An Early Departure, a Wet Birthday in Seoul and an Alfie Photoshoot


I left work early catching the Friday market before having a birthday dinner at Bella Luna with Michelle, an early start from Terminal meant I was in bed at a sensible hour. Rising early for the 6:35 bus I celebrated the start of my 54th year as the heavens opened in Gangnam, Seoul. I still managed to capture a few characters whilst taking in some history, great food and harvesting a new iPhone 5S to enhanced my iphoneography.

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On arrival I headed to Urban Hive for breakfast. Urban Hive, the winner of the grand Seoul Architecture Award 2009, draws your attention with a punctuated design reminiscent of an Apple Desktop Pro. With 105cm-diameter holes on the white concrete walls, the building is proported to resemble a bee hive. The cafe in its bowels is tres francais with fresh baked bread and pastries, Pain aux Noix, Pain Beignets, Pain Baguette a l’Ail, Pain Bâtard, Pain Bis, various Tartines and Croissants etc. The coffees pretty quaffable as well. Urban Hive sits above exit 3, Line 9 Sinnonhyeon Station.

I headed down towards Nonhyeon Station to take line 7 to Cheongdam, there was a park I wanted to visit. As I emerged from the station the heavens opened with no respite so I retired to a wi-fi enable Paris Baguette to listen to James Richardsons weekly soccer podcast. Later the rain subsided and I headed downhill towards Coex which is being re-modelled but still accessible, warm and dry! Frank Oh Bok Young was meeting me for lunch but was misguided enough to take the bus from Cheonan intending to meet me at 12:30 NOT QED Frankie boy! I pottered around the Hyundai Luxury Department store, a leather jacket caught my eye at 1.5 million Won, I think not!!!!! I took the opportunity to expand my portfolio of snaps but irritatingly Oggl kept crashing, the iPhone 4S is not up to the task anymore.

Frank emerged an hour plus late and we headed back into Hyundai for lunch of a sort of Japanese Kimbap and salad with some noodle dish, it was tasty but too expensive. From here we checked in at the Ibis before heading to Gangnam to ponder the iPhone purchase. That evening there was a rounded discussion on where to eat as the SkyLounge was prohibitively expensive.  We settle on La Scala, Milan NO La Scala, Seoul is a FRENCH restaurant in Gangnam. Serenedade by a tri-tet of classical musicians we ordered soup, salad and steak.  We wanted French Onion soup but we were informed that the steak came with Cream of Mushroom soup, if we wanted French Onion we could have it but not replacing the Mushroom, we would have to pay extra. Doesn’t Koreas inflexibility impress you? Anyway we ordered the additional soup and a Chilean house wine. We waited……a while and asked if we could have our wine.  Koreans don’t serve until the food arrives but of course we are not Korean and wanted our tipple.  It arrived, some was spilled, no one was asked to taste and some 15 minutes later the French Onion mush was delivered. Of course it tasted fine but had been pureed like baby food. I have to sway my steak was top class as was the round of rapturous applause the 8 diners gave a couple celebrating their first wedding anniversary. La Scala 2/5 for service but 4/5 for food.

From here we spent a fruitless hour looking for a bar I discovered online, when we found it the name had changed and it was unfortunately offline! Walking back towards the hotel we stopped for some more beers but Frank Oh Bok Young was suffering sleep deprivation so the night was not a long one.

Sunday morning saw a visit to the Royal Tombs. The Seonjeongneung Royal Tomb is located in the heart of Seoul in the Gangnam area. Seonjeongneung is made up of 2 tomb sites, the Seolleung Royal Tombs (housing the 11th Joseon King and his Mrs) and the Jeongneung Royal Tomb (housing the sons remains). In June, 2009 all the royal tombs in Korea were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Its a lovely green space sat in the middle of some of Seoul’s most expensive real estate. The undulating hills and intact pine forest make it a restful place to visit. My advice don’t go in winter unless you are well insulated and grab a coffee before entering the park as its fenced off all round and there are no refreshments. It takes around a hour to stroll round but access to the top of the tombs is limited to a side view unless you ignore the signs!

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From here we headed off to pick up an iPhone in Cheongdam. We alighted at Apgujeong Rodeo and the Galleria high-end department store. rom here the main road bends round following the profile of the Han River. This avenue is the true “Rodeo Drive/Champs Elyses”  of Korea and is lined with designer brands. We found an SK branch and I settle on the white phone as it makes the pics stand out better when editing. We did endure a hiccup as the guy tried to transfer my 5000 pis from iPhone 4S and technical difficulties ensued. Frank Oh Bok Young was in need of food and the tension became increasingly fraught.  In the end I decided to forgo the back up as my pics should have been nestling in the cloud anyway. After Pho we headed back to the bus station going our separate ways.

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On Tuesday it was time to catch up with my feline friends Angel Disley and Alfie. He is maturing but slowly; soon it will be time to de-bob or de-flower him depending upon your chosen terminology. I don’t like spay or neuter it sounds too kind! They were both on good form and I bagged a few shots of the adorable little monster which you can enjoy below.

I’m having a home film fest and curry from my new crock-pot this weekend so no new post I’m afraid. One concern is I keep having headaches so an eye test is on the agenda and maybe new specs, good job Im in SK as they’re much cheaper. I’m loving the zero-crashing 5S and the prospect of a winter vacation in Burma. The flat is sold, everything and everyone paid off (despite Santander) so its Burma in January and back home for a family holiday in the summer. I’ve suggested Istanbul but I’d be happy to go anywhere with them. Onwards and upwards.  WKC is just a distant nightmare now………

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