It's nearly a fortnight since I was on my way to meet my mum and Julie in Seoul. I can't believe how fast time flies when you're busy, busy, busy. The weather was perfect for their trip and we managed to pack lots of things in. Here are some of the highlights from our weekend...
Stay: I was recommended Insadong by some of the ladies from the Seoul roller derby team and I am so happy that I listened to their advice. Although the hotel itself wasn't great, I really liked the area. It had the right amount of neon covered streets with blaring music to make it easy to find a BBQ or bar, blended with Anguk just five minutes walk away where there were lots of good touristy shops and street food stalls. It also only took about 10 minutes to get to Gyeongbokgung palace. While walking back to our hotel at night we would walk through the 'locals' area where we were admired by a drunk, middle aged Korean who declared his love with a green chilli hanging out of his mouth!
Treat: Saturday morning we got up and out and headed to Itaewon to visit the bakery, Passion 5. A couple of people had recommended it to me, and when I got there I could see why. It was a 5 storey building packed with all the cakey goodness you could ever imagine. There was so much to choose from that we decided to get lots of little bits and share them all. Once you've picked what you want, you can go up to the cafe on the second floor and order drinks, they put our choices on a plate and served it with cutlery. It was very polished and modern and bright in the bakery, I felt like I was in a posh restaurant rather than a bakery. There were lots of ladies having meetings and families eating brunch. We were there until early afternoon enjoying our treats and the drinks. My favourite had to be the olive bread we had, followed by the small nut tarts, amazing. I'm quite happy this isn't closer to me or else I may bankrupt myself there. It is definitely worth the visit.
Explore: We spent the afternoon in Anguk. I loved the higgledy piggledy lanes that had little boutiques, vintage shops, coffee shops and street entertainers. There is also the Bukchon hanok village which has hidden gems around every corner. There are mini museums set up inside the traditional houses so you can see what it's like inside and learn what would have gone on behind those shuttered windows and doors. We didn't do it, but I would love to try the soju tasting they run in one of the hanks. It's the perfect place to spend the evening on one of the rooftop cafes, looking out to the calm mountains that surround the area, with Seoul's craziness behind you.
Learn: On a sunny afternoon we went to the War Memorial of Korea and the Museum. It was really interesting to learn about the Korean war, I was really surprised to find out that the North Koreans managed to get all the way down to Busan before the South regained control. There is also an impressive array of battle ships, planes and weaponry outside of the museum that you can walk around and peer into.
See: Go to Seoul tower and look down on the massive city below. We did well to resist the Cold Stone Ice Cream shop at the top. The last time I went it was so hot up there that I couldn't eat the ice cream quick enough. I've never actually been to the top of the tower, only around the base, but the views are great from there.
Eat: My favourite food that I always try and squeeze in whenever I'm in Seoul is the Kumpir Potato shop in Hongdae. I know it's not traditionally Korean, but that's what I like to do when I'm in Seoul, to treat myself to good Western food! I love this place and have exactly the same filling every time, steak and gorgonzola cheese with olives, sweetcorn and jalapeños, it's delicious! I lie that it's quite small and really relaxed inside, and that part of the uniform for the staff is that they wear flat caps. My mum and Julie also loved it there, even though they'd hardly been away from home for just a few days.