Denmark, Copenhagen, København 🇩🇰

A city that feels like a town. A lot like Amsterdam only much cleaner and more beautiful, almost like a fairytale. Very much like Hans Christian Andersen would have created in one of his stories.

The little mermaid perched on her rock, looking for Prince Eric….. with a gazillion tourists crowding her, I can hear Indonesian and American tourists, French and Germans all snapping away. It is stupidly cold, there are gusts of snow and we are all hustling to get a photo next to the delicate little statue. We get caught up in the frenzy and finally rush back to the warmth of the car.

Next on our list are the military ‘Nyboder’ houses, I remember these from the movie, The Danish Girl. The striking yellow paint contrasts the steely grey sky. The houses are stuck in time and the paint is peeling from the bricks.

We’re cooking now and we head to the next must do site on our list, Nyhavn, the iconic Danish houses lining the canal. They look resplendent, the sun is shining and we are ready for a coffee. Probably the most expensive place to get a coffee but the view is simply priceless so we suck it up

A canal boat trip to visit the sights, the opera house, the queen’s residence, it’s all very blah blah blah…..don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining about Copenhagen being blah blah blah, it’s more about us and our ‘adventure’. We want this year to be unforgettable and unique so as much as we love the tourist attractions we also want to go off the beaten track and see MORE. Really see what makes Denmark, Denmark.

A trip to a major city wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the food market (you know me and food) so we swing by Torvehallerne for some dinner….

Smörgåsbord = yum !

Ahhh Summerbird……….your beautiful cakes

So I’ll post this and I’ll add a little PS, I promise to give you more and not just the predictable.

Before I go, I recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Book-Hygge-Danish-Penguin/dp/0241283914

That sinking feeling

A couple of nights in Denmark and already we were feeling really good about being in Scandinavia, a gorgeous family welcomed us onto their campsite…Neils, his wife and their son live in a lovely white thatched cottage with parking for around 6 motorhomes. It has easy access and great facilities, Jon and I were able to relax and boys were delighted to find the games room, chess and a pool table – how fabulous!

We took a day out in Mini to the coast to see The Men at Sea statues and returned through the town near to us of Haderslev which is home to The Skate Dome a huge skateboard/scooter/bike park.

Then we set off for Copenhagen which was around a 3 hours drive. We always knew Scandinavia was going to be an expensive part of our journey, we have read many blogs about traveling here in a motorhome and everyone says the same thing, it’s bloody expensive. First, you can’t get hold of LPG so we are running on petrol, which makes for a super expensive drive at no more than 8 mpg.

Second, literally everything is expensive, especially bridge tolls. We had tears in our eyes when we handed over our debit card to pay the £120 toll over the Storebælt bridge. Forgetting he was in Europe and not Asia, Jon tried to negotiate with the cashier and obviously failed ! Lucky we didn’t have to pay even more.

We felt like we were making some real progress when we arrived at our campsite for the night, another site at a family home only this time so much bigger, I was feeling silently smug, as I had chosen this site. Joe and I in our high viz jackets directed Jon into the parking bay, on one side gravel, the other side grass. I was watching Jon roll into the gravel and all was good until the other side rolls onto muddy ground and suddenly we grind to a halt. We are stuck, totally, completely, 100% stuck. I made a rookie error and hadn’t checked all 4 wheels were on hard ground. It was a horrible feeling seeing the massive tyres wedged in the ground and the RV tilting to one side. We tried for an hour with wood, carpet and tree branches to get it out, it was an impossible task, my biggest fear were the RV’s self levelling hydraulic jacks, they were about 2cm clear of the ground and sinking. We just got deeper and deeper into trouble, I wanted to cry, I felt hopeless and tried to think through all the possible ways we could get out. Would the AA rescue us? Probably not, who can you call when you are in such a large, heavy vehicle and need to be towed when you don’t even speak the language?

Jon and I realised the only way out was to ask for help so we took the walk of shame up the tree lined drive way to the family home and knocked on the door. We were greeted by Jes……….he is so friendly and not at all phased by the fact that stupid English tourists have driven their 11 metre, 10 ton RV onto his land and got it stuck.

“Are you stuck?” asks Jes

“Yes, we are so sorry” Jon and I feeling very stupid

“No problem, I’ll get my tractor”

And that was that…what are the chances of finding a campsite in the middle of Denmark where the owner, who by the way is not a farmer happens to have a tractor and massive towing chain in his garage?! We had struck it lucky again.

Within 10 minutes the kind Danish man had rescued us, he had towed us to hard ground and connected us to electric and the boys to WiFi.

I always say that things can change in a heartbeat, one minute everything is peachy and the next they can turn horribly wrong. This was another example of how vulnerable we are.

We are having the time of our lives and experiencing amazing things but there is always that feeling of how vulnerable we really are. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. When you travel in your home, you realise the one thing that can bring you so much comfort and security can so easily be damaged or destroyed.

After trying to put Jes’s field back together and stamp down the grass we’d destroyed we had a coffee and the boys hot chocolate and although we were feeling slightly stunned about what had happened.

The temperature had dropped to -5 and the wind was picking up, so no slide outs tonight. We just had to hunker down and stay warm.

Ironically it turned out really well, not only did Jes speak perfect English and have his own tractor but he also has a genuine interest in American vehicles with a huge US pick up truck and 2 American 5th Wheelers in his barn. Jon and his new best friend, Jes disappeared into the barn to talk RV talk. By dinner time we were feeling cosy and warm and the earlier off-road experience was long forgotten, it was time to enjoy a glass of red and a pork schnitzel.

Why an American RV?

As Vanessa wrote in ‘Could you drive from Singapore to England?” we’d fallen in love with traveling via a RV back in 2011 when we hired one in Washington DC and drove south (and west) all the way to Florida. That rental was one way and we then flew to Denver, Colorado picking up a 2nd RV and continuing west through Death Valley until arriving in San Francisco from where we flew home.

The flexibility, convenience and ‘luxury’ was compelling. That was a true ‘trip of a lifetime’ but with work and school commitments we were always on a schedule given we had to be in San Francisco to catch a flight back to Asia. To tick off so many bucket list wishes somedays we drove for hours on end and although we saw so much, it was tiring. I had a cold for a few days and didn’t really feel great (especially after Vanessa knocked me out with a concoction of over the counter medication!) but we had to push on and get in some miles so as to keep on schedule. Several years later we took another RV on a big loop around Florida in 14 days. Far less miles than the previous trip and once again we loved every minute.

Xmas 2016 in Japan was planned as a holiday and I discovered you could rent a ‘RV’ there as well so we went for it. Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous though. In the US we’d opted for +30 feet class A RVs. In Japan, the biggest one we could find was 17 feet long!

Although we had an awesome week in Japan, there was so little space…driving, sleeping and even sitting down to eat was OK but there was almost zero storage space and no floor/standing space…we literally had to get out of bed 1 person at a time, get dressed and then get out of the camper so the next person could get up ! Remember, I said it was Xmas (and therefore really cold in Japan) ? So if you were first up, once dressed you had to stand outside in the cold until everyone else was ready ! Me and V are too old for this kind of nonsense, maybe if you’re a student it’s OK but we enjoy/expect some creature comforts. Oh, and that was all without the dog !

I suppose flexibility and convenience can be applied to all campers, big or small, but when you throw in the luxury of an American RV, it’s a no-brainer. Dual slide outs, a king sized bed, a full size shower, separate fridge and freezers, a gas oven, a combination microwave/oven, multiple TVs, air conditioning, a full sized sofa etc etc are all standard kit in a Class A.

When we’d committed to this adventure, we wanted to do it in a proper American RV but in all honesty we spent weeks going through all the pros and cons of every different combination ….

1. American RV & tow car

2. American RV alone

3. European style/size motor home

4. Car & caravan

We looked at lots of caravans and can see why that appeals. They are much cheaper and having a decent car to pull it gives you the car we knew we’d need for small journeys within Europe. In the end, 2 things discounted caravans though, firstly the space, and secondly the concerns about traffic accidents.

We also looked at European style motorhomes. Easier to drive and manoeuvre around towns, cheaper to buy & run and far fewer dramas about bridges and weight restricted roads. However, once again we came back to size/space…you need to remember this is not a 14 days summer holiday to France, it’s our home for 12 months as we travel across Europe and through 4 different seasons.

So that just left an RV with a tow car or an RV alone. For weeks, I was convinced the alone option was best, driving something 35 feet long is daunting enough without adding an A frame and tow car. American highways, garages and even most towns will swallow up an RV but Europe is different, small roads, low bridges, tight corners and villages on the route that we’d never seen before. Becoming increasingly nervous about how we’d visit the beach or supermarket in a RV won in the end and we settled on the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ strategy of a RV and a car. The RV has a 6.8 litre V10 engine so towing our Mini Cooper would be easy enough but the legality of towing a car behind a motorhome is a grey area. Obviously a car can tow a caravan and a car or motorhome can tow a trailer but a motorhome towing a car is very grey. In the UK it seems OK but the internet is full of conflicting opinions and stories about mainland Europe. Nevertheless we satisfied ourselves that there was sufficient grey area to give it a bash and even if we were forced by local Police to separate them, Vanessa could always drive the Mini until we reached the next border !

We bought the A-frame and had the Mini professionally modified to be towed by CAR-A-TOW in Poole http://www.caratow.com

The A-frame includes independent brakes for the Mini and all the lights being controlled from the RV so we did everything we could to make sure it was as legal and safe as humanly possible. The RV has a rear facing camera so as we drive along it’s comforting to see the Mini still attached !

We are 3 weeks into the trip so far and haven’t yet seen anything close to our size in Europe. Rolling into towns or campsites does feel a bit like ‘the circus is in town’ but I’m starting to feel that all the stares and inquisitive onlookers are more genuinely interested and intrigued than annoyed. Wait until the summer and millions of holidaymakers are on the roads with their caravans and roof boxes and I’ll let you know whether we’ve moved into a different space!

So far, no regrets at all but managing the RV consumes a lot of time and you’ve got to plan well, you can’t just rock up in a town and hope for the best. We bought a commercial truck TomTom (GPS) so we can stick to big roads but it’s really a house on wheels with electrics, water, gas, doors and windows and lots of things that need monitoring and dare I say, maintaining/repairing as you travel. It takes us about 1 hour from deciding to leave to actually pulling away. Joe is big enough and strong enough to be really helpful and Mikey has his own set of responsibilities before ‘lift-off’ and we’re steadily getting better. The boys run around in their hi-viz jackets guiding me in and out of campsites and so far we haven’t hit anything although we’ve destroyed plenty of grass and run over a few flowerbeds!