The great migration to Europe was upon us once more. Christmas presents were wrapped,fridges and freezers were emptied, back packs filled and it was off we go for a few weeks, just as the sun was starting to keek out from behind the clouds over Sydney.
We would not be getting 3 flights in the one go, including the gruesome 15 hour commute to <insert Middle Eastern Airport name here>. Not this time. This time we would be going via another route, and visiting an old friend along the way.
Karen had done a lot of research and managed to find really great flights to London via Seoul (South Korea). Little did Erica (Karen’s Best Friend living in Korea) know that we would be popping in for a secret visit and thanks to a stellar effort at conspiracy from her husband Danny it would remain a secret right up to the point where we surprised her in a bar on a tiny Hannam street. (After getting a local bus).
It had been almost three years since we had all met up so that first night was spent on a much needed catch up.
Saturday Night – Seoul agus Craic
During the day on the Saturday Karen and I went to see the Demilitarised Zone between South and North Korea. More on this trip here.
Our night started with some pre-dinner drinks and camera timer shenanigans and Danny and Erica’s…
…before were treated to some local cuisine in Hannam – BBQ pork cooked at an angle. The idea is that all the fat drains off but not before some of it is soaked up by copious amounts of diced veg, accompanied of course by the obligatory Kim Chi!
Note: You know it’s a good meal when they make you wrap your coats in polyethylene bags!!
It was very tasty!!
After struggling to stand up after that feast we wandered over to a nearby district and spent the night in the Hidden Cellar Bar – by day it masquerades as a simple Liquor store in the basement of an unassuming tower block of flats. But by night it turns into a cracking live music venue. This was to be one of those nights as a regular singer from Glasgow was doing one last gig…
And with it being the week before Christmas…
The morning started with prayer as we attended mass with Danny and Erica at their local catholic church. Karen was asked to say a few words to the congregation as she was a newcomer to the church whilst John was chatting to his neighbor on the pew who was originally a Waterford exile before doing some missionary work in Ballincollig.
After a late lunch in a local restaurant Karen and I then went exploring Hannam Road. Situated right across the Han River from the Gangnam District and home to a major US Base – Camp Kim, Hannam is a fusion of Korean Pop-Culture and Western advances. There is certainly a lot going on.On our jaunt down Hannam Road we came across the Hamilton Hotel – a hotel and shopping mall complex that was an indoors version of Portobello Road Market (‘anything and everything a cart can unload…’) as well as a plethora of statues and street art…
We also popped into the Flagship Store of Line Friends, a shop dedicated to a bunch of emoji characters and around the corner from here we bumped into the YOLO Monkey who, depending on his mood, will either ignore you or love you!!
The main event that night was a trip to the Seoul Arts Center to see The Nutcracker Prince – well it is Christmas after all. This amazing interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s vision was presented jointly by the Korea Symphony Orchestra and the Korean National Ballet and whilst it was our first time seeing the full production we had been exposed to many of the suites and excerpts throughout our lives. For example, the computer games Tetris and Lemmings both feature music from the ballet, as did Disney’s Fantasia!
Last but certainly not least we had a ‘close encounter’ with Hannam’s newest resident. A new Bowling Club had opened up so some poor unfortunate soul had the honour of parading up and down the main street generating interest for it. That still did not stop us from rushing him/her for high fives and hugs!!
We had such a great trip visiting Erica and Danny and it was a really good start to our overall Christmas Vacation!