Aug 172014

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 020 bannerMap - roads, all

We all woke up early today (not content with going to Mass yesterday) to hike what I call The Circuit of Seongbuk-dong.  Seongbuk-dong, the neighborhood where we live, is essentially a small valley, bounded on the north by the Bugak Skyway winding its way along the ridge, on the south & west by the City Wall, and open in the east to the center of Seoul.

The Circuit of Seongbuk-dong is basically to cut across the east end of the valley, follow the city wall north & east until you get to the stairs to the Bugak Palgakjeong up on the Bugak Skyway, and then follow the Skyway east until you get back to your starting point.  I estimate it (using at 7.5 km, cutting down from the Skyway past our house & then as directly as you can to Seongbuk-ro.  But you could easily stretch that to 9 km depending on how you come down from the Skyway.

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 001Stage2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 004 1:  We left at 7:40am, and walked down our street until we got to the pedestrian cut-throughs through little alleys down to the 7-Eleven.  Across Seongbuk-ro, and we’re at the bottom of the City Wall where Hyehwa-ro cuts through.

Stage 2: There are a lot of stairs, but also a lot of level bits, so it’s not so bad, except that the stone steps are very high, and often not very deep.  So hard on your thighs and careful where you put your feet.

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 0062014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 010Stage 3:  From there, the city wall climbs up to the top of the ridge where the road to the back entrance of SKK University & to Samcheong-dong cuts through, and you can cross from the inside of the wall to the outside and Samcheong Park.

You stay close under the City Wall until the stairs up to the guard house at the restricted part of the wall (above the Blue House, the residence of the President of Korea).  There, keep on straight.

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 012The path — and I use the term loosely as it’s really a wooden walkway (see right).  It’s all deep woods.  The interesting thing, both there and higher up, is the variety of plant life.  It’s not “a pine forest” or “an oak forest”… there is a wide variety of trees, bushes, vines, shrubs, etc.  So it’s very pretty.


2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 0132014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 017Stage 4:  Around the time that the path takes you above the Samcheong Tunnel (from Seongbuk-dong to Samcheong-dong), you get a great view of Samcheonggak, an old palace (well, ok, only since 1972) where you can eat traditional meals & see traditional performances.  For example, when I was there for lunch once, there was an extraordinary performance of mostly drumming with some acrobatics & plate spinning as well.

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This is where the fun part begins:  approximately 1 km of stairs, from the Samcheong Tunnel up to the Bugak Palgakjeong (on the Skyway).  It’s a tough climb, but I’m happy to say not as tough for us as it would have been a year ago.  There were a fair few people hiking (mostly up).  We passed some resting on the occasional small rest platforms, but sadly, the folks actually climbing all passed us (well, not That Girl, just me & Aingeal).


2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 0252014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 033 Stage 5:  The easy bit.  The Palgakjeong is a great place to visit on a clear day for views over Seoul, and also has a couple of places to eat (which I’ve not tried).  You can park there but it’s very popular so there can be queues to get into the parking lot (to the irritation of other drives on the two-lane Skyway!).

We didn’t go into the Palgakjeong, but just headed along the Skyway, which has a parallel hiking trail (generally a dirt trail, but if the dropoff is too steep, there will be a wooden walkway).

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 0262014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 034Eventually, we got back to places that I normally reach during my morning constitutional (5km on the Skyway: 2.5 out & the same to get home!).  The Skyway follows the ridge, so it’s fairly level (by car); on foot, there are some stretches where you go up & down, but nothing like the climb a bit earlier!  On the right there is a panorama of a large exercise area — in the morning, there are a lot of regulars who hike there, exercise, and then hike back home (I assume back home anyway).  That Girl is modelling the “hang upside down by your feet” machine.

2014-08-17 Circuit of Seongbuk-dong 040And finally home!








 Posted by on 17 Aug 2014
Aug 162014


2014-08-16 Pope Francis Mass 019 banner
We got up early this Saturday morning to go to the Papal Mass celebrated by (of course) Pope Francis.  But not as early as many:  the volunteer who showed us to the section where we were seated said she’d been there since 2am — and was hoarse enough to prove it! — and many people (like our housekeeper’s church group) had been meeting at 3am for a 4am arrival at Gwanghwamun.  So I felt like a bit of a piker.

2014-08-16 Pope Francis Mass 001It was a pretty good day for it.  While hot, it wasn’t tooo hot, and there was cloud cover for part of the morning, which helped.  They’d provided hats (well, visors really) for everyone (see above) which was a good idea.  No water allowed:  next time there’s a rule like that, I’m stocking up on ice-coffee in a bag (ain’t water, ain’t in a bottle…).

The first thing we saw was the length of Sejong-daero full of people.  Chock full.  Tomorrow’s papers will tell us how many… The paper said they expected “up to 1 million people”.

2014-08-16 Pope Francis Mass 052 The pope showed up a bit before 10 — on the giant monitors, you could follow his progress at walking pace (in the Popemobile!) up Sejong-daero from Seoul Square / City Hall all the way to Gwanghwamun.

2014-08-16 Pope Francis Mass 114The mass was actually to beatify 124 Korean martyrs, mostly from the 1700’s (a bit from 1600’s and 1800’s also).  The large screens on either side of the alter had a succession of graphics, including an interesting animation (see left), where the figures would appear and then a cross would float from the bright (star shaped) cross to the figure’s chest.

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For the mass, a very large number of priests had been brought in, and they collected the Host and then walked down Sejong-daero.  Each priest had a helper, who had a parasol which they held over the priest while he was administering the sacrament (as in the pic to the right).  They started heading down Sejong-daero a few minutes before the main alter had gotten to that point:  it’s a good walk down to Seoul Square!

2014-08-16 Pope Francis Mass 155One interesting thing was the mantillas, which I’ve never really seen worn until I was in Korea (although if I’d gone to church in Spain, there’s a good chance I might have seen them there too).  In the bright sun, they also doubled as handy sun screens; virtue really was it’s own reward.

Anyway, here are the pictures, first a panorama of the the alter with the Royal Palace behind it, and then all the rest of the pics.

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 Posted by on 16 Aug 2014
Jul 132014

We had a great time in Brussels the week before last, but it didn’t involve a lot of tourism or seeing a lot of people (we went for quality not quantity on that front!)… so not much to say and few pictures to share!  And I was working the entire week.  But it was great!

We stayed with our friends Mark & Dirk, who were out of town unfortunately, but we enjoyed spending time with Dirk’s mother Georgette, who was house-sitting (and who is a sweetheart just like Dirk!), and we saw a good bit of our very close friends Andreas & Cristina, who also visited us in Seoul a few months ago.  Really, if M&D had been in town, I think it would have been a perfect visit.  Our next stop was Madrid…  but this post is about Brussels.

So here are a few pics that capture the essence of the trip:  seeing friends, eating nice food, a bit of shopping.  As always, click  on a picture for the full-size version (the ones of people are print-quality originals).



 Posted by on 13 Jul 2014
Jun 082014

On Thursday, the Irish Association of Korea presented awards for contributions to the promotion of Irish culture in Korea.

I was sorry to miss it (had some business calls that I really needed to take).  But one of the awardees, Conor O’Reilly, wrote about it on his blog

and included a set of pictures from the event on his Flickr account

Click on the above links to have a look!


 Posted by on 08 Jun 2014