Sunday, February 26, 2012

Herb Nara (허브나라)

Very long and unintentional hiatus from blogging (well, not that long- I've been absent for longer than that before) because of a variety of things. Mostly, I'm still in hibernation mode from the cold (it went all the way down to -12 Celsius the other day- I didn't know that my ears could hurt like that), but also, the company went on a little trip two weeks ago (on Valentine's Day, of all days) and then I went on a work trip to China last week (Beijing, again).

The company "fun" trip (which I will post about later, as I have a ton of photos) was good, and was mostly an excuse for people to go skiing or snowboarding. A friend (one of the two girls that I've become closest to at this company) and I opted out of the winter sporting and went on a mini excursion, just the two of us, while other people fell halfway down a very cold, very slippery mountain. Seriously, it's way too cold to ski or board in Korea.

We took one of the company cars to an herb farm, about fifteen minutes away from Phoenix Park. It was completely unplanned, but we had a great time.

Herb Nara

303 Heungjeong-Ri Bongpyeong-Myeon Pyeongchang-Gun Gangwon-Do
강원도 평창군 봉평면 흥정이 303번지

Telephone: 33.335.2902

There was a disappointing lack of snow when we went (Pyeongchang being the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics, I was expecting a winter wonderland), but there was still a lot more snow on the ground than I'm used to. The photo above is of a creek, frozen over and covered with snow.
Herb Nara (나라 (nara) means land) plays up the homemade kitsch factor quite a lot, with colorful signs and maps and very cutesy things all over the place (the gift shop, which I don't have pictures of, was like an explosion of cute).
Little birdhouses were everywhere. I like birdhouses, but it was a bit odd that, though there were dozens of birdhouses, there were no birds! We need to go back in the spring, when the little sparrows and finches are back. Only the hardy magpies were around, cackling and chirruping.
Tooth-achingly sweet. I'm not really one for frills and adorableness, can you tell? Still, cute has its place, and I think that Herb Nara is that place. Actually, I think the entirety of Korea might be that place.
Little benches (see the elephant-shaped one in the front?) and decorative sculptures, fountains, and doodads proliferate this place. It's sort of like taking a longish hike through a Korean interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland" during cold, cold winter weather.
There were themed areas, and I think this was in the Medieval Garden. There was also a Shakespeare Garden. I don't quite remember what the rest of the gardens were, and I should have known that I wouldn't remember, so I should have taken pictures of all the (cute) signs that labeled each garden.
More decorations! Why no, it's not weird to have a large wooden train plonked in the middle of a garden. There's actually an even larger wooden train that children can ride on (photo later in this post).
Romantic gazebo. With romantic little birdcages hanging from each pillar. With unromantic little stuffed birds in the cages. They might have been fake birds, I couldn't really tell. But it was still a little disconcerting.
The very large, very heavy stone table and chairs that I covet. They had a few tables throughout, all of them different, retaining most of the shape of the original rock.
I think this was in the "butterfly and bee garden," which is where I assume the butterflies and bees come flit and flutter during the spring and summer. There were no bee sculptures, but there was this enormous butterfly.
We're being butterflies. Yes, this was made for children and yes, my butt is sticking out- the stranger that took the picture was afraid of my DSLR and took the photo as fast as humanly possible.
I think this was the exterior of one of the two greenhouses. This one was covered with watering cans and ceramic plates- cute, of course!
Another train. I liked the metal and glass sculptural wall hanging in the back, and I loved all the teeny birdhouses hanging all over the place. And snow! Even though it was mostly melting and slushy!
Inside the watering can greenhouse, it was about 90 degrees and about 8000% humidity. Seriously, so hot. My camera fogged up, and has a bajillion pieces to it, so most of the pictures from indoors came out blurry, like those old 50's movies where they smeared Vaseline on the camera lens for super close-ups.
Strange flower.
Pretty orange color.
Random wooden sculptures. This reminded me of Splash Mountain, at Disneyland. All of Adventureland, really. Korean people have no idea what I'm talking about when I say things like "Space Mountain" and "Tomorrowland," they usually think I've gone insane.
There were quite a few of these bigger, more elaborate birdhouses (many of which I would gladly live in, if they were human-sized). It's a little dreary without greens in the background, only seeing dead plants and sad dirt, so I'm not going to post too many of these.
Okay, I'm posting one more- it's pretty! I couldn't resist. I really can't wait to come back in the spring, when everything is green and blooming and alive.
I'm sure there's a reason that I'm sitting in front of a windmill. The European Garden, perhaps? I don't remember what the name of this section was, but I'm sure it had something to do with Europe...
Cute friend, acting cute. She's four years younger than me- don't worry, I don't go around posing like this in my old age.
Have I ever mentioned that it's perpetually Christmas in Korea? It really is- last year, when I first came to Korea, it was July. It was hot and muggy. And there were Christmas ornaments dangling in almost every coffee shop that I went to. During Christmastime, things just get more Christmassy. When it's not Christmastime, things get slightly less Christmassy.
One of my favorites from this day. Shooting photos indoors was an ordeal because of the heat and humidity, so this is one of very few snaps that came out the way that I had thought it would. And what a weird flower.
One of the indoor areas. Complete with chandelier bedecked with tiny lampshades! And there's a little train that runs all through the garden, though it wasn't running when we were there.
This is actually the back view of the exact area that's in the previous photo. This place didn't feel like wintertime in Korea at all- it felt like summer in the tropics. I miss warmth ... though I know that once it's summertime, I'll be complaining about how hot it is and how much I miss snow.
Weird furry cactus flower! There were a few of these big cacti scattered around, but the shape of this ... bloom? ... was the most interesting to me. It really looked so soft and furry, I wanted to touch it. I resisted, but only because there were a bunch of employees milling about.
I imagine that this is what the outdoor gardens must look like when the weather is good. I hope it is, anyway, or I'll be quite disappointed. It was nice to run around in warmth for a while.
I loved these teeny little plants- they looked like they were fake, they were so perfect.
Close-up of the middle plant, my favorite one. So cute! If I was a plant person, I would totally have bought one of these and brought it home with me. Good thing I'm not a plant person in the slightest.
Laughing pig sculpture. It's missing a leg, but it's still cute! Nipples and all! They have an area where they do craft projects in Herbnara, and they seem to make a lot of little sculptures (Koreans love cute, useless knickknacks). I think this one was made by an employee- it's a lot bigger than the ones that a guest can make in the craft area.
They have a bakery and cafe inside, where they sell baked goods and various beverages. Seems to be a lot of herb teas (of course) but also a pretty big variety of coffees (don't get between Koreans and their coffee). We tried samples of banana bread (good!) and some sort of muffin (eh) and ended up buying a packet of garlic bread, a strange Korean invention that is nothing like American (or even Italian-American) garlic bread. Korean garlic bread is sold in most bakeries (like Paris Baguette or Tous les Jours) and is basically thin slices of baguette slathered with butter, sugar, salt, garlic, and parsley, and then baked until slightly crisp. It's weird and sweet and oddly addicting.
Really, really cute giraffes (which I suspect were made at Herbnara), which instantly reminded me of my friend Kim. Adorable little spots on these fellows!
I have a strange and inexplicable love of owls. It might be because of Owls in the Family, which I read and re-read in elementary school (and subsequently wanted to raise owls and bats inside my house- the bats could roost in the bunk beds!). It might be because of the sleepy owl in "Sleeping Beauty." Who knows? But I love owls. And these three are darling.
These three aren't cute, but they're cute, if that makes sense. I have no use for figurines in my house, and I don't like decoration for the sake of decoration, so I take pictures instead.
One of the gift shops was hung throughout with dried flowers. Each separate room had different flowers (more photos below) and they were all lovely. Instead of hanging just one or two bunches, hanging small bunches in neat rows really makes a huge impact.
Pretty, no? My nose gets itchy just thinking about how much dust these things would trap, but they're lovely to look at. I may be too practical to have pretty things in my house.
Very nice collection of glass and metal butterflies. I wish the colors weren't so harsh (orange instead of red, maybe a less brash yellow?) but they're still pretty. I don't know why I'm stuck on the word "pretty," I think my English vocabulary may be taking a downhill slide. (My Korean vocabulary, though, is doing quite well.)
I'm making sure the quality control on the out-of-season Christmas decorations are up to snuff. The fuchsia Christmas decorations.
Christmas in Whoville! She's standing on the tracks of the little train that kids ride around in (in warmer weather, that is) and quality-controlling the appropriately colored Christmas ornaments.
Whereas I like to sit in the train that's made for little kids. Actually, I'm more squished into the train- it's really made for teeny kids! I don't see how any child over six could comfortably ride around in this thing- I have short legs, and my legs didn't fit.
Ducks! Okay, they're wooden ducks, but still-- ducks! Much like owls, but to a lesser extent, I love ducks. Not Donald Duck, so much, but ducks in general. Koreans believe ducks are lucky and represent a long marriage. There are usually a pair of wooden duck figurines at Korean weddings, generally based on Mandarin ducks, to represent a long marriage. Generally, one duck has a blue bill and the other has a red bill. My parents still have their wedding ducks, and I love them.
Back at the front, about to leave. They gave us (steaming hot) cups of herb tea on the way out, thanked us for making the trip in the cold, and we set off.
On the way back to Phoenix Park, I was entranced by this frozen stream. My Korean friend pooh-pooh'ed it, saying that this is a sorry specimen of frozen running water.

More photos to come of the actual company "fun" portion of the trip!

I didn't take many pictures in Beijing this time, but I'll post what I have.

For now, trying to keep warm by drinking an inappropriate amount of coffee and trying to get over the fact that Viola David didn't win the Oscar for "The Help." I should probably watch "The Iron Lady" before saying Meryl didn't deserve it ... but I don't want to watch it. It looks slightly like a very expensive and well-lit Digital Short from Saturday Night Live in all its trailers!