Monthly Archives: July 2012

Time for the Annual Summer Sunburn

You know sometimes a girl just needs a good sunburn. (Said no one ever.)  I think sunburns are half the reason I’m just not a beach person. Being super pale, it is always my fate… regardless of how often I apply sunscreen or how high the SPF number, the sunburn wins. The other half being that I don’t really enjoy getting sandy or sand getting in my stuff. (I also just gave myself the ‘lamest person ever’ award.) But, every once in a while the beach surprises me, and this past weekend it did.

The Inlet

Perhaps it was our hosts or the company, but Oak Island beach did the trick. The fabulous Tom + Fran Martin (my pal Kelley’s parents) treated some of my ATL girlfriends to the most fabulous weekend in the St. James / Oak Island / Southport / Bald Head Island Metroplex. (I use the term metroplex loosely…) I’ll start with the beach.  Less crowded than Wrightsville Beach with more personality that Ocean Isle, Oak Island is the ideal mix of activity, relaxing and people watching.

Bullfrog Corner

On Day 2, I was clearly too sunburned to return to the beach for a second straight day so some of us gals headed to town. I knew I was going to love it when the shop names were ‘Candy Town’ and ‘Candy Store + Animal Menagerie’. SOLD!

I dream about places like this.

I made it back without doing too much damage… just a couple of adorable, antique, teal cocktail glasses that screamed ‘buy me’. We then began preparing for Tom’s birthday boat ride. I’ve ridden on plenty of boats in my time, but never a boat quite like this. Because I’m terrible at boating terms and this is the fanciest one I’ve ever been on, I will call this a mini-yacht. We put on our best yachting dresses and headed to the marina.

Thanks, Captain Dave + First Mate Chari!

The boat ride from St. James to Bald Head Island takes roughly an hour. You pass by everything from lush marshes to downtown Southport to beautiful waterfront homes. Just about the time I started to think I belong on a yacht, a wave came on board drenching me back down to earth. We ate at Mojo’s on the Harbor where I had my new signature summer cocktail: Sgroppino – Lemon Italian Ice, Prosecco and vodka – three of my favorite things. After dinner we spent a few minutes on Bald Head before heading back. No cars are allowed on the island, but there were golf carts EVERYWHERE.

Bald Head Island

We wrapped Tom’s birthday with delicious, homemade cannoli cake. The next morning we packed up to head back to Atlanta. After a teary good-bye from Fran and Tom, we were on the road. Thank you Tom + Fran for the most wonderful weekend. Danimal and I are available adoption if you are looking for two more kids… whatever it takes to spend more time with you two in St. James!

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Seoul Food

What better way to say farewell to Seoul than with a post about food. (One of my favorite guilty pleasures of travel…) Now, I’m prepared for the backlash, but I don’t love kimchee. While there are over 200 kinds and I certainly didn’t try them all, I did not find one I needed to have again. I’ll eat it, but it was too bitter for my liking. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I did eat quite a bit of other delicious food.

Just some Bibimbap

Bibimbap

This is a signature dish that is a mix of meat and vegetables over rice topped off with the obligatory egg. The egg is one of my favorite additions not just to Bibimbap and Korean food, but to many Asian dishes.

Some Banchan, pre-meat

Gogigui

As with most Korean meals, you server delivers a variety of tiny bites (banchan) before the main food arrives. Since this was BBQ, the tiny bites were brought out with our personal grill. The server then returns and grills the food for you as you wait. We had steak and pork belly. The pork belly was my person favorite.

I need one a day. At least.

Pat Bing Soo

I loved this traditional dessert because it combined several of my favorite things… shaved ice, honey, red beans, and fruit. You mix it all together to get a cross between an icee and a shake.

The broth is ready to add goodies… 

Shabu-Shabu

This is actually Japanese version of the Chinese hot pot, but you can find ‘hot pot’ type meals across Asia. Shabu-Shabu is similar to Gogigui in the sense that you cook the meat the table. But instead of a grill, it is boiled in a pot. This pot is divided in half and you can pick two different broths. We picked  milder one for seafood and a spicier one for the beef. The vegetables are added first, followed by the meat and finally the pasta. You don’t have to wait for everything to be added before you begin eating either, as it is done… fill your bowl and begin.

Seoul, this is a weight gain I can live with… thanks for the eats!

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Another Palace, A Buddha, Some Beer, More Tunes and Street Eats (aka… A Day in Seoul)

Saturday was a Seoul marathon, which is only 1/10th of the reason I had to give this the longest  blog title ever. But, the way my new co-worker George and I tore this city up…. there is really no better way to describe it. We met (for the first time) at Sindorim Station, hopped on the subway and headed towards Insadong. Upon exiting the train we searched for a spot to grab lunch. This adventure was definitely going to require some fuel.

I wish I could tell you the name of this restaurant…

Outside of the major thoroughfares, Seoul is really a city of alleys. We took a couple of turns and wound up at this hidden treasure where we were able to EAT ON THE FLOOR.  (How fabulously Korean…) The food was average, but the experience was authentic. Danimal, I am NOT suggesting that we move here. You can exhale.

Just doing some palace hopping

From there we headed over to Changdeokgung Palace. I immediately began comparing palaces to decide which one I preferred, Gyeongbuk or Changdeokgung. (First world problems…) After a limited amount of time it was clear that CP was the winner.  The fact that this palace had forbidden gardens is what put it over the top for me. (It just doesn’t get too much more royal than secret gardens.) It began as the secondary palace, but when Gyeongbuk burned, this place took center stage. It was the home for up to 2,000 people, including 500 members of the royal family.

One of Three

We leave the garden and head for the chief Buddhist temple in Seoul, Jogyesa. It is GORGEOUS. After the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas in Hong Kong, I was prepared to not be impressed. But this temple had intricate and brightly colored lanterns covering the ceiling that set the stage for the three large statues in the background. Absolutely breathtaking.

Such a big girl drinking beer

We were parched, but thankfully George knew of a craft brewery, Craftworks, over in Itaewon. Y’all know I’m not  a beer girl, but this place had great beer. I had two hefeweizens, which is also basically two whole beers more than I have ever had in one sitting. George deserves a medal for that accomplishment alone, not to mention the fact that he showed me around all day. [Enter other new, awesome co-worker, Randy]

Table Grill. Check!

We were now in need of sustenance and KOREAN BBQ. Finally. I had been waiting for this cultural experience, and the mere mention of BBQ is more than enough to intrigue this Texas girl. While there wasn’t brisket or BBQ sauce, this stuff was good. And, they grill it for you right at the table. (More on this during the next post on ‘Seoul Food’.)

Rock Band (not the video game)

The night was not over yet, let the entertainment portion of the evening begin. We headed to Woodstock, a Korean bar with a reputation for good music and company, in Shinchon to hear Blue Biscuit Blues. Now this was a rock band… there was no way we were leaving before they were finished. It was no Jazz Story in terms of atmosphere, but these musicians were the real deal.

Grainy, 2am photo @ the Cupcake Cart

All of a sudden it was 2:00am, I was hungry and needing to go ‘home’. Thankfully there were cupcakes and Egyptian sandwiches right in front of the cabs. In Scrabble, that is what I call a triple word score. Oh Seoul… thank you for  a fab–u-lous day.

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The World’s Best Bar

After searching for years (a decade of which was legal) I have found it, the best bar in the world. You’re welcome.  Jazz Story is located in the intimate but energetic Daehakro District of Seoul. Founded in 1991, it moved to its current home in 2008, and the eclectic bar/lounge/jazz club grabs you from the moment you walk through the door.

God, I love this place…

The walls are lined with rebar shelves filled with old records (originals from the owners collection). The seating is a mix of old airplane seats and bucket chairs that surround everything from bathtubs covered in glass to traditional table tops. If a hipster coffee shop married a construction demo site, this place would be their first-born.

Quite the collection

The lounge atmosphere is relaxed and cozy and the lay-out prevents it from becoming so crowded that you can’t enjoy it. But the soul of the bar is without question, the house band. They are quite simply delightful. Seoul-ful voices that capture the emotion of the songs they perform. The harmonies are well blended and the musicians complement the vocal stylings perfectly. 

The No-name band

While the bar is called Jazz Story, I wouldn’t categorize them as simply a jazz band. I heard everything from Joan Jett to Stevie Wonder to Otis Redding.  (And the lead female singers are these adorable Korean women with soccer mom haircuts and Talbots outfits. Precious.) I even bought a CD, which made it feel like 2003, I mean I can’t remember the last time I purchased an album anywhere but iTunes.

Daehakro District

 Make your way to Daehkro, and grab some gogigui or shabu-shabu  before heading over… the band goes on at 8:30. A trip to Seoul without a visit to Jazz Story is, quite simply, incomplete. 

“It’s always half-past eight at Jazz Story, and that’s exactly the way you want it to be: You have the whole blessed evening ahead to enjoy the music, the conversation, and the eclectic decor.”

Korean Times Weekender

 

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Time to Get Royal

Another day, another palace… or as I like to call it, a Thursday. Today my new friend Vicky showed me around town which included a stop at Gyeongbukgung Palace.

Internal Entry Hall leading to the main throne hall… Geunjeongmun

The Joseon Dynasty built the palace (aka ‘Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven’) shortly after their dynasty was founded in 1395.  Gyeongbukgung stood in the heart of the city and still does today. It served as the main palace for over 500 years  with a complex history that includes being burned to the ground during the Japanese invasion in the late 1500s.

The palace grounds have over 30 buildings

For 270+ years after it burned the grounds remained uncared for. And let me tell you, these ARE grounds… expansive, rolling, regimented, etc. The Japanese also apparently have a major beef with this palace because they demolished it again in 1911 during the occupation. Restoring it to its former glory remains an ongoing process to this day.

Tea Time

For me the jewel of the grounds was Hyangwonjeong, this delightful little pavillion in the middle of a pond. If this was my palace, I would invite you for tea and cocktails here. However, the pavilions history isn’t all roses… it is located in the rear garden of the concubine’s quarters and adjacent to the site where Queen Myeongseong was assasinated in 1895. Yikes.

Old + New

It is remarkable to see the traditional architecture of this palace juxtaposed to the bustling and modern Seoul just beyond its gates. You almost forget you are in a City when you look North with the mountains ahead of you.

Perfectly Royal

One other thing that I just loved… all the painted ceilings. I’m obsessed, but Danimal, I SWEAR I won’t suggest we do this at our house . I want us to stay married.

 

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Seoul Far…

After a crazy long flight in cattle class (six movies – I recommend the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for you travelers…), I arrived Monday night (Seoul time) and headed straight for the hotel. This may just be my favorite hotel that I have stayed at in some time. Well done, SPG… and y’all know how I love me some SPG hotels.  The main lobby is on the 41st floor of the building lending itself to some rather incredible views. (I’m residing on floor 39.)

Room with a view!

The only thing I needed upon arrival more than a shower was food. I quickly cleaned up and headed for the restaurant at the hotel since it was already pretty late. DE.LI.CIOUS. I hesitate to use the word buffet because it doesn’t seem swank enough, but this experience has elevated any expectation I have of a buffet going forward. There were stations located throughout the dining room. I went to the sushi station three times.

Oh, macaroons!!!!!!!!!!!!

The real crown jewel, the gelato bar and the dessert station… check out these macaroons!!! They were just part of the station like it was no big deal.(It also made me crave Laduree.)

Goji Balls!

My favorite discovery of the evening was goji balls. I’m so glad that I discovered these on the first day of the trip. I will be having them every time they are available for the duration.

Lobby ceiling

And yes, I realize all I have written about is the hotel. Truth of the matter is that I have only experienced the hotel and our confidential work location (note: not North Korea). The work hours have been crazy and we get started at 5am each morning. I’m telling you it isn’t for the faint of heart. The good news- this changes today. We are going ‘excursioning’… HOORAY!

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I’m Seoul Excited

Oh, blog… I know I’ve been neglectful. I’ve been buried in work, and honestly, all of my super fun trips are ahead of us. I was seeking inspiration when out of nowhere Jacobs delivered. Big time. I’m leaving for Korea on Sunday! (I’m pretty sure Kim Jong Un and I are going to be fast friends.) This is a work trip and I don’t know that I’m going to have much, if any, free time. Fortunately Time TRAVEL made a list of the Top Ten things to do in Seoul.

Asia… Mommy is coming!

Gyeongbok Palace: Palace!!!  Clearly on the list

Bukchon Village: A beautifully restored wooden village!!!!  Oh.my.word. This is on the list for sure.

Shinsegae Department Store:  Expensive, organic fruit? I can get that in Atlanta. I still may have to see what all the hype is about.

Bugak San: A hiking excursion… this sounds gorgeous. Should probably add zip-off pants to the packing list.

Itaewon: They say every foreigner comes here which means it is automatically disqualified. It did mention brunch though which I do love.

Namdaemun Market: Rumor is that it is open virtually around-the-clock with inexpensive clothing, housewares, etc. JACKPOT! And it seems that it could work with my schedule, even if I’m working eleventy billion hours.

Cheonggyecheon Stream: This 3.6 mile walk is described as a spa. I’m sold. It even has waterfalls.

War Memorial of Korea: People LOVE invading this place. This memorial is apparently more like a museum and chronicles it all. This probably isn’t top of my list though. (Sorry dad…)

Seoul Bus Tour: I’m sure it is lovely, but y’all know bus tours aren’t really my thing.

Korean Feasts: This one had me at feast and they say some are only $15. This WILL be happening.

Megan is on her way?!?! I’ll give that a golf clap.

I will report back as much as I can over the next week. Between now and then I will be practicing new Korean words. I currently only know Hyundai.

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