I guess you can call it lucky. In December of 2012, Montreal breaks the 1971 snowfall record and to make it more interesting the first major one for 2012 hits on the 27th. What a coincidence, that is the day we leave for our trip. The last flight to leave Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport before it closed that day was our flight. Like I said, I guess you can call it lucky.
Seatbelt fastened, aircraft inclines and we leave behind mountains of snow. December 2012, Alessia decided to visit Seoul, South Korea for our father/daughter travel expedition. Like I mentioned in my other blogs, Alessia has her preflight checklist and when she settles in, she enjoys every moment of business class. The 14 hour flight is filled with food and movies.
Going in for the landing, the view was spectacular with all mountain tops filled with snow. We touchdown and head to our hotel which was surprisingly very spacious and modern. It even had a full library along one wall. As if we would have time in reading.
We walk along several streets that have shops and food stands to realize that everything seems very safe. Very polite citizens, willing to help and direct us with hospitality. The common overcrowed stereotypical streets definitely wasn’t apparent here. Whether it was low season, or simply too early in the morning, we were practically the only ones present. We’ve become familiar with one coffee shop called Holly’s Coffee which became our starting point every morning.
We continue on with a bus to the Yong-san dong area to visit the War Memorial of Korea museum. This was totally fascinating since it covered all the casualties of the Korean War, the Vietnam War and all the clashes against North Korea. The display of all airplanes, tanks, helicopters, missiles, scud missiles submarines and jet fighters were stretched all along the exterior courtyard. The interior had all displays of the Vietnam War. This Memorial would please anyone even if war history is not their major interest.
We continue our day by taking the subway metro to an area called Pil-dong to see the Namsangol Hanok Village. A village displaying the typical homes laid out with ponds and beautiful trees. Being it was winter, the white tip branches looked extremely picturesque. One area of the park was filled with beautiful ice sculptures that reflected as diamonds as the afternoon sun hit. We head back to the subway and notice that shelves are filled with gas masks along the entire length. Curiosity sets in and while reading the instructions, it comes apparent that they are used in case the North attacks them with chemical agents.
We exit the subway and head to the Jongno-gu district to see the National Folk museum of Korea and the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was brisk but the guards stationed in front of the palace remained motionless until their turn to change. I guess changing of the guards doesn’t only happen in London!
We visit a mall for some lunch at the food court and was very surprised that many spoke english. Again their hospitality and warm approach was definitely noticed. We continue to the Gwanghwamun Square and see several large statues, the American consulate and all decorations to celebrate the arrival of 2013. We continue our walk and see the Mojeongyo Bridge crossing over the Cheonggyecheon Stream. A well decorated stream splitting the downtown into two. Several Christmas trees were floating in the water and the man made falls added to a romantic setting.
Definitely a fun filled, tiring yet successful day. Head back to the hotel and recharge for the next day. Next up; The N Seoul tower. We head towards the Namsan mountain for the observatory deck and the view was spectacular. The weather was crisp and clear with several miles of visibility. To get the full effect, we take the Namsan Cable car to the top. Perfect day to visit the Tower.
Similar to the Pont des Arts (love-lock) bridge we’ve seen in Paris, Seoul has a similar one in Namsan park. Great picture spot for Alessia.
We continued our day to a beautiful church called Myeong-dong Cathedral and was shocked in seeing a military operation in progress. Come to find out later it was a training procedure to mimic a potential attack.
All preparations were being done in the City Center for the big New Year’s Eve drop but despite wanting to stay and watch, our fatigue set in and we went to bed. Next day, which was our last, we visited the affluent district of Gangnam. Modern buildings, brand name shopping stores and decorations proved that there was indeed a “Gangnam Style”.
If our time would have permitted, we wanted to go visit the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between the North and South but after being told it is one of the most dangerous borders in the world, we headed for the airport instead.