Hello, London. After a lovely breakfast of organic oats and chia seeds and fresh organic Danish fruit, a cup of white tea and of coffee, I take a morning flight to London, where I’m working Monday-Thursday this week. Similar scenario as so, so many Monday mornings when I lived in London and had been home on weekends. Me and my mum in the car, in the sunrise, driving past the foggy bogs, undulating hills and big forests (still completely green at this point), silent except for when we sing along to either the radio or one of my mum’s CDs, Albert Hammond on It Never Rains in Southern California, The Free Electric Band and other ’70s classics. An hour of peaceful bliss. In the first year, it was always sad, but then, when I started feeling more at home in London, I’d feel sentimental only sometimes. This time is different than all of the previous – I’m so filled up with good energy and happiness because of the previous two weeks we’ve spent together, my parents seeing where I live, the whole family holidaying together, and even some time to breathe out here in Juelsminde, and it’s a bit incomprehensible that I’m not going to be spending time with them in real life until next summer. At the same time, the notion that London is no longer the place I’m leaving this place for to go back to stay in, but another beloved home to visit for a short period of time, gives me a funny sense of comfort. Landing in Stansted, in beautiful clear, crisp, sunny weather at that, taking the train into Liverpool Street Station and the tube to Tottenham Court Road, walking along busy Oxford Street to Soho Square… Everything is so, so, so, so familiar, and it’s so fun to think that I really left without knowing/planning when I’d be back and that it feels like I never left. To think that I have a place like this – not my home country, but a place I lived for five years and have made so many memories, friends, have a job, an office to go to, a daily life I can slide right into. And at my ultimately most favourite favourite time of year.
Hello, Soho Square. Coming into the office and saying hello to everyone. I was happy here. Restless at the end, but happy to come in every morning. Home-coming round to see my closest colleagues on each floor. Big smiles, hugs, words. Itsu-lunch out on the sunny square with my team, spotting a famous person (Jake Gyllenhaal), and a friend, being greeted and hugged by the latter only, but that’s more than ok, spending the afternoon in catchup-meetings, going out to pick up a coffee from Tap Coffee in Wardour street with my best work buddy, which we drink with a slice of my mum’s cacao cake on the square. Second cup of coffee of the afternoon is made in the office kitchen by my Italian coffee aficionado colleague. Later I step out onto the square again to call it a day, in the golden hour when the sun is exactly at the right angle to get in everyone’s eyes and give people black silhouettes against the golden rays.
Hello, Angel. I go to a couple of friends’ place in Islington like I’ve done on countless work nights. They live in an apartment building right on the canal, and I first came to their home for his birthday party 4.5 years ago. It still looks and smells exactly the same. Back then we were working together, and as it always would take me a lot longer than him to finish the week’s work, he waited around for me on that evening, even though it was his birthday and his girlfriend was waiting for us at home with a house full of partying people. She didn’t think it was the most fabulous thing in the world that he was late for his own party because of some girl at work, but luckily when she met me I managed to completely charm her, as she did me, in her sparkly gold dress. Their home has been the scene for countless parties since that night (everything from summer barbecues to annual Christmas parties), and dinners, casual or classy, as well as evenings and Sundays of just hanging out and relaxing. I’ve slept here a handful of times before as well. Just like I’ll do all of this week. A lot of friends have left London, and I think this couple will as well at some point, but our memories will stay – of home-cooked meals and restaurant visits, wine-tastings, film-watching at home or at the cinema, Glastonbury, nights out and hungover walks along the canal. We walk along it tonight as well, in the sunset, my favourite part of it – from their house and up to Angel, where we stroll down quaint Camden Passage to pick up some tapas from Planet Organic and meander through the little alleys between Essex Road, the Green and Upper Street, my friends showing me all of the new restaurants that have popped up in the area. That autumnal atmosphere – passing my favourite cinema, my favourite Waterstones (where you can curl up on the second floor window benches and read while looking out across the tree canopies of the green). I remember when I first fell in love with this area, in the autumn of 2011. We walk back along the canal in the dark, eat at the wooden table in the living room, with the last few slices of my mum’s cake for dessert.
Four Totally Classic London Mornings. Tuesday – run to the gym on Devonshire Square before dawn, train, shower, walk up to meet a friend in front of Albion in the morning light, walk along Redchurch Street (my all-time favourite street, which is still hip though massively gentrified) and down Brick Lane (Brick Lane Coffee has closed!) to get coffee from brightly red-coloured Nude in Hanbury Street, which we drink while walking to work together in bright sunshine and talking, talking, talking, talking. After dropping her off at her office by the river, I hurry down Fleet Street, through Covent Garden and up to Soho. Wednesday – cycle to the gym in Tottenham Court Road (my old red bike is still standing here where I left it with a flat tyre that I never could be bothered to get fixed, almost a year ago!), train, shower, walking through elegant Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury to meet two colleagues and friends for my all-time favourite porridge (made on quinoa, almond milk, bee pollen and a few slices of banana) and cold-pressed citrus juice spiced up with cayenne pepper and turmeric at Hubbard and Bell. House brew of coffee. Thursday – do a few exercises at home before walking down City Road, getting a coffee from Shoreditch Grind to go and meeting a fourth friend for breakfast at Workshop (where they play The National’s album, Boxer, which reminds me so of London – a friend and I went and experienced them at Ally Pally two years ago) before cycling to the office alone. Friday – up at 4AM to go to the airport – for the first time this week, and just as I leave, it’s raining.
Coffee from San Fran. Oh! To have a favourite colleague writing to you on Skype at 11am one morning asking if you want a cup of his freshly ground fancy artisan coffee that he brought back from a business trip to California a few days ago. And to drink it at the desk, with him, taking a little mid-morning break.
Bronte. On Tuesday, I go out for lunch with a colleague – at the Tom Dixon-designed dashing and dapper Bronte near Trafalgar Square. It’s new place that he wanted to introduce me to; mixing up all of this week’s nostalgia with a bit of new inputs, a vital part of London life as well. He is dapper as well – always immaculately dressed in suits and shiny shoes, standing remarkably out from the general creased-t-shirt-jeans-and-sneakers look at our office. He’s the only other Dane in the entire company, and we became good friends drinking gourmet coffee and wine, strolling through Soho talking about life or nothing and watching loads of cinema movies throughout the past year and a half since we started working together. Today we have lunch in the most spectacularly pink and mint green room. His tweet suit, crisp shirt and woollen tie go so well with the white table cloth, the plush chairs and all of the shiny marble, brash and mirrors in the room. While the seasonal salads are delicious in presentation and flavour, the interior design is the most striking element of the venue. Worth checking out!
Cycling. Home from work every day, snaking through lines of cars, busses and other cyclists. So quick and free. From Soho to Shoreditch. And from restaurants and bars to Angel, slightly tipsy and grateful for the soothingly fresh and dark air. Santander bikes – I still can’t be bothered to get my own fixed.
Ace and Indian. On Tuesday I cycle straight to my old favourite hang-out above them all, Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Meet my favourite favourite Londoner for a cocktail – we pick a sour and strong number called Young at Heart – in the little dark room behind the bar, and afterwards we go meet two other close friends (and former flatmates, from two different houses) for dinner on the fifth floor of Shoreditch House. Tuesday nights are Indian nights here – loving laughter and stories over scrumpy curries and dal. It’s lovely to see how they all thrive and do so well (with work, love, life in general), and it’s even more lovely to feel that these are people with whom I can relax totally. Well, the same goes for everyone I meet this week – loving, natural, nourishing company, without a hint of stress or tiring effort. That’s why I can manage to see so many in such short time. I’m fortunate to be close to such a fantastic bunch, even if geographically I’m pretty far away.
Soho, Mayfair, Marylebone. On Wednesday I allow myself a long lunch break, frolicking through adorable Soho, Mayfair and Marylebone like a euphoric tourist, peeping into Liberty to try on this perfume and that hair oil, buy a bunch of things in &Other Stories, fetch a lunch of seasonal salad and cold-pressed juice at cute little newly-opened Mae’s Deli, because I’m such a big fan of the owner, and an almond matcha latte from Detox Kitchen. The windows of Selfridges are covered in Shakespeare quotes for a Vivienne Westwood fairytale themed display: ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Finsbury Square. After that little spree I cycle to Finsbury Square to smile into yet another well-known face, this one belonging to a friend who works in the big white stately building on the north side of the green. We have a cup of coffee in the cute café in the middle of the lawn, talking about old and new days, both a lot happier than last we spoke, of which we’re both aware. She’s had at least five different jobs since we worked together five years ago, when we both just got here. Actually, cycling to the square, I have a moment of complete happiness and pride, a moment and feeling that I want to hold on to and remember, come back to when necessary, thinking, for the first time in many years, that I am proud of myself and my choices, thinking back on the previous ten years and thinking that I am on a track that’s right for me: I need to take care of myself and my values and stop spiralling down into bad conscience and restlessness. After this moment of clarity, and the cheerful coffee break, I spend all the rest of the afternoon and early evening working at the tiny black cylinder, Shoreditch Grind, which is full of people on high chairs with their laptops.
Galley. That night I meet three friends for dinner at a beautiful new French bistro on Upper Street. We have perfect olives, fresh baked bread, olive oil with balsamic vinegar and lemon aioli as an appetiser, share a bottle of Malbec, eat very well-prepared and stylishly arranged fish for our mains. Surrounded by palm tree wallpaper from House of Hackney.
Another Space. On Thursday, a friend takes me to a hot yoga class in a hot, hot new studio in Covent Garden. Calm music, good teacher, lavender oil massage at the end, Cowshed products in the showers, Detox Kitchen salads from the little shop in the reception area as a lunch to go.
Surpriiiiiise! That afternoon, my team at work surprises me with a beautiful birthday cake. It’s the same girl as last who who’s made it, using my mum’s special recipe (dairy/sugar/flour free), which she acquired through my brother on Facebook last year. The only change she’s made is adding ground ginger to the dough and decorating the finished masterpiece with little pieces of candied ginger. Such a touching surprise! They serve it with a song, candles and a sweet card.
68. A bottle of Tempranillo with two friends from work at our old digs just off Soho Square, the splendid wine bar whose name alludes to the 67 well-known main wine districts in the world, suggesting that this can be a whole new place to have a fabulous experience with grapes.
Andina and Ace. As I’ve done pretty often before, I cycle as quickly I can from 68 to Shoreditch, to make it in time for a 19 o’clock dinner reservation with friends. The last three of the 14 lovely, inspiring, funny and altogether wonderful people I prioritised seeing on this trip. Starting to work together four days after I moved to London, we’ve also gone abroad together a lot – summer in Cornwall, autumn in New York, skiing in France and spring in Denmark. Mostly our friendships developed while drinking wine in the pubs and walking the parks of London. It’s so good to see them and reminisce – and to feel that we have more together than our memories, and more than the yummy ceviche on our plates, or the espresso martini and whiskey sour – served with a little twist, justifying the name Day Dreamer – at Ace after dinner.
Love You Long Time, London. As I travel to Copenhagen on Friday morning, I reflect on the week gone by. It was lovely and emotional being in London, but it was also the right thing to move. Come back and appreciate memories and how great the city is. A good mix of new and old in this dynamic city. Memory lanes. Familiar places soaked in memories; and it’s still exactly the same. Nude Espresso, where I’ve so often sat outside with the loveliest girls I know, and we would close our eyes with our faces turned towards the sun and talk about life. Ace and Shoreditch House – memories of all of the events, parties, dinners, drinks, work hours, deep conversations, fun, creativity. New amazing places such as Bronte and Galley. How spectacular London is – the rush of people in the streets, all walking so fast, so familiar and SO different from the slow pace in Singapore, the coats and boots, the colours, the chewing gum dotting the streets, the smells, the fresh air, the light shining down on the foliage among the stately facades. Four days here – what does that mean? It’s too short for postponing things to next week, like I always could do before. It’s like how Copenhagen has been for the past five years. That exhibit at Saatchi, or even going to West London, or to Victoria Park, my favourite in East, I’ll have to miss. A Danish friend who moved back home to Copenhagen for a while, to tackle a severe bout of stress, is now back, back at her old job in South Ken, back in a new flat in Notting Hill, that she wanted me to come see – but I can’t. There simply isn’t time, and we can’t just do it next week instead. As luck will have it, though, I’m driving with her to a wedding on Saturday, the wedding that’s the reason why I’m in Europe this week, so at least then we’ll get to catch up. It’s good that this is a short and compressed happy and efficient visit. Things change here – and people move – but the essence is still the same; I love the city and I have valuable connections here; it’s like a little pocket that I can take with me and open, revisit, when I want to. One of my former flatmates – who now lives around the corner from our old house with her banker boyfriend in a smart high-rise – says that she misses how relaxed, loving and fun it was at our little girls’ pad – the music we listened to, the meditation and yoga we did, the gardening, the deep sensing of each other’s moods without even talking that comes with knowing each other so well, the parties we would throw. Five years’ worth of habits. And now we’ve shaken them up a bit and are creating new ones, which is good. We remember why we moved, around the corner or around the globe. I’m happy I’m going back to new experiences, and already my new friends in Singapore are texting me to ask if I want to do this and that next week in Singers, saying that they miss me.
Wulff & Konstali. Landing in Kastrup, I go straight to one of the hippest breakfast places on Amager to meet a friend, an ex-Londoner, for a coffee and catch up in the cosy surroundings – beautiful people in warm, woolen knitwear, lovely smells of freshly baked sourdough and cinnamon swirls, airy, high-ceilinged interior. Good and appropriate start to a weekend in just as loving and beautifully autumnal surroundings as the week was.
Black Diamond. I spend the Friday working at the royal library on the waterfront. One of my favourite buildings – the unison of the shiny black modern granite block, which has given the building its name, and the elegant centuries’ old brick mansion behind it. The quiet, content swarms of incredibly well-dressed academics. The selection of expensive herbal teas in the café. The bookshop at the centre. The panorama view of the harbour. There’s a cool exhibition of a wide selection of the brilliant works of iconic cartoonist Claus Seidel outside my favourite reading room, where I spent so many days as a student writing my master’s thesis, and also afterwards, whenever I’ve come from London to work from home for a day or two in combination with an eventful weekend. Like this one.
Golden Hour. In the hour before sunset, I promenade along the water, check out the new brightly coloured (too bright?) bicycle bridge connecting the centre with Holmen, go up through Nyhavn, into my old yard, Boltens Gård, through The King’s Garden (children are cycling down the paths, laughing, and couples are lying on the grass chatting, and the orange sunlight covers the castle, moat and lawns in charm), past my other old yellow house, in Nyboder, and back through the Latin Quarter. How I love this city too, and how it also offers a fine balance between nostalgia and actuality.
Cava Bar. My walk ends at the cava bar by the canal, where a close friend and I sit outside under a heater, covered in fleece blankets, and enjoy a glass of biodynamic sparkling while catching up. We’ve known each other since high school, but it’s after moving to Copenhagen that we really became close, a closeness that then only deepened when I left – we’ve both been good at visiting each other, and after all, the sentiment of real friendship builds on more than shared experiences alone. She’s one of the most stable and thoughtful people I know. Very proper and modest. So conscientious that she sometimes comes close to burning out, but then she picks herself up with meditation and constructive strategies for the thing that’s threatening to push her over the edge.
Wokshop. Dinner with her and another friend (Russian; has a Danish husband; works for the UN here in Copenhagen and is learning Danish; lived in London, where I got to know her, and then in Singapore for two years; moved here a year ago) – they both live in the same co-op on Islands Brygge, and I try out both of their guestrooms – one flat on Friday, the other on Sunday. Checking out a bunch of newly opened, appealingly looking restaurants – Cantina, El Nacional, The Market – but declining the kind offers at all of the places to have a seat at the bar and wait up to two hours for a table, we oft for an old classic – Wokshop, the Thai joint near Kongens Nytorv where I used to come all the time when I lived around the corner. Red, green, yellow curry. Coconut water. Birthday presents from both of them – a beautiful, simple Pilgrim necklace and a raspberry-red Chanel nail polish.
Trilingual Child. On Saturday, I’m woken up by a knock on my door – my friend’s two-year-old son wants to show me all of his toys. We go to his room, which is so cool with a tent and a whole zoo of plastic animals. I give him a wooden panda from Singapore to add to the collection. He hugs it and says thank you in Russian and Danish, responding to his mum’s order in English. Wow. Facing the yard, the nature-inspired room is appropriately framed by a beautiful view of treetops. After spreading the animals across the entire floor, we step out into the yard and go for a walk in the chilly morning, the boy running ahead on his nifty balance-enhancing running bike.
Sidecar. After a shower, I’m off to meet another party of sweet girls I got to know in London. Academic, dynamic, very funny, very resourceful, very determined, very ambitious, very caring and extremely beautiful. These four know each other very well as well, making it ideal to see them all even if I have such short time. We either lived together or acted as each other’s family in one sense or another. Got drunk. Exercised. Created things. Two and a half hours of lovely chit chat – and delicious food – before I’m picked up by three other friends to drive far out into the countryside for the ultimate highlight of the trip. Waving goodbye to them as they stand online outside in the chilly air, I tell them how much I miss them: these four gorgeous beings, in their coats and scarves, radiating energy and love.
Fairytale Wedding. Best friend getting married to the man she loves – has loved for 8 years, through so much happiness, so many travels (they lived in Melbourne and in California for a while, just as they’ve spent a lot of time in Zambia and South Africa together, and holidayed in the Caribbean and various cities and mountains in Europe), sailing, diving, hunting and lots of hard work, illness and dreams. As the priest says in church, spending a few minutes in this couples’ company shows you that they love each other deeply. And she’s glowing all day and night this weekend. The wedding is at their beautiful estate in West Zealand. Well-kept stately buildings against a backdrop of lush forests, rolling fields and glittery lakes. My plus one (a good friend I’ve known since high school) and I are staying at a nearby estate. Together with the friends with whom we have a festive drive from Copenhagen, we get changed and ready in our beautiful room. Black tie and stunning gowns. New shoes and elegant wavy hair. A bit of makeup and lots of laughter. Air thick with perfume and excitement as we drive to the church. Goosebumps and tears of happiness. Such beauty as she walks up the aisle with her dad, and the look on the groom’s face when she joins him. The flowers and candles, the amount of expensive furs and coats and purses, the deep organ tunes, the pretty little paper program featuring one of my favourite autumn hymns, Nu falmer skoven, followed by Op al den ting som Gud har gjort and Det er så yndigt at følges ad, and a surprise, a famous opera singer and actor giving a solo performance near the end. The I dos. The small tulle bags with rice. The vintage car that they drive away in. Everyone follows. Back at the estate awaits the next surprise – a long line of beautiful horse-drawn carriages to take all 140 guests on a ride through the forest surrounding the castle – all stuffed with white fleece blankets, baskets full of champagne and glasses, soy roasted almonds and macaroons in all the colours of the rainbow. This is so her, we all exclaim. Driving along we sing Danish love songs and Christmas songs. The horses pulling our carriage are called Mozart and Chopin. We toast in the chilled bubbles again and again. Amazing way to warm up to the most wonderful party I’ve ever experienced. The venue! The details, such as the rose trees all over the lounge and dining areas! The fact that there is a big lounge area! The terrace with heaters! The bar! The casual yet completely well-executed feel! The food and wine – perfect seasonal gourmet! Canapes for starters, served while people mill and mingle around in the lounge and on the terrace; the main course and dessert are served at the beautifully decorated tables. The sweetest, most engaged and interesting, festive people! The dresses! The live jazz band! We dance until 6am, the bride in particular – the highlight of the evening is seeing how happy and energetic she is. A bus picks us up just before dawn. We sleep for a few hours, and then shower and watch our favourite show on my laptop in bed. Picked up by the bus again, at 10:30am, and taken back to the estate for a scrumpy brunch, with the jazz band playing again on the stage behind all of the yummy eggs, salmon and breads. Coffee! Chilling with friends in the comfy sofas in the lounge while chatting cosily about this and that moment from last night. A walk around the new sensory (!) garden that they are building, and through the park and forest in the fresh air – down to the pavilion by the lake, where the newlyweds grilled lobster and spent the night after he proposed in the park. Their lifestyles here on the land! The little vintage cannons she gives him as a morning present. The gorgeous earrings he gives her. The jovial atmosphere, everyone in such a good mood. The sleepy drive back to Copenhagen.
Perfect Sunday Evening. I’m dropped off in Frederiksberg, around the corner from the pretty little house where I’m having dinner. Pop by the little flower shop next door as has become a tradition for when I visit – always get them a bunch of whichever flower looks loveliest. Today it’s bright red carnations that the two sweet and young Iranian flower guys sell me. My friends let me in with big hugs and smiles. Candles burning, lovely smells from the kitchen, lovely relaxed talk. They lived in London as well, but then moved home and renovated this house. She’s pregnant now. The best cook I know – next after my mum, of course. Tonight we’re having chicken roast with sweet potato mash dotted with red onion and parsley and sauce made on the chicken stock. He and I share a bottle of wine, but even before her pregnancy, she’d still stick to water, so it doesn’t feel wrong. For dessert, while she and I are cuddled up in the sofa, he makes us a couple of negronis and espresso martinis, using his homemade coffee-infused vodka for the latter. Lots of foam and crunchy coffee beans on top. Yum! He walks me to the metro, and I’ll see them on FaceTime some time when the baby is born.
Night, Night. Back on Islands Brygge, I pick up my suitcases and say goodbye to one couple and have a cup of tea and go to bed in the spare bedroom of the other couple in the co-op. She already made the bed before I came, and the tea was steaming hot when I knocked on the door. How lucky I am to have such sweet people around me. I talked to my mum about how much I’d love to come home for Christmas – spend a late December week in London and come to Denmark for the holidays – but while there’s no doubt that I love London and Denmark and people here and there, and that this may be the only Christmas I’ll spend without them, it may also be healthy with a bit of perspective on it all, and to have a fun time with friends in Asia, while my parents, brother and friends are enjoying themselves in Spain, Thailand and Copenhagen and London respectively. Home is where the seasons change. But right now it’s right for me to be in the land of endless summer.