Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Really Want To Tell You About My Sandwich

October 4, 2009. Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sunday we had the hotel spread (granola, yogurt, meats and cheeses, butter, butter, butter) for breakfast. Brazilian delegates were everywhere looking like the celebration was so over. How was I supposed to know Hotel Skt. Petri was the Rio de Janeiro command center when I booked? Eh.

We took the 6A bus from the front of the hotel, easy-peasy, all the way to the Copenhagen Zoo. The girls negotiate who will push the STOP button, who will hand the coins to the driver. We work out a deal where I will whisper to Nora, who will signal Mia with a high five and Mia will push the button. The sky is busy today, the wind brisk. I'm wearing my last clean dress that I packed on a 70 degree day in Wilmette, blue tights, a cardigan and my purple 3/4 sleeve cotton jacket. I have a warm beret but no gloves.

We skip the turn of the century observation tower that resembles a short black Eiffel Tower and right away get an eyeful at a hands-on display of animal skins and tusks. Even the faces of the tiger, the wolf and the leopards are intact, which I find sad, but doesn't bother the girls.

It's a great zoo, with cool new houses for the elephants and hippo (Flodhest is the cool Danish word). In the cold, the animals are frisky and what animals! Huge polar bears and brown bears barely ten feet away from us. Local musk ox, foxes and reindeer get us so excited, we hardly mind the start of the rain. Well, Mia has a pink umbrella, Nora and I wear hats and Dad has his big beer from the kiosk next to the skins display. What a country.

A huge tiger momma and her five kits! And an enormous tiger father! Fighting over a rack of bloody ribs for lunch! A big lion pack watching their wrestling kids! We oo and ah and take refuge from the cold wind in the steamy tropical house. Lunch is in a warm and dry cafeteria with beers on tap. I have four kinds of salad with bread; my plate looks like a rainbow compared to Nora's field of white. A hot chocolate after is warm and just sweet enough - totally satisfying. I swear I can taste the difference between sugar and the cloying aftertasty bittersweet of high fructose corn syrup.

The underground tunnel to the children's zoo has the Danish design touch - cool angular light boxes that shine strips of light on the walls and ceiling. (Have I mentioned that every immaculate bathroom has yet another beautiful sink and faucet and dual flush commode?)

In the children's zoo there are shaggy ponies and a rabbit hill with tunnels where the children can enter, then peek their heads out through clear plastic domes next to the bunnies on the grassy slopes above. It's beyond cute.

Nora falls in love with a black and white goat in the petting pen and pulls a little Heidi, hugging him and caressing his horns. I just want to stand next to his warm body to heat up my cold legs. I had bought some socks in the gift shop for my hands and actually eyed the largest of children's pj pants. The wind is picking up and an ominous cloud is covering the sun when we pull the girls away. Wait -- before we left the zoo Momma needed a bit more sustenance so we stopped at a sweet looking cafe next to the cafeteria where we had eaten lunch.

Warmth inside. A camel in his pen walked by the window and relaxed families around us enjoyed the same spot. The clouds had retreated and the afternoon light was spectacular through the high-angled windows. African spears and tribal standards hung on the walls next to the elaborately carved fireplace. Of course, as always, there were cool Danish lamps and a sweet waitress. Most Danes speak English with a British accent; our waitress had a broad Midwestern twang - she could have been an exchange student in Michigan.

But what I really want to tell you about is my sandwich - my cured tuna sandwich with preserved lemons, cucumbers, tomatoes, dill and mayonnaise. Open-faced and beautifully constructed. Phenomenal and unexpected. Beautiful. This place just has got the love, man.

Mia and I really want to show Dad and Nora the yellow palace in the park Frederiksberg Hav next to the zoo. Dad takes pictures of the surreal linden tree alle and the girls scoot down and climb back up the steep slopes. I feel like we've stepped into a Constable painting.

We try to do a lot on the way home - drop by the miniature model of Renaissance-era Copenhagen in front of the city museum, show Dad the Shooting Gallery Park behind. He gapes at the enormous wall, just like I did, and pushes the girls on a traveling rope swing. They bounce at the end and sail back, squealing.

From the window of the bus heading back to our hotel, I spy a tub filled with flip-flops outside a shoe store. The sign on the tub reads: SLUT SLURP KLAP KLOP.

The girls are tired so we go back to Dalle Valle next to the hotel for dinner. The hostess makes me smile when she shrugs at all the full tables. "People tend to stay here." It's the first time anyone we've met on this trip has been less than accommodating and kindly deferential. I'm amused at the change. We wait forever for someone to come once we get a table and the waiter does not speak enough English to get a girls a pizza but the couple next to us act as if we made their day when I oo over their sweet two year old. The baby has white blond hair and rolls around on her mom's jacket on the floor. The dad had a student's wild curls and a slightly better grasp of English than the shyly smiling young mom. We watch them through the front window wall after warm goodbyes, as they put the toddler in her push cart, wave once more and head out on their bikes in the dark.

You can find all our Danish and Swedish adventures here.

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