Tucked away in an alcove behind their furniture and housewares shop on the street, a perfect rainy day salve oozing Danish “hygge” is the restaurant Beau Marché, located on Ny Østergade. Shelley and I shared the croque madam and washed it down with 2010 Domaine de Bournet Cuvée Chris. It was amazing—tres magnifique (sorry, wrong country). The ambiance was simply perfect — inviting quiet conversations between family, friends and loved ones amidst the cacophony of sounds from every other group of family, friends and loved ones. The restaurant was quaint, smallish in nature, the L-shaped room the size of my apartment in Sausalito; ah, memories. Various bottles of wine adorned the ten columns and six rows of shelves to my right. My friend Shelley had a moment of brilliance in looking at the walls and all the wine — “They’re dusty and it doesn’t matter – actually you realize it’s the dust that matters.” We wanted to drink them all. Well, at least I wanted to; and that doesn’t make me a bad person. Or does it? The wine were accompanied by books and old tin cans, each with their own stories. A part of me wanted to stay here for a very long time. Old black & white photographs were mixed with sepia-toned ones, none of them aligned with each other, eschewing the American sense for intense intentional order, and on the contrary satisfying the European sense of ordering for disorder. Disarray was quite ok, preferred actually. The music was incredibly pleasant with its warm notes only adding to the ambience and colour. This was the place where everyone who didn’t know your name knew your name. The croque madam was exactly what the doctor ordered, though on several strong glances around the room, not a one could be found.
We ordered the best apple pie in the history of apple pies. Grandmothers all over the States would have been jealous. Not too sweet. Not too tart. A perfect combination of savory and sweet emulating the balance Europeans seem to enjoy in life, or at the very least, the Danes. We could learn a lot from a piece of Danish apple pie. I wanted another, and while I vocalized my desire, was walked off the ledge and because of it, will never forget this particular apple pie. It didn’t take too long for us to finish our bottle of wine before ordering two more glasses.
I gave Shelley my phone to give me her thoughts on this post, when she told me about that one time we were at DaveRisner’s (and by the way, when she mentioned it, I remembered it immediately, cos I remember most every moment I’ve had with the World’s Most Interesting Man) — “remember that time when he was playing the guitar on the staircase and all of a sudden stops mid-chord to share a thought ‘well, there was that ONE time in New Orleans where I had to steal a bus… but hey, people needed to get somewhere.’ — DaveRisner always made good points, even when thievery was involved. But I digress. (I asked him later about this, and he told me he wasn’t stealing the bus, but rather saving the bus-riders from a gang of hooligans.)
The crowd was an eclectic mix of old and young, all of them laughing and smiling, deeply immersed in conversations. Everyone was so interesting, and also so interested. They reminded me of my old roommate and current friend, the iconic DaveRisner (as my buddy Joe O’Leary affectionately describes him as both the most interesting and interested man in the world— DaveyO’, meet your doppelgängers. They may not look like you, but they actually do). Only one other person even had a cell phone out. (Sadly, I was the other one. Hey— pictures needed to be taken; don’t mind my flash. And blogs needed to be written.) We conversed with two beautiful women sitting next to us, and by next to us, I mean that we were sitting closer to them than to each other. They politely gave us advice on the things to do and places to be, many of which we’d already been or would soon be.
An effortless grace emanated from every single person in the room; they were beautiful in every single way. Our Airbnb host told us that no matter where one goes, you would notice that no one is better than anyone else. I thought of a quote I once saw (on Facebook unfortunately): “I am in competition with no one. I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone. I am simply trying to be better than the person I was yesterday.” We felt it here, more than I’ve ever felt it anywhere.
Shelley just told me a concept that Gladwell wrote in one of his books about how writers write. There are those writers that have an idea and at that very singular moment need to grab it immediately (and I might add passionately) for if they don’t, the idea is gone (like whispers in the wind to lands far away not to be heard from again unless we happen to stumble onto those lands). I quipped— “like a dream”. Then there are those writers that spend years on their ideas, each day an exercise in ruminating on them turning them this way and that over and over and over again until their life’s thoughts finally put ink to paper. I sometimes wonder what kind of writer I may be. At the moment, I am most decidedly the former and that could be because I am sitting inside this most delightful of places with my friend.
More than three hours later, the sun had already set; and the darkness from the outside started to creep into the restaurants as candles were lit and lights opened a warm glow. I know I’ll leave soon enough, but I’ve a strong feeling a part of us will always be here. Hygge is a real thing among the Danes, especially here in Copenhagen, and especially in Beau Marché. Billy Joel would have been proud of this place, if only he could fit a piano. Beau Marché— I’m sad to go away.
Originally written 24 November 2017 in Copenhagen
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