If memory serves me correctly, in Korea “gu” means district and “dong” means neighborhood. There are about 25 “districts” in Seoul. My hosts, Don and Chris, live in Nowon-gu. It is one of the most northern areas of the city. (Gangnam-gu, the inspiration for the “Gangnam Style” dance craze in 2012 is south of the Han River.)

One of our first nights in the city, we took the subway to Insadong, which is a neighborhood in Jongno-gu, a little closer to the city’s center. As with all neighborhoods, it has its own unique character, with a juxtaposition of backstreet locals and hordes of tourists coexisting just steps from each other.

There were street vendors everywhere, with amazing things I wanted to stop to explore, but we were headed in a hurry to a specific dinner spot, so no time to browse. I took quick camera shots, hoping to remember it all later.

The calligraphy brushes! The painted fans! The teetering, towering stacks of waiting empty ice cream cones! The pottery! The artists on the street! Scarves and hats, trinkets and “happy crap” everywhere! I could have spent hours just immersing myself, but we four had growling stomachs!

Dinner was a true “tasting menu.” Little plates and bowls and an odd assortment of just a little fish, duck, pork, salmon, kimchee, rice with pine nuts wrapped in a leaf package and steamed, a myriad of little bowls of unidentifiable vegetables. Thankfully, I avoided poisoning myself with anything containing soy, mushrooms, or almonds. Whew!

I tentatively tried the raw salmon, and was surprised how much I liked it! Thinly sliced and seasoned with God only knows, it almost literally melted in my mouth.

I decided to opt for chopsticks whenever possible, and have not touched a fork thus far. Yea, me! Miriam is working to feed herself without a fork, too, but she’s not had my years of practice!