Saturday was our second full day in Korea and we got started late. This is the issue with jetlag. You can try to get on the local time but that third day is always a killer. I don’t think that we left the apartment until 10:30 or 11:00 and we knew we wanted to squeeze in both the Changdeokgung Palace and Gwangjang Market.
The subway system in Seoul is really easy to navigate and Dan had downloaded an offline system app for subway routes and timing that turned out to be totally incredible. Not only did it tell you the route when you put in your departure and arrival stations with timings for upcoming trains but it also told you which car and door to be at in order to be right at the transfer stairs when switching lines. I really don’t understand why nobody has figured out how to create a fully comprehensive app for the NYC metro like this but if you are visiting South Korea this app is invaluable (also works in Busan).
Because we were staying in Mapo-gu we used the metro a lot. And we figured an hour to get to most locales. When we got to the Palace we purchased tickets for both the English tour of the Palace (not worth it, we should have done it on our own) and for the Secret Garden tour. The Palace is beautiful and has been restored so that the painting is absolutely gorgeous but the real highlight of visiting Changdeokgung is the Secret Garden. Right in central Seoul it is a sanctuary. The tour takes an hour and a half and it is worth every minute. It is also quite hilly – great for people watching since many of the Korean women on the tour were not wearing appropriate shoes for walking. Our tour guide spoke excellent English (which is actually rare – a lot of Koreans have good English language comprehension but terrible speaking skills – accent and intonation mostly). She was also exceedingly tall and looked like she was out of another time – like a fairy tale – dressed in the traditional dress (한복). She reminded me of my aunt louise. She had a commanding way about her and a fiery personality.
I forgot to mention that after we purchased our tour tickets I told Dan that I would not be able to do the tours if we didn’t eat lunch first. One of my biggest issues with jet lag is that I get really hungry all of a sudden and before I know it I am hangry and a total raging bitch. I had found this app that was suppose to be the Yelp of Korea called Mango Plate. It is NOT the Yelp of Korea. In fact, its developers could really learn something from Yelp. Koreans, for all of the time they spend with their heads in their mobile phones, are not yet hip to the rating of restaurants. Mango Plate ended up have very limited value to us and it really ONLY works in Seoul. But, on this particular day we were able to find a nearby dumpling house that I would highly recommend if you should find yourself at Changdeokgung Palace and totally starving: Cheonjin Poja – 천진포자. Make sure to get the grilled pancake dumpling. That was the best.
After the palace tour we tried to walk around the old Bukchon Hanok village but got stuck in a torrential downpour. We took shelter at a cute coffee shop and discovered the korean version of Affogato (we will come back around to this again)… fantastic.
In the evening we went to Gwangjang Market. This is a must if you are in Seoul. Go at dinner time. I only wished that I could have brought home a sampling of all the homemade varieties of kimchi that were for sale in the market. We sat at a counter for dinner and had sashimi – including a new experience for us… Sea Squirt. The best part of eating raw fish in Korea is that they tend to serve it with a dipping dish that includes chili paste, sesame oil, garlic and jalepeno. Delicious.
We packed up our bags at Kyoko’s place and left everything home while we walked a few blocks down to Ritsurinkoen. This was one of Japan’s great gardens and we had heard that it was worth the trip. We did the 60 minute walking tour through the south end of the garden then hit the shop for another gelato treat. By 11:00 am it was already oppressive heat and humidity. We left through the north gate which ended up being the highlight… Their huge pond of Lotus (taller than me!) were in bloom and totally gorgeous.
We picked up our packs and headed to the bus stop. Kyoko’s apartment was a great place to crash for this first part of our trip and we will miss Takamatsu.
We caught the 12:40 train to Okayama and decided we would again treat the city as our lunch spot. Thanks to a blog post about food in the city we hit up a ramen shop that specialized in local ingredients (even their own Hishio -unfiltered soy sauce boiled with olives). We both had the Tonosho ramen and for the benefit of my New York friends… Ippudo needs to step aside. This thin broth was light, with a distinctive flavor (thanks to the local sardines they use), the pork was absolutely delicious… It just melted in your mouth. And they shave thin strips of Yuzu into the soup which is a stunning refreshing moment in the salty broth. I would not hesitate to go back. The best part? Dan was still hungry so he ordered the Kaemeshi bowl which was a generous bowl of rice with pulled pork, seaweed and scallions for only 100¥ ($1.00)… To pour the end of his broth in!!!
Off on the tram after lunch for another famous garden… Okayama’s own Korakuen. We had left our packs in coin lockers at the station so we could get around easily. Our garden walk was spectacular because it started to rain and their vast green fields, forests and terraces were beautiful in the rain. This rain, by the way, did not have any effect on the weather except to make it even hotter and more humid when the sun returned! Ritsurinkoen was lovely but Korakuen was truly worth the detour. They have a pen of cranes on the premises as well.. incredibly elegant birds.
We took the bus back to Okayama station, got our reservations for Sunday’s Shinkansen trip worked out and boarded the train for Hiroshima. We were due to meet up with Tanaka-san for his apartment that evening and still needed to eat. Tanaka-san’s flat is his grandmother’s place and it is a traditional Japanese apartment: tatami rooms with separate and partially outdoor shower and toilet. Such a cute place and in a neighborhood off the beaten path. We cleaned up and headed out to a sushi place he recommended just down the street… Much to our surprise and entertainment it was a conveyor belt sushi palace (we have heard about these but had never been). The place was enormous and we had counter seats. I was really impressed with Dan because he seemed to have the entire system worked out for keeping track of what we picked off the belt… That is, until they said last call. I then asked the waiter to calculate our bill (which Dan had been painstakingly writing up as the food went flying by) until Dan realized that the waiter thought we meant we wanted all 12 of those dishes and had specially asked the sushi chef to sneak in our “order”! BTW we were already full so if he had not caught that we would have been stuck with dinner number 2!!! I wish I had the entire episode on video, it was hilarious and our neighbors at the counter got a real show…. We were the only non-Japanese in the place and clearly didn’t know what we were doing. I did get a few videos on Vine if you want to follow us.
Photos: Lotus at Korakuen, Tonosho ramen at Shodoshima Hishio, sushi conveyor belt at Onmaku
Breakfast at home
Leave Kyoko’s apartment
Train to Okayama, coin lockers for bags
Tram and walk to Korakuen, thunderstorm
Bus to Okayama Eki, shinkansen reservations for Sunday 8/11
Train to Hiroshima
Streetcar to Tanaka-san’s apartment
Sushi restaurant with conveyor belt
Pictures: what’s in bloom, Ritsurin-koen; Elaine with lotus, Ritsurin-koen; view from Yuishinzan Hill, Korakuen; paths and streams at Korakuen
Went to barbershop this a.m. & they had installed a large rectangular flat screen TV on the back wall. They cut my hair nicely and everything but they forgot a few of the little things they usually do & I’m wondering if it’s from the TV distraction.
I was there early (the first and only customer I saw), about 7:50, and I’ve been going there since probably 2000 (3 Aces, 9th ave between 46/47th St, east side of ave.). I like the old time feel, the barbers jawing at each other in some language I still haven’t figured out, the hot shaving cream with straightedge razor on the neck.
They turned the TV on about halfway through my haircut, and then they didn’t shave the little spot right above my ears, forgot to blow out the little pieces of hair with a dryer, didn’t wipe off the shaving cream remnants with an alcohol-moistened paper towel.
Saturday was a nice day of work and we framed & got the fiberglass roof on the smaller third of the greenhouse. We also got the front of the structure painted. I jammed with Uncle Bob later at night — he on the classical guitar. We did some She’ll be comin’ round the mountain, John Denver and some 1-4-5 chord progressions.
After the second day fixing the greenhouse we were able to frame out another third of the roof beams — I spent the morning in bed sleeping off a head cold and achy bones but joined the crew in the afternoon for lunch (veg lasagna, sausage, garden salad). Elaine & Anthony replaced a planter inside the greenhouse.
It’s been great to have everyone around – the Pauls came up, Kathy’s been floating around and Nolan arrived for the day. Nice being able to work hard then relax with everyone around lunch and dinner, right up there in the garden.
Hit the Monet show at Wildenstein that everyone’s been talking about (now closed as of today). Nice & everything, but he’s never been one of my favorites. I think one of my main complaints is that when he’s rendering some object or person, they don’t appear to have any weight, they seem ungrounded — objects float in a strange way that to me doesn’t feel intentional or cutting-edge. Some of the earlier landscapes and still lifes (still-lives?) struck me as really fantastic as well as the later (but not the latest), more abstract works. For me he’s approaching the abstract greatness of late Turner. Also interesting was the fact the 90% of the works on display are in private hands. I suppose the relative infrequency of these works’ public exhibition was the draw here. Nice English.
Up to Guilford for the weekend to slave in the MIL’s garden and yard — should be great to get out in the green and work hard. I understand the chicken coop has been extended to give them more room to run. More news at 11.
Our Thai friend Nadia is leaving us right now on a jet plane back to Thailand. Felt very fortunate to have spent some time with her while she was here.
new board in our co-op, we achieved quorum (simple majority of shares present) for the first time in history last night. Laundry and storage and new mailboxes on the way.
M&D invited us to join them at the July 1 Red Sox game in Fenway Park. Dad got seats on top of the Green Monster for 20 years at his company, PPC. should be great!!
Our pals Robyn and Mahin have kickstarted a bridge (yes, the card game) club for the 4 of us — hopefully we can learn the game & make it a habit. Elaine & I have been dying for regular card partners for a long time now. Maybe Deb-o will join us!! First session next Sunday in the park.