Our Seoul in black and white

Have you ever wondered if, maybe, just maybe, some pictures are able to capture a little bit of a person’s soul? Sometimes, I think they do – when the photographer knows exactly which moment to snap the picture, catching his subject in a perfect still moment where their soul shows.

I’ve seen it in smiles, in gazes, in the way that the wind blows our hair. I think it’s beautiful, and it’s capturing these moments that has been my passion these days.

sara in black and whitesara and maia in black and whitemaia in black and white

All of this because, finally, about 5 months later, I decided to really go through all of my pictures from South Korea. Saying it took a while would be an understatement, and I might have used up a tissue or two wiping hypothetical tears because I miss that city so much, but I finally pulled through. After picking some of my absolute favorites out of mine and my friend Mariana’s camera roll, it somehow all came together in black and white – a style I am not usually one to pick but found so fitting in these pictures.

 SM artists at SM Town Mari and sara with BTS Maia in Gangnam

I always have said that, although black and white rarely fails to make a picture look good, it also gives it a gloomy vibe which I haven’t really ever wanted my pictures to have. However, looking at these, and as I write these words, I can finally understand why this style portrays these pictures in just the right way. And that is because of my very personal feelings toward them. You see, looking at these memories, 5 months after living them, brings me a strong sense of longing.

I miss that city like I have never missed a place before. I miss the friends I made there and the ones I left there. I miss the moments we all shared together in Noraebang and AirBnB houses, crowded streets and spicy food restaurants eating lamb skewers like crazy. It wasn’t just one thing or two about that trip that made it amazing. It was a lot of small, special things, and special people.

 Beautiful sara in Gyeongbokgung Maia in Gyeongbokgung Rae and her tattoo in black and whiteRae in Seoul Sara and Maia at a noraebang

Sometimes, I go talk to my friend and tell her ‘Mari, I miss Seoul so much today’. Sometimes, she will come up to me and tell me how she listened to a song and it made her think of Seoul too. And we will reminisce and hope that one day we get to go back. We hope that the friends we left there update us on what is going on over there, and send us pictures of the smallest things that make our hearts full of longing skip a beat.

Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Maia reading blonote at Arriate flower café Beautiful mug and flower at arriate flower café

And that is why black and white makes these pictures come alive. It brings out the nostalgia and longing towards a city that probably took a piece of me and kept it there safe and sound. Until another day, hopefully soon, when I go back and find it again.

Seoul (& Busan),

보고 싶다

(I miss you)

P.S.: Almost all of these pictures are from my lovely friend Mariana, so head on over to her instagram if you would like to see more!

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4 Shops I found in Seoul that I wish existed in my city

If you’ve ever heard about Seoul, you probably heard about how big the beauty industry is over there. Being there, you realize that what you’ve heard is not an exaggeration – from more plastic surgery clinics than I’ve ever seen before to make-up stores in abundance in every street -, Seoul will give you plenty to choose from if you’re willing to spend some money.

Yet, what often does not get told is that Seoul has plenty more to offer than just beauty (and all for a way cheaper price than anything in most European countries). I’m talking clothing, stationery, food & beverages, and so much more!

I put together a list of 4 shops in particular that I loved the most. These are the ones I wish existed in my city – the places I’d spend my money on repeatedly if so.

Without further ado, here they are.


STYLENANDA PINK HOTEL


Entrance to Stylenanda pink hotel

Stepping inside Stylenanda is like stepping into a Wes Anderson movie –  all you’re missing is the funny yet intriguing plot around you. Everything else is there: the stylistic choice of limited color palettes, the symmetry, the successful effort to transform every corner of the shop into a work of art. You are made to feel like you’re not merely shopping, but also walking inside a miniature hotel inside Wes’ head.

The store is made up of 5 floors, each one designed to look like you really are inside a very pink hotel.

Depending on the floor, you can buy make-up/beauty products, clothing, and then top it all off (pun intended) with some delicious treats at the Pool Cafe. But until you reach the top floor, have fun just admiring all that the store has to offer to the eyes and imagination!

Neon lights at stylenanda pink hotel in myeongdong

You can also shop at Stylenanda online.

Note for the curious ones: Stylenanda (in hangul 스타일 난다) actually means ‘your style is cool’ in korean.


ARRIATE


Entrance to Arriate flower cafe in gangnam

ARRIATE is a tea house located in a quiet street in Gangnam. It’s an unique place because it’s  full of beautiful flowers inside, giving you a cosy and welcoming feeling – and definitely making it Instagram-worthy.

Since I’m such an admirer of flowers (just looking at them gives me some sense of peace), Arriate was one of my favorite spots. Even before trying any of the coffee or pastries/cakes they had I already knew it would be hard for my friends to get me to leave this place. I was at home.

And to top it off they gave us a rose as a present along with the order!

Inside Arriate flower cafe in gangnam

Overall, Arriate is a great place to go whether you want to take someone on a date, just have a nice chat with your friends or even go by yourself to just work/study.

Just promise you’ll take good care of that red rose.


24/7 CONVENIENCE STORES


Outside a 711 in seoul

Also known as, “one of the main reasons why it was so hard to leave Seoul”. These convenience stores are basically in every corner (there was even one practically inside our building in Busan – the dream!) of every street, they are open 24/7 and they offer you the world.

By the world I mean they have the things you want and the things you didn’t know you wanted. From instant meals that are actually delicious to Doraemon gum, all kinds of snacks, alcohol, transportation tickets… what don’t they have?  

I went to one at least twice every day. Some days even more often. There was just always something that I just needed from there. Even if that was just a pack of Doraemon marshmallow bubblegum. A legitimate need, okay?

I’m not even going to recommend this. If you go to Seoul you will end up going to one anyways. There is no escape.

(Don’t worry, That’s a good thing)


KAKAO FRIENDS STORE


Kakao Friends store in Hongdae

Outside Kakao Friends Store in Hongdae

Over here in the West we like to use apps like Whatsapp and Facebook messenger to talk to our friends. In South Korea, they use another (superior) app called KakaoTalk. Said app has cute stickers, and those stickers are mainly of their own original characters, called Kakao Friends.

This store is a mini wonderland created around these cute characters. In there you can find all kinds of merchandise of your favorite Kakao Friend (I’ve still not been able to pick one). The worst, or perhaps best, part is that everything is so cute you’ll end up leaving with kakao friends’ cutlery and you wont even feel bad about falling into their trap.

On the top floor you can also taste some themed pastries and have some deliciois kakao coffee in the Ryan Cafe. Because Ryan might be a lion but he’s a lion with taste.

Ryan the Lion gif


Are there any shops like this in your city? Let me know in the comments!

 

What it was like to finally go on the trip of my dreams

Seoul was the vacation of my dreams.

You know the kind of  vacation I’m talking about, right? That far away place we long to visit one day, seemingly so far out of reach. That place we might have spent a little too much time on the internet drooling over – looking at pictures of it on Instagram, reading article after article about it. Maybe we have cried once or twice while doing this. Possibly. Cannot tell you with certainty because of reasons.

To me, that place was Seoul.
Gyeongbokgung palace entrance
Amazing Maia at Gyeongbokgung palace Ever since I started learning Korean a few years ago (damn, has it really been years?), and I became more and more curious about Korean culture, this became my dream destination. But going there would require a lot of money that fresh-out-of-college-me did not have, as well as someone else crazy enough to come along with me.

Until this day, I am still impressed by how it all came to be. How I went from seeing Seoul as a dream to actually making plans to go, buying our tickets and being there. Between you and me, I think it was one little miracle.

Of course, I had to work hard to save enough money to go and spend over there, but I also managed find some crazy friends who were willing join me.  Two friends that also were willing to work hard to save money so that we could all go.

And so it was that in July the three of us packed our bags and ventured to the opposite side of the world.


SEOUL AND US: A LOVE STORY


Our Polaroid in front of Kim Sejong the great

Now, listen, don’t get ahead of yourself there. It’s not that. None of us found a hot Korean prince and moved in with him into a palace. We just fell in love with the city, day after day, until the thought of coming back was one of disappointment. I’m not kidding, I’ve never been this sad about coming back home from a vacation before.

It wasn’t love at first sight, though. When we arrived, nothing looked particularly interesting to me. It was raining, the sky was overrun by dark clouds and all I saw were tall grey buildings everywhere. And the air… the air made me feel like I was inside a sauna. Bye bye straight fabulous hair!

Our second day did the trick. Finally, I was walking familiar but completely new territory. Seeing in person what I had previously only seen excerpts of on TV and completed with my imagination. You see, I watch a lot of Korean tv shows – I find them funnier and way more lighthearted than western ones – so the streets of Seoul weren’t strangers to me. The city was like a friend I had met online, and our friendship was finally transitioning to real life.

Seoul at night Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong Amazing Maia in Myeongdong

Quite just like meeting an online friend we have talked to for years, meeting Seoul was, at the very least, a thrilling experience. The realization that I was actually there, so far away from home, listening to the language I’ve been learning being spoken so casually everywhere — speaking it myself!  There was so much I wanted to see, so much I wanted to do. Just riding the subway was already drawing the biggest smile on my face!

Since I have already been in New York once, Seoul’s skyscrapers and flashing lights weren’t exactly a novelty to me. Yet they felt different, with their saturated multitude of colors and designs. It’s like, whilst New York is a carefully curated art collection, Seoul is an assembly of independent artists showcasing their art freely. My eyes had a feast every time we were in the city, finding more different and unique things to look at every day.
City lights in Myeondgong
All of this made up a perfectly imperfect and charming atmosphere for what would be my favorite 10 days of 2017 so far. We had many little adventures, many occasions where we lost our way, strange and exciting encounters with locals. We laughed a lot, fought a bit and tried new things. We bought a lot of stuff and polaroid-ed our way through the trip.

I made many memories over there that I will treasure in my heart for a very long time. And I will always remember fondly my everyday struggle to find non spicy food to eat.

And, just like that, I had fallen in love.

Polaroids of South Korea


And you, have you ever been on the vacation of your dreams? Where did you go? How was it? 

Feel free to share your experience with me down in the comments!

All of these pictures were taken by my dear amazing friend Mariana Pereira. You can click here to check out her Instagram!

Visiting a Cold Greenhouse: my favorite snapshots

Let’s talk about flowers. Simply because they are deserving of admiration and love – those beautiful living beings with so much hope inside them. I went looking for a place where I could be surrounded by them. I found it, and fell in love.

It was a Cold Greenhouse in the heart of Lisbon. The tranquility I found inside was so comfortable that we spent a lot more time inside than we were supposed to (because of that and also because we just wanted to take pictures of everything). The place is huge, too, with many paths within paths. I was in wonder at basically every flower and plant I came across and laughed at their names because I’m easily amused like that.

What took me there was an urge to create something that would express my admiration of flowers. I felt like it was founded on a principle worth sharing, and I wanted to do it through a medium that I love and that I haven’t delved into in sooo long (in about 3 years, to be more specific): video.

So I captured some moving images, and my friend who came along with me captured still ones of me and our beautiful surroundings. We got so many, I ended up not even knowing where to start. How do I use all of this material? Because everything is so beautiful and my friend has so much talent that so many pictures came out amazing. I have to use all of these! They can’t just stay tucked away in my folders.

‘And how exactly are you going to use the videos you captured at the Greenhouse?’ you ask.

Well, they are for me to put together  into one video, where I will tell you the reason why I love flowers so much; why exactly they are so important to me.

It seems fitting to talk about something I admire so much through a medium that I regard with the same love and wonder. I won’t go into what I’m discussing in my upcoming video now. No use being redundant, right? But, in case you might think I’m spending the 2 minutes of that video talking about just how pretty flowers are (they really are though!), I’ll give you a hint: it’s less about that and more about the similarities I have found between them and us ( blooming vs withering / growing vs suffering).

Not to be biased or anything, but I really really love how it’s turning out!

Right now, though, I just want to share with you how elated I felt visiting this beautiful place, and the pictures we took on our visit. Perhaps you can find a Cold Greenhouse near you next time you want to have a tranquil day out? I think it’s a great place to visit whether you want to go on your own or with your friends, your family, or your crush (lil’ kisses among flowers never hurt anyone *wink wonk*).

Or perhaps you’ll come to Lisbon and visit this one? If so, maybe I’ll see you there!

Anyone else out there who loves flowers like me? Do they have a special meaning to you?

Pictures taken by me & my friend Margarida (check out her instagram and give her love?)