This morning was kind of a repeat of yesterday morning, except that we got lunch at the Paris Baguette and Starbucks across the street from Ursula’s apartment. Paris Baguette is a wonderful bakery that I wish was across the street from my house in Japan. They have whole wheat and rye bread. I can’t even remember the last time I saw bread that brown! It was amazing, and the chicken-cranberry sandwich I got from them was amazing, too.
From there, Ursula and I went on a tour of the Changgyeong Palace in Seoul. I really like the way Koreans decorate their palaces and temples. Everything is made from wood, like in Japan, but they’re painted elaborately and with bright colors, yet somehow it lacks the gaudiness of SE Asia. The palace was actually burned down by Japanese invaders (along with everything else in Korea, apparently) and wasn’t rebuilt until recently. As we walked around the grounds, Ursula filled me in on some cool facts about Korean architecture. She told me about how Korean kitchens used to be set lower than the rest of the rooms in the house, which somehow helped heat the rest of the house when they were cooking (I’m forgetting some of the details about how they did that…). She also explained the way buildings were really well insulated and how even the eaves of the roof were designed to help regulate the temperature of houses .
We took a short walk to the Royal Garden, which, as the tour guide informed us, was not where the king had wild parties, but was actually where his library was located. The garden was so beautifully laid out that I thought I wouldn’t mind having to sit and study there all day. Our last stop on the tour were some buildings where the members of the former Korean royal family lived until about 20 years ago. I say former royal family because they were no longer considered royalty and their palace wasn’t even a palace at the time, but since they had no place else to go, they continued to live on the grounds.
We did a little shopping after the palace, stopping at a tea house on the way. I guess there are a lot of these tea houses in Korea and the one we went to was really cool. It had a train theme, so all the chairs were like chairs in a train car and the walkway was made of railroad tracks. We had teas that were more like desserts than teas – Ursula’s had brown sugar and ginger in it; mine had ginger and rice and some sweetener. The shopping area that we went to reminded me a little of the Russian Market in Cambodia, except that instead of being outside, it was a maze of tiny little shops inside a building.
We met Gabe for dinner at a Mexican restaurant and the margaritas and food were oh-so-delicious. Sometimes I forget how wonderful Mexican food is. With overly stuffed bellies we went back to the apartment and watched The Darjeeling Limited. I’d really wanted to see it and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a nice, feel-good way to end the evening.