Our third trip to Seoul included the Lantern Festival, a visit to the Art Museum, the Namsan Tower, and the best lamb chops ever!
Friends in Seocheon had been raving about a South African restaurant in Itaewon that serves lamb chops. This place apparently has a #1 rating on TripAdvisor for restaurants in that area. Well, we had to investigate! Lamb has always been a favorite meat of mine; and since being in Korea, I haven’t had the luxury of access. Clint doesn’t usually care too much for lamb, so he was mildly enthused. We both ordered the chops, and a variety of sides.
Clint took his first bite, and immediately fell in love. I was still busy taking photos, so I could only rely on his live testimonial. The satisfied look on his face made me even more excited! When I was finally able to cut into the tender meat, and taste lamb for the first time in months, I was in absolute Shangri-La. Clint: “When you thought you liked lamb, you didn’t know what real lamb was.” Truth.
After such a satisfying meal, the only option left is a hearty nap. We checked into the Hotel Pop Jongno and got our deluxe room with a HUGE jetted tub. The hotel is very design-oriented with color-themed floors. We got the lavender floor, with (surprise!) the red room. It’s definitely a fun decor. We liked everything about the room, except for the lack of a view. What we thought was a modernistic piece of blank canvas art on the wall turned out to be a sliding door that revealed a window (that looked out to the opposing wall.)
A hot soak to relieve the chilliness of outside, and a comfortable nap made the afternoon all the more perfect.
Note: The 143 bus right on the main road from the hotel pretty much took us anywhere we needed to go that weekend.
Seoul Lantern Festival
We missed the lantern festival in Jinju last month, but Seoul gave us a second chance this past weekend. The Cheonggyecheon Stream is always bustling with people, but the last weekend of the Lantern Festival brought in hordes more. I gotta give it to the Koreans, though. They sure can organize and corral a crowd effectively. We entered one section, walked through a good length, saw some neat lanterns, and exited without any issues. My favorite were the fish rows, international ethnic representations, and a giant fruit display.
Over the bridge were food and gift stands. My new obsession is the waffle stand. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside waffles, with different flavored spreads, topped with honey and folded into a glorious treat. Luckily for me, those stands were everywhere – most conveniently, right by our hotel.
Of all the tourist locations I have on my list for Seoul, the Namsan Tower had been left unchecked for a while. I was adamant to get to it this time. After walking in circles, getting misguided by Korean locals, and rejected by a taxi driver, we finally reached the base of the tower. You would think there’d be obvious signs directing foreigners towards it, “Namsan Tower, go here [arrow].”
We had to take a cable lift up the mountains, and had the fortune of sharing one with a group of jovial (and inebriated) older Koreans. They were just so darn happy, it was infectious!
We ran up a whole lot of steps to get to The Place Dining, an Italian restaurant on the 2F Plaza. The restaurant had a stunning view of the city. The food was pretty good and standard for an Italian place in Korea. The best part was the pricing wasn’t outrageous. (If you want some fancy dining, though, the N Grill on the 5F offers a spinning view of the city and a wallet-draining menu.)
Outside the restaurant were the walls of love-locks (and cell phone cases?) Lovers write cute messages on the locks and attach them to the walls, sealing their love for eternity – or until someone like Clint comes along and knocks it off.
As we were there later in the evening, the Teddy Bear Museum and Tower Observatory were closed. That’ll be on the itinerary for the next trip.
Myeong-dong & Seoul Museum of Art
Church, shopping around Myeong-dong (and discovering the lower level!), and eating at Rimini’s again was a nice treat. And I found my New Year’s Eve dress at H&M for 25,000₩. Score!
We had some time to spare before dinner, and wanted to hit up the art museum. Google Maps was not very dependable this time around. We were taken in circles again. Turns out, corner-by-corner directions from strangers worked just fine this time.
The museum was quaint – outside was a huge rose sculpture and a passage leading up to museum was flanked by trees with crisp fall colors. The inside would’ve been an adequate exhibition space with multiple floors and rooms, except… there were only two small exhibits. We had to look really hard to find them! We were puzzled to find most of the exhibit halls were under renovation/construction; but still, groups of people walked around the museum with such purpose. Who knows what they were doing there!
Our palate is in deep love with the top sirloin at Copacabana, so we had to stop there again. The meat was just as good, and this time, I cut out all the nonsense and stuck to eating a lot of what I liked.
On our first stop in Itaewon for Braai Republic, we found two fun hats from the street vendors: a polar bear hat/scarf/mittens unit for me, and a fur bomber hat for Clint. These accessories made our trip both warmer and more festive!
While getting lost on the streets surrounding the main road in Itaewon, we discovered a lot of restaurants and shops that we’d like to return to. Open cafes, book shops, and a Boiling Crab! all give this area a charm less talked about in this American/military-consumed area.
An overall fantastic trip with a lot of new discoveries!