Grace’s Mom wanted all of us to go to Korea together. My mom’s brother in Korea was celebrating his 80th birthday, which happened to be during Spring break, so we coordinated all familes into one big trip.
We departed on March 29th from SFO. In addition to flying with Addy and Charles, coincidentally, our friends, Eugine and Ed, were also on our flight with their family. Also crazy was that I bumped into my b-school buddy, Manish, and his family, who were on their way to visit his wife’s family. They were in our row.
Singapore Airlines is the best and I’ll never complain about a 777. However, the 3-3-3 seating presents a challenge for a family of 4. I took one for the team and sat with the kids for the 11-hour trip to Seoul. The kids did great (thank you, Apple iPads) and ended up sleeping at a time that was very late for them. It might have been best if they just stayed up, but they were troopers nonetheless. This was also our first big trip without a stroller and it wasn’t missed at all (look for them on Craigslist soon).
We departed at 2:30pm and arrived at 6:45pm the following day. We arrived at the JW Marriott and met up with Grace’s parents, who had already been in Korea for a few days. My cousin, Jiyong, and his son, Yonoo, also greeted us at the hotel, which was so nice of them. Dave also arrived from NYC later that evening. Everyone was ready for a real night’s rest despite the time difference.
We made a strategic decision to book a suite, assuming the sofa in the living area was also a sleeper. It was not. We got a twin rollaway for the kids and they slept in it together for two weeks. Lucas fell out of it only twice: once while laughing, the other time not so much. The other great thing about our package was that we had breakfast included every day, including access to the executive lounge, which served drinks and food all day. This would have been great for me, except I gave up Diet Coke on Tuesday, January 8th. I stared down those Coca-Cola Lights every day.
The first day was a true tourist day. We took taxis to the start of the City Bus Tour. With a group this large, it was hard to make a decision for lunch, and thus, we ended up at KFC. It was awful. Our first stop was a whopping 200m down the road. We saw the first of many palaces and stuck around to see the daily changing of the guard. We stayed on the bus for a while just seeing the sights and didn’t get off again until Namsan Tower.
I should note that this was only my 5th trip to Korea, and every trip beforehand was generally summertime. Spring there was beautiful and I enjoyed needing a coat or sweater. There were beautiful views from atop the tower. Our last stop was at the Hyatt Hotel, which is where my family stayed during my first trip to Korea in 1979. From there, we took taxis to our first dinner in Korea together.
Grace has been obsessed with the Kimchi Chronicles. I only watched for glimpses of Heather Graham. Grace spent hours pouring over all the episodes and mapped out an itinerary around visiting as many of the same restaurants as possible. Our first stop was Pro Ganjang Gejang. I chronicled the debacle already on Facebook:
In one day here, I’ve learned that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We searched for lunch yesterday before boarding a city tour bus and ended up at KFC. Gracie’s main interest in coming to Korea was to retrace the Kimchi Chronicles, so our itinerary is scheduled around food. Last night, we went to Pro Ganjang Gejang, which specializes in spicy raw crab. The kids slept through dinner and I didn’t really find anything appetizing on the menu.
Grace did not fully disclose her potential raw shellfish allergy, which explains why she always has to wear gloves when preparing shrimp. Grace ended up booting when we got back to the hotel. Her brother Dave was consulting with local physicians and Grace was asking if I was prepared to stab her in the heart with the kids’ epi pens (okay, thigh). Dave kept an eye in her while I went downstairs to find dinner. Surprise, I came back with a Big Mac meal (except I gave up diet coke). Lucas is not yet awake and I am loading up on Frosted Flakes on anticipation of day #2. There better be a bi bim bop in my future.
Grace was still wrecked the 2nd day and the kids were on a whacky schedule. I took Lucas to breakfast twice that morning as he slept through the first one. Grace stayed at the hotel while we went to explore Insadong. Grace’s aunt and uncle from LA happened to be staying there for a while, so we met them for lunch and then went to their apartment.
Grace finally rallied for dinner at bibigo, which was much more my speed. I’m not sure if the parents enjoyed it as much.
I decided we were there for too long to try to post the hundreds of photos in a single post. These are definitely mostly for the benefit of Lucas, who likely won’t remember much from this trip. I’ll be sure to remind him he had an amazing time during his first trip to Korea.