First trip abroad in 4 months!
After staying put in one country for 4 months for the first time in as long as we can remember, Sanoop and I travel to Denmark. It’s early July. London is hot and bright, its parks heaving — more than ever seeing as restaurants and other attractions around town are all closed. While the UK is no longer locked down as such, things are still pretty covidified. We leave the house wearing face masks and armed with hand sanitisers and a pile of documents to prove that we live together and love each other, should the Danish authorities hesitate to let Sanoop past the passport checkpoint (up until a few days ago, partners of Danes living abroad weren’t allowed to enter the country; now they may, so long as they travel with their Danish partner). We cross our fingers, leave our plants with kind neighbours, and order the first uber in months. Heathrow is historically empty; the departure board shows only a handful of entries, in all of the time we’re there, we see one plane take off and none land, there’s no security queue, and most shops and restaurants are still closed. Another record to note is that we’re taking a 3-week summer holiday. I haven’t done that since university. Everything about this journey feels wild and magical. When we land, it turns out we needn’t worry about the rules — as we step forward to the passport checkpoint, the police officer behind the counter waves our documents away without looking at them and merely exclaims, ‘Urgh, all these rules are giving me a headache; you two go ahead and have a lovely time!’ Yay! I can’t wait to see family and friends. And our boat, an X49, which was built last winter and now is ready to take us around the Danish waters. We had planned to set sails and take off on a 3-week trip the day after Sanoop and I land, but as my grandmother has been seriously ill for the past month and feels close to dying, we head straight from the airport to the hospital to see her. We spend the following days close by her side, first at the hospital, then at a hospice, smiling and crying with her, and eventually being blown away by her resilience and will to give life another go. Once we’re assured she’s recovering, about a week after Sanoop and I landed, we pack the boat, which we’ve named De Gæ Nok (South Jutlandic for ‘everything will be all right’) after my grandparents’ boats, the first of which they purchased in 1947 and the last of which they sold when I was a teenager, and set sails for adventure.
De Gæ Nok’s Summer Trip, 2020
Juelsminde → Lyø
- The first leg of the trip, from Juelsminde to Lyø, is a dream at 10-14 metres per second (m/s) and 7-8 knots. It’s also Sanoop’s first sailboat experience. He has been advised/ordered by my dad to sit still in a corner of the cockpit and observe and ask all of the questions he wants to ask. Over the next few weeks, it warms my heart to observe Sanoop’s growing confidence with sailing, and how my dad in a timely and considerate manner piles on tasks, information, and explanations for him. It’s a big relief to all that he really likes it. At the end of the first day, feeling that it flew by, he’s as surprised as everyone else to learn that the stretch actually took 11 hours, and he doesn’t get seasick … and only feels a tiny bit uneasy when the boat heels to what feels like an almost vertical position. So far, so good. As for myself, I immediately realise that I LOVE sailing … more so than ever. I enjoyed our annual family summer trips as a kid, but grew increasingly scared and overwhelmed when sailing dinghies as an insecure teenager, a period of time when I also developed a pretty passive relationship to family sailing … I liked being on the water with my parents and brother, so long as everyone would leave me in peace on the deck, reading books or staring dreamily across the ocean, but I wasn’t passionate about the sport itself. I haven’t really sailed since moving to Copenhagen for university at 18, not because I haven’t been wanting to; I just never pursued it, and it wasn’t ever immediately available. Now, I notice the shift in the dynamic — it’s no longer 2 adults and 2 kids; we’re 5 adults, and everyone is equally eager to participate in all of the practical things involved in sailing, just as we all are thrilled to experience this refreshing respite from long days of pouring over laptops at home. And we’re in love with our new family addition, De Gæ Nok, the most beautiful ship I’ve ever seen. We feel lucky and grateful. There’s the fresh air, the smell of salt water, the excitement of sharing a fun experience and going somewhere idyllic with the people I love, and most of all I like that I now feel, for the first time ever, that I can actually be a useful crew member. My dad has the general overview, and I happily jump on or below deck to sort stuff out at his frequent commands, feeling strong, flexible, and more confident than ever. Sailing is soothing, exciting, and gratifying: you do a thing, and there’s an immediate result, whether it’s the technical things, such as trimming the sails to gain speed, or the more practical things, such as filling fresh water before sailing out. It’s the calm, wholesome structure and order we’ve all been craving. There’s something to fix constantly, but none of it feel tiring or stressful. A lot of it is very straightforward, and day-by-day we’ll get a bit quicker at tying the knots, distributing the tasks, and trusting each other. Today, we move down through Lillebælt, raising a glass of fernet branca to my grandad, Peter De Gæ Nok, as he was known in ports across the country, when passing through his favourite part of the Danish waters, Fænøsund, where we strew his ashes after his death and cremation 12 years ago. Just like him, I now love every element of this lifestyle. Find it absolutely magical. Physical work and utter relaxation. Finding my favourite spot at the very front of the deck. Wind, water, views. Knowing the people I love the most are right behind me. Sensing the change of light, the rhythmic sounds of the waves, and blissful stillness at point-blank range. The calm and calming structure of the following 14 days. Morning swims and morning coffee. Sailing. Anchoring up just off small islands. Mooring up in charming marinas, some small and idyllic, others big and industrial. Walking up and down the jetties and checking out the other boats, exchanging nods and smiles with the other sailors, smelling what everyone’s having for breakfast or dinner, overhearing stories at the communal marina showers. Living in close quarters with my loved ones. Exploring cities and nature in the places we get to, and then moving on.
Lyø (anchoring up)
- After a cloudy, windy day, it clears up and calms down when we arrive at this small idyllic island, just in time for a glorious 9pm sunset, which we enjoy with beers on the platform at the back of the cockpit followed by a delicious dinner cooked by my mum in her new nifty pantry. Shortly after, we’re lulled to sleep by no other noises than the ones produced by the sea and seagulls. We rise with the sun, jump in the water to swim laps around the boat, do yoga on the deck, have breakfast and coffee while setting the course for our onward journey, and then take off after a lovely first stop. 15 years ago, I was here with my mum, dad, brother, dog, uncle, aunt, grandma, and grandad, our 3 family boats tied up together. Now I’m here with the love of my life. What a life.
Lyø → Ærøskøbing
- Second leg offers very little wind, but ample sun as we make our way further south, into the beautiful South Funen Archipelago.
- Our favourite holiday spot in Denmark, from which we’ve got so many memories from countless visits, the first of which was when I was 5 years of age, and we came here in our old boat. I remember my dad sitting on a bench on the marina playground and peeling potatoes into a pot, my brother and I playing with the other sailor kids. Walking out through the long grass between the marina and the beach to jump in the clear water. Cosy, long, warm summer nights in the quaint old town, where we’d go for dinner and strolls after long days of playing in the sun, my brother and I soaking up all of the impressions and giant ice creams in our finest summer attire. The colourful houses and cobbled streets of Ærøskøbing are delicately kept to retain the character of the olden days, with the oldest ones dating back to 1645. Far from feeling like a museum, though, the town is vibrating with life and modern passion … hip coffee shops and boutique hotels, lively farm shops and markets, cool galleries, and gourmet restaurants. We stay here a few days to enjoy it all.
Ærøskøbing → Skarø
- Motor trip as there’s close to no wind. Passing lots of lush, green islands.
- Anchoring up for @skaroeis. The boat safely secured and my mum staying back to ensure it doesn’t float off, the rest of us launch our dinghy into the water, speed into the tiny marina (too tiny for De Gæ Nok to fit in), and walk along the only road on the island to find and stock up on as many of the renowned ice creams as the boat’s freezer and our bellies can hold. Last time we had this delicious natural treat — made using local berries and fruits and birch sap and sugar kelp for pure intense flavours — was onboard Singapore Airlines. As we enter the lovely rustic dessert shop run by a passionate couple, we meet 2 other people who’ve lived in Singapore and had the heavenly ice cream and sorbets on the plane over. Small world experience on a very tiny, very idyllic island with lots of goats, friendly people, lush beach meadows, and a long narrow sandbar beach. We enjoy all of this, as well as the peace and calm and glorious sunset and sunrise experienced while floating on the softly rolling waves in the cove off the tiny island’s tiny marina. In the evening, we dance around the cockpit singing along to old Danish hits (Nærmest Lykkelig on repeat), and in the morning we jump in the refreshing waves.
Skarø → Svendborg
- Sailing through Svendborg Sound, we pass by my cousin and her family in their boat. Fun!
- From the the morning bread cart on the quay, to the quirky street art, to the lovely forest side beaches, to getting a local friend’s insider intro to the quaint industrial harbour town, Svendborg is dreamy. We have bbq party in our cockpit with family members passing by
Svendborg → Vejrø
- South of Tåsinge, North of Langeland, south of Zealand.
- What idyllic fun it was to moor up at this ecologically sustainable island paradise, Vejrø
- Learning to SUP!
Vejrø → Klintholm Havn
- Gliding into the Baltic Sea — 7 hours from Vejrø to Klintholm, and more than 700 shades of weather 🌬❄️☀️🔥🇩🇰🌊 … life sailing onboard De Gæ Nok continues to be ♥️💦
- Møn, from your wide white beaches and cliffs, to your cosy marinas with gourmet treats and artisan bars, to your crafty boutiques, to your rolling fields and abundance of wild flowers, to your friendly people, our summer dream was very well sustained on your windswept shores🤍⚓️
Klintholm Havn → Langeliniehavnen
- .. and seeing the cliffs from the waterside as we embark on the penultimate leg of the trip, which takes us to Langeliniehavnen in Copenhagen 🤍
- Feels surreal to moor up in the Langeliniehavnen, where I usually go running when in town.
- Sunshiny family time in Copenhagen … dinner and wine at Barlie, walking through Nyboder and Nyhavn, street food at Refshaleøen, beer at Mikkeller, coffee from Banchina, admiring the many houseboats on Holmen, wine at an al fresco cafe on Kongens Nytorv, cava with a port view at another al fresco joint, smiling at all of the boats passing through the harbour, digesting our own trip with a final dinner and Dark ‘n’ Stormy on the boat for now, playing 500 and reading into the night.
- Time with friends. A childhood friend out on her morning run spots my dad in his robe, walking from the boat to the public bath for his morning shower — he directs her over to the boat, and we hug and chat, happy to catch up after years of not having seen each other. A couple of close friends come onboard for morning coffee. We meet friends from London for wine at a new hip wine bar close to the harbour. Meet other friends for walks and coffees around town, and visit a few at the houses — all of them with newborn babies to introduce us to.
- Saying goodbye to my family, who’ll sail the boat back to Copenhagen on their own, Sanoop and I wrap up the holiday with a Sunday evening walk on Amager Strandpark, after having checked into an airbnb on Amager and eaten Kiin Kiin takeout for dinner. We’ve been in Copenhagen loads before, but always for weddings, staying with friends or in airbnbs in Islands Brygge, Østerbro, Nørrebro or Frederiksberg. This time, I wanted to show Sanoop a new side of my favourite city in the world. We’ll work from here for a week, which will enable us to really play locals. Close to the beach, 10-15 minutes bike ride from the city centre. I’m excited, yet also a bit … sentimental, sad, heavy-hearted. The past 3 weeks have flown by, and it’s so weird that those several, precious holidays are over, BUT a week in Copenhagen before going back to London is a clever transition. If we’d gone back to London immediately after the trip, I’d have cried my eyes out, while now I just feel a tight knot in my stomach.
- Monday. Rent bikes. Christianshavn, AM work at the cafe Sweet Treat … lunch on the canal … cycle via Holmen … work from a cafe in Pilestræde in the afternoon … after work beer with the friend who got me my first job in London… cycle out to Amager Strand to see friends for wine and baby cuddles … cycle home along beach at 10:30pm … Sanoop says it’s been one of the best days of his life, and that this, cycling around, feels like we’re in college, or on holiday, so freeing.
- Tuesday. Morning run with a friend on Kastellet, followed by coffee and morning bread sitting on a pier in the port, feet dangling above water… work from cafes in Nørrebro … cycle past the Botanic Gardens and King’s Garden, a road I’ve cycled a million times, to Kongens Nytorv, meet old flat mate from London at Apollo for lunch in the sunny yard, followed by exhibition at Charlottenborg Art gallery … work from Nyhavn, meanwhile, Sanoop is absorbed at the Danish Architecture Centre … walk with friend and her child across Holmen … cycle to Gråbrødre Torv, colourful houses, cobbled stones, Sanoop sitting at cafe table with hot chocolate and his book, walk around central, drink at Torvehallerne, meet one of my dearest friends, met when we were both studying English at the university of Copenhagen, and her boyfriend for dinner at the Market, 4-hour dinner, flash by in what feels like 4 minutes … cycle home, Sanoop says he loves Copenhagen (in summer). It’s sweet music to my ears.
- Wednesday. Morning dash and dip at Amager Strandpark; a child jumping around behind me shouts that the water is warmer than the air, and I choose to believe them, so in I jump.. or, ‘jump’ might be a euphemism … slowly … home, rye bread with Danish strawberries for breakfast, shower, cycle with Sanoop to Frederiksberg, walk and coffee with a dear friend I’ve known since high school … walk down Gl Kongevej to the charming ‘Paris of Copenhagen’, Værnedamsvej, work from a cafe here … lunch with a friend, who lives in Athens, we used to study Spanish together at uni, before Singapore, she came to visit me in London a tonne of times, staying with me at all of my different crappy East London flat shares … work from cafe Rist … meanwhile, Sanoop is checking out Carlsberg Byen … cycle together around lakes, go to our friends’ house for dinner, just across from Tivoli and Glyptoteket … cycle home to Amager at 10pm.
- Thursday. Running around sports fields of East Amager, cycle together to Islands Brygge, coffee and morning laptop time at Roast, from where the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans fills the entire street … bike ride on Amager Fælled, the wild and beautiful Hampstead Heath of Copenhagen, showing Sanoop my university, cross harbour via bicycle bridge, for lunch at Wedo in the meatpacking district, afternoon work at Prolog … after work wine in the sunshine… cycle together around the lakes and narrow cosy streets, back to Kongens Nytorv, Sanoop goes to Amager alone, and I cycle to Nørrebro to meet two friends I’ve known literally since I was born for dinner at Bar Pasta, vibrant neighbourhood, amazing conversation, love connecting with new people, most of my closest friends are people I met 9-3 years ago, but there’s also a charm to lifelong friendships … cycle home in dark together at 11pm … love Copenhagen.
- Friday. 6:30 AM: meet a friend for a run in Islands Brygge. 8:30 AM: breakfast at Wulf & Konstali with a friend from college. 10 AM: visit a newborn baby and his parents in their flat in Vesterbro. Noon: lunch with a friend from London in Værnedamsvej. Full of wonderful positive energy from all of those meetings, I work from Original by the Lakes until 7 PM, when Sanoop meets me for wine at Rødder & Vin in Nørrebro … later, we cycle into the centre of the city for dinner with friends at a new Indian place … cycle all four together to Nyhavn for ice cream … meander around Skuespilhuset and Ophelia Beach … cycle home to Amager. Happy.
- Saturday. North ☀️🌊🌱🦌🐠🚴🏽♂️🚴🏻♀️🥂🌳 adventure time — Juno Bakery, Østerbro, everything is so sunny, clean, wholesome, young beautiful blonde couples in linen shirts, flowy dresses, and Birkenstocks, and then along Strandvejen, the gorgeous stretch of white villas facing the sound between Denmark and Sweden, Øresund, wide bike lane, stop for a dip at #svanemøllenstrand 📍#helleruphavn 📍#charlottenlundfort , kayak polo📍#skovshoved 📍#bellevuestrand 📍@dengule_cottage📍chill time in the long grass in Dyrehaven, the Hampstead Heath of North Zealand, 1,000 acres of woodlands, meadows, and flocks of wild deer … back to Rødder and Vin for another glass of wine, followed by a yummy dinner at Neta, Mikkeller’s new taco place on Nørrebro
- Sunday. Back to London. Since moving from Denmark exactly 9 years ago (originally to go work as a digital editor in London for a MAXIMUM of 3 months!), I’ve never previously been back for more than 1-7 days at a time. This past month has felt very comforting, grounding, idyllic. Like compact happiness, obviously flying by way too quickly. Cheers to boating, remote work, and my wonderful friends, family, homeland, and ever curious, positive, and patient partner ❤