Friday, December 8, 2017

3 Must-Do's in Seoul

Like many cities, Seoul is a city of juxtaposition. It's old - ancient, even - and new. It's palaces and Dongdaemun Plaza. Designer label shopping and traditional hanbok. High rises and 500 year old homes. I really enjoyed my visit to Seoul - and here are three must-do's when you visit.

Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village of traditional homes from the Joseon Dynasty - so about 600 years old. The word Bukchon means "northern village" and "Hanok" is the word for traditional houses. We stopped here on our all day tour of Seoul and followed our guide up - and down - the steep streets of the village. The streets were crowded with pedestrians - and some in traditional Hanbok dress for photo shoots.( There was also a man carrying a sign asking the visitors for Quiet: People live here which we saw a few times in Seoul) Some of the homes are now tea houses, gifts shops, cultural centers and guesthouses but some are still residences. It's a very popular spot and for good reason - it's one of the rare examples one can see of where someone lived so long ago and is still a thriving community. 

Insadong is a shopping street, or neighborhood if you will, known for artworks and antiques. It supposedly contains 40% of Korea's art and antique stores plus many of it's stationary and art supply stores. It's also known as a place for foreigners and tourists to buy souvenirs. The main street is pedestrian only so our tour bus brought us as far as we could go and then our guide led us down a twisty-turvy, out of the way alley where we had our lunch.I couldn't begin to tell you where it was or the name of it! Our fellow diners, and tourmates, were a food travel writer from New York and a State Department employee who was visiting a friend in Seoul. Our lunch was good - a bit rushed as our whole day was - and then we were given a set time to meet back so we could go shopping.(We had rice, kimchi and vegetables) I'm trying to purge my life of "stuff" so shopping didn't interest me much - we walked the street and did some window shopping.( And I enjoyed a doughnut for dessert) It was a pleasant experience and I"m glad we were able to enjoy it but I think my interests lie more in the history of Seoul than the shopping. Still I'm glad we were able to see this traditional area of the city.

On the other side of the coin from Insadong, is Myeongdong. A modern and young shopping area, with luxury brands and every Korean cosmetic brand represented, Myeondong is also a street food heaven. Lined with street carts selling everything from meat-on-a-stick to fresh squeezed juice, Myeondong is where you go if you're hungry. Unfortunately, this was our last stop of the day and we were limited to under 30 minutes (we were running behind from the start of the day due to some tour mates who arrived late) but we managed to do a swipe of the main street and peruse all the goodies. I grabbed a red bean fish toast and a mochi covered strawberry - which I enjoyed later - and Mr. UR purchased meat-on-a-stick. We could've tried a potato tornado, hot dogs, squid or octopus in a cup, fresh squeezed juice or a massive ice cream cone. As with so many things with travel, we'll just have to say Next Time!

The Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary or Myeondong Cathedral

How about you? What are your must-do's in Seoul?

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Linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Stark Beauty of Colorado National Monument

I really do plan my trips ahead of time. I do. It's one of my favorite things to do - besides the actual travel part. In fact, I love planning trips so much I used to do it for a living - in what seems like a past life - as a travel agent. But sometimes it seems like I'm flying by the seat of my pants when I come upon something so amazing as the Colorado National Monument and I don't have a clue about it. 

The Colorado National Monument
The Colorado National Monument - a national monument is a protected area that is similar to a national park - is located just outside the town of Grand Junction, Colorado. You travel through the monument on Rim Rock Drive - through many sheer-walled, red rock canyons filled with monoliths - stopping at overlooks that show the vastness of this area of the American West. An area I never even knew existed until we were pointed in that direction by everyone we met in Grand Junction - "Of course, you have to do the Monument" they would say as I was thinking to myself  - What monument?

Drive, Hike or Bike
You can drive, hike or bike the Colorado National Monument. Adventure seekers look at it as a bucket list item - either biking the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive with it's ascents and descents or hiking some of it's 13 back country trails with some at more than 7000 feet elevation. 

Driving Rim Rock Road We started at the east end of the road just outside of Grand Junction and worked our way to the Visitor Center at the west end near Fruita. It was July 4th weekend and I thought that maybe we would be there with a few thousand of our closest friends but until we reached the visitor center we saw maybe a handful of visitors. If you're seeking solitude and serenity, this is most definitely the place. (Rim Rock Road is the only paved road through the Monument)

History of Colorado National Monument The area was first explored by it's fiercest champion, John Otto , in the early 20th century. Many in that time believed the canyons to be inacessible to humans. But he began building trails and people started lobbying for it to become a national park. It was established as a national monument in 1911 and Otto became it's first park ranger - for a salary of $1 per month. He lived in a tent in the park and was known as "The Hermit of Monument Park". One of the most interesting things I learned about him at the park was that he was married there in 1911 to Beatrice Farnham, an artist from Boston,  at the base of Independence Monument - one of it's most famous landmarks - but the marriage lasted less than 6 months as his bride found out that he wanted her to live in his tent with him. She knew he loved the area but she didn't think they'd be tent camping for life. They divorced shortly thereafter.

If you're in Western Colorado or Eastern Utah and you want to get away from crowds while seeing some incredible scenery, head to the Colorado National Monument. I think you'll be glad you did.

Things to know before you go:
-The Monument is located outside the city of Grand Junction and is open 24/7 year round but Rim Rock Road does close for bad weather conditions. Always check before you go.
-Currently the entrance fee is $15 for cars, $10 for motorcycles and $5 for hikers/bikers.
-The park Visitor Center will be able to help you with any info you need including permits.It is located four miles from the west entrance and 19 miles from the east entrance.

How about you? Have you heard of the Colorado National Monument? Actually been there?

Linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox,The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I started this blog for partly selfish reasons. My extended family has little interest in travel - and when I came back from a trip I wanted to talk about it, look at photos and rehash the enjoyment I received from my travels. As one does. So I started this blog as a gratitude journal, of sorts, to realize all the many places I've been, the people I've met and the experiences I've had. It's as much for me as for anyone else.

So on this day - and week - where we are thankful, grateful and blessed, I am thankful for all of you who come here every week to take part in my little corner of the world. Thanks for being a part of it! I'm thankful for each and every one of you. And if you're celebrating Thanksgiving today, Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New York City Photo Round-up

Ahhh......New York City. A favorite city of many. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Home of Broadway and it's neon lights, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Times Square. Our daughter has felt the pull of this city since she knew where and what it was. She is now a resident of her dream city which means we've been able to - and will be able to - visit her and take in the City that Never Sleeps at our leisure. So here's a New York photo round-up - some you've seen and some you haven't. Enjoy!

Which photo is your favorite? 

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This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox!