July 14th, 2012

View from study (sunny)

Day 2 -- The long flight

We checked out of the hotel at Manchester Airport early (about 6.45 am) in order to get through security, eat breakfast and find the right departure gate for the flight to Paris. All went smoothly and we touched down in Paris to dreary cloud and rain, much worse weather than in Manchester! The only problem with the flight to Seoul was that we didn't get seats together. :( G was near the rear of the plane while I was somewhere in the middle, over the wing. However, I read my book (Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris) and had a brief conversation with one of the two Italian businessmen sitting next to me. They manufacture furniture in SE Italy, apparently, and are actually managing to export it to Korea.

Sadly, it wasn't possible to see anything as we flew over Russia and China due to the carpet of cloud, but there was a lovely sunset with bands of deep orange, gold and turquoise, and as the sky darkened, I could see a crescent moon with two bright planets nearby. Then I managed to sleep for a few hours and woke to fine it was dawn and before long the cabin crew were serving breakfast.

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View from study (sunny)

Day 3 -- Arrival in Seoul

The airport in Seoul is very modern and easy to navigate around. We collected the suitacases from the baggage reclaim, passed through immigration very swifly and efficiently and managed to find the train to take us to the main Seoul station. From there things got a bit more stressful. For once G's sense of direction let him down. We were under the impression that the hotel was within walking distance of the station, but though we set out cheerfully enough, the river remained elusive and we needed to find the river because the hotel was on the other side of it.

To cut a long story short, we walked and walked and walked. We have now seen a remarkable amount of Seoul, from traditional fish stalls and vegetable stalls set out on the pavement, to the new and shiny tower blocks of offices and apartments

But however far we walked, we seemed to be no nearer the hotel. And then G started to flag. He was seriously tired and we had to stop three times so he could rest. I had been trudging along, aware that my feet had started to hurt, but I had been determined not to complain. It was, therefore, somewhat alarming to realise he just couldn't go on much further. This just never normally happens because he is so much fitter than me. The difference this time was that he hadn't slept at all on the flight whereas I'd slept for 2 and a half hours. The thing is, you know I always complain about the SAD? Well, it does seem to have an unexpected upside when it comes to world air travel. If it's dark, I sleep, if it's light, I'm awake. So whereas G's body clock was telling him that it was still far too early to go to sleep on the plane, my internal lightmeter said, "Ah, the sun has set. Sleep time!" And when we arrived in Korea, G's body clock was saying, "Aaargh!You've just gone all night without any sleep!" my interal light meter says, "Oh, it's getting lighter! Must be day time so I'll stay awake." Though I am yawning now that it's about 5.15 pm here, I'm nowhere near the "I must go to sleep NOW point."

With hindsight, we probably should have got a taxi from the station. (But see above about how it was supposed to be near enough to walk.) But I suggested that a taxi was exactly what we needed now. We crossed the rest of the way over the bridge we had spent so long looking for, which by then we had realised was the wrong bridge and much further along the river than we'd planned to be. Thankfully the first taxi we waved at swerved over to pick us up and from there it was simple. The driver simply typed the hotel's post code into his sat nav and 10 or so minutes later, we made it safely to the Marriott. G immediately went to bed, I had a shower and I'm now relaxing while drinking the complimentary bottle of water and trying not to think about the horrendously expensive snacks in the minibar which, because I am getting hungry, are calling seductively to me. While I rested I once again examined the map we had acquired from a rack outside the little convenience store where we had stopped to buy some very much needed bottles of water. The map seemed to have been caught in a downpour and was utterly soggy, which didn't help the navigation. I spread it out on the desk, smoothing out the damp wrinkles and piecing it back together, trying to work out how we had gone so badly wrong. But we didn't fully work it out until the following day.

A little later, as G said he just wanted to sleep and wasn't hungry, I investigated the hotel cafe-style restaurant where I had a delicious bowl of cream of onion soup and a variety of bread sticks. And so to bed.

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/51311.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]
View from study (sunny)

Day 4 -- A tranquil park and the bustling metro

Thankfully, after many hours of sleep and a continental breakfast consisting of different breads, Danish pastry, orange juice and tea/coffee, G's strength was fully restored. In the morning we set out from the hotel to explore the park that is just across the main road from the JW Marriott. Reached by a footbridge, this park didn't appear to be all that old and was perhaps constructed at the same time as the surrounding apartments were built, but it was very well laid out with paths and steps up the steep hillside and lots of rest places with benches and outdoor gym equipment. It seemed to be very popular with the locals who were not only walking up and down the paths, sometimes with a little dog, but they were also using the various pieces of exercise equipment.

I did take a couple of photos which I will post in due course but here are some much better ones that someone took on a clear day! :)

After a brief return to the hotel to freshen up, the next task was to find Seoul Station to collect our tickets for the journey to Busan tomorrow. Collapse )

We dined in the hotel cafe-restaurant again, this time a more substantial braised beef in Chinese five spice with rice and a green vegetable. Tomorrow we have a fairly early start and because we cannot afford to miss the train and we will be travelling with luggage, we plan to get a taxi to the station. In the restaurant, by coincidence, we were at the next table to an American couple. He was here on business, she was a teach and had finally been able to come with him after missing out because most of his trips were in term time. She was enthusing about how easy it was to get about and how cheap the taxis were, but I do think that the best way to see any city is to walk or use public transport. We might not have seen as many historical sites (in fact we've seen none!), but I do think we have glimpsed at least something of the city the inhabitants see daily rather than what they might like tourists to see.

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/51682.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]