We’re back! For a little while at least 🙂 We had the most amazing vacation and I want to remember every bit of it, so I’m trying to get these recaps written as quickly as possible before I forget everything. We took about a million photos so these posts will be pretty image heavy but I’ll try not to make them TOO long, here goes…
We started off on the 18th December when we set off from Southport on the train to Manchester Airport and checked into our hotel for the night. The Radisson was great – clean, comfortable and connected right to the train station and the terminal. I would definitely stay there overnight before a flight again as it made the morning super relaxed without having to worry about getting to the airport in time through traffic. I don’t seem to have any photos of the room for some reason but the bed was HUGE and we super comfy which definitely made up for the fact that the view out of our window was the back of a warehouse rather than the runway!
Once we had checked in and dropped our bags off we took the train back into Manchester to wander around the Christmas markets and soak up some of the festive spirit.
We shared a hot dog and some tartiflette (seriously the best market food ever but so hard to find!) followed by a brownie from Ridiculously Rich by Alana – remember her from The Apprentice last year? We had a look around Selfridges and found it surprisingly easy to resist buying anything, probably because all of our cash was in Korean Won! After a couple of hours we headed back to the hotel and chilled out with terrible TV, I had a bath with my favourite Candy Mountain bubble bar from lush and then we ordered room service because I feel like you have to when you’re staying in a hotel, right?
I ordered the Sri Lankan chicken curry with rice and naan while Jod opted for a chicken Caeser salad. They were both pretty good but stupidly expensive for what they were. We couldn’t help but remember how cheap eating out is in Korea in comparison! We watched a few episodes of The Office and drifted off to sleep feeling super exited about the next day.
So excited in fact that Jod woke up at 4 and I was up by 5, even though our flight wasn’t until noon! We spent a couple of hours playing about with some video editing software, got ready for the day and then checked out of the hotel. We arrived at the check in area of the terminal at about 8.30 and were excited to see that the hall was super quiet with no big queues 🙂 We checked which desk to go to and were directed to a little mini hall around the corner… with a mega long queue full of angry, stressed out people who had already been there for hours. I’m not sure what the issue was but there were lots of people panicking that they weren’t going to make their flight and, as ours was later, we obviously had to wait a long time. We finally got to the front of the queue after about an hour and a half, received our boarding passes, put our cases on the conveyor belt and were just watching the check in assistant print out the luggage labels when a Lufthansa colleague hurried over with a panicked look on his face. “We need to evacuate the terminal now, there’s been an incident” are not the words you want to hear at the start of your holiday.
Everyone rushed out together into the car park and huddled together – it was bloody freezing! We tried to get on Twitter to figure out what was going on but the internet wasn’t working – probably because hundreds of other people had the same idea! Luckily it was just a false alarm and we were let back in after about 20 minutes. We made the executive decision not to try and queue up again and to just head straight through security, which meant I spent the following 18 hours convinced our luggage wasn’t going to follow us to Seoul (spoiler alert – it did).
It was definitely worth paying for fast track security as we were feeling pretty stressed at this point and wanted maximum lounge time! We got through in just a couple of minutes and then went straight to the Aspire Lounge to get some breakfast and a much needed drink. We started out with pastries, coffee, beer and Prosecco. The danishes were yummy but the coffee was rank – just a warning!
There were plenty of places to sit in the lounge and it was really quiet and peaceful. We got there just in time to get a couple of hot breakfast items but they switched over to the lunch menu just after we arrived.
Jod made himself a bacon sandwich and I opted to wait for the lunch items and have some macaroni cheese with different salads. The food was actually really nice and the unlimited alcoholic drinks were definitely much appreciated. We really enjoyed having the opportunity to relax before our flight and an hour whizzed by. Before we knew it our gate was announced and it was time to go!
The first leg of our journey (Manchester to Frankfurt) was just under an hour and a half so we were surprised that there was a free food service on board – just salami sandwiches on rye bread but Jod had one and said it was pretty good. There was also free beer, wine, tea and coffee and a decent amount of leg room for a short-haul flight. There weren’t any in flight entertainment screens but we busied ourselves with a few more episodes of The Office and started our descent before I’d even finished my teeny tiny coffee.
Transferring through Frankfurt airport was easy enough, there are plenty of signs directing you where to go, but it did take a while just due to the sheer size of the place. We walked through endless corridors, went through security again and even took a train, so if your connection is short you’ll want to get your skates on as soon as you disembark! Luckily we had a couple of hours so didn’t need to rush and had a chance to take a look around. Frankfurt has some great shops including Gucci, Burberry and D&G so if you’re looking for something special you might be able to score it there. There’s also excellent free WiFi and tons of places to sit and relax throughout the airport, as well as loads of charging ports at the gates. They even have special “nap chairs” near all of the long-haul gates which would be really useful if you had a long connection.
We boarded our second flight and our first impressions of Premium Economy on Lufthansa were fantastic. The seats are huge with tons of leg room, a big adjustable screen and bottles of chilled water waiting for you. There was also a footrest and two armrests each as well as a shelf under the screen to store small items like phones and headphones. There was an amenity kit on each seat which contained the usual slippers, blanket and pillow along with socks, toothpaste, tooth brush, face wipe, ear plugs and an eye-mask.
We settled in for the long flight ahead and enjoyed a yummy welcome drink of orange juice with fresh mint. This was really refreshing and a lovely start to the long journey. We checked out the in-flight entertainment system and were really pleased with the selection, during the flight I watched Chicago, Napoleon Dynamite and Lost in Translation. I wore the noise cancelling headphones my dad let me borrow me for the trip which made such a difference during takeoff – I think it was probably the first flight I haven’t left Jod with bruises from squeezing his hand so hard!
About 45 minutes after takeoff we were served little bags of salted pretzels and alcoholic drinks, and dinner was served about an hour later. Jod went for the Korean beef with rice and I had turkey spatzle with romanesco broccoli. The starter was a mozarella salad and dessert was tinned pineapple – maybe it’s just the fatty inside me but I felt a bit short-changed with fruit as a pudding! Both meals also came with kimchi, gochujang, bread and butter. The food was okay but Jod’s was clearly the superior choice, and definitely went better with the kimchi!
Once the meal service was cleared away the cabin lights were immediately dimmed and we both spent the next few hours watching films and not being able to sleep. We did go to the galley at one point to try and snaffle some snacks (on BA and Turkish Airlines there are usually biscuits and cup noodles available during long haul flights to Asia) but sadly they just had more pretzels. Never mind, we consoled ourselves with beer and red wine which eased the disappointment. Breakfast was served about two hours before landing and was the usual eggs/potatoes/tomatoes with yoghurt and granola. We also each had a much needed black coffee and Bloody Mary.
We landed on time and were some of the first off the plane – another huge advantage of premium economy because it meant we were the first to an empty immigration hall. We’ve waited hours to go through at Incheon in the past so it was fantastic to be able to walk straight through without queuing. We picked up our luggage and found our way to Darak Hyu, the “capsule” hotel next to the train station.
We checked in with no problems and were so delighted to see a clean, welcoming bed in a sound proof room – you would never have guessed we were in the middle of an airport once the door was shut. Be warned, the rooms do come with a shower (if you pre-book) but the toilets are shared. It was so great to be able to wash of all the grime of a solid day of travelling and get some shut eye for about five hours. We both slept so heavily and woke up feeling rested and refreshed!
We had stopped off at GS25 on the way to the hotel and picked up some essentials for when we woke up; coffee, soju, beer and a triangle kimbap – i had missed those so much since our last trip to Korea! We had our little mini feast and checked out of the hotel before walking out to the ticket office where we paid for our limousine bus journey, around £8 each. The journey to Hapjeong took about 45 minutes and we found our Airbnb really easily – although it wasn’t much fun dragging our cases through the snow and I realised that my shoes had absolutely zero grip after slipping on my bum twice, but at least I saw the funny side (Jod definitely did…)
Our apartment was fine but it definitely wasn’t as cute as in the photos so I didn’t take any photos. I will say that the location was fantastic though as it was so close to the main street in Hongdae as well as a huge Homeplus, where we went to get some supplies. There was a Lotteria buger place right in the supermarket which had some of the best Konglish we saw all week (untamed food of gold rush/roll for big check paydays/the burger is might!)
Homeplus is like the Korean version of Tesco and this particular one is located in the basement of a fancy outdoor mall surrounded by luxury apartment buildings, so it was super nice with an amazing wine selection and huge beauty department – I was pretty much in heaven.
We can’t be the only ones who love looking around foreign supermarkets on holiday? We saw tons of fun looking products including cola, yoghurt and butter caramel Pringles! Not sure I’m brave enough to try any of them to be honest…
We picked up some water, coffee and other bits and pieces, dropped them off at the apartment then wandered around Hongdae taking in the sights and sounds. It’s a university district so has great nightlife and we watched a ton of great street performers, everyone was so talented but I have no idea how people were playing guitar in -4 degrees Celsius! We had decided to get fried chicken for dinner and stumbled across KyoChon which gets great reviews online.
We shared the rice chicken set which included a ton of deliciously seasoned chicken coated in rice flour which made the skin extra crispy, plus potato wedges and a selection of dipping sauces and salts. This was a perfect first meal in Seoul and went down so easily with a bottle of soju and a couple of beers. We stumbled home some point after midnight, stuffed to the gills, and collapsed into bed, super happy to finally be back in Korea.