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26 Apr 2011

A day and evening out – Well, I think we’ve had enough soul-searching and hand-wringing here for the time being. While I won’t deny that it’s been a rather emotional time for me since I started this final lap of the dissertation marathon, there are in fact other things that I would like to write about. Today, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to do a simple reporting of recent events, along with some photographs.

“The dinner was a very, very enjoyable end to a pleasant day.”

The Saturday before last, Hyunjin and I decided to have some time to ourselves. This was the day after my dissertation presentation, so it had been quite a while since we had been able to go on a date, and it just so happened that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom on Yeouido. We took the bus down, but once we crossed over the bridge and actually got onto the island, we saw that the place was packed. This is not surprising, since it was a Saturday and smack in the middle of the cherry blossom festival, but knowing that a place is going to be packed and actually seeing the seething, churning masses of people are two different things.

I took this photo partly to capture the cherry blossoms, but I deliberately aimed a little low to get the throngs of people as well. You’ll notice that I’m standing right next to a tree—you couldn’t just stop in the middle of the sidewalk and expect to be able to take a photo. There were times when I wondered if there weren’t more people than there were cherry blossoms.

This “self-photo” came out looking a lot better than I expected. Usually when I’m holding the camera out and trying to take a picture of the both of us I end up looking constipated because of how much I have to concentrate on keeping us in frame. Actually, that’s what I looked like in the photo before this one, which I erased. When I saw this on the small LCD screen on our camera, I was a little disappointed to see that the cherry blossoms in the background were out of focus, but seeing it larger I realize that not only does this make sense (narrow depth-of-field), but it looks quite nice.

After we had had our fill of the crowds we scrambled down the embankment toward the river. I have to admit that whenever I see the river these days I think about wakeboarding. I really want the weather to start getting warmer so we can pick that up again. There were no wakeboarders on the river last Saturday, but there were quite a few sailboats.

We continued our walk along the river until we got to the next subway station. Our plan was to go to Itaewon for dinner, and even though it was still a little early, we were both worn out by the crowds, so we just got on the next train. When we arrived in Itaewon we spent some time shopping. A visit to the foreign foods shop was in order, as I needed some tea and Nutella, and Hyunjin wanted to buy a leather jacket. She ended up getting a black jacket and I got what they call a “vintage” jacket. I wasn’t planning on getting one, but the price was quite reasonable.

We had made reservations at a French place called Le Saint-Ex for seven, but we decided to drop by a little early and see if they could seat us. It’s located behind and to the west of Hamilton Hotel, right across the street from the Three Alley Pub. We had seen the place before and had wanted to try it out, and last Saturday seemed like the ideal day to splurge. Our waiter, a young French guy, brought over a blackboard with the specials on it and asked if I spoke French or English. I wish I could have answered French, but I had to say English to make sure I could actually understand him.

We decided to start our meal with a smoked salmon appetizer, which unfortunately I forgot to photograph—once we tried it we were too preoccupied with how good it was to think of anything else. The bread they brought out was also excellent—thin slices of good French baguette. I enjoyed it immensely, but it also made me a little sad to realize that I would never be able to achieve that perfection in my own bread (man, what is wrong with me these days?). I was too busy enjoying it to be too sad, though.

For main dishes, I chose red snapper with spinach and creamed cauliflower, seen here.

Hyunjin went with beef skirt steak I believe it was, with roasted tomatoes and creamed carrots.

Both of the dishes continued the theme of excellence. My fish was cooked perfectly, and I really enjoyed the spinach with the cream sauce. Hyunjin’s steak was also very good (I tried a bit), but I personally wasn’t a fan of the creamed carrots. She liked them better than the creamed cauliflower, though, so I guess it worked out in the end.

We will often skip dessert when we eat out if we are feeling full, but when we first walked into the restaurant I saw the dessert table and knew that we had to make room. The dessert table takes the place of a dessert menu and contains models of the various selections. Two things caught my eye when we walked in. One was the ile flottante, which happens to be a favorite dessert of mine, not only because I love custard but because I have very fond memories of a time when I had it in a small restaurant in Paris. But there was also a chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream that, even as a plastic model, looked too good to pass up. We eventually settled on the cake.

I love chocolate cake, and I have to say that this cake was... well, how do you describe a really delicious chocolate cake? Just imagine everything you might want in a chocolate cake, and this was it. And it came with custard, too! You’ll also notice that the ice cream comes on an almond cookie (which was also really tasty). I thought it was just for show, but later I realized that it also kept the ice cream from melting. Clever.

The dinner was a very, very enjoyable end to a pleasant day. The only downside was something that was beyond the restaurant’s control. The atmosphere changed a little later on, toward the end of our meal, but when we first arrived, it looked like most of the couples in our area were there on arranged dates (seon, or dates that are arranged with an eye toward finding a spouse). The couple nearest to us stayed the longest—they were there before we arrived, and I think they were still there when we left, and we took our time. I couldn’t tell you much about the girl, but the guy just would. Not. Stop. Talking. About himself, mostly, and all of the wonderful things he’s done in his life. It seemed like everything the girl said was an opportunity for this guy to brag about something he’d done or somewhere he’d been. He was a bit loud—you know how some people are incapable of modulating their voices in public places? He was one of them. So we had to listen to him regale this poor girl with tales of his exploits. In truth, though, he did little to detract from a wonderful dinner. I felt sorrier for the girl than I did for us. It’s probably safe to say that he won’t be getting a second date.

Well, I think that should about wrap it up. I hope you enjoyed the photos and this little break from my recent emotional posts. There are plenty of other things that I want to write about (I have a list), and although I imagine I will get back to the process of the diss at some point, for the time being I think I’m going to give that a rest. I spend enough time on the diss during the day that I really don’t need to rehash it here. I’ll probably come back to it when I reach the next milestone, which will be submitting a revised draft to my committee.

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