Happiest City On Earth: Copenhagen

Nyhavn

It’s still brutally cold in New York right now, but just as I was about to complain about the freezing temps, I remembered my recent trip to Scandinavia. I think my skin has literally toughened up since I survived a week in bone-chilling Denmark! I think the difference was that when I was there, Copenhagen was a beautiful winter wonderland, complete with giant snowflakes and sparkling lights on every tree in sight. Not exactly the disgusting grey/brown sludge that we try to sidestep in NYC. And the Danes were so helpful and friendly; my sister asked 1 person for directions and 3 different strangers chimed in (with adorable Danish accents) to give tips on buying transportation fare! And that was only on day one!

Some of my favorite moments/things about my stay in Copenhagen, Denmark:

  • The view from the hotel

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I’m a sucker for a great view. It’s not just that it’s romantic and pretty to look at, I like looking at new places from above because it gives me a better idea of the city’s layout and design. Also, we wouldn’t even have been able to see this view if it weren’t for…

  • The friendly people

 

rundetårn
Rundetårn

 

The hotel staff moved us to a giant top floor suite when they realized our rooms were separated, which is something we didn’t even mind. Everyone seemed? to be in a good mood, at least when I was there. The man standing next to me in the picture above was more than happy to let me take my sweet time looking through the giant telescope at the Rundetårn, and tried his best to get a shot of the moon even though it was a cloudy night.

You might be thinking, “okay, but those are all tourist destinations,” which leads me to the next thing:

  • The ubiquitous Smørrebrød

 

fried cod smørrebrød at Almanak
fried cod smørrebrød at Almanak

 

Reindeer smørrebrød at Almanak
Reindeer smørrebrød at Almanak

 

smoked salmon smørrebrød at Almanak
smoked salmon smørrebrød at Almanak

 

We ate a lot of open-faced sandwiches, or smørrebrød, while we chatted and people-watched in cafes and restaurants. The vibes were chill and relaxing – no one seemed in a rush to get food, eat it, pay the bill, and get going. Every waiter and waitress took a lot of time to explain the unfamiliar foods, garnishes, sauces on the menu. At one place (Fiskebar) the chef himself came out from the kitchen to ask us where we were from. At another place (Bror) the waitress went out of her way to find an outlet I could charge my phone in, with my giant voltage-converter attached to it and all.

Overall, if I had to describe these eateries in one word, it would be cozy. (Or as the Danes would say, “hygge!“)

  • The historic details

 

The Danish Royal Regalia
The Danish Royal Regalia

 

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens

 

Nyhavn
Nyhavn

 

This is probably something that you’d experience anywhere in Europe because America is so “young” in comparison, but everything felt so old! It was like being transported back in time, if you don’t pay attention to any of the cars or the great public transportation system. I really enjoyed the lovely little history facts/details that I picked up while touring the city. Facts like: what the difference is between open crowns and closed crowns, where Walt Disney was inspired to build Disney World (see picture 2), and what used to be a really shady area much like Times Square used to be (see picture 3).

But of course, Copenhagen isn’t just for enjoying cobblestone streets and old harbors. There’s plenty of modern architecture and urban planning to admire, which leads me to the last point:

  • The loveliness of bike heaven/ urban planning

 

Bycyklen
Bycyklen

 

bike parking
bike parking

 

They weren’t kidding when they said Copenhagen is the cycling capital of the world. I’ve never seen so many bikes in my life, and this was in the middle of winter which is the best excuse not to be out on a bike. But it wasn’t just the sheer amount of normal people riding normal bikes in normal clothing, it was the infrastructure that really impressed me. I saw lots of separated bike lanes, stop lights that gave cyclists the right of way, uninterrupted/connected bike lanes, bike racks everywhere, lots of pedestrian streets that were closed to cars AND bikes. In fact, Copenhagen is also home to the longest pedestrian street in Europe, also known as Strøget.

It seemed like when they were planning the city’s infrastructure, they were trying to make it a truly walkable/bikeable city so that communities could spend more time out in the air and less time inside a car. Even their bike share system (Bycyklen) is an upgraded version of most; each bike is equipped with a tablet, an electric motor, 2 racks, and a built-in locking system. You don’t even have to shove it into a dock if you’re in a designated “drop-off” area. You can just leave the bike (lock turned on) and walk away! New York’s Citibike could learn a lot from this…

 

We were lucky enough to be there during the exciting build up to New Year’s Day; people were winding down from Christmas fervor, but still slightly buzzing from eagerness to ring in 2015. Speaking of which, Happy Lunar New Year/ Year of the Goat!

p.s. I’ll be traveling again soon (this time to good ole Los Angeles). Eagerly looking forward to some sunshine and warmth after being in all these cold places!

 

Shows of 2014: Comedy

In anticipation of 3 great season premieres tonight (Broad City and Workaholics and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), I wanted to share some of my favorite comedic acts from last year. This will be my final installment of the “Shows of 2014″ series!

I absolutely love comedy, whether it’s in stand-up or sketches or improv, and I think it doesn’t get enough respect/recognition in Hollywood. Great comedians are typically extremely insightful and very aware of their surroundings; timing and quick-wittedness is everything. Watching MADtv and Saturday Night Live during my younger years make up some of my fondest memories, and there are sketches that I still quote today. And I barely watch any television these days, but when I do turn it on it’s usually tuned to Comedy Central.

  • AZIZ ANSARI

OCTOBER 9TH AT MADISON SQUARE GARDENimage

I came know Aziz Ansari through a little show called Parks and Recreation, which is now in it’s final season. Then, through the magic of the Interwebs and namely YouTube, I saw his stand-up and was instantly hooked. Luckily he was performing a huge show right around my birthday. Unluckily, Ticketmaster changed the start time and never emailed me, so we arrived half an hour late. (Damn you, Ticketmaster!) But I still got to enjoy such an insightful set called Modern Romance. Something I love about Aziz is that he’s tech savvy; a lot of his jokes revolved around how technology is changing how we convey emotions. :) At one point he had audience members bring their smartphones to the stage so he could read their sexts out loud.

It was also refreshing to hear a male comedian talk about women without contempt. He spoke about how the word feminism is being widely misused (frequently with a negative connotation): “Feminist simply means you believe in political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Period, end of story. I’m a feminist.” Right on, Aziz, right on.

–> azizansari.com

  •  BROAD CITY LIVE

JUNE 28TH DURING UCB THEATRE IMPROV WEEKimage

Broad City came into my life serendipitously, and I’m quite grateful. 30 Rock was over, Parks and Recreation was winding down. What was I going to do without my Tina and Amy?! Cue Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer: weird, young creative-types, scrapping by in New York City. I was basically looking in the mirror, whereas before I was always looking up to Tina and Amy (I still do, but you get what I mean). Okay yes, Tina, Amy, Abbi, and Ilana are all Caucasian, but I think we’re getting somewhere. One day there’ll be a show with two weird minorities as the main characters. (A girl can dream!) Thank goodness we are getting to a place where TV execs are not afraid of putting unapologetic and hilarious women on screen.

–> cc.com/shows/broad-city

  • NICK KROLL & FRIENDS

JUNE 29TH AT UCB THEATRE
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Above you are seeing my dream lineup: Maya Rudolph, Natasha Lyonne, Nick Kroll, and **AAAMMYY POEHHHLERRRRR** – sorry, megaphone was on – Amy Poehler. Unfortunately this picture was taken at the very end of the show and they weren’t up there for very long, but still. This improv show was fun to watch since Nick Kroll has a lot of interesting friends. He’d bring them on one by one and they’d basically start an improv scene with him. John Mulaney, Brian Huskey, Jason Mantzoukas, Seth Morris all showed up (among others) and I loved every awkward moment of it. Especially when, during a dramatic scene with Brian Huskey, the security guard’s ringtone went off – it was Usher’s “Yeah.”

–> cc.com/shows/kroll-show

  • DAVE CHAPPELLE (FEATURING NAS)

JUNE 24TH AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALLimage

Dave Chappelle doesn’t like cell phones. I learned the hard way; my phone was in my lap during the Oddball Festival last year and a notification automatically lit the screen, the next thing I know a giant security man was literally pushing me out of the arena. Awful. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from seeing this legendary comedian. I waited, and later in 2014 I was rewarded with a round of shows that included a different musical guest every night: Kanye, Nas, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and others. I chose the night with Nasty Nas, since I’ve listened to Illmatic for such a long time. The ENTIRE audience knew every last word.

Dave’s set wasn’t as long as I’d hoped, but I was just glad to see him back in the game after such a long hiatus. You could tell that the crowd felt the same, he was dearly missed. Maybe one day he’ll do something with Chris Rock and Kevin Hart. That would be phenomenal.

–> Dave Chappelle on The Tonight Show

  • DISNEY’S ALADDIN ON BROADWAY

FEBRUARY 28TH AT NEW AMSTERDAM THEATREimage

Okay, so I know that Aladdin is not a comedy, it’s a musical. Well, actually, it’s an animated classic from back when animated didn’t mean computer-generated images (no more Frozen songs please dear lord). But even amongst the Disney Classics, Aladdin always stood out to me as laugh-out-loud funny, mainly because of the wonderful voice work of one Robin Williams. Of course there’s the inherent hilarity that comes from the dynamic between an emotional monkey, an expressive magic carpet, and a talking parrot. Transferring all that to the stage was done surprisingly well in this musical – there are tweaks and additional characters, but it enriched the plot instead of distracting from it. James Monroe Iglehart as Genie is thrilling to watch. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire night.

Also, those sets! Beautifully designed.

–> aladdinthemusical.com

 

I hope some of these acts are new to you, and that you’ll take a look at some of their work. I’m always on the hunt for new and inspirational artists, so if you have any you’d want to share, let me know!

Shows of 2014: Dance, Dance, Dance!

Previously, I told you about some of the lovely voices I was able to see in 2014. In this portion of my “Shows of 2014” series, I’ll go through some of the great electronic bands I was able to see… but honestly what music isn’t incorporating a lot of electronic elements these days?? So please understand that I use the term “electronic” loosely, and don’t restrict it to just dubstep or trance; these were just great shows to dance at. (And, per usual, please excuse my camera-phone photos):

  1. THE CHAINSMOKERS
  2. APRIL 15TH AT HIGHLINE BALLROOMimage

     

    Truthfully, I’m not a fan of The Chainsmokers. They seemed nice enough, until they actually pointed out the “one guy not moving at all” for everyone to see. It was a bit awkward after that. But then again, I don’t think I’m the target demographic for these two; most of the people there were really, REALLY young. Like, just got out of school and came straight from detention to see The Chainsmokers, backpacks still on. At the end of the show, they threw out life-size Polaroid frames for fans to take selfies during their viral video for #Selfie. How very meta of them.Check out #Selfie below:

     

  3.  FLUME
  4. APRIL 15TH AT HIGHLINE BALLROOMimage

    Oh, Flume (aka Harley Edward Streten.) This guy already has a massive following, thanks to his undeniable boyish charm. An Australian by way of Sydney, he makes true house-shaking bangers, as well as weirder experimental sounds. He’s still relatively new and rather young, but he’s very good live, thanks to a great lighting and visual effects team. And he has a sense of humor: at one of his Terminal 5 shows (which I also attended) he had the last song culminate with a huge blast of Pokemon cards into the air. He also plays the sax – I’m sold.Check out Flume’s remix of Disclosure’s You & Me below:

     

  5. JUNGLE
  6. MARCH 9TH, JUNE 21ST, JUNE 23RD, AND OCTOBER 1ST AT VARIOUS VENUESimageimageimage

    Full disclosure: I’m utterly obsessed with JUNGLE, as you can see from the number of times I saw them this past year. It was a meeting that happened totally by chance: I was actually at a show to see a different band. But before I knew it, my friend (Jamie, pictured above) and I were getting down to their groovy songs. After seeing what was apparently their first US show, I searched online to find any information I could about them, but it led nowhere. There was close to nil on their story, not even their full names, much less their faces. But my friend and I were hooked, so we proceeded to go to all their subsequent NYC shows. The band members were so down to earth, and we chatted with one of the members (Tom) after he realized we were always right in the front row. hahahaha… he’s probably scared of us now! I swear I’m not a rabid fan! Just… devoted! 🙂

    As for the Nick Lachey photo, I was able to go to the studio taping of Big Morning Buzz at VH1 in Times Square. All I can really say is that Nick is SO much smaller in person. Very nice, but very short.

    Check out The Heat below:

     

  7. CHET FAKER
  8. OCTOBER 16TH AT BIG MORNING BUZZ LIVE WITH NICK LACHEYimage

    Another wonderful Aussie I saw (also at a studio taping for VH1’s Big Morning Buzz) happens to be friends with Flume. I wasn’t sure if I should group Chet Faker with the electronic music bands or the “Pretty Voices” group. He has such a soulful, richly toned voice. I absolutely love it, and will say he’s my favorite male singer of the last several years (sorry Sam Smith and Bruno Mars). But he does layer beautiful synths and beats on his latest album. They sound equally as lovely when played acoustic.Seems that many of my favorite artists have been coming from Australia lately. Maybe it’s a sign I should visit there soon…Check out Talk Is Cheap below:

 

I hope some of these artists are new to you, and that you’ll enjoy adding them to your playlists. I’m always on the hunt for new and inspirational artists, so if you have any you’d want to share, let me know!