Home, Sweet Home

These photos were taken about a month ago a few days after our arrival in Seoul. So far, my experience has been more interesting than exciting. I’m actually not sure how to accurately describe what I’m feeling towards it. I feel at home but at the same time I could not feel more awkward at the idea of living here. It’s true that I was born here and spent a good amount of childhood here before leaving for America but everything is so different… yet the same.

All in all, I am loving the convenience of city life, one that’s quite different from the life I had in New York; I’m referring to the food deliveries that take less than ten minutes, access to all the tasty food that’s extremely affordable, all the shopping opportunities, and the fact that there’s pretty much everything I need right out the door. I also like that the cold water is actually cold, and the hot water is hot the way it’s supposed to be, and the crisp cold breeze that welcomes me every morning. In midst of the hustle and bustle of city life, you can always find a place to take a breath of fresh air at a nearby park or a mountain in my case, all for free. We went hiking yesterday to a neighborhood mountain which turned out to be a famous landmark. I’m continuously amazed at the abundance of things you can do in this city that are available for free.

Most important however, is that I don’t look like a foreigner anymore, something I struggled with for a very long time when I lived in the States. Often, people are surprised that my English pronunciation is quite good considering that it’s my second language. What they don’t know is how hard I tried to hide my identity, a struggle one would have a hard time fully comprehending unless experienced firsthand. I know I should have been more proud of my background but unfortunately, my self-confidence was overpowered by fear of isolation and neglect at the time. For more on this topic, read here.

Yeah, so the verdict is… that I like it here, because

I  am  home.

Florence: A Colorful History

The first thing I noticed about Florence is the colors. It’s one of the major factors that differentiates it from other cities in Italy which I’m inspired to apply onto my wardrobe.

Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence where you will find rooms filled with art from top to bottom. No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape!

Michaelangelo’s Genius of Victory. Funny, I am truly able to enjoy these artworks now that I’m comfortably sitting in my apartment flipping through photos of them. I was always too tired by the time we got to each location that I wasn’t able to fully enjoy them at the time. Photography is a wonderful thing!

What the boobs..?! Seems that our imagination knows no end. People would come up with anything that amuses others. First it was the mermaid, the unicorn, then came a blossoming winged man with no arms but boobs.

Italian street artists. Whether through music or other form of art, they made my trip much more memorable.

What every meal consisted of while in Italy (note, I said “every meal”, that’s about 20 slices of pizza!). So delicious with just a right amount of sauce and mozzarella on a crispy thin crust; however, I’ve gladly put myself on a pizza-free-diet since leaving Italy and I don’t miss them yet.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) which took over 100 years to build. I know, aside from the obvious artistic talent, how much patience and determination do you need to build something so grand?

The bell tower at the Basilica. I have a story to tell you, so after seeing a crowd coming out of this tower, we were encouraged to go up to get a view of the beautiful city of Florence. We bought tickets for about 10 euro each (I think) and headed for the stairs not thinking much. Little did we know, after climbing up for about five minutes, my legs started shaking and the worse part is that we were still far from reaching the top. When I thought we were there, my lovely hubby reminded me that we were only on the first floor. So the climbing continued… for another 10 minutes or so. As you can imagine, by the time we reached the top, I could barely breathe. I’m telling you, I must have grown another thigh after this trip. Thanks to my fear of heights and lungs that were busy gasping for air, it was the perfect occasion to deal with an unwelcome guest named nausea despite how beautiful (in fact, I can’t remember seeing anything so breathtakingly beautiful in a while) the view was. Oh, how many times I asked myself, “What have I done to myself?” and “Are you serious that I paid for this?” hahaha. Well, all in all, I’m very glad that we went up. We ended up spending a good 30-40 minutes on the top just enjoying the view that’s still very much alive in my mind. It was not just a good view of the city but a cultural experience. I felt the energy, love for art, and life of the people of Florence there.

Too bad we had to skip Uffizi… We will be back! Ciao, Firenze! Off to Roma now. :)

Florence: Home of Beautiful Things

Heard that the Statue of Liberty in New York was inspired by this. Do you see the resemblance?

Where Leonardo Da Vinci, the greatest artist of all time, is buried. I actually found out that his tomb was located at this church after seeing his name there. I know most people get a lot of studying done before traveling to historical places but I really didn’t have the time because of my relocation situation so I’m actually learning either as I write on this blog or as I was walking into these 1000 year old monuments.

Yeah, same outfit from the previous post… how boring! but I just really liked the color of the door, that’s all. :)

A quick update: just got internet installed at my place in Korea. I’m getting close to 100 mb/sec which means I’m able to upload these photos within seconds. Compared to the 20 mb I used to get in California (and I used to pay extra for that speed), this is a huge improvement, hence you will start seeing a lot more pictures on my posts because uploading is so easy for me now! Yesss! Give me some time until I’m able to do outfit posts though, just started unpacking my stuff upon their arrival two days ago, and I’m suffering from some serious muscle ache thanks to 100 pairs of shoes and a room-ful of clothes which made me think of opening a clothing shop for a minute. Anyhow, it’s getting quite chilly here in Seoul and I’m just forever thankful that my things finally arrived so I can actually start dressing appropriately. I hear it’s quite windy in California- stay home and make sure there are no big trees around you!


Toscana: The Morning After

After an attack of Tuscan mosquitoes all night, that is. The husband declared a war around six in the morning for which he decided to open every single window in the apartment in an attempt to freeze them to death, which almost killed me, too. It must have worked though, because we didn’t see them again.

I’ve always been more of a dog person but that may have changed after spending a few nights with these two. Such cute cats with lots of love to share.

We went up to the balcony (?) of the watchtower in the early morning. (The apartment is attached to the watchtower, you have to climb up stairs to get to the top of the watchtower.)

At first, we noticed how amazingly crisp and fresh the air was. Soon after, we couldn’t help but find ourselves gawking at the view.

Tuscany is known for its gorgeous landscapes, its rich artistic legacy and its vast influence on high culture. Tuscany is widely regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and has been home to some of the most influential people in the history of arts and science, such as Petrarch, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Amerigo Vespucci, Luca Pacioli and Puccini. Due to this, the region has several museums (such as the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and the Chianciano Museum of Art). Tuscany has a unique culinary tradition, and is famous for its wines (most famous of which are Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino).

Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Florence (1982), the historical centre of Siena (1995), the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987), the historical centre of San Gimignano (1990), the historical centre of Pienza (1996) and the Val d’Orcia (2004). Furthermore, Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves. This makes Tuscany and its capital city Florence very popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of tourists every year. Florence itself receives an average of 10 million tourists a year by placing the city as one of the most visited in the world (in 2007, the city became the world’s 46th most visited city, with over 1.715 million arrivals).

Toscana: The Watchtower

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a few nights in a historical building, let’s say one that was built almost 900 years ago? When I came across this listing (you may have to sign up on Airbnb to see), I couldn’t resist booking the place. I actually had booked a room at a mansion in the nearby area in Tuscany but the host cancelled my reservation at the last minute so the nice rep at Airbnb kindly found this jewel for me. On top of the already awesome price (only $75/night), I received a discount due to the cancellation, so it ended up costing us less than the Motel 6 in the States, only that we got to rent the entire apartment including the watchtower, the breathtaking view of the town, and two cats as a bonus. We were also pleasantly surprised at the fact that it only took 15 minutes to get to Florence. The only downfall was that everything was closed by the time we arrived (it was about 7 pm) so I had no choice but to put on my chef’s hat and cook up some pseudo-Italian food using a frying pan as an oven. The result as you can see below is the frozen pizza with fresh mozzarella and spicy salami as special toppings. Oh, and can’t forget the Tabasco imported all the way from Milan. By the time we arrived in Tuscany (or Toscana), I was literally dying for some serious spiciness in my food (thanks to the Korean in me), and the green Tabasco was the only thing close to Kimchi I could find… but it did the job and I could not ask for more.. or not… Anyhow, now onto the pictures of the place…

The hosts were kind enough to welcome us with a bottle of Tuscan wine. More pictures to come.

Venezia: The Floating City

On a indescribably cold night in Seoul (heard that we almost saw the first snow of the year), sharing some peaceful Venice photos as a way to temporarily remove myself from reality, or as a therapy. I’m stranded at home for another week due to a complete lack of wardrobe both appropriate for the weather and style.

On a brighter note, finally received my white iPhone 4s and a Korean number which made me smile from ear to ear all day yesterday. Now I just need my Jeffrey Campbell platforms, Ted Baker winter coat, desk, iMac, bookcases, purses, toaster, panini maker, blender, wine glasses, drawer, books, wedding pictures, paintings, 50 pairs of shoes, and ten boxes of clothes. I really really miss them. I really do. I promise to be nice when we reunite next week. *sigh*

Coffee Break

suddenly missing Paris

These kids were rollerblading in front of the stairs and almost ran into a little baby. The daddy got so mad that he started yelling in French (the real kind). Photo taken during a short break from the reality show.

The day we decided to finally visit the Musee d’Orsay, it was closed due to a strike. A major bummer. At least, we got to “see” the museum.

I rock husband’s clothes like they are mine.

Muubaa camel leather bomber jacket, Urban Outfitters burgundy skinny jeans, Husband’s Club Monaco plaid shirt, H&M Legwarmers

Duomo di Milano: The Largest Cathedral in Italy

“What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems …a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath!… The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures– and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest…everywhere that a niche or a perch can be found about the enormous building, from summit to base, there is a marble statue, and every statue is a study in itself…Away above, on the lofty roof, rank on rank of carved and fretted spires spring high in the air, and through their rich tracery one sees the sky beyond. … (Up on) the roof…springing from its broad marble flagstones, were the long files of spires, looking very tall close at hand, but diminishing in the distance…We could see, now, that the statue on the top of each was the size of a large man, though they all looked like dolls from the street… They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands.”- Mark Twain

Not sure about the significance of the mummified corpses of popes which I thought was both interesting and frightening. While some looked very old, some looked quite fresh still in the process of decomposition.

I was thankful that it was warmer in Milan (compared to London, Paris, or Switzerland) which meant that I could stop borrowing Justin’s sweaters, as well as put away the leg warmers which had been keeping the lower part of my body warm for the past two weeks or so. Again, comfort was key as we were planning to do some serious walking around the Duomo for shopping and people watching, hence the return of the Chucks. Not by choice nor by force but for functionality. Surprisingly (or not, I wasn’t all that interested in what I was wearing or could wear at this point), I now realize that they actually worked quite well with the Miss Sixty leopard print dress which is a combination I hadn’t thought of before. Traveling indeed forces/helps you to try something new.