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Travel Stained Monthly Recap: February 2016

This year, Seollal, or Lunar New Year fell on a date that gave most Koreans an unusual 5 day weekend. These days, more and more people are using time off to take vacations, but the majority of Seoulites still leave the city to revisit their hometowns, see their family and pay respect to their ancestors. Being on the highways around these days is no fun for sure, but roads in the city are uncharacteristically clear, and the streets can feel blessedly empty.

We celebrated by crossing the city to visit my aunt’s house, which is next to Bukhansan Mountain. We’re not too into “charye,” or the ancestral rites part of Seollal, but certainly enjoyed indulging in the traditional meal of tteok-guk, or rice-cake soup. Sadly though, indulging in a soup so delicious ages you 1 full year here, and it’s common for Koreans to joke about this by asking each other, “how many servings of tteok-guk have you eaten?”

It was Naia’s first time participating in Seollal, and sebae (세배) or the New Year’s bow. As a child growing up in Canada, I didn’t have much cultural context for sebae, except for that it meant I would get an envelope of cash, in return for bowing to my elders and wishing them a happy new year.

I’m positive it was even less significant for our little 4 month old, but it was sure cute watching her “perform” her New Year’s bow in return for her first sebae money.

EXPAT LIFE
With every month that passes, our wee one gets just that little bit more developed and independent…and it gets easier and easier to take a break, completely guilt and worry-free. We’re lucky enough to have Naia’s Auntie Bora living in Seoul, so finding a baby-sitter has never been a real problem for us.

This month, we took full advantage of that fact, by checking out a few new restaurants sans baby.

On a date night, hubby and I finally got a chance to check out one of actor, turned chef 백종원’s restaurants. He’s nothing, if not prolific, with no less than 4 different restaurants to choose from in my neighbourhood alone. We went out for some good old Korean barbecue, and I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint. The beef was probably some of the best we’ve had, and hubby was in BBQ meat heaven, to say the least.

 
And after years of avoiding Itaewon, Seoul’s expat area, my worse better half finally dragged me back there for a meal with a few friends. We treated ourselves to some affordable French fare at La Planque, on one of Itaewon’s windy back streets. A full meal including a quality charcuterie, gratin dauphinois, boeuf bourguignon, creme brûlée, and a bottle of house red, amongst other things, set the 4 of us back a mere 25,000 krw each. Not bad at all, especially in a city where authentic foreign foods can cost an arm and a leg.

FEBRUARY ON THE BLOG
In February, most of our readers came from America, Singapore and South Korea, but we also had visitors from 92 other countries, including Malaysia, the UAE and even Turkmenistan.

We posted our January recap, drove up a death-defying mountain road in Albania, watched a 123 story super-tower being built through the seasons, and were amazed by the luminescent waters of Italy’s Grotta Azzurra.

RECOMMENDED POST
I’ve got spring on the mind.

Over the last few weeks, Seoul’s been alternating between warmer weather, and snowstorms with some of the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen. It’s like Mother Nature is teasing us, but I’m sure that this dastardly winter will soon be a distant memory…and thank goodness for that. Can you say frozen?


 
Until then, I’ve been looking at this post, to remind myself of what a Seoul spring is actually like. Ahh flowers. Can’t wait to see those again. 🙂

INSTAGRAM
I’m slowly, but surely getting into the IG groove, taking more pictures and posting more regularly. And starting to appreciate the whole “in-the-momentness” of Instagram. It definitely has a different feeling than blogging.

Our most popular pic this month, also happened to be one of the last photos I posted this month. I took this out my apartment window, after another one of those unexpected snowstorms. The snow was so wet and heavy, that it blanketed the trees and grass below, turning everything blindingly temporarily white. It had a true winter wonderland feeling about it and I guess a lot of other people felt the same.

This is probably the most popular photo I’ve posted on Instagram EVER, with 176 likes to date.

 
It seems like it’s been the winter of unexpected blizzards, here in Seoul. This gorgeous sunset was the calm after another one of those freak snowstorms, and I loved how the sun cast a red glow off the buildings in the distance.

 
COMING UP IN MARCH
Despite having lived just a 2 hour flight away for the last 7 years, Japan is a country we haven’t spent too much time exploring. Clearly, this is a situation that needs to be remedied. So, in March, we’re traveling to Japan, and visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara for the first time.

Over the years, we’ve traveled to 57 different countries, and a short-haul trip like this would normally feel like second nature. But this time around, we’ve got one very important person around that will make travel feel brand new again.

It’s our little one’s first time on a plane and hopefully, the first of many stamps in her brand new passport.

So far, Naia’s been the easiest baby in the world to deal with. She hardly ever cries or has trouble sleeping, but a plane ride is sure to be a new test for her, and her inexperienced parents. Wish us luck!

Any advice for flying with a baby? Have you been to Kyoto, Kobe or Nara? We’d love to hear your suggestions for what to see, do or eat on our trip. Leave your tips in the comments below.

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Having so many family members around must be surely exciting / at first perhaps even scary for Naia 🙂
    At least Nathan wasn’t so fond at first in China when all the family swept over him like a tidal wave but he adapted quickly

    March 4, 2016
    • It was my mom’s side family, and they are pretty calm and mellow, so she took it all in stride. Besides, I think she was completely distracted by my uncle’s eyebrows. Hahaha. She couldn’t stop staring at them. (Me too usually. lol) My dad’s side family on the other hand, sound a lot like your Chinese in-laws. A tidal wave is a good way to put it. Nathan must be pretty relaxed to take it all in stride so easily. 🙂

      March 9, 2016
      • I had to check that picture again and wow, what impressive eyebrows. I think there are more hairs in those eyebrows than my father in law has on hos head!

        March 9, 2016
  2. Naia is absolutely adorable! And I think if she’s an easy baby on land, she will be an easy baby in the air. I think babies and kids feel our stress; if you are relaxed and take your time, she will relax, too. It’s when I used to think I should be able to get on and off a plane in the same amount of time, or with the same amount of ease, as I did sans baby that things went downhill. When I slowed down and just thought ‘This is going to take forever and that’s OK,’ everything went just fine!

    March 6, 2016
    • Thanks Lex! We think she’s pretty cute too. 🙂 We’re back now, and she was a dream on the way there and for the first 2 days. Didn’t cry once. The flight back though, she cried quite a bit and had a meltdown once we got home. Granted it was at 1am, after non-stop touring in 3 cities over 4 days, so I think she handled it like a champ. We pushed her pretty hard and she was super chill for most of the time, even getting an entire restaurant laughing along with one of her laughing attacks. 😀

      March 9, 2016
  3. fantastic news! you are going to love Japan!

    March 7, 2016
    • We’re back already and indeed you are right, we loved it!! 🙂 I’ve been to Tokyo and Fukuoka before, but never Kyoto and area, and it was def my favourite. Would love to go back again.

      March 10, 2016
  4. Did I just read about a food that ages you 1 year? Outrageous! 😀 Even your IG pictures are topnotch! Weather here in Japan is awful too. It’s been raining a lot that I don’t really get a chance to go places. My excitement of being here really has worn down. Can’t wait for the season to be over too.

    March 20, 2016
    • Lol seriously. Imagine if your birthday is the days before Seollal, and then you eat 2 bowls of soup. You’re 3 years older all of a sudden. Haha. Aww, I’m sorry you’re excitement for Japan has worn down. Missing Europe? Perhaps it’s time for some trips to other destinations nearby? Come to Korea!! It’s so close and very inexpensive to fly on Peach Air if you book in advance. We can host you if you don’t mind being in an apartment with a baby… 🙂

      March 22, 2016

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