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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

"Watch out," my husband shouts, just before I step off the curb into oncoming traffic. "You always have to look both ways and yield."

Anywhere in North America, you might think he was referring to motorists. But here, in Copenhagen, it's all about the cyclists. They're everywhere and have the right of way. The morning commute is more like a professional's pedal parade. Women dressed in long skirts, men in suits, kids tucked into attached carts. And while getting where they want to go they all exude that effortless, scandi-cool style.

Although we opt out of two-wheeling this trip, the Hop On Hop Off boat and bus tours provide us with the perfect perspective to take in the attractions from both the land and water.

Pretty much every major epicentre on the global tourist trail hosts this sightseeing option and we've always found it's been a great way to get a quick overview. So with map in hand and ear buds plugged in, we unite with other sun lovers on the top open floor of the double-decker.

The Mermaid Tour, is the most popular of the three routes. Our coach breezes by Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest operating amusement park in the world, motors past the National Museum where exhibits explore the Stone, Viking, Middle Ages and Modern Danish History, and makes a stop at the Little Mermaid, a sculpture, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. Since August 1913 she's been sitting, immortalized in bronze, staring longingly towards the shore, in hopes of seeing her prince. And tourists, like us, come every day to watch her do just that!


We hop off at Christiansborg Palace, where the Danish Prime Minister's office reside today. "That's quite the work space," my husband, Brent, says, while we pose for a photo in front of this impressive landmark. "And quite the living quarters for our daughter-in-law."

Although there are clearly lots of reasons to visit Copenhagen, the main purpose this trip is to celebrate our son's marriage. Two years ago he wed his Danish sweetheart in LA where they now live, and this week they are returning to her roots for a belated 'Lovefest' bash. Her father was once an Ambassador to the Queen of Denmark and during that time, her family had resided in one of the palace wings. Quite the digs, indeed!

Nearby narrow streets wind their way throughout the city's hub. Many are linked to courtyards boasting statues, historical monuments and talented street performers. Stroget, one of Europe's longest pedestrian pathways, offers us a slew of shops. Nearby is Studiestræde, once the city's Old Latin Quarter, now home to a string of thrift stores and coffee hangouts. And Strædet tempts us with its many eateries, gift shops and retail outlets. Although I can't pronounce a single name correctly, each block is unique and ablaze with colour.

But Nyhavn takes the prize for its pretty palette. Once a hangout for sailors, now one of the trendiest areas of the city. Sidewalk cafes spill out from the crayon-coloured buildings that line up along this bustling canal.

Two days later we return to this area with our new extended family to check out the sites from the water. "Climb aboard," our son and daughter-in-law command, as they greet everyone dockside.

Some guests claim seats under cover, others head to the back of the longboat where roving views can be clearly photographed. And while we schmooze, we cruise. 

"Amalienborg Palace is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family," our commentator exclaims. "You may see Danish princes and princesses driving in and out as we motor on by." With eagle eyes, we pan the entrance gates of the palatial homestead. No such luck today.

Historical buildings border our aquatic byway, many which were constructed by King Christian IV in the early 17th century. Christianshavns canal is home to controversial Christiania, a hippie community of free-spirited souls. Directly opposite, and in stark contrast, is the ultra-modern Opera House, a grand architectural achievement that melds beautifully with this vibrant city.

"Skål," our son says to everyone while raising his glasses of champagne. "It's the Danish word for saying cheers." Little do we know, it's also a command that we're going to hear many times over the next few days during their Lovefest celebration. But this time it's not about the happy couple. "Skål," we all respond, lifting our glasses in a toast to amazing Copenhagen.



PHOTOS by Jane & Brent Cassie

1. Cyclists have the right of way and they rule

2. Brent getting ready to Hop On the bus tour

3. tourists come in droves every day to check out the Little Mermaid

4. posing in front of Christiansborg Palace

5. Nyhavn takes the prize for its pretty palette

6. stream-lined longboats provide roving views

7. Amalienborg Palace, winter home of the Danish Royal Family

8. Ultra-modern Copenhagen Opera House

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