Note: Unlike the last time, this will be more of a picture-heavy post with just a little story-telling. And, of course, there are too many pictures to post here, so quite a bit more will be put on my Facebook page.
So a couple weeks ago, Tim, Naomi, and I went into Seoul. When we went to the Imperial Palace, we bought a pass that would take us to all the palaces and a shrine within Seoul, but the pass lasted only the month. We also never got to see the Cherry Blossoms at the festival as they hadn't really bloomed yet. So we thought we'd head back into Seoul today (4/27) and check out the other palaces and see if there were any Cherry Blossoms in Yeouido still (apparently they only last about a week or two before they fall off and the green leaves come in).
We left around 8:45 or so and made our way to Yeouido first. Off the train, we met a family (husband, wife, and two young kids) from Minnesota who have lived in Korea for 3 years and were going off after this year to work in Macedonia. They were really nice, and we walked to Yeouido Park with them before parting ways. We walked to the National Assembly, which was nearby, and then made our way back toward the Han River and chilled there for a while. Then we circled back around and actually went through the park area (which was in full bloom) and went back toward the train station.
From there we took us to the same general location as Insadong, though we didn't go to that little strip. We ended up stopping by in this little Korean BBQ place, which was just alright. They cooked it for us, and it was mostly fat rather than pork. And way too much kimchi for our liking. And it was pretty pricy in comparison to what we've had in the past.
Anyway, we went from there to Jongmyo Shrine and walked around that for a while (and actually, on the way to the Shrine, we passed through this strange little park filled with TONS of old Korean men on benches. At first it seemed like they were all just kind of sitting around, but then we realized they were playing an Asian board game--I think it's called "Go"). Anyway, the shrine was nice. But there unfortunately wasn't a back exit, so we had to circle ALL the way back around before hitting a back alley to take us ALL the way back to the backside of the shrine (but on the outside of the wall) to head toward the next palace. We were all already kinda tired from this, and we still had three palaces to go.
We then walked around Changgyeonggung Palace, which turned out to be really pretty. There was even randomly a greenhouse at one point--very "Herbology Class" from Harry Potter (as Naomi pointed out, which I have to agree with).
Fortunately, this palace connected right into the next, which was Changdeokgung Palace, also pretty interesting. This palace also has a "secret garden," but you had to sign up for a 90-minute guided tour to go there, and we really weren't up for that. So we figured we'd just come back another time for that. And we also decided to skip out on the last palace, as we were a bit tired by this point.
Finally, we were all really in the mood for something sweet. We walked around until we found this awesome little coffee/tea shop that had, among the aforementioned drinks, huge waffles (a la mode!) and smoothies. We all got waffles, and I got a smoothie (I originally ordered strawberry, but I ended up getting blueberry--which I'm fine with. I like blueberry just fine).
And that was about it. We chilled at the little shop for a while (we were in this nifty little booth area) and then decided it was time to head back home. We were all a bit worn down, but it was another fun day.