch, and the other driver is magically suddenly in a neck brace. On the first hand again, drivers in Paris get victimized all the time. Just the previous week, my uncle got his taxi rear windshield smashed into and his daughter’s bag was stolen–while he was driving the car.

And I will insert a random picture here just to break up the text and not make reading look so daunting. Not sure if I showed it yet, but this is banana Flambé we ate at a restaurant the previous week:

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Anyway, back to the airport. We discovered each of our checked luggage was 1 or 2 kilos over the limit, so we had to take some things out and throw them away or put them in our carry-on. I am always careful about all my luggage and carry-on not being over the weight limit, but my mom had put some things into my suitcase. When it comes to flying rules, I am a stickler for them. I weigh my carry-ons, put all my liquids in a baggy, turn off my phone and everything. My mom and my brother both dismissed me and said, “Nah, just put everything in your carry-ons. No one ever weighs them.”

Well, weigh they did. Right before we got through the security gate, we were asked to weigh our carry-ons. And my brother had 3 carry-ons. Everyone’s stuff was overweight. So we got sent back to the check-in desk. We managed to condense most of our stuff into two new checked-in bags and it cost 140 Euros. Sure, it was expensive, but what could we do? We had bought too many souvenirs. We figured, “That’s fine. We just need to get on our flight.” So I pulled out 140 Euros from my wallet, but the Air France check-in desk lady said “Sorry, we don’t accept cash here. Only cards.” Seriously? We had used all the money on our international chip-and-pin Mastercard thinking we no longer needed it since we had plenty of Euros and Danish kroner left. My brother and I pulled out all our American credit and debit cards (all Visa), but all of them were declined. Like, WTF? I had told my bank twice that I was going to Europe and all the countries I would be visiting so that they wouldn’t freeze my accounts. “Visa…It’s everywhere you want to be.” Apparently Visa thinks we only want to be in the U.S. Arrgh. (Later Visa would call me to say “We stopped your transactions because they seemed suspicious.) The check-in desk lady said, “There is a way you can pay with cash, but you have to go to this special office and that will take a long time, and by then you’ll miss your flight.” Everything was going wrong.

We decided to just go through security and get to our gate and try to convince the employees to let us pay the excess baggage fee after we safely boarded our flight. But Air France wouldn’t have that. They scanned our boarding passes and “unpaid excess baggage fees” flashed on their screen. We tried to use all our credit cards again, and the employees tried to call our cards in to make it seem less suspicious to Visa, but this time the Air France credit card machines were down. There was also confusion over which bags we had already paid for; at one point they thought all our bags were unpaid. And our plane was starting to leave.

Finally they called two supervisors over. The whole time though, all of the Air France employees spoke amazingly calm, like they didn’t realize we were missing our freakin’ flight, and they spoke to each other in rapid French, so I could only make out a few words here and there. Finally about 20 minutes later, the woman in charge said “We’ll book you on the next flight, which is three hours from now. You can pay cash at that office” and they walked us to some special Air France lounge where we paid the fees in cash. It took forever, because there was a line of people, and only one lady at the desk. I think number one rule in the Air France employee handbook must be that employees are not allowed to show any sign of urgency at any time whatsoever. I don’t know what the lady was doing, but she spent like 15 minutes calmly typing stuff into her computer before our cash was finally accepted and our receipt was printed. After that, we went back through security for the *third* time. By then I was so stressed out and couldn’t even enjoy walking around the airport and taking pictures like I’d normally do at every airport. The airport provided free international copies of the New York Times so I picked one up to cheer me up.

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Oh look, a cover story about poor people in third-world nations compelled into giving up their organs to rich people in first-world countries. Actually, that did make me feel better. I might’ve missed my flight, but I do have all my organs.

(By the way, we actually actually lucked. I found out that six days later, all Air France pilots went on a two-week strike and all flights were canceled.)

Our flight itself was pretty nice. The flight attendants were very nice. The cookies they gave us were very nice. We did lose power in one engine system and had to circle around the sky for another 20 minutes while the pilots tried to get the backup system online and save us from certain death, but other than that, our flight was pretty nice.

Then we arrived in Copenhagen. Ta da!:

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Hej Denmark. It is indeed the world’s happiness nation. One thing I’ve noticed from living there: virtually all Danes I’ve met have a healthy sense of self-esteem and are very well-adjusted, even the extremely rare non-gorgeous ones. What’s up with that?

As with our flight to Paris, we arrived on a rainy day:

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My uncle picked us up, dropped us at his place and then he had to go to work. So I didn’t get to take any pictures besides these two from our drive:

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We didn’t do much for the rest of the day but eat. The next day we decided that since my relatives in Copenhagen were so busy with work, we’d go visit my other aunt and uncle in Skjern, a tiny town known mostly for being the last stop on the train.

I remember the first time I bought a train ticket to Skjern (in 2008), the ticket lady nearly giggled when I said with an overly American accent: “Ska-jurn.” It’s actually pronounced more like Sk-yenne, but fast so it sounds like one syllable.

We arrived at the Copenhagen train station. It was at this point that I realized I forgot to pack my camera in my overnight bag and it was still at my uncle’s home in Copenhagen. Oh well, luckily I had a backup camera (yes, I packed one). It was an old, low-definition one but I figured it’s perfect: a tiny, old camera for a tiny, old town.

Love the Danes and their bikes:

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Fun fact: their love of riding bicycles is the reason most Danish men wear skinny jeans or capri pants. And by “fact,” I mean, well, I just put two and two together.

The first train was very nice:

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My mom was already exclaiming, “Trains in Denmark are so nice, while the ones in France are so trashy.” I told her that other trains in Denmark are not so nice. The previous week we had gotten into a tiny argument because she would think one city is representative of the whole country, like “France is such a loud and busy and crowded and touristy country.” And I’d tell her, Mom, that’s only Paris. Each city is different.

Anyway, we passed by fields of grass and ocean. Grammatically I don’t mean fields of ocean. I mean fields of grass and some ocean.

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Few people know this about Denmark, but it’s actually made up of several small islands (and my relatives live on 3 different islands), so traveling between them requires a plane, a train or a ferry. If you want to drive, you can park your car on the ferry and your car gets “shipped” over.

It was a very long train ride. I lost track of the hours. I kept myself entertained by reading this book by J.K. Rowling, which is very good, about an eccentric detective (is there any other kind?) investigating the death of a supermodel:

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And I always get a kick out of passing by this town (because I’m, like, 12):

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My aunt and uncle own a restaurant right across from the Skjern train station, called Chicken & Burger:

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(I didn’t take pictures of the inside because I didn’t want to seem creepy to the other customers.)

Despite their already comprehensive-sounding name, Chicken & Burger has everything from pitas to milkshakes to Chinese chicken. They made me one of my favorite Danish dishes, pølse mix: a plate of deep-fried hot dogs and fries, covered with sweet condiments and onions.

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Screw the diet. This was Heaven. Oh and they also gave me some of this too, it’s an orange sweet-salty powder that Danish restaurants sprinkle on their fries. It’s amazing. Last time, I had to bring a big bottle of it back to the U.S. with me:

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I’ll end the entry here. We didn’t do much more that night and I’m tired. More tales in Skjern to come later. “Skjern” you believe it? I hope you can “Skjern” wait for the next entry! OK I’ll shut up.

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