Copenhagen’s street food heaven

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When we headed to Papiroen one afternoon to what is known as Copenhagen’s street food heaven, I didn’t have high expectations. really, what could I expect from such a place in Copenhagen?

welcome But when we went there, it was bustling with locals, out to enjoy their day in the summer sunshine. This mat welcomed us and this suspended cow greeted us as we entered the large street food enclosure.

It was a cheery, informal space – lots of benches scattered around, to be shared by people. You can also move from bench to bench, if you wanted to sit close to your vendor.

cow

Till as recently as end 2012, Papiroen – literally ‘Paper Island’ – used to be a newspaper warehouse, a part of the industrial spaces along the harbour. It was then transformed into an open, vibrant space, with a whole corner set aside for street food from all over the world. This opened in early 2014, first initiated on an experimental basis, but increasingly looks like this will stay on for a long time.

The place was made of a mix of stalls and food trucks, all neatly lined up to form narrow lanes. It was particularly interesting to see the way the trucks were parked inside a closed space like that. In all, there are 35 such stalls and trucks, and all the food was reasonably priced (especially by Scandinavian standards) around 40 – 70 Krone. you buy coupons at the beginning and use them at the individual stalls – any remaining coupons can be traded back for cash.

truck

Below, a glimpse of the wide variety on offer there – from gourmet burgers to Moroccan and Turkish food to Korean and Japanese to specialty Danish sausages, there was something for everyone.

burger

rolls

olives

sausage

Of course, as can be expected, Italian was one of the most popular cuisines there; tantalising pizza, fresh handmade pasta in a stall run by two Neapolitans and an antipasti place (see the truck above).

pizza

There was no dearth of vegetarian food here, with options ranging from wraps to pasta to more “exotic” choices – I opted for the latter and got myself this delicious stew and rice, accompanied by plantain fry, from the Colombian place. A bit like rajma chawal, this totally satiated my craving for somewhat familiar, somewhat spiced food.

colombian

And in true Copenhagen fashion – after all, it is the home of Carlsberg – visitors are expected to wash it all down with a tall mug of beer, any kind of beer you may be in the mood for. For those non- drinkers or seeking healthier options, there are also plenty of juices on offer.

beer

cake Of course, we had to end it all with a sweet extravaganza, an Oreo cheesecakes and a lemon cheesecake.

Street food heaven, it certainly was. Apart from the consistent good taste across stalls, one of the best things about the place is that all produce is sourced locally.

If you ever find yourself in Copenhagen, make sure to drop in for a bite – or three.

Antwerpian Extravagance

Temple to chocolates, diamonds and high fashion (Published in the July issue of Jet Wings International…)

Antwerp has been positioned by Flanders Tourism as the “so cool it’s hot” city. And rightly so. Visitors to Belgium largely ignore this town, which is overshadowed by the more picturesque Bruges and Ghent. The next time though, be sure to make a pit stop at Antwerp, to take in its wealth of heritage, art and most importantly, shopping options.

Unlike some other European cities like Paris and Rome, Antwerp is understated and reveals its charms rather slowly. However it is definitely a city for the lover of all things sensuous. So make up your own chocolates, diamonds and fashion tour and get going. Your best bet would be to stroll along Meir, Antwerp’s main shopping street and follow it up with a splash at the diamond district. End your exploration at Antwerpen Centraal, regularly counted among the most beautiful railway stations in the world.

Meir

Here is our guide to the best shopping in Antwerp.

Chocolate

In Antwerp, as in the rest of Flanders, they cleverly programme their desserts to wink at you from shop windows. Really. Here you are, walking innocently on a cobble-stoned street or a leafy boulevard and the next minute, you are drawn into the vortex of the Bermuda triangle of a chocolate shop. It is futile to resist.

Chocolate lovers (and that means all of us) will be spoilt for choice in this elegant European city that offers some of the best-loved brands in the world. Pick up some “chocolate diamonds” from the true artist, chocolatier Burie, and if you are in the city around Easter, Christmas or Valentine’s Day, drop by the store just to stare at his stunning chocolate sculptures displayed on the windows.

Find something quirky to take away at self-styled shock-o-latier Dominique Persoone’s The Chocolate Line. Whether it is chocolate with a hint of cola or bacon, chocolate flavoured lipstick or a unique sniffer that sends some fine and heady chocolate powder up your nose, Persoone has it all in the renovated Royal Palace in the Meir shopping district.

ChocolateShooter ChocolateLine

And definitely don’t leave Antwerp without buying some of the famous Antwerpse Handje – chocolates in the shape of hands – from Elisa Pralines. Recognized by the European Union as a ‘guaranteed traditional specialty,’ these chocolates celebrate the myth of an evil giant defeated by a local hero.

Diamonds

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Although Antwerp is known for its high quality diamonds, it is best to look for certification from the Diamond High Council before you splurge on these sparklers. Take a walk along the ‘diamond square mile’ at Appelmansstraat and Vestingstraat close to the train station for your pick of shops with their glittering window arrays.

diamonds1 Diamond Land is Antwerp’s largest jewellery store and known for its reliable quality and reasonable prices. The store offers short guided tours of the workshop where visitors (and potential shoppers) can watch artisans at work.

Another recommended seller is J. Katz, who has been around for a few decades and is a founding member of the Antwerp Diamond Jewellers Association. For antique jewellery, the best source is Adelin owned by Salomon Wijnberg, whose vintage diamonds are praised as poetry in stone.

Also pay a visit to the Diamond Pavilion at the MAS museum, set up by the Diamond Museum Province Antwerp and the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. This exhibition explains the journey of the diamond from its original rough state to the smooth and gleaming precious stone. There is also a small shopping area here for last minute diamond souvenir hunters.

Fashion

Fashion Antwerp’s fashion scene is dominated by the celebrated Antwerp Six, a group of avant-garde designers who took the world by storm after their display at the London fashion fair in 1988. Graduates of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (which shot to fame on their success), the designers now have their own labels.

For elegant minimalistic styles in shades of white and black, head to Ann Demeulemeester’s shop, striking in its stark white spaces. Others from this band of six include Dries Van Noten who comes from a family of tailors, and Walter Van Beirendonck whose work is known for its unusual colour combinations. Also visit the Coccodrillo, exclusive shoe boutique of Geert Bruloot, acknowledged as the mastermind behind the promotion of the Antwerp Six.

MOMU

And to get a true sense of Antwerp’s dedication to fashion and design, make your way to the ModeNatie building – literal meaning Fashion Nation. Along with the Flanders Fashion Institute and the MOMU (Museum of Fashion), it also houses the boutique of the popular Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, said to look more like a museum than a store.

In Antwerp, also shop for:

– Olive oils (Tuscany herbs and Virgin oil with white truffle come highly recommended) and exotic vinegars (try the asparagus and tomato flavours) at the fabulous Oil and Vinegar shop with branches in several countries.

– Tintin memorabilia at Mekanik Strip comics store at Sint-Jacobsmarkt, or indulge your inner child with a set of Tintin covered packs of chocolate from NeuHaus.

Bargaining at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

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Istanbuls’ Grand Bazaar, or Kapalıçarşı (meaning ‘covered market’) speaks directly to every Indian’s heart. Over 550 years old, this market has over 3000 shops inside a large covered area. Everything that a tourist needs – or doesn’t really need but will buy anyway at great cost – is to be found here. Carpets, silver jewellery, tea, spices, lamps and kandeels, souvenirs, leather goods, and ceramics, among other things. And Indians, with their love for bargaining, will find themselves right at home here.

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Competition is fierce among the sellers and they employ all kinds of techniques to woo customers. They make jokes – many of them inappropriate but it is difficult not to laugh with them because they have such a pleasing manner and enjoy their own jokes immensely. For example, the shops selling tea – many nudge-nudge, wink-wink references to the sexual prowess some of these teas are believed to impart. They proudly advertise their ‘Turkish Viagra’ and display signs for ‘genuine fake watches’. It is futile to resist those who are happy to laugh at themselves this way.

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Like in other countries like Egypt, the minute they know you are Indian (and oh, believe me, they can identify us very easily), they launch into long discussions about our movies. And of late, Katrina Kaif in particular. They offer refreshment (oh, the apple tea!), discounts that seem attractive and lots of reasons why you must buy that item and from that shop alone. Listen to them patiently, banter with them and start from half the quoted price. They enjoy the bargaining and bantering more than you do and will probably be disappointed if you pay the asking price. If you are planning to buy something expensive, like a carpet, then it is best to do a bit of research before you enter the bazaar. Me, I stick to cheap souvenirs and tea – the varieties and fragrances of Turkish tea!

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You can easily spend hours here, browsing, bargaining and buying – with stops for coffee and lunch in between at one of the numerous cafes inside the bazaar. Whether you want to buy that pair of lovely silver earrings or a set of six ceramic bowls with the whirling dervish motif, or even a belly dance costume as a souvenir to take back home, the grand bazar is the place to shop at in Istanbul. Hang on to your patience, sense of humour and your wallet (watch out for pickpockets) and you will have a great experience.

Shopping in Florence

Florence must be one of the loveliest cities I have ever visited. Sadly, I had only a few hours to wander around its cobblestone streets, where each turn held a delightful surprise. The best I can do here is to put together a few photographs to showcase the town’s beauty and the grandeur of the Duomo. But for now, a short piece on a topic I rarely write about: shopping!

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Florence may not be as popular for shopping as Italy’s fashion capital Milan, but Florence is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the world to indulge in some retail therapy amidst incredible art and great architecture. Here’s a quick shopping guide to help you pick up the best merchandise — both budget and high-end — when in Tuscany’s capital next.

Lotions and potions

The Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is the oldest pharmacy in Florence, and today is less of a shop and more of a museum. In the 13th and 14th century, this pharmacy was part of the monastery in the church of Santa Maria. The Dominican monks, who sourced and cultivated herbs for treatments, initially managed it. Then 400 years ago, in 1612, they opened a shop to sell their medicinal products and slowly, soaps, tonics, perfumes and beauty products too. Right from its grand entrance to the vaulted ceiling, colourful frescos, old bottles and stained-glass windows, this place is worth a visit for its remarkable range of perfumes and cosmetic products.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Via della Scala, 16, 50123 Florence, Italy (www.smnovella.it/home.html)

Curios

A walk down from the Uffizi Gallery, just before the Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), is Armando Poggi. Even with the Duomo rising up majestically ahead, you will be drawn to the quirky yet stylish window displays of this shop. Yet another entity from the 20th century, Poggi is a family-owned business selling Italian ceramics, Murano glass and Swarovski crystal among other things. For an additional fee, they are happy to ship the goods you buy to your home address anywhere in the world.

Armando Poggi, Via Calzaiuoli 103r, 50122 Florence, Italy (www.apoggi.com)

Jewellery

If it is jewellery you are looking for, head straight to Ponte Vecchio. This bridge across the Arno River was built in 1345 and was a market for butchers. The smell, especially in the summers when the mercury touched 40 degrees Celsius, led King Ferdinand I to summon jewellers to take over the shops in 1593. So that is what it is today—a bustling market with glittering stores on either side, each window displaying contemporary jewellery more alluring than the other. Pick up some baubles for yourself, or then as gifts for friend and family.

‪Ponte Vecchio, 50125 Florence, Italy

Leather bags and accessories

After you’ve spent enough time at the magnificent Duomo (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower), make your way down the road to the San Lorenzo street market. You’ll find a row of vendors selling genuine leather products at affordable prices. Be ready to use all your bargaining skills, since the sellers expect it too and are always ready to negotiate and close a deal. Another good place for leather footwear is Romano Firenze, dating back to 1965. Renowned for its customised shoes, it also houses collections by popular and aspiring designers.

Via degli Speziali 10r, Borgo San Lorenzo 13r, Florence, Italy

Designer labels

For high-end shopping, your best bet is Via dei Tornabuoni. The streets here house all the big names, including Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo, Cartier, Bulgari, Dolce and Gabbana. There are smaller boutiques around Via della Vigna Nuova and some big brands like Lacoste and Monteblanc too. Luisa is another popular shop located at Via Roma, closer to the Duomo, with an impressive range of clothing, accessories and jewellery for both men and women.

Luisa, Via Roma, 19/21r, 50123 Florence, Italy (www.luisaviaroma.com/index.htm)

How to get there

Fly into Rome—the nearest airport—and take Trenitalia’s super-fast Frecciarossa train from Roma Termini. The journey takes just an hour and a half, and comes with special offers in the form of discounted car hire and hotel room rates. (www.trenitalia.com)

First published here

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