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February 2018

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On a post-grad trip to Europe, I couldn’t not stop in Dublin. It was my third time to the city, the second time as a visitor, the first thinking, welcome home. Even before I boarded my flight, I had the feeling of someone returning home after being away for a while.

And though almost two years had passed, it felt more like hours when I arrived at the Dublin Airport. As the late-setting sun sunk into the sky, and the Airlink bus traveled the route I still had memorized, I was overcome with happiness. My semester abroad had touched me deeply, its effects still cradling my heart; and the memories that rushed back as I was driven up Dame Street, around Christ Church Cathedral, finally hopping off at Merchant’s Quay, my old stomping ground, were overwhelming and welcomed.

On my second night I sat at O’Shea’s pub, eating my weight in fish and chips, and furiously writing in my journal words that I still vividly remember scrawling out.

Did you know there’s such a thing as falling in love with a place? I didn’t fully grasp it until I found Dublin. My pretty city, whose streets are etched into my mind, whose every twist and turn I can see behind closed eyelids, whose maps sit like ink on my bones. There is the deep inhale of the air that smells the same, wafting from the River Liffey, and the pirouetting around and feeling so much more than happy. The sky, the tips of roofs and stretches of buildings, the quiet kindness of locals melt together like a poem.

It is the pubs where culture explodes, instruments taken up and nursing narratives of the nation. It is the tears that bubble in my eyes when I walk along and feel the contentment rise so high up into my throat I think I might sob. It is sitting on the ledge next to Christ Church Cathedral, surrounded by colored doors and red brick buildings and squashed beer cans and feeling the weightless give of time. Like it hasn’t passed and taken me from here at all. But because it’s home, and because it’s love, I never left. The breeze on my back, touching my face, swirling in circles will be remembered for summer, the way I still remember the air of autumn.

 

Colum McCann once wrote, “There’s a part of me that thinks perhaps we go on existing in a place even after we’ve left it.” And it isn’t until reflecting on this return that I recognized the ghost of my twenty year old self there, seeing with new eyes the place I discovered bits of the me that was here now. I saw that girl walking along the River Liffey at dusk, tasting the explosion of bubbly ciders on her tongue, strolling among locals and feeling at once like she was one of them. She became the balance of then and now, and still lives in starry-eyed wonder on the south side.

I was able to get together with staff members from my program, and had the lovely chance to connect as adults. My former student manager and I were talking about the city, and he asked if I’d noticed the number of donut and ice cream shops that had recently been spreading. I said I had, but that for the most part, everything was the same. He laughed and said that Dublin doesn’t change much, and that is what I have clung onto.

Change is good, but stability is, too.

One of my favorite cafes, The Food Gallery, was, to my disappointment, now closed; and a new salad shop had opened up on Grafton Street. Still, I was under Dublin’s spell. The city’s transformed with the times, but still carries centuries of history on its cobblestoned back. Georgian doors are still famously a carousel of colors. Locals are still the kindest people I’ve ever met. It stands exactly where I left it, leaving room to amble in directions that were both familiar and foreign, side by side, all rolled together. It is the charm of it all, the inability for rush or worry, the pints of cider sparkling inside tall glasses, the contentment in all that the city is and all that it needs to be.

I returned to the swell of memories I’d created there, found solace in a place I had left roots in, and whiled hours away with scones in old haunts and a pure happiness that had been stirred up vigorously.

Share your experiences of returning to a city you lived/studied/worked in below! I’d love to read them!

“I HAVE TEARS IN MY EYES. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL HERE.” – An actual quote from my good friend, Kayla, and I, repeated at least once an hour every day that we spent in Salzburg, Austria.

The hills are very alive with the sound of music in the city of the famed movie musical.

Most everything listed is either free or covered with the Salzburg Card, which can be purchased for a 24-hour (€27), 48-hour (€36) or 72-hour (€42) period of time. We bought the 48-hour card, which gave plenty of time to catch everything we wanted to and saved us over €70. Two days is plenty of time to explore the city, but with three days you can finish up anything you may not have gotten to in the other days.

1. Hike and eat Apfelstrudel atop Untersberg Mountain

Untersberg Mountain is a mastiff of Berchtesgarden Alps, spanning from Berchtesgaden, Germany to Salzburg, Austria. A cable car takes you to the top, soaring over rolling mountains of trees, and at the top you are free to take whatever hiking trail you choose. We took the “shortest” route, whose overall time was one hour, give or take a few minutes. On the way back, stop at the restaurant near the cable cars and order a slice of apfelstrudel. The warm, apple treat is the cherry on top of nature’s glory. Plus, it’s on top of a mountain–what could be better?

2. Take a cable car to the Fortress

A three minute ride carries you to the entrance of Hohensalzburg Fortress, where you could spend hours passing through the individual rooms and museums located inside. Don’t miss the marionette museum! And take time in the Fortress’s personal square, where children frolic and couples find relief on benches. Drink in the spectacular views to be had because, really, they aren’t hard to find.

3. Visit Stift Nonnberg

Go in the morning, for quiet, sweeping views of the mountains and the city. You’ll also beat any crowds that may appear later in the day, meaning you will have the abbey to yourself to take photos, observe every detail, sit and find a moment for prayer.

4. Tour the Stiegl Brewery

A sixty minute tour takes you through the history and process of creating Stiegl beer, and finishes with a trip to the restaurant for three complimentary beer samples. If you’re not a big beer drinker, try Stiegl’s grapefruit beer: it’s sweet enough that it doesn’t leave a bitter-beer taste in your mouth.

5. Check out Hellbrunn Palace

Take the Trick Fountains tour before heading in to the grandiose palace. The grounds are a splendid place to walk, and on the way you’ll find the Sound of Music Gazebo.

6. Climb to the observation deck at the Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg

For the can’t-miss sights of the Old Town. Sunset is the sweetest time to head over, and a walking path behind the museum allows you a quick escape into woods. (There are lamps along the path, but don’t head in once the sun has dipped below the horizon.) You could sit there forever as the light changes and old world shifts to new world.

7. Do your own Sound of Music Tour.

We took helpful hints from this blog post by No Money, Will Travel. Don’t spend money on the tour bus when you can reach everything far easier, and in greater depth by yourself.

8. Try Mozartkugel chocolates

Pistachio, chocolate and nougat all come together brilliantly in these candy balls. Sublime.

9. People watch in Residenzplatz

Sometimes there’s a race that passes through; other times, it’s brimming with people at outdoor restaurants, or sitting by the fountain with a coffee. Either way, there is always something and somewhere there.

10. Read a book in the Mirabell Gardens

If we had had time to do so, I’m sure it would have happened. Sit by the fountain, stroll through the twirling pattern of flowers, and open up a novel. One of the best places to take a load off.

11. Step inside St. Peter’s Cemetery and Cathedral

The cemetery is incredibly well-maintained, bursting with flowers and trees. (Another Sound of Music filming location). Inside the walls of the cemetery you will find the entrance to the catacombs, which are another must-see. Clamber through the hollowed out stone that rises above the city and, of course, bear witness to those unbeatable views.

12. Grab a different slice of cake every day

Need I say more? There are cafes on every street corner, so you can’t go wrong anywhere. My favorite of our time there was

13. Peruse the Christmas Store.

Located on Getriedegasse is a shop dedicated to eggs. Not any old eggs: beautifully crafted egg shells, individually painted for almost all holidays. Take a while to examine each work of art (because that’s what they are) and coo over the characters and scenes you find. The little discrepancies between identical eggs are the coolest part of all. They dangle overhead on bare branches, and sit warmly on miniature pine trees throughout. Go there on the first day, because you’ll definitely want to come back.

And not just to the Christmas Store: to the city as a whole.

What tops your Salzburg list?

On arriving in the afternoon, sunshine warming the distinctive AT&T building climbing to the sky, Nashville buzzed with an enviable rhythm. Summer crowds weaning, history soaked into the city’s veins, and predominantly urban vibes excited this city-slicker as we headed out for the evening (after an afternoon swim, of course. Where there’s a pool, there’s a twenty-one-year-old gal practicing her shabby butterfly stroke).

On a broad level, Nashville is fun. It embraces a youthful vitality and begs you to stay out way past your bedtime. Memphis’ flatlands had given way to the state’s northern, hilly terrain and to a louder, laid-back flair. And it is grounded in its roots.

Broadway is undoubtedly a little hokey, but where would the excitement in it be if it weren’t? Walking through throngs of cowboy boots and hats, parallel to pedal-powered bars, past one bar’s three floors of live music as it slips in and out of harmony with its neighboring businesses–sweet local flavor. The opportunities for a good time abound.

Check in: Hyatt Place, Downtown Nashville

Nashville, like New York City, is wanting for nothing when it comes to accommodations. The Hyatt is one of many in a six-block span, steps from Broadway, the Johnny Cash Museum, shops, and restaurants. Come back to a different musician performing in the hotel’s bar each night, and hang out with a Jack and Coke.

Things To See & Do

Johnny Cash Museum: A stunning collection of the Man in Black’s life. Through artifacts, photos, videos, and interactive audio, you can experience a taste of Cash’s complexities, career, and connectedness.

Ryman Auditorium: The original playhouse for the Grand Ole Opry, its walls transcend nearly two centuries of history. Self-guided, allot about an hour and a half of time. Don’t be surprised if you catch the staff preparing for an upcoming event–it’s still a wildly popular venue.

Grand Ole Opry: A 45-minute tour around the theater allows you to walk in the steps of country music brilliance. Begin with a film introduction of the history, continue with a look at performers’ dressing rooms, and finish with a stand on the main stage.

Hermitage: Andrew Jackson’s homestead rests about thirty minutes outside of Nashville, and makes for a poignant afternoon. See the rooms he dined in, explore the garden, and follow the path to the slaves’ quarters.

Centennial Park: Check out the park’s replica of the Parthenon. Sit and picnic, or just enjoy a sunset among pickup games and locals meeting up.

Scout out murals: You’ll need a car for this one, because they are spread across the city. Don’t miss the iconic “I Believe in Nashville,” Draper James, or “What Lifts You.”

 

Skirt the Outskirts

Franklin: We took a Civil War tour around this hip city, among modern eateries and plantation-style mansions. The neighborhood is younger and less touristy, making it a hip-happening spot to try.

Hendersonville: Johnny and June Cash are buried together in the Henderson Memory Gardens, which also isn’t far from the remains of his home on Old Hickory Lake. If you’re a fan, take a quick drive up to the peace of these points.

Where to Eat

The Row: I had no choice but to give their jalapeño margarita a try. Here, it’s called the Ring of Fire, and as a big fan of Johnny Cash’s, that would have been unforgivable to me. I loved it, despite the spice that quickly heated me up.

Come here for some delicious Southern classics, like chicken fried chicken. The Row also offers live music, but make sure to ask to be seated where the music is: otherwise, like us, you might not be placed there and be left wondering where it is.

Gray’s: Located in Franklin, Gray’s once served as a pharmacy and now proudly bears old prescriptions on its back walls. Rustic-chic decor perfectly complements their twists on old favorites, like their chicken salad sandwich.

Sprinkles: Cupcakes. Ice cream. A cupcake ATM machine. ‘Nuff said.

The Listening Room Cafe: A low-key listening experience, where the place is left glittering under twinkle lights and the crowd cozies up with a drink and eyes on the performers on stage. Amp up the typical restaurant and bar experience with what feels like a casual jam for rising country singers. Call to make reservations.

Luigi’s City Pizza: For a quick bite between places, head to this quirky little joint, just feet from the Johnny Cash Museum. Their thin crust pies are massive, so be ready to eat.

Mike’s Ice Cream: Homemade ice cream and flavors to keep you at the counter for days? I’m in.

I love the years that blanket the city, blending old sounds with new. This time around was not a nightlife trip, but the daylife has so much to offer.

Got more suggestions? Give ’em to me in the comments!

Memphis is my first major city to visit in the South, and will certainly not be the last. It is an area of the country and world that I hope to spend more time in, because of how vastly it differs from the northeast (my stomping ground) and how deeply its historical roots run. If I had my druthers, travel there would be any time, save summer. But family vacation this year worked out in being towards the end of the summer, when the weather could have been a lot worse than it was.

I have also never written a three day itinerary, so here goes nothing!

As a disclaimer, I am by no means a seasoned Memphian. What we planned in three days is what worked for us, and proved successful. Memphis’ history runs deeply, being the soul capital of America; make sure to catch all of those things that makes it such a unique city!

Day One

Make your way over to the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. The obstacles faced and victories won in the Civil Rights movement are chronicled in depth, concluding with the room Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed in before his tragic murder on the landing outside. Testimonies from those more than willing to die for the inequalities imposed on African Americans fill the rooms, and the museum is haunting, poignant and provoking. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the fact that our society was, and in ways continues to be, so outright hateful, which makes it all the more important to visit. To break the cycle, we need to shed light.

Walk around the Historic District to window shop, watch the trolleys roll by and enjoy public art gracing exterior walls. We had a late lunch of a thin crust cheesy wonder at Aldo’s Pizza Pies. It was spitting rain, but the heat was bearable, so we sat outside under the awning and watched a lazy Thursday afternoon roll away.

Dinner at the Arcade Restaurant on Main Street. Boasting a menu of classic favorites, this is Memphis’ oldest café and was Elvis’ former haunt. Try their grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich–the King of Rock’s favorite–or their sweet potato pancakes, served all day.

Day Two

Take a day trip to Little Rock, Arkansas! Two hours from Memphis is the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. The main gallery is structured in the style of Trinity College’s library in Dublin. The first level exhibits include Clinton’s policies, Hillary’s work as First Lady, and a replica of the Oval Office. The upper floor shows off spoof-y videos made by the Clintons, dinner party to-dos, and gifts sent to the former President. And if you’re like me and were born within Clinton’s presidency, you can find his schedule of events for the exact day you entered the world! Special exhibits included the winter and summer Olympics.

Grab lunch at 42, the restaurant in the basement of the library. Don’t be put off by its black tie look: meals are inexpensive, and most every patron there is a casual diner. And save room for dessert, because their treats change daily and once that cart makes its way into your periphery, you won’t be able to help yourself. Their Oreo cream pie was to die for!

Stop by the Arkansas State Capitol to see the Little Rock Nine monument.

Surrounded by plaques of quotes and facing the capitol to symbolize their facing social and unlawful discrimination, it is a testament of courage and one not to be missed.

Come back to Memphis for an evening of nightlife fun. Beale Street is a lively block, with restaurants, gift shops and street performers to keep you entertained for nights. Along the street are outdoor bars (which is novel for this Bostonian), so pick up some beer or cider and hang out. You can pop in and out of shops and meander along with drink in hand, which is really freaking cool.

At The King’s Palace, barbecue and blues meet in the sweetest matrimony. Sit near the stage, where a performer will almost always be, and order their barbecue pulled pork. The coleslaw on the side is another little luxury.

Day Three

What would a trip to Memphis be without Elvis Presley’s Graceland? Get tickets for the first slot at 9:30am, and spend the morning taking an intimate look at the King’s life. The leaps and bounds he made as a performer continue to resonate today, but his personal story and early death are somber. His is one of paradox, sad in nature and beautiful in landmark music. With a VIP ticket, you can also see the Car Museum, the Archives Experience, Sincerely Elvis (a series of photos shot of him), Elvis’ Hawaii and Elvis’ Tupelo. The tour of his home is now an audio tour, narrated by none other than John Stamos.

In the afternoon, take a tour of Sun Studios, where singers as Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, among others, made their big break. It’s a forty five minute tour of the birthplace mainstream rock and roll, with the extra perk of posing with an original microphone used by the greats listed above and more.

Experience a Dinner and Music Cruise with Memphis Riverboats. Be whisked away on the Mississippi River with home-style Southern cooking and a live band. But spend most of the evening outside, on one of the upper decks. Watch the sun shift behind the trees and steal away into a moonlit night. Which is even more spectacular on a steamboat. It’s the perfect place to end your time in Memphis.

What would you do with more time in Memphis? Tell me in the comments!

Kronborg (Hamlet’s) Castle was the muse that drove me to Denmark, the Shakespearean work my compass to being too much in the sun. Hamlet is my favorite of the Bard’s plays, and I couldn’t wait to wrap myself up in its blanket of a dual mystical history: the history of Kronborg as Frederick II’s Renaissance masterpiece, and the history of Elsinore as Hamlet’s abode.

Helsingør is an forty minute train ride away from Copenhagen, a speedy trip that ventures into the countryside as you travel north. Kronborg castle is discernible on the horizon, rising up with braided spires on the lip of the water. From the station, I passed an outdoor flower market and walked along the water until the entrance came into view. Boats bobbed in anchor, and the wind picked up fiercely and didn’t loosen up until later in the afternoon.

The grounds, even from the walkway up, are stunning. Towering, powerful, a castle lacking its once-upon-a-time intimidation but overwhelming in royal charm, as strong as the expanse of sea. It feels like a passage through layers of style that are bright and, in a way, healing. It feels like a release, an escape somewhere exotic and calming.

No wonder Shakespeare was inspired by Kronborg. Though it’s not known whether he actually visited the castle, he must have understood its undeniable beauty and ideal atmosphere to set the stage for tragedy.

The Castle Grounds

The entryway opens up into the castle’s courtyard, from which the chapel, the Royal Apartments, the casemates, and other exhibits are accessible. A pathway outside of the grounds leads to the canons, still protecting their land.

Kronborg Castle was originally built in 1420. In 1574, the renaissance palace that stands today was designed and constructed, and served as the home of King Frederick II; it caught fire in 1620, but was identically reconstructed. It was a military stronghold as well, and fell under the army’s reign in the 1780s. Before that, though, the walls embraced the ruler’s loving marriage to his wife (and first half-cousin), Sophie, said to be the happiest royal union in Europe.

At 38, after leading his country in war and finally intending to be wed, he chose Margrethe of Pomerania and summoned her to Kronborg. She arrived with her entourage, a fourteen-year-old Sophie and her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg; and for Frederick II it was seemingly love at first sight. Margrethe, dejected, returned home as Frederick II and Sophie lived blissfully through marriage and eight children. Talk about a juicy love story!

The Royal Apartments are exquisitely decorated with tapestries commissioned for the castle, Renaissance works, twinkling chandeliers, and darkly wooded furniture set against white walls. And the windows! Oh, the way they let natural light in.

The winding halls and rooms lead you through to the grand ballroom, the grandest of its time. A typical party saw up to twenty-four dishes being served, and once the guests had left, it was used to store produce and building materials. It may not have always been a dance zone, but boy, wouldn’t it be nice to waltz around here?

The Scope of Sea and Sky

Take the 143 (fitting? After you see the view, very much so) steps up to a panoramic view of Helsingør and a look at the castle’s courtyard. The vantage point feels like that of a bird’s—a low-flying bird, but one sweeping over a spectacle of unannounced beauty.

It was crazy hair for me for the rest of the day, but so worth it. All of the videos I took from up there are bombarded with the sound of the wind powering through.

Below the castle’s bastions lie the casemates, a gloomy underground passage of tunnels that served as protection for soldiers during times of attack. I entered not having first read the description of the crypt-like darkness, and assumed that it had once served as some sort of dungeon. Far from it: the casemates stored six weeks’ worth of provisions for 1,000 soldiers, with plenty of space for both men and their horses to barricade themselves if the castle were under siege or battle. Resting here, according to legend, is Ogier the Dane, who remains in a deep sleep until the castle is attacked.

A Shakespeare Summer Festival

I was lucky to be there in the summertime, as the castle puts on Hamlet reenactments over the course of the season. Theatre is so important to me, an art that gives and gives of itself and exposes the human experience in deeply moving ways. Expression seeks feeling, and exposing myself to that is always cathartic. It is so welcomed, in fact, that I stayed at the castle for five hours instead of the three I’d planned, because I was caught under theatre’s spell.

Beginning at 12:30 in the afternoon, performers would take center stage in certain rooms around the palace and deliver Shakespeare’s lines in the setting of inspiration. I watched moments play out as close to imagined by the writer as possible and followed the trajectory of the story through the castle, bringing new life to the work and experience. (AKA, it filled my heart with so much literary happiness and I, at times, was close to bursting with how intimate theatre was.)

We were privy to interactive performances, the actors speaking to (and about) the audience in the same breath that they spoke to one another. Polonius, the ringleader who shepherded us from one place to another, told me through all of our run-ins that my outfit of a three-quarter length shirt and denim shorts worried him because of how chilly it was. I brushed him off every time, but silently wished I had his cloak on to shield me from the incessant wind.

My favorite scene performed was the coronation scene, where Hamlet hangs behind and recites his first soliloquy. The actor was so sullen, so bereaved over his stepfather’s ascent to the throne and King Hamlet’s death, and I was entirely in the moment. I had goosebumps (over the goosebumps from the cold) all over, hanging onto his words even after he walked away in preparation for the next scene.

I also loved the play within a play, from the deception Hamlet clued us in on to watching King Claudius’s jovial face slowly drop.

The Throes of Immersive Theatre

At some point in the afternoon, a member of the castle cried “Help!” from behind, after we had just witnessed a bout of Hamlet’s madness. Pivoting around, the group of us still gathered found him panting and gesturing to the arch he had just run through. “I’ve just seen a phantom… King Hamlet! Hurry, follow me!” He ushered the few of us that followed through a dark entryway, pointing to the end of the passage. “Over there!” He stammered. “He was right over there!”

After a beat, a ghoulish voice met us and echoed through the cave, a bluish white figure projected ahead an invisible screen. The voice of the actor portraying Prince Hamlet sounded overhead, and he and his father’s spirit exchanged words of vengeance for the king. I was living for the breathlessness of the Kingsman member, still stricken with fear over the conversation that just transpired.

There’s an exhibit housed in the castle about Hamlet and the number of performances that have occurred in the castle, including a BBC film, Hamlet at Elsinore, starring Christopher Plummer, made on the grounds. Sometimes I don’t think it could get any better, and somehow it always does.

Kronborg Castle is a literary paradise.

Spending the day in the palms of literature and history’s hands was so cool. I was coerced into staying longer by the scenes that I ran around to see, the ballroom Claudius’s place of worship, a game of chess in a small office before Hamlet’s puppet show, catching Ophelia and Hamlet in intimate moments that they had to steal in random spots. It had that double layer to it, blending the history of the royal family who hosted grand parties in their ballroom, who loved one another deeply, who probably looked out the windows and, no matter what circumstances were pressing on them, returned to a state of tranquility.

Kronborg Castle is the ideal day trip. It is a literary paradise, an interesting real-life story, a wind tunnel, and pure magic. It is an ecstasy of love.

Have you visited Kronborg Castle?

I was proud of this stupid joke I thought of while standing in a cafe at the Copenhagen train station, eyes wide as they trailed over pink-frosted sweets and shelves piled high with pastries. After ordering a sommerkaffe (mostly milk with a shot of hazelnut flavor and just a splash of coffee that still left my caffeine-sensitive body jittery), my scouring eyes landed on a raspberry danish, whose Danish name I didn’t need to know to point it out and order eagerly. Flaky, surrounding a bright pinkish-red center, and topped with almond slivers, it was, as Chandler Bing would tell you, perfection. I tasted the language. And that’s when I laughed around a bite.

Copenhagen was a brief, passionate rendezvous that left me dizzy with sunrises at 4:30 in the morning and sunsets still lingering in the sky at 11pm; bicycles that rushed away in blurs and make crossing every street a challenge accepted; sea greens and golds and pastels that linked arms with the water glittering along the edges of the city. I was there for one full day, spread out over three days, and wished for more time. There wasn’t enough of it to get to the statue of the Little Mermaid, or to see the Christiania district. Still, I had an amazing time doing things I love.

Like walking.

My favorite way to unpack a city is to hit the pavement, sneakers laced up and camera in tow, and stroll. That’s what most of my time looked like: walking, twirling around on cobblestoned streets to gaze at the architecture from ground to sky, taking photos of bikes. And the Bostonian in me made the effort to wait at crosswalks, as everyone did. I wound my way into passages tucked away from the public, and stumbled upon really neat public art and local shops. Still, it is awing at every corner.

Bike Travel: A Lifestyle

I made it my mission to take photos of as many bikes as I saw, which proved all too easy.

See?

My first day was also the day I arrived in Europe, first in London, then taking a flight (that I amazingly slept through) to Copenhagen. I found my way out of the airport, my suitcase by my side and backpack weighing on my jetlagged shoulders as I boarded a train, then a bus, to get to my AirBnb. My lodging was in an apartment complex that spanned blocks of identical buildings, which I looped around hopelessly to find. A crumpled confirmation email in my hand and sweat dripping down my back, I scanned and rescanned the numbers on the doors, confused when the numbers skipped over mine, until my foggy mind gently whispered, “Try the courtyard.” It worked, by joe! My room overlooked the canal that ran through the neighborhood and caught some gorgeous light.

Before I went back out, I took a shower, used the guest shampoo for yellow hair–something you’d only find in a fair-haired country like Denmark–slipped into sandals, and made it to the bus stop, only to realize I was just shy of the change I needed. The buses operate on coin payments, so I popped into a gourmet grocery store to buy two teeny squares of dark chocolate that awarded me the coins I needed–and a splurge to get my through my impending hanger.

The city as it surrendered to dusk exercised my imagination wildly. It was entrancing in early summer, still on the cusp of low tourist season, feeling a secret all its own. It cut edges, balancing classical architecture with contemporary art murals next door. I glided through squares and down streets near Tivoli Gardens, and settled at The Hungry Dane for dinner. A sign out front featuring a cartoon dog and advertising Copenhagen’s best burger did me in. I went with the prize-winning recipe: chicken soaked in duck fat (their signature confit), and reveled in every flavor of the brioche, the special sauce, the peppers that complemented the main event. Sitting outside on a wooden-slatted bench, overlooking the comings and goings of people through the square across from me, listening to the squawks of seagull lookalikes, letting the warm breeze swirl around me like dreams, I embodied contentment.

In the late afternoon the next day, I meandered along Nyhavn, the strip of pastel buildings that most often come up when searching photos of Copenhagen. It is recognizable to locals and tourists alike, and though very bright and very beautiful, felt in rhythm with the city on the whole. Nyhavn was not my first or last run-in with fantastically painted exteriors, but it still took my breath away. And there was a funky installation across from it, a brick building whose large windows were stuffed with hundreds of orange and black life jackets.

Walking up a block found me by the water, and I sat among families and friends celebrating (nothing in particular it didn’t seem–life?) with open bottles of wine and Carlsburg passed between them. My host told me I arrived here at the optimal time, and I could understand why: long, long days and sunny weather that lasted the entire length of my stay. The feel of the season was palpable; the happiness was wrapped up in good food, good drinks, good weather, and good people.

From there I began a trek back down Nyhan and to the King’s Garden, also sometimes known as the Roseborg Gardens, where I found Rosenborg Castle, a narrow structure built up like an Amsterdam canal house. The park was a beautiful escape of tree-lined walkways, floral mazes, fountains and sculptures hidden behind walls of shrubbery, and magpies fluttering onto the grass.

Money: A Sad Reality

Let me tell you how expensive it was. For the two and a half days that I was actually traveling, I spent close to $200–no alcohol, postcard souvenirs, very few to no snacks. I spent the equivalent of $15 on a virgin ginger beer and two fish tacos smaller than the palm of my hand. I stopped for a liquor-infused ice cream on the walk to the bus stop after that meal, because I wasn’t fully satisfied and I just couldn’t not, you know?

Would I do it again? You bet your bottom dollar. I spent my hours in the presence of places that didn’t cost anything, enjoying the roaming and the observing. Though I want desperately to go back for the castles and museums, I think this introductory lesson in Denmark was an insightful (albeit pricey) one. I didn’t purchase it, but a Copenhagen Pass will do wonders for the wallet.

I didn’t need money to end up at this installation, a house of mirrors pulled open and spreading the length of a block, splashed with abstract shapes and designs. And, of course, finished off with parked bikes.

Heeding the advice of one of my dad’s coworkers, I made a beeline for Sankt Peder’s Cafe on my final morning, housed in a sunset orange building on a quiet side street, one block away from Ørstedsparken. The window display could have kept me pressed up against the glass for the rest of the day, but I ordered one of their cinnamon buns and had to measure it to my face to confirm that it was, indeed, the same size or larger. Frosted thick with icing and delicately rolled, I sat on a bench in the park under a canopy of leaves and unabashedly moaned in delight at the first bite. It ranks as one of the best pastry-eating experiences I have ever had. Seriously.

The thing about Copenhagen is that it was unexpected, the way I had planned (or, I guess, hadn’t). With nothing set in stone here, I wandered to invaluable moments. Like live musicians in a plaza. A pig pile of bikes parked on sidewalks, unchained, left trustfully to remain where its owner left it. An art installation mimicking lily pads, set over a stream of water, for kids to leap between.

Copenhagen doesn’t have expectations of itself. Instead, it is humble in its own wake, impressive outside of its big spots. The side streets dancing in colorful exteriors were my favorite ones.

And the thought of those pastries makes me hungry to go back.

In the first few weeks that I was in Dublin, I was warned to steer clear of any phrase that included the word “fanny,” given the correct spelling of the Irish equivalent of “idiot,” and toasted a glass of wine with the Gaelic for “cheers.” Irish jargon can catch you off guard initially, but you grow accustomed to it quickly. And it never seems to lose its charm. Below, you’ll find a list of Irish slang and phrasing that you should definitely know before heading to the Emerald Isle. It’s all in the lingo!

Cheers – A common phrase used in lieu of “Thank You”. There’s an inexplicable joy that comes with acknowledging a server or bus driver and saying cheers! It’s really an all-around feel good word.

Chips – French fries. Like fish n’ chips.

Craic (pronounced crack) – A term for having a good time. Ex: What’s the craic? Or, what’s going on/what’s happening/what’s the excitement?

Crisps – Potato chips. Side note: Hunky Dory Cheddar Cheese & Spring Onion are the best!

Eejit – An idiot. My favorite term as of late has been Ye feckin’ eejit! (See below: Feck)

Failte – Welcome!

Fanny – Whatever you do, do not mention anything about the fanny pack you’re sporting; you’ll turn heads and force jaws to drop. In Ireland, fanny refers to a woman’s private parts. Yeah, not what you were expecting, was it?

Feck – A less harsh version of the F-bomb. Parents have no trouble using it in front of their children, in public–anywhere that the word “crap” could be used in America, which is virtually everywhere. It does not have the same, harsh connotation as its “U” twin.

Gobsmacked – Astounded or astonished.

Quid – The equivalent of “euros”, when discussing the price of something. That shirt is ten quid.

Slainte – Cheers and good health! At a dinner with an old friend’s aunt and her friends, we passed around wine and clinked glasses, saying Slainte before eating.

Thanks a mil – Another way of saying “Thank You.”

Any slang I missed? Drop a note in the comments!