Our time in Seoul, and Korea, for that matter was coming to an end. The Missus and I discussed the possibilities for a last meal and we decided to give KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) another shot. This time at a place that was more highly recommended. I had a place on my list....which one of my coworkers called a "Hof"??? A Hof? Like "Hofbrau"? Well, she wasn't sure.....the term "hof" is used for various places that serve beer/drinks with food and to my relief had nothing to do with "The Hoff". So it was off to the "hof".
The shop was located in the Gyeongbokgung area, west of the Palace. The Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung looked especially striking on this clear evening.
Finding Mirak Chicken wasn't too difficult; especially with pocket wifi, called an "egg" in Korea, and a photo of the exterior.
Mirak Chicken's popularity is in part due to being shown on a very popular Korean Food Show named Tasty Road, which is how we found out about the place after having two people mention Mirak and the show to me.
The interior has a dark and kind of pub-like feel.
As is typical with these places, there's the all-you-can eat popcorn....which I found a bit odd. You obviously need a beverage of choice; we went with some Hite, which seemed a bit sweeter, but very light, and not as bitter as the versions here in the states. Perhaps it was being on holiday....... After ordering, some shredded cabbage dressed with a somewhat fruity mayo and the standard condiment of KFC, the water kimchi arrived.
Mirak is known for their Garlic Chicken, which of course had to order.
The chicken came with a ton of glazed whole garlic cloves, which of course I loved, but made me socially unpresentable for most of the evening. As with other glazed/sweet/spicy chicken of this type, the glaze was very sticky and way too sweet for me. They really had the batter and the cooking process down as the crust was thin and light, and the chicken very moist. It was just hard to get over the sweetness, for which I was thankful for the radish.
Hedging our bets, we also ordered the regular fried chicken which was quite good.
Crisp, light, and moist. But again, for some reason we both found the seasoning to be on the very mild side. They sure had the cooking process down though.
We were glad to have been able to try a couple of Korean Fried Chicken places.
Mirak Chicken (미락치킨) 17-1 Jahamun-ro Seoul, South Korea
After dinner, we decided to take a walk around the area. We hadn't been around this part of Seoul so this made for an interesting walk. We came across a shopping arcade and decided to do some exploring.
There were quite a few food stalls......
One stall was especially popular.
It made tteokbokki, not my favorite food item in the world, but this looked different. Bright red, stir fried in oil, so I had to try some.....
The was quite good....nice chew, a slight crunch, a good amount of spice, not very greasy.....I really liked it. It changed my opinion of tteokbokki.
After returning home, I tried to find out the name of this place and learned that it is Tongin Market, which was originally set-up by the Japanese in 1941 during the occupation. I also learned that one of the most popular stalls in the market makes Gireum tteokbokki, basically a fried in oil version.......lines rarely lie, right?
Walking back was a pleasure.....we really enjoy Seoul at night.
Before heading back to the apartment, we decided to head on over to the Cheonggyecheon Stream area. A few nights earlier we'd come across the Seoul Lantern Festival. I'm guessing this night must be something special, because folks were really enjoying the sights.
The theme this year was an "Illuminated Tour of Seoul", which was very cool. We saw lanterns of many of the sights we'd seen during the previous days.
Under the bridge folks were gathered, putting together lanterns to be released in the stream.
People were having a great time. It was a nice way to end our stay in Seoul.
As we walked back to the apartment along the alleyway parallel to the main street. Apparently, the huge building we were staying at was built over the Pimatgol, parallel to the main street of Jongno. Because the lower class residents were required to bow down to the nobles everytime they came across them, this parallel alley; the "alley to avoid horses", was created. There's a couple of very nice stories to be found here.
And while there are quite a few anecdotes I haven't told about Seoul; like the Missus complaining about not seeing a branch of Cocohodo, when there was one on the other side of the building. Just like Japan, it seems like there was a story around every corner.
We dozed of easily on this evening. We'd be rising early, then heading off to the airport, via Seoul Station. Next stop; Sapporo!
It was our last day in Seoul. Time had really flown by, but to be honest, the Missus was already looking forward to the next leg of our trip, which was Hokkaido. There were really only two more places the Missus wanted to visit. So we headed off, down Jong-Ro.....walking of course. Past Gwangjang Market ....
The massive multi-building complex is quite overwhelming; covering 10 blocks, comprised of 26 shopping malls. After walking around a bit....I was getting hungry so we decided to head up to the Food Court located on the 5th floor of the "New Wing".
And found a stand that was open and got something simple to eat.
Nothing amazing, but simple and it kept the both of us going. Pretty cheap at 5,000 KRW (about $4.25) too.
We then headed off back in the direction we had come. Jetlagged, we had miscalculated the day of the week when we arrived and found Gyeongbokgung Palace closed. We decided to put off a visit until our last day in Seoul.
We had made our way back here in record time as Gyeongbokgung wasn't open yet! Plus, we were pretty darn hungry....I guess that little breakfast/snack didn't hold up for very long. I had read severalposts about a iconic Kimchi Jigae shop down an alley nearby. So we found the area and I believe we found the alley....
There were no signs in older style Hanja that the Missus could read. Plus, all the businesses looked closed. I came across a kindly looking older gentleman and busted out one of few phrases I knew in Korean, "sillyehabnida" and showed him the name of the place, Gwanghwamun Jip. He smiled and walked us a few doors down......
The place did look closed so I used the other phrase I knew "gomabseubnida" and started walking away. He waved at me telling me to stop, opened the door, and one of the ladies running the place waved us in! Nice folks.
They were still prepping, cutting scallions and napa cabbage. They kindly sat us at one of the tables in this tiny hole-in-the-wall. The place looked like it was run by a group of "Ajumma", a good sign. We actually never even ordered.....what's to order since they basically serve two things here, right? A pot was taken off the blue bookshelf and placed on the gas burner on the table.
One of the women was hard at work at the stove near the window. And in a few minutes, everything else arrived.
You can see the other item that Gwanghwamun Jip specializes in, the tasty gyeran mari - a rolled omelet. Perfect for this morning. I loved the baechu kimchi here. It was nicely fermented the flavor complex and not overly salty as versions in the states. The Missus really enjoyed the simple fermented cabbage which reminds Her of the suan cai we make at home.
Meanwhile the pork kimchi jigae was bubbling away.
This was very hearty; even better as it kept bubbling away, eventually reducing to a thick and rich stew. Not too spicy, nor salty, nice savory flavors, this definitely has that "aaaah" factor. The pork was flavorful, though as expected rather tough.....it's there for the flavor.
It was a filling and satisfying meal. We love soulful, homey places like this. In a nutshell, Gwanghwamun Jip did not disappoint.
Gwanghwamun Jip 12, Saemunan-ro 5-gil Jongno-gu, Seoul
The meal left us warm and ready for our visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
As we approached the Gwanghwamun gate we noticed a bit of a commotion.
1. The first drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit mobilizes towards Gwanghwamun Gate. 2. The second drumbeat signal sounds and the relieving guard unit moves outside of Gwanghwamun Gate, and the chief of the relieving guard unit and the chief of the guard unit on duty perform an identification check. 3. The chief of the relieving guard unit orders his unit to take their positions at the gate and the relieved guard unit mobilizes to the inside of the gate. 4. The third drumbeat signal sounds and the chief of the relieved guard unit orders his unit to exit the vicinity."
It does go kind of long....the Chinese tourists got bored rather quickly and decided to leave.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed the entire ceremony. We've now seen Changing of the Guard ceremony's in Athens, Prague, and Malta.
Once the ceremony was over we could enter via the Gwanghwamun Gate.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was constructed in 1395, the first royal palace built by Joseon Dynasty which lasted over 500 years.
Our favorite spots on the palace grounds was the Geunjeongjeon, the Throne Hall.
Which held the throne of course.
And we also enjoyed the aesthetics of the Gyeonghoeru.
Walking back along Sejong-ro , we noticed this piece of concrete.
It's a piece of the Berlin Wall! I'm sure the symbolism must stir emotions in many people in Korea, a nation divided north and south, and technically still at war.
We headed back to our apartment, just a few blocks away....we'd done a bit of walking and the temperature was dropping, so it was time for a break. While walking back, we made plans for our last night in Seoul......
We were really enjoying our time in Ronda. From the beautiful scenery, to the friendly people, to the, well, I'm not sure I can put it any other way, atmosphere, we were loving it.
At night, with all the day trippers gone and in low season, there just seems to be a rather romantic mystery to the place. Quiet takes over and you almost feel like your an extra in some exotic romantic thriller from another time.
It was sad that we had only one night to spend in Ronda, with one dinner.
The walk to our dinner destination took us down through the Old Town. Past the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor. Like many churches built during the Reconquista, this was constructed on the remains of a mosque. A quick look at the bell tower belies the Moorish roots of the structure.
Across the way, the light on top of Santuario Maria Auxilium shone brightly in the night.
Our destination was a little shop just inside the Almocabar Gate, once the main entrance to this side of the city. The name of the place? De Locos Tapas.
This place gets a ton of love, so I went ahead and made reservations a month before our trip. It's a good thing too; the place has but 5 tables. When I mentioned we'd be having dinner here to the lovely lady at Apartmentos Rondacentro, Hilde, she went, "aaaah, you've made a good choice, it is my favorite place in the city."
The place is run by a Husband and Wife team. It is Guillermo who is the front man, originally from Basque Country, he is very friendly, quite chatty, warm, with a great sense of humor. He speaks perfect English and is one heck of a storyteller. We were the first customers to arrive, so he took his time with us, telling us about working in a Japanese restaurant. When he found out we live in San Diego, he mentioned he lived in San Gabriel for a time. When I mentioned being from Hawaii, he regaled us with a story about his cousin (if I recall) who came back from Maui with some board shorts for Guillermo. The main pattern on those shorts was, ahem; the "cash crop", if you know what I mean. His dad pointed to the pattern on the shorts and inquired what it was. So quick thinking Guillermo, who remembered the "local" name for said herb said "pakalolo". His dad, thinking it was some kind of exotic tropical plant was satisfied. And so Guillermo got to keep his "special" board shorts.
The menu at De Locos is a combination of various traditional and some very non-traditional tapas. Many with an Asian twist from the time Guillermo worked in the Japanese restaurant. There was also a menu written in Korean. According to Guillermo, there are many Korean visitors during January and February. The Korean menu is an abbreviated version of the hand written menu, consisting of items that their Korean clientele often order.
We had a blast figuring out what to order and decided (quite rightfully so) to stray from the norm except for a few dishes.
We started with the "Quail's Nest". Quail eggs lying in a "nest" made of "Kataifi", shredded filo dough. As you can tell from this dish, the presentation of some of the dishes are composed in a lovely, flashy-whimsical way. The quail eggs were nice but nothing special, the filo a bit too dry and crumbly. Not bad.
The Artichokes and Jamon, a more mainstream dish was downright delish.
The artichokes were nicely seasoned, the texture excellent, a bit of crunch, but not tough. The jamon added that nice savory touch that paired nicely with everything. The mustard based sauce was a nice slightly pungent touch. The Missus (of course) loved the fried egg.
The Truffle Egg presentation was very nice.
Lovely flavors, just enough truffle oil, the jamon again adding a nice touch of savory. The only complaint was that the egg was overcooked for my taste.
My favorite dish, hands down was the Pork Tataki....yes, basically seared, ultra rare pork.
Man, the textures and the flavors, touches of ginger....good lord, this was so good. I've learned that sometimes I just need to go with my instincts....and while the Missus still sometimes has doubts (see torisashi), she's learned that there are times when you need to throw caution to the wind. Many times, the payoff is a memorable dish like this one. I've heard that Japanese is the "in" cuisine in places like Barcelona now.....so I'm looking forward to returning and getting some "Tataki de presa ibérica".
Meanwhile, Guillermo is from Basque Country, so I had to order the Txangurro (Spider Crab), a Basque regional specialty.
For some reason, this didn't do it for us......not enough crab flavor, a bit too mushy, and in need of some additional seasoning.
And while the Octopus was decent, perhaps a bit too chewy, but nicely flavored....those potatoes, the truffle oil.....was delish.
The Sea Bass Ceviche was nicely seasoned, refreshing, though I prefer mine with a bit more citrus.
Since there was Foie Gras on the menu, you know we had to order it, right? This came with a very nice tangy, passion fruit sorbet which acted like a nice intermezzo. The foie was decently seared, the texture wonderful. I did find it a bit too much on the sweet side. Of course, perhaps I've become a bit jaded having had so much foie gras over the last couple of years.
The Ox Cheeks were nicely done, I've yet to meet a version of carrillada that I didn't enjoy in Spain.
We also ordered the Deer Tenderloin which we affectionately called "Bambi".
Tasting like a more gamey version of the Ox Cheeks this was very tender and quite tasty.
For dessert the Missus chose the Gin and Tonic Sorbet which has a wonderful combination of tart, sweet, citrus tones, and black pepper (!). It was the perfect end to this meal.
While not every dish was a hit....and with this many, it's hard to do...remember, this isn't Azurmendi or even Disfrutar, the meal topped out at 60 Euros! That's right, with a couple of glasses of wine...all of this, a shade over sixty bucks! Plus, we had a blast chatting with Guillermo. And while, perhaps, this wasn't the best meal of our recent trip, it was by far, the most fun we'd had during a meal in a while! And that really does matter.
If you're planning to visit De Locos Tapas; make reservations, have an open mind....and relax....you'll have a good time!
De Locos Tapas Arquitecto Pons Sorolla 7 Ronda, Spain
We took our time walking back to our apartment. The Missus climbed up one of the stairways on the city wall and took the photo of the Old Town above. We stopped at the same spot where we took a photo of Puente Nuevo earlier in the day. It's just as beautiful, if not more so, at night.
As we got back to the apartment......
We decided to take a detour and walk around the building overlooking the valleys, where we came across this......
Whenever we travel, time permitting, I try to schedule something a bit different. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Ronda before this trip. While doing a bit of research I saw a photo, then read that Ronda is easily accessible by train. So I decided that we'd stay for a night on our way to Seville from Granada. We're so glad we stayed here. And to be perfectly honest, wished that we had more time.
Everything just seemed so perfect; the hotel, the Apartmentos Rondacentro was our favorite on this trip. About a 20 minutes walk from the train station, we had Unit A1, which had a fantastic view from the balcony.
Though I don't think there's a bad view anywhere around here.
But first we had to get there. We left Granada fairly early, walking from Plaza Nueva to Granada's Train Station, stopping for a "café solo" from Cafe Opera 5. Construction of the rail line to Granada and renovations around the station were going on during our stay. So we were bussed from Granada Train Station to Antequera-Santa Ana Station.
And while I sorely wished for some Ekiben Stands, we'd come prepared. We call it the "Madrid plan" where we purchase bread, jamon, and olive oil in advance and have that on the train, in the airport, or in this case in the train station. The nice olive oil we bought in Mercado Augustin and we'd found some decent Jamon Bellota Iberico Pata Negra at one of the shops on the way back to the apartment the night before.
Which kept us satisfied and made our train trip a lot more pleasant.
It was drizzly when we arrived in the White Hill town of Ronda. The walk to the apartment was easy....as I mentioned before, the location is spectacular with a view of the valley below. The place was also quite new and the woman who runs the front desk named Hilde was a joy.
There was a mini-kitchen and the all important washing machine/dryer. After freshening up a bit we headed out.
Plaza de Toros was a mere few steps away. Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting. Francisco Romero is said to have invented the cape (Muleta) and sword system in Ronda. Before this, knights on horses fought the bulls. His grandson, Pedro Romero is said to have been perhaps the greatest ever.
The Bullring is a much visited site, but we'd arrived rather late and decided that we'd use our time to visit other places. Like the Alameda del Tajo, a park which wraps around the Bullring and has a beautiful balcony from which you can view the valley and the mountains.
The clouds and approaching rain added an even more dramatic touch to things.
As you can tell, Ronda is located above the valley and gorge. This served a purpose providing protection for first the Romans, then the Moors until the city fell in 1485.
The scenic bridge in the first photo is called "Puente Nuevo" and crossed the ravine named El Tajo. It connects the "Old Town", with the whitewashed Moorish buildings to the El Mercadillo; the new town.
The Missus decided that She wanted to the bottom of the gorge through the Old Town, but first we decided to finish checking out the park.
This memorial caught my eye, because it looked distinctly Japanese.
It had the name Miki Haruta inscribed. I was intrigued. Turns out that Miki Haruta was an artist, who came to Ronda, fell in love with the village, and didn't leave until his death in 1995.
We then headed up Calle Jerez until we came upon this shop.
Looking into the shop, I was met with this sight, which I described to my friends as, "I think this is what heaven looks like"!
Of course we got "cien grams" Jamon Bellota Pata Negra and a bottle of some local wine for the Missus.
Boy, the smells were intoxicating. Though I'm not sure what's up with the framed slice of jamon? Is it like the "framing the first dollar earned" thing? I do know the guy in Chef's Whites, it's Dani Garcia who got a Michelin Star for the now closed Tragabuches restaurant while at the helm.
It was a nice interesting stop.
La Casa del Jamón Calle Jerez 28 Ronda, Spain
We headed on back to the apartment, got a load of laundry going, then crossed the Puente Nuevo into the Old Town.
There's a nice viewpoint from across the bridge.
From here we headed on down....taking a break at the Palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra.
It's quite a distinct structure with an even more interesting feature. Take a look at the four pre-Columbian figures framing the windows and above the balcony. These are Inca Indians! Symbolic of the far reach of Spanish Colonialism.
Right below the palace you can get a nice view of the "Puente Viejo", the Old Bridge which was constructed in 1616 upon the ruins of another bridge.
And the Arab Baths.
Taking a quick turn you come to a gate. This is the Arch of Philip V which was built in 1742 on the site of another gate that was located there.
We headed on down the stairs right before the Old Bridge, then swung around when we arrived at the cute, tiny, little church.
And arrived at the oldest bridge in Ronda....yes, older than the Old Bridge; called either the Arab Bridge, The Moorish Bridge, the San Miguel Bridge, or the Roman Bridge, depending who to talk to.
For many centuries, this was the entrance to Ronda. Nice view of the Old Bridge as well.
Heading back to the Old Bridge; you could really get an impression on how imposing a task it would be to take this fortified village.
We made our way back to the New Town by crossing the Old Bridge and walking up via the terraces.
At the highest most terrace, I saw a guy standing outside the gate to the street. I got kind of worried as he just seemed to be loitering around. Turns out, he had the keys to the entrances to the terraces and since it had started to rain pretty hard it was time to close the gates. He was waiting for us to finish taking our photos........what a nice guy. I felt so bad for making him wait. It took another 15 minutes to get back to the apartment, where it was time for a shower and a nap.
But first things first.
We needed some sustenance.....something to keep us going....something like; well the jamon we bought earlier. Great thing about jamon, it doesn't need refrigeration. I just like to leave it out and watch it sweat....I hope to see some sweat. That tells me there's a good fat content. As things stood, this was cut well, but it lacked that jamon sweetness and deep flavor and was too salty.
And while She really enjoyed the Blanco Seco here, I think She was wondering if we'd get a repeat of any of the tapas we'd had on previous nights. Answer was no.....
Things started with a quite hefty Tortilla Española, an omelet that was topped with a nice garlic aioli. Love the way they toast the bread here; it's light and crunchy.
For our second glass, we thought this was a repeat.....but it wasn't. On our first visit, we'd had a wonderful garlic-onion toast which looked much like this.
Except this had chicken in it; making it quite filling as well. The Missus really enjoyed the suspense of wondering what the upcoming mystery tapas was going to be. And there's no place we enjoyed more than Saint Germain.
Saint Germain Calle Postigo Velutti 4 Granada, Spain
When we left Saint Germain, it was but 0845...much too early to turn in, especially in Spain. So we decided to make yet another stop.....walking past the Ayuntamiento - the Town Hall topped with the stunning bronze equestrian statue by Ramiro Megías.
Straight down Calle Navas which then turned to Calle del Rosario was another wine bar. This one was recommended by a fan of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown.....he mentioned a place named La Tana, which we had passed two nights previous. Even though I didn't have the chance to watch that episode of Bourdain's show, we decided that we should check them out before we left Granada, so here we were.
Man, this place was packed.......
With one amazing woman running the entire bar! Herself! She never missed a beat. The place was crazy packed and when I got my beer and the Missus Her cava we were pretty sure that our tapa would take a while. So we were amazed when we saw folks passing a plate across the room! Our tapa!
Lovely, flavorful tomatoes, simply seasoned with salt and black pepper...I really took to the olives in Andalucia as well.
The same thing happened when we got a second glass.....this time anchovy with a nice salmorejo.
I was just amazed at how this woman worked everything so efficiently. She never missed an order, never missed getting anyone their tapa.
After having our two glasses we decided to head out and on our way. The woman knew exactly what we had.....the Missus was so taken with how efficient this woman was She typed out a little message and translated it to Spanish. The woman asked one of the other customers to translate, but the Missus had already translated it - "eres un tesoro". "You are a treasure". The customer smiled and told us, "yes, this is true!" The woman was tickled and borrowed the Missus's phone so she could show the other customers....that yes, indeed, she is a treasure! Love the friendliness and warmth of the folks in Granada.
Taberna La Tana Calle Rosario 11 Granada, Spain
Granada had indeed gotten to us. We headed back via Calle Navas. Near Plaza del Carmen we noticed this rather distinctive bar.
Peeking in the window we saw....Jesus everywhere!
How could we not have a drink here! So we had a seat under.....Jesus and other stuffs.....
Just one older gentleman manning the bar and small kitchen.
Good lord, he gave us a rather large plate of sausage and potatoes as our tapa!
Nothing fancy, but very hearty....and free with our glasses of wine....like 3 Euros as piece!
Quite a unique place with very friendly service.
El Tabernaculo Calle Navas 27 Granada, Spain
On a side note. When we returned home I watched the Granada episode of Parts Unknown, to see the La Tana scene. And then on came El Tabernaculo! Jesus! Bourdain went to the Jesus bar!
By this time, the Missus had decided that I'd had a bit too much tapas, so she marched me right back up the Albayzin to the Mirador San Nicolas. I must admit, the view at night is quite stunning as well.
After taking a few photos, we headed back down Cuesta del Chapiz and walked back to Plaza Nueva via Paseo de los Tristes (Walk of the Dead Ones).
While packing for an early getaway in the morning, I sipped a beer and munched on some Jamon and Queso chips. While we'd seen everything we wanted to and like most places we've visited, the city seemed to be shrinking everyday, we really enjoyed Granada. I'm not sure if we'll ever be back....but then again, Saint Germain and La Tana beckons, so who knows?
Things were much more busy on this morning as there was a line waiting for baguette.
This was soon remedied as a batch was made ready....the young woman cradled the steaming hot bread in her arms until reaching the baskets, then tossed the red hot baguettes into the basket....they sure were hot!
Fournil des Capucins 62 Cours de la Marne Bordeaux, France
That task done, we headed across the street to the Marche des Capucins.....where things were really buzzing. Apparently, a round of France's version of Top Chef Amateur - Championnate de France de Cuisine Amateur was taking place.
The ingredient mystere was duck breast and the contestants were hard at work. It was quite fun and we got drawn in.
This was our favorite:
He was quite friendly and jovial.
And while it was busy; things weren't overly crowded. This market is mostly for locals, but folks actually waved us in and wanted us to sample and vote!
And while the screen shows Alain in the lead, he actually had the audacity to vote for himself! Igor won - with the dish above; "Cappuccino asparagus, herb pesto, breast skewer and grilled ravioli Saint Jean".
It was great fun!
Marché des Capucins Place des Capucins Bordeaux, France
So much fun, that we realized as we passed the Fleche Saint Michel, we'd forgotten to get some cheese! Not a big deal as we headed on over to Marche des Grands Hommes, since we needed to stop by the Carrefour Market in lower level to pick up that white wine the Missus loved.
Along with the market, there were several vendors, selling everything from produce, to meat and cheese.
Even, ahem...sushi and Asian fast food.....
And since this is Bordeaux, you could also get a nice glass of wine......
Canelés are a specialty of Bordeaux. Basically a pastry with a custard center. It is shaped in the form of a scalloped cylinder. I'm not much on sweets, but since the Missus was so fascinated with Canelé and this shop, I told Her to give it a shot. I had also done a quick Google search on Baillardran and found that it was a very popular chain that originated in Bordeaux.
The Missus could hardly contain Herself.
This was a bit too dense, somewhat mushy, and too sweet for my taste. Though if you're in France give it a try.
Baillardran Pâtisseries Place des Grands Hommes Bordeaux, France
That was basically it for this leg of our trip, though we'd be back after spending a few days in Dordogne.
Bordeaux just seemed to much more than what we expected, with wonderful churches, towers, gates, cheese, and of course wine. After a nice "indoor picnic" lunch and the requisite nap, we headed back out. The Missus decided She wanted to walk along the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, the 1.2 kilometer long Rue Sainte-Catherine. As whole, we weren't too impressed with the shops and such and some parts were rather seedy. The street ends at Place de la Victoire and the "gate into the city", the triumphial arch; Porte d’Aquitaine which was built in 1753.
The folks who managed our apartment had a dinner recommendation for us; so we turned around and headed back.
Along the way we crossed over to cours Victor-Hugo and came across the Missus's favorite gate in Bordeaux, the Porte de la Grosse Cloche, the "Great Bell Gate". Built in the 15th century, this beloved gateway is on the city's coat of arms. The clocks date back to 1592 and the bell was cast in 1775.
Along the way we took a short break on a lovely square; Place Saint-Projet...apparently, there was once a church at this location. The fountain is quite lovely and it's a nice spot to take a break and relax.
Rue Saint Remi is full of cafes, brasseries, and other eating establishments, so it's really hard choosing where to eat. La Brasserie Bordelaise was highly recommended, so we decided to have dinner there.
Though the exterior looks rather decent in size, this place is pretty large, there's even a downstairs dining area. As we sat at our table, we noticed all the customers were tourists, though it could be the early dinner time. We also saw that the portions were very large and that most people were getting meat....with a capital "M". After seeing the rather generous portion sizes, we spoke to our waiter, who was very nice and very accommodating, and placed our order. We also got a very nice red from St Emillon; which was probably the best item of the night. Also, we noticed a lot of folks getting the Jamon.....we had just arrived from Spain, there was no way we'd be getting jamon here.
We started with the Foie Gras with toast, 12 Euros, which was decent, not outstanding, but you have to remember, we ate a ton of foie gras on this trip.
We also ordered the Farmhouse Terrine (12€), which we didn't enjoy. First off, it was ice cold in the center, second it had a very gritty texture, I know, this is "rustic", right? It was also a bit too earthy for my palate.....which enjoys a whole host of earthy flavors. It just wasn't our thing I guess.
The Missus was in the mood for lamb. We asked the Server about the portion size of the Braised Lamb Shoulder with Beans (26€). He was a pretty funny guy....he told us, "I think it is enough for two, but you would not believe how any people finish this themselves!" So we asked if sharing would be appropriate. To which he replied, "of course.....it would be enough for two."
When it arrived, the Missus looked at me and I said, "of course.....it would be enough for two" and then some. The Flageolet beans, while a bit under-seasoned had a wonderful texture and beany flavor. The lamb was quite deliciously gamey, but was pretty tough and seemed like it could stand for a bit more time in the oven. It also didn't seem much different from anything I'd make at home. The price at 70 Euros wasn't bad, but seemed a bit high, the service was good, but I think there must be much better in Bordeaux at this price point.
La Brasserie Bordelaise 50 Rue St Remi Bordeaux, France
Finishing dinner at almost 11pm does take a bit out of you. The following morning we weren't that early to rise. After some much needed coffee, we headed out. This was supposed to be an "easy" day. The Missus wanted to check out the famous Moorish Quarter, the Albayzin, full of twisting lanes, history, and some of the best views of Granada to boot.
There were maps of course, but we just started heading up, up, and up. There is a bus which circles the Albayzin....but you know; this is the Missus...we walked.
We arrived at a nice little café, named Café 4 Gatos and stopped for a "un café Americano". Really nice folks and a great place to stop.
And take in some of the local flavor, in the form of our four legged furry friends.
Yes, the streets are narrow and winding and the walk rather steep....I wouldn't want to be running around here during a good rain. But reading the section about the Albayzin in Rick Steves book makes this sound much more difficult than it is.
In spite of not using the map, we ended up where everyone wants to be when they visit the Moorish Quarter; the Mirador San Nicolas with it's beautiful view. It would be quite a romantic stop if not for all the folks sharing the view. Though it wasn't as busy as other photos I've seen.
And to be honest, there is quite an interesting vibe to the place. Checking out the priceless view......
Listening to the Gypsy musicians.......
For an even better, and in this case more romantic experience, go into the Iglesia de San Nicolas.
Pay your 5 Euros a piece and head on up into the bell tower. If you're lucky, you'll be the only folks in the tiny bell tower, feeling a million miles away from the people below. And you'll be rewarded with even more wonderful views.
And Sacromonte; the "Roma" (Gypsy) Quarter.
If you want some refreshment, there are a couple of cafes. One is right on the street below the mirador, where you can grab a drink, sit, and enjoy the view. Another is right around from the church.
After spending a good amount of time enjoying the views the Missus wanted to do more exploring, so we set out heading downhill, until we came to a pretty little plaza.
The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and I broke out laughing when I saw this place; Los Caracoles. It was the place I had marked on my map for lunch!
It was still before opening time; so the Missus and I wandered around the area, stopping in some of the small shops down Cuesta del Chapiz, doing a bit of people watching.
Then heading back up and taking a break in front of Colegiata del Salvador, a huge church that stands on the site of what was the city's main mosque during the reign of the Moors.
We relaxed for a bit than headed across the street just past noon for lunch at Los Caracoles. Even if you spoke no Spanish (or even Portuguese) and didn't understand what caracoles were; you'd know what the specialty of the house was as soon as you stepped into the place.
The woman working here was so warm and friendly, always there with a smile. We were the only folks with a table for almost our entire meal.
We saw folks, mostly older, local, and rather thirsty, buzz in and out during our meal. They came for a glass of wine or beer and a tapa.....
The Missus had a very nice red....I choose a cerveza....
While we pondered over what to order......which was kind of obvious, right?
We placed our order, then the tapa arrived, free with our drinks.....holy smokes.....it was pretty large, pan fried pork on toast. with a nice garlic olive oil brushed on it. No wonder the locals come here!
The Missus decided that She wanted the Habas con Jamon....I watched the cook slice off three slices off the pata for this dish, which was quite substantial.
The Missus loves Her eggs so it was a double bonus. Nicely flavored peppery olive oil; almost a hint of citrus, the thicker slices of jamon really added all the saltiness the dish needed.
We had initially said that we didn't need any bread...but c'mon......you needed bread...even if it was in the shape of a snail.
Especially when your next dish is a very garlicky and grassy-peppery (from the olive oil) Gambas al Ajillo. I really don't think I need to write anything more about this dish.
And of course.....
Probably the most tender snails I've ever had as the texture was like perfectly prepared beef tendon, buttery and tender, with just the slight amount of toothsomeness to finish. The flavor was quite plain and the Missus had problems with the rather earthy flavors of the snails. I just dunked them in the sauce left over from the shrimp! Luckily, this was a media racione (a half portion).
Meanwhile, a trickle of locals kept dropping in; having a drink, a tapa, then moving on....I'd like to know where they were going! Except for one really needy American couple....good lord, do you really have all those food sensitivities? Then what the heck are you doing at a snail restaurant? I really don't want to know your business nor your opinions....just chill.
I'd love to return to Los Caracoles. The folks here are warm and friendly. I'd come for a couple of drinks and some of those tapas; or maybe some callos (tripe stew) or rabo de toro (oxtail).
Bar Aliatar Los Caracoles Plaza Aliatar 4 Granada, Spain
I thought we'd be headed back to Plaza Nueva via Cuesta del Chapiz, but the Missus wanted to head back to Mirador San Nicolas, for yet another dose of the wonderful view.
And I don't blame Her. Life is short. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. We should enjoy the moment!
There was steady drizzle as we headed back to Myeongdong.
We had begun to notice something about the crosswalk signals in Seoul.....they seemed to take an inordinately long time to change. Miss a walk signal and you're stuck cooling your heels. Which is probably why you'll see folks sprinting to make the walk signal....I mean like 80 year old grandma's hauling it to the crosswalk!
So why did we head back to that beast called Lotte Department Store?
Well, the night before I stopped by 7-11 and picked up a bottle of Hite. attached to that bottle was a sample of honey-butter almonds.....which the Missus loved. So of course we had to hunt them down. After looking in a couple of convenience stores we decided just to head to Lotte and check out the market in the basement. And whaddya know? Almonds. So it was mission accomplished.
We headed back to the apartment for a short siesta. During this time of the year, night falls like a hammer in Seoul...it gets dark by 430pm! We were also quite hungry. Seoul is famous for their "Food Alleys". Near the Jong-no 3ga station is an alley that specializes in Gul Bossam; pork and fresh oysters wrapped in lettuce or napa cabbage...... No need to ask me twice, I'm there!
The instructions were, find exit 15 of Jong-no 3ga station and walk 20 meters down the street, take your first left down the alley to your left, then take your first right. One of the shops, Samhae Jip was the one I read about the most. I had a photo of the storefront and the Missus could read the Chinese characters. It really wasn't that hard to find....you just looked for the line!
And all the pork simmering away......
We really lucked out as all the other parties were large and we quickly snagged a small table for two. I was also quite lucky to not have to do endure the floor seating, which, if you've read some of my previous posts is a disaster waiting to happen. The possibility of me falling over and spilling hot soup on folks is not a pretty thought, though folks here were having no problem.
Lot's of folks seemed to be having a good time....and many had what we call the "Asian gene" thing going on! Half the fun was people watching. The three guys to our far left were just plain wasted....they were slapping each other....then feeding each other! On our table to our left, we noticed the girl there only eating panchan and lettuce, while her boyfriend/husband just plowed through the pork, something we had also noticed the night before.
The smells in the place were just intoxicating! All the standard sides and panchan arrived; bean paste, fermented baby shrimp, the raw garlic, a couple of chilies, ssamjang, kkandugi (radish kimchi), Sukju Namul.
The wrapping was done with either lettuce or napa cabbage. The Missus preferred the lettuce; I preferred the sturdy cabbage, which I thought kept everything together better and had MCPB - More Crunch Per Bite.
Soju is required for this type of eating....at least that's what we were told.
The Missus's favorite item was the gamjatang, the pork bone soup. It was fairly chilly and damp, so the Missus who loves Her bone soup had problem plowing through almost the entire pot! It was quite tasty. The Missus has also developed a taste for the perilla seeds.
This was a load of food for 20,000₩, about $18 US! This was for two people! I was kind of leery about the oysters, but while not great in flavor, it had a nice texture, and was fresh. The fresh radish kimchi was really good as well. The pork....well, as you can see.....it was moist, pretty tender, mild in flavor. And those fermented shrimp tasted really good!
The folks here were pretty friendly. And dinner was a bargain at 30,000₩, about $26 for food and drinks.
It might be hard finding this place....well not really if you follow the "exit 15 - take a left - take a right". It's worth the effort to check it out.
Samhae Jip - Gul Bossam Alley
We headed back out to Jong-ro. The rain had subsided and the temperature was going down.
As we watched the businessmen stagger down the side streets.....
The sun rose early and brightly on our first full day in Bordeaux. Even though we had arrived mid-morning we had still put in quite a few kilometers before deciding to call it a day. We would end up putting in some mileage on this day as well.
I had a destination in mind and we decided to just meander our way to our objective; one of the benefits of independent travel. The sun was shining brightly on Place de la Bourse as we headed off into the district known as Saint-Pierre, considered the birthplace of the city. The narrow streets are lined with structures from the 18th century and lead, one way or another into a square. We quickly walked onto the cobblestone lined Place du Parlement, once the location of the Royal Market.
The centerpiece is a beautiful Neo-Rococo fountain.
Walking to Place Saint Pierre, one can't help but notice the haunting, Gothic styled, Eglise Saint-Pierre (Church of St. Peter), which dates back to the 14th and 15th century.
It really stands out as the square and street is lined with restaurants and cafes, the name of one of them made us laugh......everyone does need a "Plan B", right? Place du Plais leads right up to the Porte Cailhau.
According to what I later read; there was actually a palace located here, the Palais de l'Ombriere the residence of the Dukes of Aquitaine and later housed the Parliament of Bordeaux. I really loved the relief-map sculpture of Bordeaux located right behind the Porte Cailhau. I did a little research and found a blog post about François Didier who created this work.
Near the Porte Cailhau, I noticed this plaque, which started with a few questions before telling us the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Bordeaux claims (along with two other cities) to be the birthplace of Eleanor, who would become one of the most powerful women in the Europe and after getting her marriage to Louis VII annulled would marry the Duke of Normandy, eleven years her junior....Henry, the Duke of Normandy would become Henry II.
It took two centuries to build this Basilica; starting in 1350 and finishing sometime in the 16th century. Possibly even more impressive is the bell tower which, like Pey-Berland Tower which stands next to the Cathedral of Saint Andre, stands apart from the church. And in case you're wondering who has bragging rights; Fleche Saint Michel is the tallest tower in Sothern France, standing at 114 meters, Pey-Berland Tower is 50 meters tall. On this bright morning there was a lively flea market going on in the square next to the tower.
This used to be a Benedictine monastery and was built between the late 11th and 12th centuries.
One of the most well known features of this church is the Organ built by famous organ maker and Benedictine Monk, Dom Bédos de Celles, finished in 1748.
This was a major landmark for me, as I knew we had to take a left here and swing around to get to our destination, Marche des Capuchins.
I'd read much about this market before we arrived in Bordeaux, it seemed to be a favorite with locals, and you know how much we love visiting markets when we travel!
The market was established on October 2nd, 1749 at the urging of Marquis de Tourny. If you like to see some old photos and read (a translated) history of the market, you can do that here.
We had a gameplan of sorts, but all revolved around bread. I'd noticed a bakery right across the street from the market.
I could actually smell the wonderful scent of bread baking. I followed my nose and ended up at the back of the bakery. The bakers looked at us, smiled and waved us in.......so our first experience at Fournil des Capucins was walking past the ovens and bakers baking bread to the front of the shop.
This would end up being our favorite bakery......I later found out the place is open 24 hours a day! With a steady stream of fresh baguette. How could we not get a baguette and a couple of croissants?
The smell of good fresh baguette is intoxicating....we'd seen folks walking along carrying bread with a chunk off the end missing. Well, I guess it's instinctive, because as soon as we walked out of the bakery, the Missus just bit a chunk off the end of the bread! It is that good.....
Fournil des Capucins 62 Cours de la Marne Bordeaux, France
The smell of bread had overcome us....we needed something to eat and perhaps some espresso. Right across the back of the bakery, in front of the main entrance to the market is this stand.
Which made a decent cup of espresso that went nicely with our croissant.
Then we ducked back into the market and bought some cheese. We found the farmers and vendors in Marche des Capuchins quite friendly, even though we stood out from the usual crowd. They seemed to go out of their way to help us. We ended up at this cheese stand.
And got some cheese....
Marché des Capucins Place des Capucins Bordeaux, France
We had fully intended to do a nice picnic and headed back to the apartment after doing a bit of window shopping on Cours de l’Intendance. Where we saw the ultimate way of entertaining a pup while his "dad" did some shopping in the store.
Just get him some rope and cord to keep him occupied!
We cut through Rue Voltaire and stopped at the Carrefour Market in Place des Grand Hommes. The Missus, laden down with bread and cheese gave me a simple directive...."get us some white wine" which was simple enough. What I wasn't ready for was the whole wall of white wines! Like over 50 different bottles...vintages...blends....I went with something rather local, with some reservation since it was 4,9€ - five bucks and change. The Missus was cracking up when I got out of the market....she'd seen the look on my face when I got to the wine department....analysis paralysis.
We headed up to Jardin Public, the large public garden and green space that was two blocks from our apartment. It's quite a lush and welcoming park.
The park was founded in 1746 in style of a French Garden. Napoleon III turned it into more of an English style park during his reign. There's a nice large pond, the Natural History Museum is located here, and there's even a Puppet Theatre.
Nice, but it was getting a bit too hot for us...so we headed back to the apartment and had a really nice "indoor picnic"......with the A/C on.....doesn't get much better than that!
With our cheese, bread, strawberries, and of course the wine....which was excellent, crisp, light, with a touch of sweet, and a balanced acidity.....
In fact, the Missus would have me go back for this very bottle of wine a couple more times during our stay in Bordeaux.
It's not always about eating out when we're travelling......when in Bordeaux, it was the cheese and wine....oh, and don't forget that baguette!