Friday, July 21, 2017

Montauk - the quintessential Long Island beach town

The small town of Montauk, New York - located 120 miles from New York City at the extreme end of Long Island - has a unique claim to fame. It claims to have more world saltwater fishing records than any other port in the world. The waters of Long Island Sound off of Montauk have been designated birthing grounds for The Great White Shark. And it was the birthplace of the fishing technique known as Skishing - where one dons a wetsuit and flippers along with rod n reel to catch fish while swimming in the ocean. All this is well and good for fisherman but what really brings people to Montauk these days is surfing and beaching during the day - and seeing and being seen at night. It's a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers and there have been a glut of 1950's style motels redone in "beach chic". The party crowd is strong here but there are still families who come here every year for their beach week. We drove out one day in May - and I was totally charmed by this small town.

We started our visit at the very end of Long Island at Mountauk Point State Park climbing the lighthouse and visiting the lighthouse keepers house and museum. I've always been fascinated by lighthouses so they're usually on my list of places to see. Beautiful views, a playground, fantastic weather - a fun visit. But now it was time to put our toes in the sand and experience some of Montauk's famous beaches.

We made a quick stop at Kirk Park Beach located right in town. There was free parking and restrooms. The beach was empty and it felt really good to put those toes in the sand and hear the ocean rolling in. 

It was time to start thinking about dinner. I had heard about Navy Beach - a bar/restaurant located on the bay side of Montauk with supposedly great views. They had just opened for the season the day before we were there so we headed their way. Just a word of advice - Navy Beach is not easy to find as it's located in what appears to be a residential area. We thought we were definitely in the wrong place but it was indeed the restaurant. When we arrived we were told they were having a staff meeting and they wouldn't open for another 30 minutes but we could sit out by the water. So we did. We relaxed and enjoyed the views until we could get a drink. After enjoying the water views for awhile we decided to head elsewhere for dinner.

We were told that the Montauket was a great place to watch the sunset. But apparently everyone else in town already knew that. It was beyond packed with the parking lot full and an entire two streets with cars parked on both sides.We couldn't find anyone to even find out if a table was possible - so off we went down the road. Side note: Due to all the bars and partying, there is a taxi stand set up in Montauk so there's no drinking and driving. A first for me - I'd never seen a taxi stand in a small town before. (The taxis are also available for service from the Jitney - Long Island's extremely prevalent service from New York to Long Island. You don't need a car. There is scheduled service all the time)

We ended up at Duryea's Lobster Dock. Located on Lake Montauk, Duryea's is a self-service restaurant - that's not really self-service. You order at the window but they bring the food to you, fill your drinks and even provide blankets on a cool evening. There is outdoor seating with sunset views and music to dine by. Mr. UR and our daughter both ordered the lobster roll - pricey but they said it was definitely worth it. 

Our hotel was a good hour away so we got on the road. Due to our late arrival, there  wasn't nearly enough time for me here in Montauk. If I go back, I'd stay in town so I could see so much more. More beaches. More good food.More uber cool bars to visit. More Montauk.

Have you been to Montauk? What did you think?

This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyWeekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Seoul - Day One

I'm not quite sure when my youngest daughter became obsessed with Korea. It may have started with K-pop. Or watching Korean dramas. But nevertheless, it began. And when her older brother was visiting a friend in Seoul, she paid for her own trip and visited for her first time. That brief visit wasn't enough and she studied abroad at Sogang University in her junior year of college. She lived in an international dorm taking courses in English and drinking lots of soju with friends from all over the world. When she graduated from college, she began interviewing with schools in Korea and she took a position in Seoul teaching English at a private school - called a hagwon - to small children. So I knew for quite some time that at some point I would visit her in Korea - and she would be my guide in a city and country that she loves. 

Seoul airport

Our sunset view from our hotel

We planned our visit for the first week of May when she would have a few days off work for Buddha's birthday and International Childrens Day. Our flight into Seoul landed around 9:30 at night and she was at the airport to greet us and navigate our way to our hotel. We were staying at a Courtyard south of the city as her apartment is a 300 square foot studio with little room for the 3 of us. Travel to our hotel was a blur and I think I fell asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow after 27 hours of travel time.

View from the room

We started the next day with lunch in the mall connected to our hotel. Ironically our daughter had been craving Mexican food - which there isn't a plethora of in Seoul - and there was a Mexican restaurant nearby so we started our visit to Korea with a Tex-Mex meal. 

She took us to one of her favorite hangouts first - Yeouido Hangang Park by the Han River overlooking the city. There were lots of families riding bikes and playing in the water. I was surprised at all the tents set up - in the US the people would be camping and sleeping in them. But here they are for protection from the sun and enjoying the outdoors. We sat by the water and had ice cream - well, H and I did, Mr. UR had a beer. I can see why she likes it so much here. 

Did you know there is a Little Mermaid statue in Seoul?

Then we headed to a dog cafe. Yep - a dog cafe. When we were discussing some of the things we wanted to do in Seoul, H wanted us to experience an animal cafe. They have dog cafes, cat cafes, owl cafes, and prairie dog cafes. We told her to take us to any of them. So we went to one of her favorite dog cafes. (The dog cafe was in Hongdae or more specifically, Hapjeong)

There are two rooms in the cafe - the front room is for small dogs and the back, and larger, room is for larger dogs. You don't pay a fee to enter but you do buy drinks - I had a smoothie - which is how they earn their income. We sat in a booth in the large dog room and drank our drinks while watching the dogs. There were all different breeds - and some I had never seen before. Patrons are invited to bring their own dogs in also - and there was an outsider dog who was stirring things up. He just wanted to play but I think he was upsetting the apple cart a bit.

Immediately, this cute little dog - who had obviously snuck into the large dog room when no one was looking - jumped up into our booth and attached himself to Mr. UR. He was barking at him like he was talking to him and wouldn't leave his side. And when we left he was watching him and barking at him still. He really had a connection with him!

Our evening was spent in H's favorite bar in the neighborhood of Hongdae.
 I'd love to tell you the name - or it's address - but I couldn't even if I tried. We just call it the Vinyl Record Bar because there is a DJ spinning records and album covers are on the wall. We arrived early - cause we're old and jet lag is real - so it wasn't crowded yet. The barmaid gave us snacks - something that looked like packing peanuts - and seaweed. We weren't a fan of either but H likes them both. As the bar grew more crowded, the patrons started singing along and were having a great time. But as I said, jet lag is real so we took a stroll around the very crowded Hongdae area and then headed back to the hotel. 

Bar snacks

A very crowded Hongdae

It was a good first day. But as any mom whose children live far away - small or grown - know that a day with your kids is always a good day!

This blog is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!