Winter at Herb Island

I really like plants. Back in America I grew a garden of herbs and vegetables, frolicked in woodlands, and even made my own plant essence rich soaps and skincare. I was kind of a hippie. At heart, I still am. Sometimes living in a city like Seoul can be really depressing for me. It’s gloomy and grey with parks and gardens too spread out for my taste. So my husband decided to take me to Herb Island in Pocheon on New Year’s weekend.

Pocheon is so far north that it touches the DMZ. It’s also pretty rural. He had been there once before and thought the trip might lift some of my winter blues. I’m not sure if it did the trick, but here are my impressions.

1. It’s not an island. I have no idea why they call it Herb Island when it’s landlocked. There’s a river nearby, but that’s about it.

2. It’s a theme park. I get it. Growing herbs out in the middle of nowhere isn’t that exciting of a premise. But like most family weekend places in Korea, it has weird faux European architecture, rides, and cartoon characters. It’s all about selling you stuff.

3. The herbs are legit though. Throughout the park they sell teas, jams, bath products, and candles. Some are made from the herbs grown in herb island. And the teas are pretty delicious. They have some nice soaps and bath bombs too.

4. There are some unique activities too. There is a spa  where you can get aromatherapy treatments and massages with products made on Herb Island. There’s also a craft shop where you can make your own candles and other handicrafts under the guidance of an employee. If you’ve never tried crafting before, it might be a fun environment to try it.

5. There is such a thing as too many twinkle lights. I love twinkle lights. At home we have string lights above our bed. I like having soft light before bed to help me wind down and feel cozy. Herb Island went too far. Possibly because it was winter, there were lights on everything. All the dormant plants in the field were covered by them even. And they were in very bright colors that hurt my eyes when the sun went down.

6. The botanical garden and plant museum are the nicest spots in winter. It’s quite balmy inside with a mix of local and tropical plants. Watch out for the rosemary though, there are rosemary bushes everywhere you turn in the botanical gardens, likely because they use it in many of their products. In the plant museum you can buy your own potted plants to take home.

In summary: I’m glad I went, but I was a bit disappointed overall. I guess I was expecting too much. Very few attractions in Korea offer an organic experience. Everything is polished up and pre-packaged to make money from people looking for a little relief from the soulless city life, but don’t have the time or inclination to really get their hands dirty. I was hoping for a chance to get close to nature. I don’t want to sound crabby. It was a change of scene from Seoul, and I got some delicious hibiscus tea, but for the distance of travel, I think Nami Island is a better spot (and an actual island).

2016 in life and travel

2016 will go down in history as an overall disappointing year for most people. To be honest, it was a difficult year for me too. I was injured for a lot of it and having to undergo some expensive physical therapy. I had a difficult year as a teacher as well. Plus a year of stress regarding family matters as well.

But 2016 was also really great in a couple of ways. I went to Germany and France both for the first time, along the way visiting many friends in both those countries. I came back to Korea and here I got engaged to my boyfriend. This past fall we tied the knot as well. Planning a non-Korean style wedding in Korea was incredibly stressful, but the day itself went off well and was a fun and intimate affair.

So I want to share a couple of my favorite pictures that I took this year but haven’t shared on this blog yet. All are unfiltered and largely unedited. Just candid shots taken with my phone. I already did a post featuring many photos of Hamburg, so I’ll focus this post on some other places I enjoyed this year.

  1. Seoul Forest~ one of my favorite spots in the the city. A sanctuary of green in Korea’s concrete capital city. My husband and I ended up having our engagement photos taken here a few months after this picture was taken.

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2. Falkenlust, Brühl~ I visited a friend living in Cologne, Germany and we took a day trip out to Augustburg Castle and its companion, Falkenlust. The architecture was beautiful and the sprawling grounds were a pleasure to ramble through.

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3. The confluence of the Saône and the Rhône rivers in Lyon, France~ Lyon is a gorgeous city that is sliced by two rivers. If you visit the confluence (and the very eclectic Musée des Confluences) you can stand in both at once.

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4. A Chacun Sa Tasse, Lyon~ a really lovely salon de thé (or tea shop) in Croix-Rousse. I went there with a dear friend who has worked in tea shops for several years. The place was highly recommended by her and I was not disappointed. It was cozy and had a great selection of teas as well as other drinks.

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5. Musée d’Orsay, Paris~ I didn’t make it to the Louvre. I was trying to avoid too much cliche during my week in Paris. Musée d’Orsay has an impressive collection of sculpture and Impressionist paintings which I particularly enjoyed. A perfect way to spend half a day or so.

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6. The Pantheon, Paris~ On a gloomy day I visited some historical sites around Paris including The Pantheon. I also may have been snuck into the Sorbonne during distinctly non-visiting hours by a friend of a friend who is a student there on that same day.

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7. Versaille~ I really need to do a whole post where I just dump all the photos I took on my day out to Versaille. The scale of the place is just incredible and even in winter time, the grounds were splendid.

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7. Nami Island, Gapyeong-gun, South Korea~ Rounding off my pictures with one more taken in Korea this year. This one on an excursion out of the city to the famous (and often filmed on) Nami Island. Like most attractions in Korea, it’s a bit theme park-like and crowded. But, it is truly beautiful and feels like a nice retreat from the city. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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Hopefully you enjoyed my enthusiastic, but by no means professional cellphone photography. Looking back on the past year makes me hungry for more adventures this year.I know it will be a year of big changes, but I’m feeling positive that most of them will be for the better.

I hope we can all have a 2017 full of travel and love.