Friday, August 1, 2014

서래마을 - Seorae Maeul, Seoul's French Village

Pain au chocolat. I have not seen one in years. La France me manque...
My previous long-term experience abroad, a semester in France, is now three years in my past, but I still get nostalgic when I think about the amazing time I had. I wish I could go back! But since that's an impossibility at the moment, I suppose I could settle for Korea's only French enclave, the Seorae Village in Seoul!

I don't want to hype it up too much. It's a small neighborhood in Banpo-dong, south of the Han River, where several hundred French people live. The Lycée Français de Séoul is located here, and the cultural influence is pretty visible. Many of the cafes and shops have a French or European theme, and some signs are written in Korean and in French.
The awesome mural on the side of the French School in Seorae Maeul. Bonjour! 봉주르!
Quick vocab: 서래 is prononced "seo-rae". 마을 ("ma-eul") means "village" in Korean. France is transliterated into Korean as 프랑스, or "ph-rang-ss".

So last Monday, I visited Seorae Maeul with Monica. I wasn't sure what to expect, maybe picturesque streets and some French people walking around? To be honest, we were slightly disappointed because there didn't seem to be that much to see or do. I took a lot of pictures, and we walked around the neighborhood and the local park, aptly named Montmartre, as it's on the top of a hill. We didn't see or hear any French! I'd really hoped that I'd run into somebody to chat with. And even though it's supposed to evoke Paris, there's more of an international village vibe than a "Little Paris" one: we passed lots of Japanese restaurants and a few American bars. Hélas... At least it was a nice day for walking.
Monica doing her modeling thang in the park.
There were quite a few wine shops in the neighborhood; this was a restaurant that kept all its empty bottles on display outside...
The highlight might have been the pain au chocolat and drinks we got at the local Paris Croissant. Paris Croissant is a Korean chain of bakeries. They are generally of a higher quality than the ubiquitous and related Paris Baguette chain; in fact, this Paris Croissant is said to import its flour directly from France. The breads and pastries were fantastic. I haven't had such good bread in ages! The basement of this Paris Croissant also sells French chocolates, macarons, wine, AND CHEESE. Du fromage français! En Corée! And not in a Costco! Of course, it was expensive, but it was still a delightful find. Monica and I bought some to take home with us, and we feasted later that evening.
The bakery section of this huge Paris Croissant. Une boulangerie français en Corée!
Des croissants! La patisserie était parfaitement friable!
Des petites tartines chocolates avec d'or?! Gold leaf on a chocolate tart?!
Macaron towers! Trop beaux, trop élégant!
Jus de kiwi et d'orange et du thé de pamplemousse et fruits rouges!
Gga-mang-be-reu Chi-jeu. Du camembert! J'en ai acheté une meule. :)
Et, bien sur, du pain! Une vrai baguette...!
So that's about it for Seorae Village: cute cafes, a park, and an amazing bakery! I don't know what I might have missed, but there just wasn't much there to begin with, I think. It's a nice place to spend an afternoon, but not really worth putting on your bucket list.

To get to Seorae Village, you can take the subway to the Express Bus Terminal Station (lines 3, 7, and 9), and go out of exit #5. Head down the tree-lined path by the stream for about ten minutes, until you reach a pedestrian walkway that crosses above the road on your left. Then follow the signs in English for Seorae Village. You'll know you're in it when you see the Paris Croissant or see signs written in French. You can also take 마을 bus #13 directly to the bottom of the street.

Amusez-vous bien à Seorae Maeul! A plus!
Au revoir! Merci pour avoir lu mon blog! Commentez, s'il vous plaît! Etes-vous allé à Seorae Maeul, ou les autres quartiers français dans les autres pays? Comment avez-vous les trouvé? Have you ever been to Seorae Maeul or other French neighborhoods in other countries? What'd you think?

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