Le Centre Pompidou

A couple of weeks ago, two friends and I decided to visit Le Centre Pompidou, Paris’ modern art museum, after class.  It’s one of the few museums I remember from my family vacation nearly twelve years ago, so I was really excited to go back.  Now that I’ve got my Sciences Po student ID card, I can get into most museums in Paris for free, so I’ve been trying to take full advantage of that.  The best part about free entry is that I don’t feel any pressure to see everything or to stay long enough to get my money’s worth.  Since I’m already a pretty slow museum navigator, it’s nice to just stroll at a leisurely pace and know that I can always come back to see whatever I miss.

On the way to le Centre Pompidou

Palais de Justice on the way to Le Centre Pompidou

The Seine!

La Seine

Afternoon traffic

Afternoon traffic

Tower on the way to le Centre Pompidou

Tower on the way to le Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou

Alexander Calder's Horizontal

Alexander Calder’s ‘Horizontal’

The museum building itself, as you can see, is really cool.  It’s escalators are encased in hamster tube-like structures that line the exterior and offer views of the surrounding neighborhood.  The space bridges the notions of inside and outside — architectural design as art, I guess.

Square in front of the museum

Square in front of the museum

In front of le Centre Pompidou

In front of le Centre Pompidou

Inside le Centre Pompidou

Inside le Centre Pompidou

Tube-encased, semi-exterior escalators

Tube-encased, semi-exterior escalators

The works on display were equally impressive and often striking — here are some of my favorites.

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Furniture?!

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View from le Centre Pompidou

View from Le Centre Pompidou

View from le Centre Pompidou

View from Le Centre Pompidou

Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?

Can you spot the Eiffel Tower?

The Eiffel Tower from le Centre Pompidou

The Eiffel Tower from Le Centre Pompidou

Sacre Coeur from le Centre Pompidou

Sacre Coeur from Le Centre Pompidou

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Bubble Tea & Notre Dame

A couple Fridays ago, a friend and I headed to Notre Dame to check out the cathedral and the surrounding area. On our way, we passed by a bubble tea café and just had to give it a try.  After all, who knows when we’ll find another boba joint in Paris?

Boba in Paris (!)

Boba in Paris (!!)

The tapioca balls were surprisingly good (and I like to think I know good boba considering the many variations I’ve tried in LA).  It was on the soft/chewy side of the boba spectrum (yes, there is a boba spectrum) and a tad bit sweet, which I liked.  The tea itself was a standard black milk tea.  We decided to take a brief break from the cold and enjoyed our drinks at a small table inside.  I always finish my boba faster than I intend, so it was gone before I knew it.  But that just meant it was time to head to Notre Dame!

A visit to Notre Dame

Notre Dame, the Seine, and me

2013 is its 850th anniversary!

2013: Notre Dame’s 850th anniversary!

Famous façade

Famous façade

Inside the cathedral!

Inside the cathedral!

Beautiful chandeliers

Beautiful soft lighting

Chandeliers and stained glass

Chandeliers and stained glass

Apse and altar

Apse and altar

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

A portion of the huge chandelier that used to hang in Notre Dame

A portion of the huge chandelier that used to hang in Notre Dame

Nativity scene

Nativity scene

Candles

Candles

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to climb up to the bell tower, so we’ll definitely be back to catch those great views of Paris.  But the cathedral’s interior was plenty to take in for one afternoon – beautiful, majestic, and awe-inspiring don’t do it justice.

I Spy… Le Tour Eiffel!

Over the course of the two weeks I’ve been in Paris, I’ve seen the famous Eiffel Tower from a number of different vantage points.  Here are my favorite shots.
The Eiffel Tower in the context of normal Parisian life. An appropriate first sighting of the famous landmark.

The Eiffel Tower in the context of normal Parisian life. An appropriate first sighting of the famous landmark.

The Eiffel Tower and the Seine.

The Eiffel Tower and the Seine.

Last shot from night #1 - the Tower sparkling on the hour!

It sparkles on the hour!

Pretty incredible view from a museum café.

Pretty incredible view from a museum café.

Another view from the museum café, this time lit up and including a bit of the museum courtyard area.

Another view from the museum café, this time lit up and including a bit of the museum courtyard area.

I had to include at least one picture of me with it...

Up close and personal. I had to include at least one picture of me with it…

The Sparkling Tower, take two.

The Sparkling Tower, take two.

On the Seine, once again.

On the Seine, once again.

I spy Le Tour Eiffel! (Taken at Centre Pompidou)

I spy Le Tour Eiffel! (Taken at Centre Pompidou)

The view from Centre Pompidou, the awesome modern art museum in Paris.

The view from Centre Pompidou, the awesome modern art museum in Paris.

Arrivederci, Roma

Yesterday, I parted ways with Rome.  I packed my bags, said my goodbyes, and left the place I’ve called home for the past ten weeks.

It’s been an incredible quarter abroad – from listening to lectures in the Forum, to traveling on the weekends, to learning how to properly taste wine, I’ve loved every minute overseas.  But, more importantly, I’ve learned a lot.  I have retained a surprising amount of Roman history and could probably put together a great historical walking tour of the city, replete with museum stops, church visits, and great photo-ops.  On the flip side, I can also recommend great local eateries (the best pizza you’ve ever had), ex-pat/international student hang-outs (no Italian required), and weekend destinations within Italy (Tuscany, anyone?).

Here are some highlights from my time in the Eternal City (in no particular order, because ranking them is impossible).  I’ll also be adding more (backdated) posts on Rome & my travels from the last few weeks soon.

Pumpkin & Amaretto Ravioli at Le Fate

Let’s just say it was the best dish I’ve had in Rome.  It was one of their specials the night I went, and I split it with my roommate (we should’ve gotten one for each of us, in retrospect).  My ravioli standards will never be the same again.  For the record, this restaurant is great for reasons beyond just their ravioli – I’ve been twice because it’s just down the street from my apartment, and everything I’ve tried has been delicious.  Other standouts include their eggplant parmesan, bruschette (trying at least a few of their varieties of bruschetta is a must), and tiramisu.  It’s a charming little place, decked out with French-inspired, fairy-themed decor and plenty of twinkling lights.

Viale Trastevere, 130

Galleria Borghese

The Bernini sculptures in Galleria Borghese are some of the most unforgettable works of art I’ve ever seen.  His Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Proserpina, and Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius are incredible beyond words – and no, I’m not exaggerating.  I don’t mean to sound dramatic (maybe just a little); I was just blown away by the detail and skill exhibited in his work.  The other highlights of Galleria Borghese are its five Caravaggio paintings.  Learning about Caravaggio’s life, style, and significance in the Italian Baroque and then going to see his works in person was a great experience.  A classmate and I also gave a presentation on a biography of Caravaggio in the very room that contains his five paintings, so that made it particularly memorable as well.

Piazzale del Museo Borghese, 5

‘Roma dal Cielo’ – A Visit to the Top of Il Vittoriano

The wedding cake of Rome offers some great views of the city – views that rival even those of the Gianicolo, the lovely hill on which my apartment is located (the second highest hill in modern Rome, but not one of “the seven”).  I would suggest going at sunset, so you can watch the sky change colors as the city lights up.  The top of Il Vittoriano has an incredible view of the Colosseum, which happens to be my favorite monument in Rome…reason enough to pay the 7 euro to get up there.

Piazza Venezia (entrance on the east side of the monument, on the left when facing it)

Breathtaking night view of the Colosseum

Breathtaking night view of the Colosseum

Dar Poeta

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again – Dar Poeta è la mia pizzeria preferita a Roma (Dar Poeta is my favorite pizzeria in Rome).  Their ‘Dar Poeta’ pizza is one of the best I’ve had.  And it’s even better when followed by a Nutella and ricotta dessert calzone.  Speaking of desserts…

Vicolo del Bologna, 45 (near Piazza Trilussa)

Giolitti

The best gelato in Rome is at Giolitti.  A friend who studied abroad in Rome last year suggested it, and I finally made it there a couple of days before I left (right after I completed my final exam, in fact).  I had a 3-flavor, chocolate-dipped cone, with champagne, rice, and ‘opera italiana’ (candied nut, I think).  Champagne and rice gelato flavors?!  My friends and I were all wowed by the champagne gelato, and I loved the rice (I’m a big fan of rice pudding).  One of my friends also tried a delicious ‘caramel fig’ flavor.  I wish I could go back.  At least I ended my time in Rome on a high note.

Via Uffici del Vicario, 40 (near the Pantheon)

Italian Hill Towns & the Best Gelato Yet

Last weekend, I took a day trip to Orvieto, Bagnoregio, and Civita with some friends.  All three are beautiful Italian hill towns – perfect for a quick jaunt out of Rome.  Our first destination was Orvieto, which is an affordable hour-long train ride from Rome.  Since we wanted to make it to all three towns in a single day, we left bright and early Saturday morning.

Starting the day off right: a cappuccino from a cafe by Termini (Rome’s main train station)

Cream and chocolate filled cornetti

Upon arriving at Orvieto’s train station, which is located at the bottom of the hill on which the town is perched, we rode the funicular up to the top.

Orvieto’s funicular

We just missed the bus to the town center (which you could also walk to, we were just lazy and short on time), so we explored the old fortress remains right next to the funicular station, whence you can catch great views of the valley below.

Valley view from Orvieto

Valley view from Orvieto

Valley view from Orvieto

Valley view from Orvieto

Panorama

After we had our fill of admiring the view and taking innumerable pictures, we caught the bus to Orvieto’s central square, which is home to its grand cathedral.

Orvieto’s Duomo (cathedral)

The Duomo, as it’s called, boasts an incredibly ornate, gape-worthy façade.  It glitters in the sunlight and is somewhat mesmerizing – the more you stare up at it and its sheer size, the more you notice the intricate details and skilled workmanship.  Mosaics cover nearly every flat surface, and are even embedded in the curved arches and straight columns.

The Duomo

Close-up of Orvieto’s facade

Close-up of Orvieto’s facade

Close-up of Orvieto’s facade, with representations of two of the Evangelists – Matthew (winged man/angel) and Mark (winged lion)

I found the four panels of biblical illustrations carved in marble in the lower portion of the façade most interesting.  They depict Genesis, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Revelation/the Last Judgment, respectively.  The detail is amazing, and it’s cool to be able to spot familiar scenes.  According to Wikipedia, these panels are among the most famous of 14th century sculpture.  I’m not surprised.

Scenes from Genesis

We didn’t go into the cathedral, but explored Orvieto and looked for a place to eat lunch instead.  It was a pretty little town, similar to other Italian towns I’ve visited, but with its own feel and character as well.  Turns out Orvieto was the first non-coastal town I went to – maybe that’s what set it apart.  I’ll be going to another (Siena) this weekend, so we’ll see!

Streets of Orvieto

For lunch, we consulted Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook and found a relatively reasonable restaurant with a good sounding menu.  I had the cheese-filled tortellini with tomato sauce.

Tortellini for lunch!

We also tried the Classico white wine, because Orvieto is known for three things: ceramics, its cathedral, and Classico wine.

The Orvieto Classico

Then, it was off to Bagnoregio by bus and from there to Civita by foot.  There’s quite literally nothing to do in Bagnoregio this time of year – we didn’t see anyone in the streets, all the shops were closed, and the town was eerily silent.  Similarly, Civita doesn’t offer much, but because it’s much more of a tourist destination there are a number of restaurants and souvenir shops.  So why go to Civita?

Because this is it:

Civita

As you can see, Civita is a tiny town that’s only accessible by footbridge.  It sits like an island in the middle of a giant valley – it’s been carved out over the centuries by rivers on either side (which may or may not still be in existence).  Architecturally, Civita is stuck in the Middle Ages, unlike it’s Renaissance neighbor Bagnoregio.  There are few native Civitans left, as most abandoned the town after an earthquake in the late 17th century.

“Civita: the dying town”

Civita

On the footbridge to Civita

In Civita

Civita

View from Civita

Civita: stuck in the Middle Ages

“Dining room in Etruscan cave”

After about an hour and a half of exploring, we headed back to Bagnoregio to catch our bus back to Orvieto.

One last look at Civita

We got back to the bus stop with 20 minutes to spare, so we walked around the block to see what was around.  Just down the street we spotted L’Arte di Pane, a bakery recommended by Rick Steves.  The small shop was overflowing with customers, and a little one stood in the beaded curtain doorway while a multitude of families picked out pastries.  Baked goods were just what I was craving, so I promptly began eyeing the cases for the most delicious looking ones.  By the time it was my turn to order, I had decided on a giant cream-filled pastry, two small cookies, and a mini marmalade tart.  The cream puff-like dessert was my favorite.  It was hands down the best cream filling I’ve had yet – a little lemony, not too sweet, and smooth and custardy.  And the outer shell was bready, not flaky, and fresh.  I can see why Rick Steves recommends the bakery.  If you don’t go, you’re really missing out.  Let’s just say I’m really glad we got to the bus stop early and had time to explore the surrounding streets!

Best. Cream filling. Ever.

Back in Orvieto, we had an hour to kill before our train back to Rome.  Orvieto at night is actually quite different than during the day – there were noticeably more people, vendors set up on the streets, and a generally livelier atmosphere.  We browsed a street full of artisan craft stalls, ranging from leather goods to jewelry to cute hand-stitched key chains and animal figurines.  Everything was so enticing – I found myself trying to think of potential gift recipients for the unique pieces.  Sadly, I was relatively unsuccessful; buying for others is harder than it seems.

But, something I was completely successful in: discovering my favorite gelato!  I had actually planned to go to the Cinque Terre with a friend that weekend, but we canceled our trip at the last minute (the trails between the towns are closed, there was a forecast of rain, and we had an exhausting week).  I mention this because I was supposed to look for a special gelateria in Vernazza that has an amazing flavor called the Cinque Terre Special, which was a highlight of my family’s trip there more than a decade ago.  Despite the canceled trip, I still found an incredible gelato place – in Orvieto!  It’s a self-proclaimed artisanal gelateria called La Musa, and it’s located on the main road up from the funicular station.

Gelateria La Musa!

Of course, they have a flavor called “La Musa” – it’s a combination of ricotta (yes, cheese), cinnamon, and chocolate flakes.  I knew I had to try it when I heard the owner say “ricotta” (a staple in my Italian diet and one of my new favorite cheeses).

“La Musa” flavor

It was unlike any gelato I’ve ever tried.  It reminded me very much of horchata, a cinnamony Mexican rice drink, but that might’ve just been because of the cinnamon.  The point is that it had a great flavor.  Creamy like non-fruit gelato typically is, but with the unexpected addition of a spice.  And paired perfectly with a little chocolatey crunch in every bite.  Mmm.  I’ll probably never find a flavor like that anywhere else.  I also tried their nocciola (hazelnut), which was up there with the nocciola gelato I had in Sorrento.  It’s hard to capture a real nutty flavor in gelato, but La Musa managed to do it and do it well.  Or maybe the deliciousness of their namesake flavor gave me a rosier impression of the nocciola… Who knows.  All I know is that that piccolo cono was the best I’ve had yet.

So delicious!

Soon, it was time to head down to the train station via the funicular (our third ride of the day!).  And that marked the end of our day trip to Orvieto, Bagnoregio, and Civita.

Croatian Adventures, Part II – Plitvice & Zagreb

One of my first views of Plitvice National Park

Nothing says “Welcome to Plitvice!” quite like this view.  After a 5-hour bus ride from Split to Plitvice (pronounced pleet-vitse, based on the Croatian pronunciations I heard on the trip), we arrived at the park in the early afternoon on Saturday eager to explore and see all the lakes and waterfalls.  Although we didn’t have quite enough time to see everything, we walked along the trails for a solid few hours and took lots and lots of pictures.  Here are my (many) favorites.

Autumn in Plitvice

Reflections

Gorgeous trails

Autumn leaves and waterfalls

You know you’re good roommates when you can travel together without killing each other (and get along well – that too!).

See the hint of a rainbow?

The trail took us around most of the lake, so we got to see this view from every angle.

Happy

The side of Plitvice you usually see in pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go down there – next time! (Note: this is when my camera died…poor quality iPhone 3 pictures starting with this one.)

THE BIG ONE from afar!

Close up of the big waterfall.

We ended our afternoon in Plitvice Lakes National Park at the big waterfall, and then headed back up to the main entrance to catch our bus to Zagreb.  I was exhausted at that point, so I knocked out on the bus.  Once we arrived in Zagreb, we took a taxi to our hostel and then went out to dinner.  The hostel receptionist recommended a place nearby for Croatian food (where  the servers don traditional Croatian dress), so we headed there and enjoyed an amazing meal.

Starter: Pumpkin soup with homemade croutons

Starter: meat and cheese filled pastry (if I remember correctly..)

Main course: Sesame-covered turkey fillets with mashed potatoes and a cucumber yogurt sauce

It was quite late by the end of our meal (we’ve caught on to the whole European long dinner thing) and pretty chilly out, so we decided to go back to the hostel and get some good sleep before our early morning the next day.

On our way to the train station before daylight on Sunday, we passed through the square that our hostel was right next to.  Too bad we couldn’t stay in Zagreb longer!

A “piazza” in Zagreb

Sunday was full of travel – we started out before sunrise and arrived in Rome after dark.  Along the way, we passed through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Italy via 2 trains and 2 buses.  Quite the adventure.  But it sure was beautiful!

View of Austria from our bus to Venice!

Another breath-taking view.

All in all, a wonderful trip to Croatia.  I already want to go back (Dubrovnik, you’re next!).

Croatian Adventures, Part I – Split & Trogir

Last weekend my roommate and I hopped across the Adriatic to Croatia… well, ‘hopped’ makes it sound deceivingly short and simple.  We actually took a 12-hour, overnight ferry from Ancona, a port town on the eastern coast of Italy.

All aboard! Taking the overnight Blue Line ferry from Ancona to Split.

View of the port from inside the ferry

It was a really long ferry ride, but I luckily slept through most of it (when I wasn’t working on my essay due Monday, that is).  Besides, the view from the deck in the morning made it completely worth it.

The first thing I saw when I walked out onto the deck in the morning, just as we were approaching Split. Good morning, Adriatic!

Close-up of the coast

Enjoying the view

Once we disembarked and went through passport control, we set out to find our hostel (and took lots of pictures along the way, of course).

Split, Croatia

The boardwalk!

Not a cloud in the sky

Our hostel was awesome – it was a really clean and spacious converted apartment unit run by a friendly young woman who lived upstairs.  It’s called Sweet and Cheap for anyone planning on going to Split anytime soon, and we booked through hostelworld.com (hostelbookers.com is also good).  After dropping off our stuff, we headed to the farmer’s market we had passed on our way.

Farmer’s market in Split

Farmer’s market in Split

There, I bought ingredients for a delicious trail mix – almonds, hazelnuts, and dried pineapple and papaya pieces (a very non-GORP GORP, if you catch my drift).  Snacks in hand, we set out to explore Split.

Courtyard in front of Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian’s Palace and Mausoleum (I think..)

Diocletian’s Garden (note the bag of trail mix)

The fish market in Split

The streets of Split

We stopped for lunch at a very non-touristy restaurant (or so we’d like to think), which the receptionist at the tourist information office recommended for authentic, traditional Croatian food.  Then, we decided to find the beach.  Always a good decision when it’s sunny and warm out.

Stuffed Pljeskavica, grilled minced meat steak stuffed with cheese and served with ajvar (the red pepper paste above) and onion

View of the train tracks leading into Split (on the way to the beach)

Beautiful, clear Croatian water

The beach – what better way to enjoy the perfect weather?

Soakin’ up some sun on the other side of the Adriatic

The beach

After we had our fill of laying out under the sun, we decided to go to Trogir, the historic town just a half an hour bus ride from Split.  It was a quiet little town with less of the cruise ship tourists and not terribly much to see — but worth a visit nonetheless.  We took our time just wandering around until sunset.

Trogir

Trogir

The ‘boardwalk’ in Trogir – not nearly as buzzing as in Split, but beautiful nonetheless

A soccer field, old fortress remains, and mountains (with the ocean just to the left). Just beautiful.

Sunset in Trogir

After sunset we headed back to Split for dinner, which ended up being one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe thus far.  We shared a champagne and smoked cheese risotto and that night’s special, a lentil and sausage dish, while sitting outside in one of Split’s many cobblestone squares.  The rich and creamy risotto was perfectly balanced by the simple yet hearty lentils…delicious.

A delicious (and complimentary) cheese spread for our bread

Champagne and smoked cheese (gouda?) risotto

Lentils with sausage

It was the perfect ending to our long first day in Croatia.  Next up: day 2/3 in Plitvice Lakes National Park and Zagreb!

Roma, Ti Amo

First post from Rome!  I’ve been in the lovely land of the Italians for almost a week and a half now, and all I can say is, this is the life.  I’ve been quite busy with classes and school work, so unfortunately I haven’t had time to blog until now, and I’ll have to keep it short.  To my family and friends: I have settled in wonderfully and am loving every minute here!  I miss you all and hope you are well.

Here’s the last week and a half in photos (updated with captions on 10/12!)

my room!

the view from our corner

a fountain in the park just down the street!

my favorite study spot: the rooftop terrace at our classroom facility, IES Rome

a view of Castel Sant’Angelo from our lunch spot the first day

partial remains of a theater in the Forum Holitorium, ancient Rome’s vegetable market – and yes, those are apartments on the top floor and they do in fact house people today

bridge decor

Castel Sant’Angelo and the Tiber River in the late afternoon

a ferry on the Tiber

the Roman Forum

the Roman Forum

Largo Argentina, the site of 3 ancient temples’ remains and home to a cat sanctuary (see below)

a cat in Largo Argentina

more kitties!

just a casual lunch at the Trevi Fountain

view of the fountain from our standing lunch spot

Marino, Italy, home to Sagra dell’Uva, an annual wine/grape festival

the “wine fountain” at the festival (those are grapes) – free white wine!

Marino all lit up for the 88th Sagra dell’Uva

Reunited At Last, Part 2 – Lotte World

Last Saturday, Seoyeon and I got together one last time before I head back to the States.  This time, she came to visit me in Seoul, and we spent all day at Lotte World, an entirely indoor amusement park.  I’m not a huge fan of amusement parks anymore, although I used to love roller coasters and spent more than a few days of my childhood at Disneyland and California Adventure.  But, I couldn’t say no when she asked if I wanted to go, and ended up having a good time.  Seoyeon had a blast, so the hours we spent walking around and standing in line were well worth it.

We were there all day (we got there at 10:30 am and left at 9 pm) and rode a number of rides — some more than once.  I can’t say I would recommend Lotte World…unless you’re easily amused, traveling with kids, or in one of those cute relationships known as a “couple” (I only mention the latter because there were cute couples everywhere).  Here’s the day in photos.

Welcome to Lotte World!

Caught red-handed.

Bored in line = picture time!

Mirror, mirror

Leaving our mark

The rock wall!

Seoyeon: Avid Tree Climber

– the “Art Gallery” –

Roman Holiday in Lotte World!

It was even more fun than it looks.

Bumper cars…Seoyeon’s new favorite. She’s a natural driver. Who knew?

The indoor hot air balloon that we didn’t get a chance to ride.

노량진수산시장 (Noryangjin Fish Market)

As my time in Seoul winds down, I’ve been making a more concerted effort to get to the remaining items on my list.  So, last week, a classmate and I went to the 노량진수산시장 (Noryangjin Fish Market) for lunch.  홰 (sashimi) is my friend’s favorite, so I knew she would be a good companion.  I, on the other hand, am not the biggest fan of raw fish (it’s a texture thing).  But, since I hadn’t tried it in a while, I figured the freshest sashimi in Seoul deserved another chance.

Hundreds of vendors fill the market, which operates day and night (24 hours, to be clear).  Apparently it’s a popular drinking spot, which makes sense.  If there were this many 포장마차 (‘normal’ street vendors) set up in a single warehouse and open for 24 hours, I would go drinking there all the time too!

Of course, there’s much more than just fish on sale.  You can find (almost) every sea creature you can think of, from shellfish to sting rays to sea cucumbers.

One end of the market – the empty warehouse side

After we had enough of looking around, we got down to business and picked a vendor to buy fish from.  By that point, it was after 2 pm, and we were getting hungry.  The process was quite simple — find a tank with moving fish (who wants a frozen fish when fresher options surround you?), and start bargaining.  That we did, and soon we were walking away with a large plate of sashimi and a bag of leftovers from our two fish (for a soup).  We paid 30,000 for the fish — one __, and one ___.

The deal at this market is that your fish vendor hooks you up with a restaurant that will cook/serve it for you with side dishes, sauces, and all that good stuff.  We had gotten a recommendation for a restaurant from our teacher (who buys fish at this market every weekend!), but decided to stick with the restaurant the vendor was sending us to — there was a guy to lead us there and everything.

Upon arrival, a waitress quickly seated us, tossed a few sauces, wasabi, and a plate of lettuce on our table, and asked, “You want 매운탕(maeuntang, spicy fish soup), right?”  We nodded/mumbled yes, and were left staring at our huge plate of sashimi.  I don’t think either of us realized quite how large those two fish were.  (There are two different kinds of fish on the plate pictured below.)

We started off with the sashimi while our maeuntang was being prepared with the leftover parts of the fish.  By the time it was served, I was definitely ready for something cooked.  Unlike mushrooms, I have yet to grow out of my dislike of raw fish (for the record, mushrooms were a texture thing too).  At least I tried.

The maeuntang was SO GOOD.  It was pretty spicy, but not unbearably so.  The flavor of the broth complemented the greens, radishes, and fish really nicely.  There were tiny bones everywhere, which was a constant annoyance (ultimately a trivial one since it didn’t detract from the deliciousness).  I can’t remember the last time I had maeuntang, and I didn’t recognize the name so I know it’s been a while.  I’ll have to find some good maeuntang in LA’s Koreatown before I jet off again.

We passed the 63 Building (pictured above, on R) on our way back to the subway.  It’s so pretty!  And there are supposed to be great views of Seoul from the uppermost floors, rivaling the panoramas from Namsan (Seoul) Tower.  I think you can see the observation floor (the row of windows near the top) in the picture.  It’s on my list, but I don’t think I’ll make it there this summer… next time!