We awoke early for an early breakfast, knowing we’d have both lunch and dinner early today, thanks to our reservation for schwein hoxen at 6pm. The timing suits me just fine, given that I haven’t stayed asleep past 5am on any day since we arrived.
The rain meant we weren’t going to spend the day outside like we did the previous day. Virginia’s father originally planned for us to see one more palace; instead, we went to the National Museum of Korea for lunch and more history. I’m very much enjoying learning more about how Korea developed, even though the museums and palaces we’ve visited all refer to history prior to the Japanese occupation in 1910. We get some of that from Virginia’s father, though.
When we regrouped in mid-afternoon to decide the rest of the day, we could go to the palace (the weather had cleared up by then), go to a bookstore, or both. Well, I married a serious book-reader, whose father is a serious book-reader and writer, so to the bookstore we went! It was a nice rest in a way, looking through different options in a small part of a large, busy bookstore. We each picked a book to purchase:
- Virginia’s father selected The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking
- Virginia picked a book on simplifying one’s life, recommended by our friend Robert
- I got a book on Korea’s recent history by the Economist’s Korea correspondent
We walked from the bookstore to Bärlin for dinner, maybe 15-20 minutes away. We were warmly welcomed back and seated at the same table we had the day before. We began with smoked herring and cucumber-potato-dill salad, which was perfect with the beer I had ordered. Then, the schwein hoxen, with beets, fried potatoes, and sauerkraut. We three split one, and it was almost too much for us.
More importantly, we had some of the best conversation I think the three of us had had in the almost two decades Virginia and I have been together. We talked about politics and economics, analyzing current events like the new Korea-China free trade agreement and the inclusion of the Chinese renmindi (aka yuan) as a reserve currency by the IMF, and discussing scenarios around North Korea. It was serious talk and excellent communication.
An apple strudel for dessert was perfect, and off to bed despite the coffee I had already drunk at the restaurant.
We awoke to a snowstorm — yay! After dealing with work email for about an hour (I know, I know… I shouldn’t do that on vacation), we met Virginia’s father for breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. We talked a little bit about education, especially how it can take families immigrating to the United States two or three generations to send children to college. In contrast, Virginia and her brother went as first-generation Americans, and their parents helped ensure a start to their successful adulthood by not only sending them, but ensuring they left with no debt (no mean feat).
After breakfast, we checked out and headed out. First, we took a taxi to the Metro train station, which was slow due to the snow. We then got on the train to go to Incheon airport, which was almost certainly faster than taking a taxi the full distance. Also, it gave occasional chances for levity, like this sign.
We checked into our flight (business class, hooray for Virginia and points!) and said both goodbye and thank you to Virginia’s father. He went very far out of his way to make sure we had a good trip, and we both really appreciate it. After the usual security stuff, we made our way to the Cathay Pacific business class lounge to wait for our flight…
… which was delayed by about ninety minutes. First, we got an extra half hour in the lounge. Then we sat on the tarmac for another hour or so, which prompted the woman across from Virginia to scold one of the flight attendants. This was asinine for at least two reasons. First, she was complaining to someone who had little to no power to change anything. Second, and more importantly, IT WAS SNOWING. The plane had to be de-iced, and that takes time. People are the worst.
The flight itself was very nice. We shared sea bass and chicken, both of which were way better than anything on a plane is expected to be. (This may be because my expectations have been ratcheted way down from so much flying on USA-based airlines.) The flight crew was extremely nice, which to me makes the difference in flight more than, let’s say, the entertainment system. (We flew international first class on United once, and I was rather disappointed in the indifferent service we received, even though the hard product was nice.) To Hong Kong!