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Archive for the ‘City Life’ Category


Tonight the Flâneur Husband will be having his card club over for a Christmas party. Just the four of them (they play whist), and I will soon be leaving for the holiday house – and the garden.

I’m not involved in the card club since it was created before I ever entered the picture, but for tonight I will definitely claim the role as “facilitator”, since I have done some of the preparations. (Well, I’m sure my husband will accept it if I say “most”…)

They will be having a simple dinner before the card games, so yesterday I bought some ripened pickled herring for the starter, and I’ve also made som duck confit that just needs to be heated up and served with potatoes as the mains. The dessert will be more or less traditional marzipan chocolates. Some with an orange liqueur, some with a nougatine filling.

And, well… The garden will be present!

Christmas

I cut these twigs from the garden on Wednesday and brought them back so there would be some sort of Christmas feel to the dining room. Tax, pine, dogwood, berberis and a few twigs of dog rose. You might have spotted that the baubles are not naturally occurring on these plants, and that is very true; I added these because the red hips and berries are difficult to see by candle light, so something slightly more sparkly was required.

There will be one of these bouquets in each of the two windows in the dining room windows, but to add a bit of sparkle to the table itself I took our remaining baubles and piled them up randomly in two dishes.

Christmas

Some are old, some are new. The oldest are probably more than 60 years old, the newest are from this year. Very few were bought, very few were presents and by far the most are heirlooms. And somehow they all go together because they are all so different. Some are family, some are gifts from friends and some were just bought to embellish the Christmases I will be spending with the  Flâneur Husband.

I hope they will have a lovely evening. If they don’t, well… It will be their own fault, because the food will be good and the room will look pretty – and they will be in great company with each other.

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Yesterday as I was returning to our city apartment from a week in the holiday home – and the garden – I got off the bus early to walk home through Assistens Cemetery which our apartment overlooks.

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It’s a stunning urban space of trees, lawns and – of course – tombs. Part of it is still a functioning community cemetery, but large sections have been reassigned as a recreational green space, though obviously within the cemetery context. So no ball-play allowed, but picnics and topless sun bathing is acceptable – though you don’t find many sun bathers in the snow.

Assistens Cemetery

The cemetery has some amazing mature trees, and the space is just so peaceful. Even in summer when there are picnics and sunbathers around, people somehow seem to remain respectful of the space and be more calm than in other parks; it invites a more tranquil state than some of the more classic parks around the city, and I think it is so beneficial to have an urban green space that is calm and reflective in its nature.

Assistens Cemetery

The best part about the cemetery, though, is that it is just across the street from our apartment. We can watch the sunset across the tree tops from our living rooms, and it’s an amazing privilege to live in the city – 15 minutes on foot from the very centre of Copenhagen – and have such a view as well as such a relaxing place to go for walks just outside your apartment.

Assistens Cemetery

It looks great in the snow, but to be honest it looks great at all times of the year, and there is not a single day when I don’t look out the windows and feel grateful for being able to live with a view like this. Imagine this view in spring, or summer, or autumn… You come home through the city, make your way up the stairs to the fourth floor and then when you enter the sitting room you see this sort of view, consisting only of trees and shrubs and lawns… -And even perennials on some of the graves.

The part of the cemetery in front of our windows is the historical cemetery, also referred to as the “museum cemetery”. This means it has not been a functioning cemetery in 50 years or so, and some of “the Great and the Good” of Denmark have been buried there, including the world’s first existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen is further to the left, and the Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr is also out there, as well as loads of artists, musicians, writers and so on. They are a pleasant and calm lot to live across the street from.

Also, I love this view. I really do. I love the garden, but there is no way I could ever produce anything like this cemetery. It’s amazingly beautiful, and the maintenance is wonderfully done; decay is obvious on many of the old tombs, but that is part of the place’s identity. Some headstones have tumbled over and been left like that, and perennials and wild flowers are used to accent certain graves so it’s not just a lawn studded with beautiful trees.

And now, in December with snow all over the place, this is the main Christmas ornament of our home. No amount of baubles could compete with that view.

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I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account of our weekend in Vienna, but…

We had a great time! We arrived in Vienna around 9AM on Saturday morning with very few ideas about what to do, but when we left Sunday afternoon we had the feeling that we’d had a very good taste – metaphorically as well as literally – of what this city has to offer.

We had four fixtures on the itinerary; two restaurant bookings and two sights we definitely wanted to see.
The first sight-seeing happened almost by accident as we were making our way into the city and found ourselves at the Stephansdom, the wonderfully vast Gothic cathedral with patterned tile roofs and a soaring spire (which we ended up partly ascending on the Sunday, much to the horror of myself and my innate fear of heights…).

Butterflies

One of The Flâneur Husband’s colleagues had recommended we visit the Schmetterlinghaus, the butterfly house, so it was the first sight we sought out deliberately, though in proper flâneur style we didn’t have a map. I knew it was in the Hofburg area, in the grounds of the old Emperial palace, and who needs directions anyway when strolling around a lovely city, right?

The butterfly house was magical! Nothing less… Huge – HUGE! – butterflies fluttering about all over, with stunning colours and wing spans of up to 8 inches. They’re impossible to photograph with a phone camera, of course, so you have to make do with the photo above. It does, I feel, convey the ephemeral and magical quality of the place, though, and it is perhaps the most romantic site we saw in all of Vienna.

Dinner on Saturday almost deserves an entry of its own… We went to Tian, a vegetarian restaurant in the city centre with its own cocktail bar downstairs, and the food was AMAZING! I absolutely loved it, and it just goes to show how you can easily have a vegetarian meal without ever missing a piece of meat. (And I do love meat…) And the cocktail bar in the basement was also very nice, though sadly The Flâneur Husband created a rapport with the head bartender, so we ended up perhaps having one cocktail too many, but then that’s what happens.

The next morning saw us slightly worse for wear. I’m an early riser, so I went for a walk in the baroque Belvedere Gardens next to our hotel. The gardens open at 6AM, so when I walked around there I was literally alone in a baroque garden, and this is a very strange experience.

Belvedere Gardens

Sadly my phone was back at the hotel, so I couldn’t take pictures of the hauntingly beautiful ambience when you walk around in the early morning mist between the terraces, topiary cones, parterres d’eau (though sans eau at this time of year) and hedge rooms in complete solitude. Our hotel room overlooked the garden of the old Salesian nunnery and behind that you can see the Belvedere Gardens.

My husband knows me, so when we were walking around the city he kept saying “There’s a church; let’s go inside”, so we saw some amazing churches, from the High Gothic of the Stephansdom over the restrained Hallenkirche of the Augustinian church to the roccoco interior of the Russian church to the full-on baroque of the Dominican church.

Baroque

I loved Vienna. We had a wonderful weekend there; less than 36 hours in one of the great cities of Europe, which is perhaps unfair, but it was enough to make us want to come back some day.

And if you ever stop bye Vienna:

These two places are really reason enough to visit Vienna, and then stop by every church you pass.

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Tomorrow morning The Flâneur Husband and I will be heading off to Vienna for an overnight get-away for absolutely no particular reason at all, other than that my Mother-in-law wanted to give us a treat to celebrate our second anniversary on September 4th. She’s footing the bill, and we just have to enjoy ourselves – and send her a post card… Gotta love that!

Vienna 1902

We have booked tables for lunch and dinner, as well as a hotel room for Saturday night, but other than that there are absolutely no plans. Neither of us has been to Vienna before, so I guess the best plan is just to say that we stroll around the city and take in the place slowly and leisurely.

Obviously we HAVE to stop by the Cathedral, Stephansdom, and I’d rather like at least a short stroll around the boulevards since I once wrote a university paper on Viennese town planning in the late 19th century, but it’s all subject to change.

The weather forecast looks nice, the hotel looks nice, the restaurants look nice and I need to get a haircut today so I, too, will look nice.

Vienna weather forecast 3-4 November 2012

Good times ahead…

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Autumn is over the long leaves that love us,

And over the mice in the barley sheaves;

Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us,

And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.

 

The hour of the waning of love has beset us,

And weary and worn are our sad souls now;

Let us part, ere the season of passion forget us,

With a kiss and a tear on thy drooping brow.

(W.B. Yeats)

All right, so it’s not autumn yet. Not ’till tomorrow… But there are goodbyes to be said, and this poem popped into my head as a suitable set of words to describe my current mood.

I got laid off yesterday, and am now on what some companies refer to as “garden leave“. I’ve loved working in my old company, but I’ve also for quite some time been looking for a new job, so it’s a melancholy feeling, mixed with a sense of relief. It’s definitely not all bad, though of course it’s certainly not all good, either.

In short, it is what it is.

It was all very civilised, as these things should be, so I guess it qualifies for the term “amicable divorce”; I shall be missed and I shall miss my old colleagues, but such is life.

So next week I will be gardening! On garden leave. Maybe this means that this year I can actually get the garden ready for winter? -Something I failed miserably at last year, partly due to business and partly due to wet weather in the few weekends I made it up to the garden, and which had knock-on effects that lasted well into spring.

The lawn needs mowing, the annex (with the storage room, the workshop/shed and the spare bedroom) needs painting and of course a good weeding is never amiss, so I can definitely keep myself busy while I begin to work out what I want to do besides gardening.

Autumn is the time when you look back and see what worked and what didn’t work; which plants were stars and which were failures; what do you want more of, what do you want less of (SLUGS!); what should be played a bit different, tweaked a little, next year. And so I will begin looking at the garden and my CV with the same set of analysing eyes, seeing what I enjoyed and what I didn’t and then taking it from there. After all, in a garden there is always that much-vaunted term “Next Year”, and the same goes for work. There will be another chance at creating something that will be even better, even more satisfying, even more life-enhancing.

(I hope.)

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A few weeks ago, as we were getting ready to leave the summer house and return to the City, I decided to cut some of the deep blue aquilegias that grow  between the paving stones in the courtyard. I know they’d bloom while I wasn’t there, so I figured the budding flowers would look nice in a vase in the apartment, and so they did.

The buds dutifully turned into flowers, and I was happy. It’s my favourite colour of aquilegia, but sadly we only have it in the courtyard where it is a weed, really, so I was so thrilled last week when I noticed seed heads starting to form; there must either have been some kind little fly that chose to pollinate these flowers, or else they were just shaken sufficiently when I have been airing out the apartment, because today they look like this:

The colour of the dried petals is a truer blue than the actual flower, which has a slightly purple tone

Of course there’s always a risk that the seeds won’t be true to type, but considering that I have no other colours of aquilegia in the apartment, I’m feeling confident that the seeds will produce the same lovely colour if I sow them out in the Ambitious Border.

So, this means that I have now used cut flowers and branches to propagate forsythia, dogwood and sedum so far, and with aquilegias in the making. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Free plants are the best!

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I went up to the garden after work yesterday, simply because the weather was so spectacular (and sadly looks set to grow colder, greyer and wetter over the weekend).

Anyway, the forget-me-nots are now in full bloom and an absolute delight where they’ve been allowed to spread because I’m not mowing the lawn as close to the “woodland” area towards the road as the previous owners did. They happily compete with the grass in this rather shady area, and they turn a dull, useless area into something very pretty:

-Right next to them is a bit of omphalodes verna, which in Danish is called kærminde; “treasured memory”. Now, not only are the names quite similar in many ways, but the flowers are also very similar, so they create a little blue corner.

The past weekend I planted 30 dahlias in the Sunny Border, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s too small, but maybe it’s just because I need to get cracking with the Ambitious Border right opposite it so the Sunny Border won’t be the sole focus.

Also, I need to visualise what it will look like when all the dahlias are 1 meter tall, the Chinese anemones begin to send their delicate flowers hovering over the coarse(-ish) foliage, the outlandish shapes of the blue iris flowers exploding over the grass-like spikes , and of course the red L.D. Braithwaite roses that my parents bought the Flâneur Husband for his birthday. We’re some time away from this scenario, but these are all plants I know, so I know what each will end up looking like, and together they will be spectacular.

-And of course the bed is backed by perennial sweet peas, honeysuckle and a purple clematis surrounded by blueish-purple geraniums at it’s feet.

Come summer, this will be stunning, for sure.

Another stunner – albeit more in personality than in looks – is this little guy:

It’s the starling who has taken a shine to one of our nesting boxes. Now, of course I love any bird that will nest in our garden, but I also love how this little guy goes about finding a mate. When you see ducks mating, more often that not it seems more like a rape than the basis of a family, but this little guy spends most of his time in the tree where the nesting box is located, flapping his wings, pushing out his chest and calling out to the entire neighbourhood “Here I am, where are you? I have a good home for us and our offspring!”

And then the sun began setting, I went to bed and this morning I left very early to get to work on time, but it was definitely worth it!

Mind you, Copenhagen is not a bad place on a sunny spring evening:

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