Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Hope

It is already in the air, the sweet smell of Spring and as I see the tiny fresh green buds sprouting from the street-side plants, I get full of hope. I wanted to take pictures on my way home today but didn't accomplish this. I'll try to do so soon.

It fills me full of relief that winter is really going to be on its way out. Sure yellow dust might be coming and the summer heat, but I'm happy to shed this past winter. I don't share much intimate details on here, but let's just say this past cold season wasn't my best.

I hope this coming Spring is giving other people a new fresh start, as I feel it is doing to my life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sculpture Garden and Cafe in Gwanghwamun

Last Saturday I went out to Gwanghwamun to check out an art museum I haven't been to. It was a windy day, yet I trucked through it anyways. The museum I was looking for is the, Sungkok Museum of Art, which features contemporary works. Finding this place was part of the fun, as it was tucked in a residential alley in the area.

Plus the directions off the website were a little vague. I will include directions to the museum at the end of this post, for those interested. However, the museum is located across the street from some interesting looking cafes.

Unfortunately when I arrived they were in-between exhibits and I was turned away at the ticket counter. I guess I should have double checked this before going. Yet, I took the news well and noticed they had a sculpture garden. On this cool March afternoon I saw nobody else perusing the artworks and thought how nice it would be to have a solitude moment in the center of Seoul.

Along the path of the sculpture garden was the museum cafe, with chairs outside. I think on a lovely spring afternoon or even in the summer this would make a great spot to come back to. I mostly really enjoyed being in this garden-art-spacenby myself and appreciating hearing birds chirping in the distance and the branches swaying to the breeze.

The sculptures themselves were nice to look at, but nothing really struck my attention. I did find a nice bench to sit on and soak whatever sun rays I could get, and contemplate this space.

Afterwards, I headed down the street and around the corner towards a cafe I had been to last Fall. I still had the business postcard and so used it to find my way there. I recall it is a quant and cute little cafe with a lovely selection of tea.

The name of the cafe is NamuSairo or 나무사로. You walk inside to the area where drinks are made and then are seated past the hallway and into the other room. Here along the backside wall is a large mirror panel, to one side are bookshelves with magazines and books. You are handed the menu and left to divulge what is offered.

If you are a coffee lover this place has a large selection and categorized the menu by the origin of the beans. As non-coffee drinker I can't really tell you what they had was special, but I could jest that this place serves up a good cup. As for the other selection of drinks, their tea menu was extensive and they give your tea served in a pot that you pour into your cup. I ordered my favorite choice, milk tea, and found it to be quite good.

I enjoyed another solitude moment at a cafe in Seoul, before other people strolled in. For sure this place was packed the last time I visited (on a Sunday night), so do expect crowds. However, it has a more "intimate" oriented feel to it than say Cafe Pascucci or those other big brand ones.

Also on the menu were home cooked pastries and cakes for one to delve into, which were fresh as the bakery smell lingered around the cafe.

Definitely go out and branch off from the tourist path in Gwanghwamun and check out these places. There were several cafes and restaurants along the way that looked very appetizing.


To Sungkok Art Museum:

  • Exit from Gwanghwamun Station Exit 7
  • Make a U-turn and then turn right at that corner.
  • Go up this street heading towards the Seoul Museum of History.
  • Just as you see the Seoul Museum of History in front of you and the Salvation Army building on your right, turn right at this corner.
  • Go up this street which has cafes on it and follow it as it bends left.
  • Go up this hilly street and you will find the museum on your right, about 8 mins later.
To the Cafe:
  • Come out of Exit 1 of Gwanghwamun Station.
  • Veer towards the narrower street that goes in a vertical line. Head up this and pass many restaurants.
  • When you get to the large street, turn left.
  • You will pass by office-tell buildings.
  • The cafe is situated on street level under one of these buildings.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Interior shots of the underground Metro station in Washington, D.C. Having rode the subway in several different major cities, I can say this one wasn't too bad. The reality is that the Korean subway system is just so far superior in so many ways, it's hard to beat.

This will be my last post from my recent vacation to America, as the last thing I really did there was visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with my mother. The day was a lot warmer and sunnier than the one before, which made viewing the monument spectacular.

I studied the artistic aspect of the memorial in one of my art history courses in college and so had that as my primer. But I think one can't really be too prepared to see this monument as it reflects such a dark history in America's past.

Yet what I mostly took away from this visit is seeing how other people reacted to the wall and those sorts of interactions.

Along the path of the wall were volunteers with pamphlets one could use to rub off the names, but also served as an information packet. Lots of folks talked to these guides who provided historical information and explanation of the design of the wall.

As for myself, I was of course moved by the simplicity of the design and the sheer number of names along it's surface. I couldn't help but think how all these people passed away for something that is now history.

My mom commented how she saw the men in her high school classes go off to war, and wondered if any of their names were up here.

My mom took a moment to recognize the sun shining down on all the names and considered that this must have been no coincidence as she remarked, it must be to keep them all warm.

For me this was the last place in D.C. I visited with my mother before I was whisked away to the airport. Before doing so we caught a glimpse of the memorial for women veterans.

I highly recommend this as a "must do" when visiting D.C., even if you think it is just part of the tourist side of the town. One really can't miss this monument as it represents a great turning point in America's history.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Near the Dongbu Expressway ... A River

Nearby Nowon is a long freeway that connects the rest of Seoul to this Northeastern portion. It is called the Dongbu Expressway, and is notorious for being slow. It runs parallel next to a river, and I recall the times when I would ride with my ex, how the scenery was pleasant to watch.

Since I live nearby such a feature I figured it would be wise to get out and see it, considering I didn't go at all last year.

I found a smaller stream that connects to the river and so walked down it till it merged with the big path next to the river.

The sun was shining for the first part but then a layer of low clouds moved in and I was reminded that it's not yet Spring.

People were enjoying the outdoors though, by bicycle, walking, rollerblading and poking along.

Nearby the river were dried up flower beds with signs that promised certain species of, I assume, lovely foliage. I'll definitely be out here again as the weather warms up and things begin to sprout.

Bonus picture of Tom:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The National Gallery of Art

The wind was blowing a chilly blast but we headed to The National Gallery of Art anyways. Inside this humble building are vast halls filled to the wall with art from long-ago to the more recent. The West Wing houses the more traditional and classic works, while the East Wing is for contemporary and modern art.

We mostly explored the West wing and I found myself seeing works from well known artists such as Cezanne to some I didn't know.

Dutch still life is always a treat ~

I liked how as you finished one section of the gallery you go through the garden atrium in the center.

Heading into the Impressionist wing was exciting and certainly was the more popular section of the building.

Although the free-willing aesthetic of Impressionist art is mind-capturing, I still enjoyed the occasional still life in all it's detail.

Since we had just an hour left before closing time we tried to get in the East wing and see some modern and contemporary art. Certainly this wing was set up differently to accommodate the modern scale of art within the last few centuries.

The above is a walkway section that links the East and West wings. As I stood there trying to photograph it I got yelled at by one of the guards for being too close. Hmph!

It was fun and looking back I wish I had gone into the Smithsonian as well.
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