So! Much! Pink!

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Earlier this week, my friend Nopa and I visited the Hello Kitty cafe in Hongdae. I’ve never been a huge Hello Kitty fan, but it was still one of those places I wanted to see while in Seoul, and it did not disappoint! We were there on a Tuesday afternoon, and it was pretty crowded – I can’t even imagine the scene there on a weekend. They must be pulling in profits hand over fist.

The cafe is set back from the street, with a welcoming gate leading to a winding set of stairs up to the cafe entrance.

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When you arrive, you give the number in your party to the girl at the front desk, and then she seats you when there is an available table. We were seated fairly quickly on the first floor, given a menu, and told to go to the counter to order. The room was filled with HK memorabilia and pictures, and some of the chairs had the iconic hair bow on them.

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I had to get a latte, because I knew they put the HK face on the top, and then I also tried a slice of Oreo cake that was surprisingly good and not overly sweet. Nopa had a salad that looked delicious and a really cute frozen yogurt (with a keepsake mug).

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After we ate and drank, we indulged in a cheesy photo op holding a giant HK doll:

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Then we explored the second floor and gift shop, a lot more of the same – pink, Hello Kitty everywhere, overwhelming cuteness. Hello Kitty also had a bedroom upstairs, but it was crammed with people so we decided to skip over that room.

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All in all, it’s a fun visit even if you’re not that into Hello Kitty.

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Fabulous Tapas

Yesterday, we went to Alma Restaurante in Hongdae, near Sangsu station. We had the place to ourselves, since it was late afternoon and before the dinner rush. We did notice two of the tables had “Reserved” signs on them, so if you want to go at a more normal time, you might want to make a reservation. The restaurant was small and very nicely decorated with blinds and shades painted with Spanish city names and pictures of Spain.


Everything we ordered was delicious, and we will definitely be returning. We started out with a pitcher of sangria, the perfect refreshing pick-me-up for a hot, muggy day.


There were several items on the menu that we wanted to try, but that they were already out of at 4:30 in the afternoon! I guess we’ll have to go back for an early lunch sometime. The bread was warm and served with an aioli and tomato-garlic-olive oil blend.


Next up: a fabulous bombeta with mashed potatoes and minced beef inside. 


Then we had these little sandwiches of pork, cheese, and a slice of chile pepper. They weren’t on the menu, but I hope they’re offering them the next time we go!


Finally, we had a pork belly dish that was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.


We were planning to order the homemade pineapple ice cream for dessert, but we were too stuffed! I can’t wait to go back and try a few more of their tapas. 

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Play Ball!

Saturday night, we finally made it to a Korean baseball game. The Doosan Bears were playing the Kia Tigers at Jamsil Stadium, and the fabulous 8th Army Band MPT Spartan Brass were providing musical entertainment.

They started out entertaining fans just outside the stadium, putting on a great show despite the stifling heat.

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Our seats were great, on the 1st base side of the field and in the Doosan Bears section. Fans are seated according to which team they support, and both sides have cheerleaders as well as a sort of cheer captain, a man, who leads the crowd in chants and songs when their team is up to bat. Most of the fans have thunder sticks, mostly inflatable ones, and there are air pumps at the stadium with long lines of fans filling up their thunder sticks. There is constant noise and cheering for the entire game.

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Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders

We couldn't resist buying a couple of Doosan Bears hats!

We couldn’t resist buying a couple of Doosan Bears hats. I love that all the purposeful aging of the hats was exactly the same – there was also a fabricated rip on the side in the exact same spot!

Spartan Brass performing the Korean national anthem

Spartan Brass performing the Korean national anthem

I got a kick out of the Hangul spelling of this American player’s name. For those of you who want to try to guess, I’ll put his name below the picture.

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에 반 스 = Evans! I’m usually decent but slow at figuring out Hangul, but this one stumped me and I had to look it up. There are a few American players who all seem to follow the same career path: jump around to several MLB teams, play for a Japanese team, play for a Korean team. There was even a pitcher on the Doosan Bears who had come up through the Red Sox farm system; he apparently threw a complete game no-hitter here on June 30th! (Michael Bowden)

At any rate, the game was a blast, though I’m sure it would be even more fun if we knew all the songs and chants. I’m sure we’ll get back to one soon, preferably when the weather cools off a little.

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Cloudy Day Hike on Inwangsan Mountain

Sunday morning the predicted rain was still holding off, so Domingos and I decided to try a local hike. After doing a little bit of quick research, I chose Inwangsan Mountain as our destination – easy to reach by subway, and not quite as popular as many of the other hikes in and around Seoul. We took the train to Dongnimmun Station, and it was a short walk from there to the start of the trail at Inwangsan Temple.

Gate at the entrance to the temple.

Gate at the entrance to the temple.

We passed several brightly colored murals on walls, some cool buildings, and a shrine (no pictures because there were hikers stopped there praying).

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Soon after, we came to Seobwani Rock, two large rocks that are a popular place of prayer for women trying to get pregnant.

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The day wasn’t terribly hot, but it was quite humid, and we were grateful for any breezes that sprung up. The day was pretty hazy, but it was still cool to see the city laid out before us.IMG_2759 IMG_2765

The climb was pretty steep at times, and there were a lot of stairs to climb along the way. My iPhone tells me that we climbed the equivalent of 107 flights. Most of the path stayed right next to the Seoul Fortress Wall.

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On the way down, there were lots of pretty flowers, as well as a cat taking a nap (we saw one on the way up, too!).
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We ended the hike about fifteen minutes from Gyeongbokgung Palace, so we had lunch at Ginza Bairin, sharing the same dish I got last time and also a pork katsu sandwich that was delicious.
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My calves are feeling it today, but we can’t wait to explore more of the hikes around here!

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June 2016 Book Round-up

15820339Instant Mom, by Nia Vardalos: This memoir is primarily centered around Vardalos’s struggle with infertility and then her eventual adoption of an almost-three-year-old from the foster care system. She does give a brief background of her life and career, but that’s not the focus of the book. Vardalos is very open about her struggles and emotions, but I related so little to what she went through and her approach as a mother (although I am not one, and not planning to ever be one, I think I would be a very different type of mother than she is) that I found it hard to really engage with the book. Continue reading

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Making Your Credit Cards Work for You

Various Credit CardsI have promised to write about how I use credit card rewards for maximum effect. I am not an expert at this and I’m sure I miss out on some opportunities; if you want to wring every last bit of value from your credit card rewards, do a quick web search and you will find many websites dedicated to the process. But before I can talk about rewards, I have to talk about a few other things first.
Continue reading

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Gaultier at Dongdaemun Design Plaza

My friend invited me along to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at Dongdaemun Design Plaza one night last week, and I’m so glad I was able to go! Anyone who knows me knows I’m no fashion maven in any way, but it’s so much fun to look at haute couture, especially the eccentric and outlandish Gaultier creations. Apparently, Seoul is the last stop on the Gaultier exhibit world tour, and the last day to see it is June 30th. So if you live here and want to see it, make plans ASAP! Continue reading

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Seryna Shinjuku Shabu Shabu Meal

Here it is, my final post from Tokyo! For our last night, I had booked us in at a restaurant with great reviews, Seryna Shinjuku, that was a short walk from our hotel. We  found the building that the restaurant was located in and eventually figured out where the elevator was – the restaurant is situated on the 52nd floor of the Sumitomo building. When we arrived, we were greeted and shown to a reserved table right by a window, with fabulous night views of the city. Continue reading

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Dynamic Tokyo Tour Part Three

I think I’m going to end up with seven posts from a 3-day, 4-night trip to Tokyo! I would apologize for my prolific output, but since no one has to read this unless they want to, I won’t.:-)

We were definitely flagging on this last section of the tour, and eager to get back to the hotel and shower before our night at the New York Bar. The day was very hot, and our next stop outside the Imperial Palace grounds offered no shade and stark sunlight for photos. Still, there was a cool double bridge to admire (which doesn’t really show in my photos) and a statue of a samurai on a horse. Continue reading

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Dynamic Tokyo Tour Part Two

After the tea ceremony, we were taken to lunch at a teppanyaki restaurant, Mokushundo at Hotel Chinzanso. The food was cooked on a large lava rock at our table, and everything tasted fresh and wonderful. Our guide told us that the vegetables had been bought at a market that morning. We were given cloth aprons to wear to protect our clothing, even thought it wasn’t a particularly messy meal. Continue reading

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Dynamic Tokyo Tour Part One

On Saturday, we were signed up for a large bus tour, something we almost never do. It ended up being a fantastic tour, though, and we were happy to not have to walk as much as we did on Friday!

We were picked up at the Hyatt Regency, a quick 10-minute walk from our hotel, and taken to a main bus terminal to join the tour. There was a little waiting around, but not too much, and the whole process was very well-run and efficient. Our first stop was Tokyo Tower, where we went up to the first observation deck and enjoyed the views in each direction. Continue reading

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Night Out Tokyo Tour

We signed up for the Night Out Tokyo Tour with The Backstreet Guides, who had stellar reviews on TripAdvisor. They limit their tours to a maximum of ten people, and we had just five on our tour. If you go with them, be prepared to get a lot of walking in, but it really was a great way to see the city. We had a main guide, Rie, and Yuriko, who was in training and made notes during the whole tour. Both were very friendly and informative. Continue reading

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Tokyo Day One: Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine

We visited Yoyogi Park and also wandered around Harajuku a bit while waiting for our walking tour Friday, which started at 3:30.

The park was lovely, with lots of trees and walking paths. Continue reading

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Park Hyatt Tokyo Overview

I’m finding it really hard to organize my thoughts on our Tokyo trip, mainly because we crammed so much sightseeing into three days. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (featured in the movie Lost in Translation), which was an amazing luxury hotel that I managed to completely pay for with credit card rewards. At some point in the future, I plan to write a post about how I manage credit card rewards for optimal benefit.

The Park Hyatt is located in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. The lobby is on the 41st floor of a skyscraper, and our room on the 42nd floor had a great view of the city. Continue reading

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A Night at the Grand Hyatt

Last weekend, we stayed overnight at the Seoul Grand Hyatt on the night of the 241st Army Birthday ball. It was really nice to have a room there to change in and to crash in after the festivities. Despite it being a hazy day, we had a lovely view from our room: Continue reading

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