Archive for October, 2011

Interesting facts about Hotels in Scandinavia

Some interesting observations I made after having stayed at several hotels in Norway and Denmark for the last 1.5 weeks.

1. A lot of the hotels do not provide a kettle/jug for boiling water. If you are lucky, you will be given one upon request. My hotel in Copenhagen did not have a kettle for us. Luckily, the receptionist helped us fill up our thermos with hot water. Needless to say, there is no tea or coffee sachets in the room. However, 2 of our hotels so far have a complimentary tea and coffee service in the lobby bar. It’s nice to be able to sit at the lobby bar for a cuppa after a long blustery day of hard exploring.

2. The bathrooms seem to be designed in an odd way, of which I have yet to find a reason why. I have stayed in hotels in countries such as China, Singapore, New Zealand, the UK, and always, the shower area is either recessed or has a door to prevent the shower water from flowing to other parts of the toilet. Or you could be showering while standing in the bath tub with shower curtains. In my hotel in Copenhagen and Bergen, Norway, there isn’t such a thing! For the hotel in Copenhagen, the water drain is actually a distance a way so the shower water has to flow half way cross the bathroom! And for the hotel in Bergen, there is a floor to ceiling panel, but it covers only half the shower area! I find this design quite idiotic both for the hotel guests as well as the housekeeping staff who will have to mop up excess water on the toilet floor every day.

3. All my hotels so far have shower heads which can be extended and held in the hands if required. This is a useful thing to have, which most other hotels I have stayed at don’t provide.

4. It’s best to bring your own toiletries when staying in Scandinavia. So far, 2 out of 3 hotels did not provide any shampoo, even though the cost of the room is the same.

5. A lot of the hotels are old. The Hotel Opera in Copenhagen was built more than 100 years ago, so the room as well as the entire hotel itself looked very quaint. We enjoyed the fact that it was quaint, because to us it was a hotel with character. However, others may find it inconvenient that you have wooden floorboards that creak, lifts that take half a minute to get to the 2nd floor (and you have to open the door yourself), and metal keys that weigh a ton (instead of magnetic chip cards).

6. Almost all hotels I researched on for this trip provide buffet breakfast at no extra charge. The breakfast is pretty good. The number of hot dishes vary (mainly sausages, scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes), but all hotels seem to at least have various kinds of breads with cheeses, sliced hams and cereal. I have read that some hotels even allow guests to pack the food for lunch as well. I saw a few people doing it, but I don’t know if they were doing it secretively. I do know our 1st hotel charged NOK 40 (S$10) for a self-made packed lunch. Even if you have to pay a little bit more for the buffet breakfast, it may be a good idea to do so because eating out in Norway in particular is very expensive. You will find that most sandwiches at cafes cost at least NOK 100.

7. Cereal seems to be a big thing in Scandinavia. The amount of cereal I have eaten for breakfast since coming here is probably equivalent to the amount I have eaten for this entire year. Okay I have not been a great cereal eater but this trip has changed me! I want to try to eat more cereal and oats for a healthier start to my day. And we’re talking about real cereal here, not the Kokocrunch or fruit loops type. Beetroot seems popular in Norway too. I have been stuffing myself with beetroot because it has a lot of vitamins and isn’t widely available in Singapore! It changes the colour of your pee, beware!

8. Hotel staff in Norway aren’t all that friendly. We encountered one lovely lady who took 5 minutes to explain to us what was available to do on the weekends. But most others give the impression that their job is to answer one question and one question only. If they were talking to their colleagues before you disturbed them, they would resume chatting after your 1st question was done. There would be no “is there anything else I can help you with sir/mdm”, which forces you to do some mental calculations on whether it is worth it to continue asking your 2nd question. The staff we encountered in Denmark were nice, but we did stay in only 1 hotel.

9. Most hotels are only 6 or 7 storeys high so there is actually no need to ask for a room on a high floor. The more important question would be to ask for a floor with the best view possible, and one that isn’t facing a noisy street.

I will have the opportunity to experience 2 more hotels in Norway. This list may be updated if my observations change.

Frederiksborg Palace

Here are some pictures I took of Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen. We had to take a train out of the heart of Copenhagen to get to this place, and it was a 20 minute walk from the train station! On hind sight, we should have checked out the route on Google maps or something, but no, for some reason we thought it would be right next to the train station….. Luckily, the girl at the station cafe was really nice and told us how to get there.

Frederiksborg Palace

Frederiksborg Palace (4)

Frederiksborg Palace (5)

Frederiksborg Palace (6)

All these castles and palaces seem to have their own churches as well. It seems this church is open to the public.

Frederiksborg Palace (7)

Wish I had the time to slowly go through every single inscription. We were given a torch to do so as some parts of the palace had no electricity and was dark!

Frederiksborg Palace (8)

Frederiksborg Palace (11)

Frederiksborg Palace (14)

Notice that the bed seems shorter than usual, because it is. Apparently, in those times, people used to sleep half sitting up, propped up with lots of pillows. I mean, seriously what were they thinking??

Frederiksborg Palace (12)

Frederiksborg Palace (20)

Frederiksborg Palace (19)

Frederiksborg Palace (21)

Frederiksborg Palace (25)

I like the pink rooms section the most!

Frederiksborg Palace (24)

Frederiksborg Palace (3)

Frederiksborg in all it’s renovation glory. There were a lot of construction works going in a number of places I visited. I was told that several months ago, a huge flood messed up the streets in the heart of Copenhagen.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn (2)

Remember this place? I took this picture of Nyhavn (pronounced New Hound I think) 2 days ago during the free walking tour. Picturesque place. Also the starting point for the water-boat trips.

Nyhavn (3)

Guess what, yesterday we wanted to take the water-boat tour of the canals, but it was drizzling slightly. So we said we’d go visit museums instead. Well, today was worse. We could hardly see beyond one block. It’s quite spooky and I’m really glad that we don’t get fog in Singapore. Even the haze is no where as bad as this in terms of visibility. This photo was taken at 10am. So once again, we decided to go visit yet another castle.

Nyhavn (1)

Tried our luck again at the boat tour around 1pm. Still foggy but at least it was much better than at 10am.

Nyhavn (5)

Nyhavn (4)

The buildings nearby are clear enough, but as you can see from this pic, its foggy darkness beyond. I felt as if I was on some theme park ride where the boat heads into nothingness and suddenly plunges down a steep slope! Of course in reality, things become clearer as they get into the visibility range.

Strøget–World’s Longest Shopping Street

The one great thing about Singapore is that shops open till late! I’m sure this is one thing I’ll never get used to if I ever move to a European country, or New Zealand/Australia for that matter. Shops in Oslo slam shut at 8pm while in Copenhagen, it is 7pm! For London, if I don’t remember wrongly, it’s 6pm! And shops are not open on Sundays! How do people buy their things if the shops close so early? I was stuck in the rush hour traffic just now. That was 4.30pm, HELLO??? Well I suppose if you leave work at around that time, there’s still 1 or 2 hours for you to get what you need.

Worse still for tourists, museums and castles close at around 4 or 5pm at this time of the year, 6pm if you’re talking about summer. I like to take my time when I’m on holiday, so it’s okay for me, but for those tourists who like to pack their days chock full, I really think that Europe’s not the best place for that. Europe’s a place where you just have to take things slowly, enjoy a very long dinner and go to bed early.

If you want your evenings and nights to be buzzing, definitely go visit an Asian country. The US is not that bad either. I recall when I was in Florida Orlando, some museums were open till 9 or 10pm! I recall being able to visit Disneyworld in the day time and still make it to Ripley’s Believe it or Not at night!

I know the reason for this is that Europeans value family time. Shopping is not a pastime, it’s just an errand that has to be done when supplies run low. But surely you would think that it would be the Asians that value family time just as much if not more?

Anyway, let me leave you with pictures of Strøget in Copenhagen, the world’s longest pedestrian street. It’s a shopping haven, but buy what you will before 7pm!

Strøget (1)

Strøget (2)

Strøget (3)

Strøget (4)

Strøget (5)

Strøget (6)

Magasin du Nord

Magasin du Nord (6)

Magasin du Nord (2)

Magasin du Nord (3)

Magasin du Nord (4)

Magasin du Nord (5)

Free Copenhagen City Tour!

Today, we enjoyed a wonderful free 3 hour walking tour of Copenhagen City. Yes, free, can you believe it?! Luckily the Partner happened to be googling for things to do in Copenhagen and chanced upon it. The tour starts at 11am from the Copenhagen Town Hall and happens every day! Check out this website for details. It’s totally worth it if you don’t have a clue what to do in Copenhagen, and even if you do, it’s a good introduction to the city anyway. Our Irish guide was really funny and peppered the tour with lots information on the history of the various landmarks.

I felt really lucky to have chanced upon this tour, especially considering the close shave we had this morning. We almost didn’t make it to the Town Hall. We were a little late in leaving the hotel, as usual. But all would have been fine if we’d just been able to buy our Copenhagen Cards at our nearest Metro Station. (We were told at the airport that we could do so at every station and the Copenhagen Cards allow us to free access to over 65 museums as well as free travel on all public transportation).

But see, in Copenhagen, there are no manned information counters at the metro stations. There are ticketing machines, but those aren’t very helpful if you’re not sure what you want. There was this DKK400+ ticket (S$100), which looked like it might be for the Copenhagen Card, but it wasn’t named so and I wasn’t going to blow S$100 on something I wasn’t a 100% sure. We could have also bought the single ticket first, and make it to the Town Hall in time but that would have been wasteful since the Copenhagen Cards would have covered all our travels. The investment analyst in me said HELL NO, NO WAY.

Guess what we did? With the seconds ticking away, we decided to take the train to the main train station where an information counter must surely exist. And, we did this without a ticket! There are no gantries you see, so this is possible. Don’t do it wilfully of course, you can be fined DKK 750 (nearly S$200). Well for us, technically speaking we would have had tickets if we’d managed to buy the darn cards at the 1st station! Thankfully, we didn’t meet any dreaded inspectors and and have to waste time explaining. The gamble paid off, we got our tickets and arrived at the Town Hall 10 minutes late, just in time to see the tour group turn the corner! A few seconds later and we would have missed them!

Check out a few of the photos I took while on the 3 hour walking city tour.

Canals (3)

Nyhavn (4)

Nyhavn (2)

Nyhavn (1)

Nyhavn (5)

This place is known as Nyhavn, and is just behind my hotel!

Magasin du Nord

A huge shopping centre called Magasin du Nord. I love it. Visited it twice already, although I didn’t buy anything. The supermarket in the basement is just like Jasons of Singapore, only bigger and with more exotic types of goods!

New Opera House

The new Opera house. A gift from Denmark’s richest person, A P Moller. I don’t know about you but I do think that this is one helluva ugly Opera house. It is extremely state of the art though.

Absalon The Warrior Bishop

Amalienborg Palace (2)

Crown Prince's Palace

Magstraede

Oldest street in Copenhagen

Marble Church

Dome of the Marble Church

The churches are works of art in their own right. Going into one is like stepping into a piece of art itself. Can’t begin to describe the awesomeness and grandeur.Copenhagen Central Station

The Copenhagen Central Station, where I did eventually manage to buy my Copenhagen Cards.

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