By Saturday night, both Laura-Eve and I were ready for a lazy Sunday. We turned off our alarms and let our own bodies wake us up, which they did, still too early. An even slower coffee and muffin breakfast was had, longer showers were taken, and for the first time this trip we woke fully before we left my apartment. It was a perfect day to stroll about my neighborhood. I showed Laura-Eve my favorite sit-down coffee spot, the ridiculously expensive cafes and restaurants, and the river. I took her past the huge apartment buildings being built down the street and the cafe where I learned to love tea. We popped into Andersen’s, my favorite bakery, and tried the samples as I always do.
I had no idea Laura-Eve was such a foodie, and it’s a good thing she is, because food is pretty much all I wanted to show her. We spent the whole trip living from one great meal to the next, reveling in the Korean culinary delights. So, after walking around a while, we sat down for our next treat. This was going to be a good one.
The Royal Meal, as it’s called, is the most lavish spread. It consists of a huge number of side dishes surrounding a bowl of rice and one or two “main” side dishes, usually of small fish or a small plate of pork. Laura-Eve really wanted to try this, and I really wanted to show it to her, so we went to my favorite hanjeongshik place, the one where the tables are brought to us. We sat on the floor and awaited the arrival of our table. When it came, we did our best to finish what we could, but were thwarted in our efforts. We finished a few of the plates and they brought us more, so we ate more than it seems. Still, the two of us ate like four kings, and you could hardly tell from the leftovers.
The family next to us was having a birthday party for their grandmother. We spoke a little and they gave us a piece of their birthday cheesecake. Lovely folk, and lovely cake.
After a lunch that truly was fit for a king, we headed into the city to catch a train out of the city. Destination: the middle of nowhere, to see the lights. You might remember the light show I went to in February at the Garden of Morning Calm. Well, before I even mentioned to Laura-Eve that this place was already locked into our itinerary, she said that she really wanted to go there. We could have done anything that weekend. We could have done a temple stay, we could have taken the train to Busan or flown to Jeju Island or climbed a mountain. Instead, I planned the whole trip around going to the light show on Sunday. Like minds, I guess. And, man, was that the right call.
A thirty minute train ride, on a real train, brought us to Cheongpyeong station in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere. Cheongpyeong is a tiny city nestled in the mountains, and when we arrived, we walked ten minutes to the bus station to wait for the bus to the Garden of Morning Calm. We walked around the town while we waited.
The bus took us another thirty minutes, through backroads, rice fields, and ice fields, from bum-fuck nowhere to good-luck-finding-this-on-a-map. It was still light out when we got to the gardens, so we walked around and took in the day scene with my most trusted companion, bungeopbang (sweet red bean fish pastry). When it started to get dark we made for the heat tent and hung out there, away from the lights, until the sky was fully black. We emerged from the tent into the middle of the most spectacular light show.
It was dinner time when we finished walking through the lights, so we hopped a cab to the train station, hopped a train to Seoul, found a food court in the train station, and sat down to some hot food: me, dolsot bibimbap (hot rice, vegetables, and an egg in a stone pot); her, teokmanduguk (dumpling and rice cake soup). Another hour on the subway and we were back home, resting up for the day to come.