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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hotel Aventree Jogno

For some reason, I can't upload pictures to this blog. I'll post text and when I can figure out how to upload the pictures, I'll add them later.

***I got the pictures to upload, so here's the updated post.***

Our home base for the week in Seoul was the Hotel Aventree Jogno. This was centrally located, which made touring very easy. From Seoul Station, take Line 1 toward Soyosan. Get off 2 stops later at Jonggak. Take Exit 3-1. Follow the signs and when you see Exit 3, turn completely around and you'll see a bookstore down a small flight of stairs. Take the exit on the right after the bookstore. You'll come out at the Jongno Tower.

Walk straight ahead and you'll pass a statue that looks like "Iron Man" about a block away.

Hotel Aventree is a 5-minute walk from Jonggak Station. The hotel has 12 stories and our room was located on the 11th floor.

Even though we faced the street, our room was quiet. We had 2 twin beds and there was just enough room between the beds and the wall to walk by but the room was spacious enough.

The bathroom wall was a frosted window so you can see shadows in the bathroom from the bedroom.

There is a safe, refrigerator and high-tech toilet. You get a complimentary bottle of water every day, although the tap water is safe to drink. Breakfast was not included in our hotel rate. There is a 7-11 in the hotel.

Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Jongmyo Shrine and Bukchon Hanok Village are 10 minutes walk. Insadong pedestrian shopping district is 1 block away. Cheong-gye-cheon stream is less than 10 minutes away and City Hall, Seoul Plaza and Deoksugung are 15 minutes away. For anything further, the subway is 2 blocks away.

2013 09 15

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Incheon International Airport

We arrived in Seoul after an 11 1/2 hour flight from SFO. Seoul is 16 hours ahead. The Incheon International Airport (ICN) was opened in 2001 and was voted the best airport in the world every year for the last 8 years. From the international terminal, you have to take a tram to Customs. Board the car closest to the escalator. You exit through the same doors that you enter so there is no need to rush onto the tram. Once you arrive in the main terminal, if you're not directly near the escalator, take the elevators located just behind.

Customs was speedy and efficient. You do have to have your fingerprint scanned and picture taken. They keep your landing card.

Exit the Customs area into the main terminal and you immediately hear live entertainment. On the day we were there, there were opera singers performing. Directly outside of customs is an ATM. There is a charge--in our case W 5000 for W 500,000 withdrawal. If there's a line in front of the ATM, turn to your left and there's another ATM near the Information booth.

Incheon is located 30 miles west of Seoul. The Incheon International Airport Train travels to Gimpo Airport and to Seoul Station. Follow the signs to the train station on the lower level. Purchase a single-trip ticket at one of the automatic machines. The commuter train takes 53 minutes to Seoul Station and cost W 4050. There is an additional W 500 deposit, which is refundable at the end of the trip. There is a non-stop train that takes 43 minutes and cost W 10,000 more.

Seoul Station is the last stop and connects to Line 1 & 4 of the subway. You'll need to purchase a new ticket.

The Airport Train is very easy to take but there are stairs to negotiate. An alternative is to take the Airport Bus which costs W 10,000.

2013 09 15

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chuseok, Seoul

I work for a company which requires us to choose our vacation weeks in September of the previous year. It's hard to know what I want to do for vacation that far in advance so I end up choosing a vacation destination to fit the week I have off.

I had the 3rd week in September off this year. Since it was only 1 week, I was limited in what I could do. I decided to visit a capital city and ended up with Seoul for several reasons:
1) I could get a non-stop flight at a reasonable price ($850 roundtrip).
2) The US dollar was relatively strong.
3) Hotels were inexpensive.
4) I liked the food.
And, for a bonus, they were having a celebration.

The harvest moon festival, also known as Chuseok, was celebrated on 9/19/2013. This is the largest and most important holiday in Korea, equivalent to Thanksgiving. Family members come together to share food and stories and to give thanks to their ancestors. It's celebrated for 3 days, beginning the day before Chuseok and ending the day after Chuseok. Since Chuseok fell on a Thursday this year, the holiday lasted 5 days, including the weekend.

During Chuseok, special events are held at many sites throughout Seoul and the ancient palaces offer free admission.

Monday, September 23, 2013


I just returned from a trip to Korea and I was surprised that we didn't have good bulgogi there. They just don't have the quality of beef that we have unless you are willing to pay Kobe beef prices. The first thing I did when we came home was try to make my own.

I found a recipe on

I used brown sugar instead of white sugar, as suggested by some of the reviews.

I served it with red-leaf lettuce and rice and it was delicious. The flank steak was so tender!

2013 09 22

Sunday, September 22, 2013

iDumpling, Redwood City

I must admit that I have never been to downtown Redwood City. When a friend suggested we meet at iDumpling, I was pleasantly surprised. iDumpling is located at 2660 Broadway, near El Camino Real. It's a small restaurant with just a handful of tables.
Marinated Pig Ears--$5.95. This was delicious. The marinade had just the right amount of soy sauce and sesame seed oil. Loved it.

Fresh Cilantro Bean Noodles--$5.95. This was good but needed just a tad more flavor.

Their specialty is dumpling. The skin is perfect--chewy and just the right thickness. I must admit I couldn't really differentiate between the varieties we tried. They all taste the same. The dumplings are delicious dipped in black vinegar.
We tried pork dumplings with napa cabbage ($5.95), pork dumplings with green chives ($5.95), chicken dumplings with spinach ($6.95) and pork & shrimp dumplings with green chives ($6.95).

Stir-Fried String Beans--$6.95. These were okay. Although it had a nice flavor, some of the green beans were tough.

Beijing Noodles--$6.95. This is zha jiang mien--it needed more flavor in the meat sauce. I wish I could find a good place in the bay area to have zha jiang mien.

2013 09 08

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Orenchi Ramen

Of course, I also had to stop at Orenchi Ramen to get my fix for ramen. Orenchi is located in Santa Clara at 3540 Homestead Road.

Karaage--$7 for large serving with 6 pieces. This is the best fried chicken. It's moist on the inside, crispy on the outside and served right out of he fryer, just the way fried chicken should be.

Orenchi Ramen--$9. Ramen in tonkatsu base, topped with egg, pork, green onion, bamboo shoot, mushroom, sesame and nori seaweed. The ramen noodle is always perfect--just the right amount of chewiness.
2013 09 08

Friday, September 20, 2013


I was in the south bay and went to DishDash in Sunnyvale again. I had a craving for the M'Shakaleh. It's located at 190 South Murphy Ave. in downtown Sunnyvale.

Babaghanouge--$7.95. Smoked eggplant mixed with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a splash of virgin olive oil. This had a nice smoky flavor and is my second favorite after the one at Falafel Drive-In.
M'Shakaleh--$13.95. Layers of mushrooms, grilled eggplant, cauliflower, tomatoes, and rice, served with a yogurt-tomato sauce. The sauce is delicious and really makes the dish. Just the right amount of tanginess.

Shish Kebab--$18.95. Delicately marinated tender cubes of charbroiled lamb, served with seasoned grilled vegetables and rice. I love the lamb. It was so tender and full of flavor.
2013 09 07

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nancy's Airport Cafe

We read about Nancy's Airport Café on the northbound trip but had already passed it. They're known for their pies. We held out on the return trip to have lunch there. Nancy's Airport Café is located in Willows at 353 Country Road G, 6 hours and 15 minutes from Bend.

We arrived at 1:30 pm and the place was packed. We wondered why Guy Fieri hadn't featured it on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Then, we tasted the food.

Split Pea Soup--this was the first thing brought to the table and was actually quite tasty. It had a nice smoked ham flavor.
Chicken Noodle Soup--this was the beginning of the decline in food quality.

"Award Winning" bowl of Homemade Chili--$4.99. I've participated in Chili Cookoffs in the past and have had great chili. I don't know which contest this chili won. It had too many beans in it and not much of a chili taste.
Onion Rings--$4.99. This actually wasn't too bad. It was probably my 2nd favorite after the split pea soup.
Homemade Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy--$10.99. The meatloaf was heated under the broiler and was burnt. The dinner included a cup of soup, baked potato or mashed potato, vegetables and garlic toast or corn bread. It's an inexpensive meal. Just wished it was more tasty.
Mesquite BBQ Smoked Tri Tip--$10.99. The meat was tough, overcooked and just not edible.
Case full of pies.
Banana Cream Pie. This was actually very tasty so I can see why the place is famous for its pies.

Blueberry Pie. The filling was good but the crust was okay.

We had wanted to order their Broaster Chicken but were told that it would take 40 minutes so we opted to take it to go.

The Broaster chicken turned out to be the best thing they served. The chicken was juicy and the skin was crispy but not greasy. We googled Broaster chicken and found out it has been in business for 50 years. We had never had it before. Turns out it's served at the VA hospital in Palo Alto.
2013 09 02

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Weed, California

Weed is at the junction of Hwy 97 and Hwy 5. It is a town of less than 3000 and is just 10 miles northwest of Mt. Shasta. We stopped long enough to take a picture of the town sign and clean our windshields.

2013 09 02

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mt. Shasta

It was a quick 3-day road trip and soon enough, we were on our way home. Driving south on Hwy 97, we got a much better view of Mt. Shasta than on the northbound trip.

Mt. Shasta is an active volcano located in the Cascade Range. At 14,179 feet, it is the 2nd highest peak in California (behind Mt Whitney).

2013 09 02

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brother Jon's Alehouse

Bend is known for its microbreweries. In the downtown area, Brother Jon's Alehouse features several of these microbreweries. It's located at 1051 NW Bond Street. It's typical pub food.

Soup of the Day was Clam Chowder. Bowl--$5.50. This was okay. it was creamy but needed more clams. I'm still craving the clam chowder at Splash in San Luis Obispo.

Cobb Salad--$13. I substituted ranch for the blue cheese dressing tossed greens with smoked chicken, chopped bacon, blue- cheese crumbles, fresh avocado, cherry tomatoes and eggs.

Bacon Burger--$9.50. Two chargrilled 1/4 lb certified Angus Beef patties on Dilusso Bakery sesame bun with cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced red onion, mayo & bacon.

Beer Battered Fish & Chips--$13. Alehouse beer battered cod served with house cut Kennebec French fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce & lemon. There were large pieces of cod but this was nothing special.

Alehouse Smoked Chicken Mac--$13. Home-style creamy macaroni with smoked chicken, bacon, blue cheese and a splash of buffalo sauce served with green salad and bread. I order mac & cheese whenever it's on the menu. This was creamy but the pasta had been cooked just a tad too long. I didn't like the blue cheese on top and couldn't taste the splash of buffalo sauce.

2013 09 01

Sunday, September 15, 2013


After our tour of the lakes, we returned to Bend and had lunch at Hola, a nouveau Mexican-Peruvian restaurant. There are 3 locations in town. We wanted to hit the outlets afterwards so we chose the one at the Old Mill shopping center. It's located at 680 Southwest Powerhouse Drive.

Taco Salad--$9. Seasoned tortilla strips on a bed of fresh greens with chicken or shredded beef.       Topped with sour cream, guacamole, cheese and tomatoes. It took over an hour to get our entrees. The tortilla strips were limp and it was hard to tell if that was because the salad had been sitting around for a while. There was nothing exciting about this salad.
Chile Relleno--$10. Pasilla pepper roasted then stuffed with corn and Mexican cheese with light red arbol salsa. Topped with creamy cheese sauce and pico de gallo. Served with rice and beans. This was not as good as the chile relleno we had in Corning.
Chancho a lo Sancho--$12. Braised pork in coca-cola with yams, onions tomatoes and Peruvian sofrito sauce with fish oil . Served with rice and beans. This was the best dish of the four we chose. The pork was tender and the sauce was delicious. Too bad there were large chunks of fat on the pork.
Seco de Pollo--$12. A traditional Peruvian stew made with tender chicken and home fried potatoes, sauteed onion, sweet yams and peas, with Aji Amarillo chile-cilantro sauce. The chicken was tough but the sauce was very good. The dish was served with rice and the sauce was delicious over the rice.

2013 09 01

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cascade Lakes Highway

The Cascade Lakes Highway cuts a path through the mountains, lakes and forests in central Oregon. Leave Bend on Hwy 46, head towards Mt. Bachelor and follow the signs for the Cascade Lakes Highway.

Sparks Lake is located down a dirt road off Hwy 46. There is a boat launch at the lake and there weren't a lot of people on the lake. Too bad there's no place to rent a kayak but I guess that's why it's pristine.

 Elk Lake Guard Station. This was built in 1929 and was used by the US Forest Service as a base of operation. It currently serves as a Visitor Information Center and is staffed by Passport in Time Volunteers, who spend 1-2 weeks here. Passport in Time is a volunteer archaeology and historic preservation program of the US Forest Service--never heard of them until this trip.
Elk Lake. This is a large recreation area with a lodge, restaurant and fishing, boating, paddle boarding kayaking, swimming and hiking activities.

Little Lava Lake is the source of the Deschutes River. This was another pristine lake.
The lake is so clear, you can see the bottom.
2013 09 01

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thursday Night Dinner

Another fabulous dinner at Thursday Night Dinner at Flavor Bistro. Still can't believe they can do all this for $24.95. It was a huge crowd tonight.

Guazzetto--Day Boat Scallops, Jumbo Prawns, Mussels & Calamari Served in Heirloom Tomato Brodetto Flavored with Sweet Basil & White Wine paired with 2012 Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. This was amazing. The scallop was perfectly cooked, the brodetto was delicious and I sopped up all the sauce.

Quaglia Con Risotto--Pan Roasted Quail Garnished with Ratatouille Risotto Served in Sugo D'Erbe paired with 2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache, Clos de Gilroy, Central Coast. Another delicious quail and I picked the bones clean.
Agnello All Griglia--Grilled Marinated Lamb Loin Chop Garnished with Organic Toy Box Summer Vegetable Relish, Olive-Arugula & Cherry Tomato Confit Served in Chianti Reduction Sauce paired with 2011 Navarro Winery & Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino

Crostata Alla Crema Di Limone--Puff Pastry Filled with Lemon Cream Topped with Honey Glazed Brown Turkey Figs & Mascarpone paired with 2011 Ceretto Moscato d'Asti DOCG, Vignaioli di Santo Stefano, Italy

2013 09 12