Category Archives: World Travel

Korean Love Motel

Love Motels in Korea

If you’ve been to Korea, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In South Korea there are Hotels which are generally pretty expensive, then there are Hostels (in bigger cities) which are hostels and there are Motels, also known as Love Motels since these are where couples go for romantic weekends, where johns bring hookers, and where budget minded travelers can stay cheaper than the hotels when the hostels aren’t available or you don’t want to stay in a hostel.

Korean Love Motel

My first love motel came after the penis park and to be honest, at this point, I had no idea that Motel in South Korea really means love motel where you can take your woman, park your car, and enjoy sweet love. Or you can arrange to have some love brought to you with the hotel.

All I knew was that for 40,000 Won, I was staying in a big fancy room that not only provided soap, but cologne, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a razor, a big plasma televison, a king size bed, a computer, and a big fancy bathroom. After the rigours of the Penis Park it was good to have a deluxe place to relax.

Busan Love Motels

It was only later when I went to Andong and met a teacher there, that I learned about the distinctions in lodging. He explained to me that in Busan, where I was heading next, it was cheapest to stay in the love motels. When I asked what they were, he gave me the details above.

Whereas in Samcheok, it wasn’t obvious to an innocent like me that I was staying in a den of sin, in Busan, it was far too obvious and I walked away from more than one place that had sheets that held pubic hair, the smell of semen heavy in the room, or in a few cases rooms that I thought were cheap only to learn that the price was per six hour period. Even I was able to figure that one out.

I stayed in a total of three love motels in Busan which were cheaper than the hostels but loud with the fucking of guests on all sides. In each one, I was given a pouch with a toothbrush, razor, and of course the rooms had cologne and mouthwash. None of them lived up to my first love motel though. That one was special.

South Korea Love Motels

I like the love motels actually, they are over the top and bizarre. Some of them have amazing themed designs, they have semi dirty films in the rooms, in a couple of them the ladies of the house offered to fetch me some ‘boom boom’ and one I stayed at the lady who managed it was particularly insistant. “I get you Russian girl, okay?” “You want boom boom with Korean?” “You like I get you Swedish?” “Maybe you like boom boom with Filipina?”

South Korean Love Motel

Despite the attractive sounding menu (60,000 Won for the night or 30,000 Won for an hour), I wasn’t feeling like ‘boom boom’ was a particularly good idea and so I said no. The room, however was just 35,000 won which was a great value in Busan where a hostel dorm bed was 40-50,000.

South Korea, Busan Love Motel

The next day, I left the boom boom hotel to look for someplace a little quieter and met an Indian girl named Birgida who was also looking for a cheap love motel, we searched long and hard in the Hondae Beach area but the best price there was 40,000 unless you wanted to smell the sperm of the last resident. The extra money in this case was well spent.

Sign of the love motel.

My last love motel was the worst one. It was 45,000 and the door didn’t actually lock! While the room was nice and the sheets were clean, the amount of boom boom going on was utterly mind blowing. Korean people don’t show affection on the streets but when they get in the love motels…wow.

French Wine Tourism

Romance and Wine in the South of France

Exclusive for Vagobond, story and photos by Linda Kissam

International Wine Travel

Many of us think we need to travel to Paris or Champagne to experience what France has to offer in the way of wine travel. I’ve been to both, and they were great for family holidays, but I find the small, less known wine regions featuring family owned wineries to be much more intriguing.

There’s a story behind these out-of-the way spots that call to the soul of people who love wine, food, and the soft adventure activities that support that mindset. And if you seek the unique captivating sense of discovering a rock star in the making, then I guess I now have your attention.

I often receive wine samples to review. I love that, but the true test of understanding a wine is to visit where it is made and to get to know the people who made it. As luck would have it I received an invitation from one of the most influential and visionary French vintners — Gerard Bétrand – to visit him on his turf – in the South of France. I would be his guest for 4 days to experience the food, wine and jazz Bétrand style.

Who could resist that invitation? Not me. In a few short days, I was off from San Diego, California to the South of France (SUD) to taste SUD wines as they are meant to be experienced. Follow along my friends and then recreate this trip for yourself.

I’ve interviewed my share of winery owners, winemakers and growers. Some have passion for the wine, some have dedication for the business of wine, some for the pleasure of wine…and then there are those that have the vision not only for the wine they make, but for the place that wine comes from. It does not take long to understand that I was in the presence of a man who could easily be called a wine visionary for the South of France. The man, his wines, and his wine region have presence, passion, and potential oozing from him.

Wine Travel in France

Gérard Bertrand owns five estates in what many consider the best wine regions of the Languedoc: Château Laville Bertrou, Domaine de L’Aigle, Domaine De Villemajou, Cigalus, and Cháteau L’Hospitalet. Each features its own terroir and wine program.

While I was fortunate to visit three of those Chateau’s, my main focus was on Château l’Hospitalet. Lying between Narbonne and the Mediterranean on what was once an island, Château l’Hospitalet Gérard Bertrand’s headquarters is comprised of 978 hectares of moorland and 82 hectares of vines in a beautiful sea-view location in the heart of the Coteaux du Languedoc – La Clape appellation.

It is 2.5 miles from the sea and 4 miles from Narbonne’s center. This facility is the perfect spot to base your 3-4 day exploration of the region. It is the third most visited tourist attraction in the region. The top two are the old city in Carcasonne and an African themed safari park. Those of you who favor or support Eco Tourism will be glad to know Mr. Bertrand has adopted a strict carbon neutral sustainable approach to his vineyard management while offering eco-friendly wine-tourism related activities.

The regional character of the Chateau L’Hospitalet will charm you. It’s Mediterranean hip, edgy and comfortable all rolled into one. Enjoy the pleasant atmosphere of the small modern bistro, the comfortable dining room, and the lounge bar for relaxing breaks and (in season) smokin’ jazz evenings. I especially appreciated the luscious meals and snacks made from regional products (olive oil, olives, jams, honey, etc.) The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine and premium wines. Unwind in the comfy lounge bar armchairs, enjoy some music, and taste some Tapas along with a glass of premium regional wine.

French Wine Tourism

Chateau L’Hospitalet has 38 spacious rooms accommodating 2 to 4 people. The hotel is set on a large property overlooking a small park-like area, gardens, and vineyards. All rooms feature lovely amenities such as spacious beds and flat screen TV’s. You’ll enjoy the swimming pool and the short walk to the tasting cellar. Get adventurous and take a hike up the hill for a breath taking view of the sea and surrounding vineyards.

Château l’Hospitalet definitely is a wine estate with a strong sense of self based on hospitality focusing on the Mediterranean lifestyle: cellar visits and tasting of course, but also make time for to explore the art exhibitions, crafts workshops and an annual jazz festival on the first weekend in August showcasing the facilities at the Château. Try booking your visit during the August Jazz Festival (held at Chateau L’Hospitalet) if you can. If it’s booked, try one of the local hotels located on small waterways and beaches where you can become part of the local scene. Don’t expect big fancy accommodations. Think small family friendly vacation rooms.

Barrels of Wine in France

A key focus of my short stay was a 3-day pass to the International Jazz event. Located on the Chateau’s property, the event is designed entirely to promote ecotourism. Five concerts, 6,500 attendees, 5 gala dinners on the Chateau’s gorgeous grounds, means this is THE place to be the first week of August. A typical night’s schedule includes a 7 p.m. tasting, 8 p.m. Mediterranean dinner created by some very talented chefs, a 10 p.m. concert, and a midnight after party at La Cave ? Jazz. Wow does not do this justice: spectacular maybe, or once in a lifetime perhaps.

This was their 8th annual festival, so I would expect it to go smoothly, but this was more magical than smooth. Think premium wines (I actually got to taste a 1936 Gérard Bertrand Rivesaltes- bottle 623 of 869), French food at its most local and finest, vineyards everywhere, the waft of sea air, a big French moon, and the most glamorous people ever as my dining partners.

Jazz Night in France's Wine Country

The Jazz talent is handpicked each year by Gérard and his team. He told me he tries not to repeat any act so that each year guests can look forward to something new and exciting. Each performer had their own vibe and that made each show an experience in itself.

What wine travel adventure would be complete without a discussion of the wines? The wines bearing the Gérard Bertrand signature share a common identity: balance and elegance, they truly express the thoughtfulness of the winemaker and the South of France terroir.

There are 4 levels or ranges to meet the needs of the different markets:
1. Vins de Pays and Varietal Wines: pleasure guaranteed
2. AOC wines for more character and complexity: culture of flavor
3. Great wines: experience the emotion
4. Natural Sweet Wines and Sparkling Wines: region’s softer side

Gérard Bertrand wines win tons of medals bearing testimony to the consistent quality of his products. Awards include: the Paris Agricultural Show, the official reference in French quality wines ;the equally-prestigious Brussels Concours Mondial ; the Grands Vins de France Competition in Macon, Vinalies “OEnologues de France”, the Blaye Bourg International Wine Challenge, the Wine Challenge (UK and Japan), and the Anivit National Vins de Pays Competition organized by the Union of French Oenologist.

French Wine Tourism

As nice as it is to have all those words of praise from your peers, the true test comes in the hands of the consumer. Trust me; you’ll love any one of them no matter where you are on your wine journey – novice to aficionado. On a warm French evening under a romantic moon my favorites included Cremant de Limoux Brut, Natural Grenache (Organic), Cigalus blanc, and the yummy Gerard Bertrand Banyuls. These are great value wines and can be found worldwide. Conclusion? You haven’t completed your wine journey – be romantic or more pragmatic – until you join Gérard in the South of France at l’Hospitalet to experience his vision of ecotourism as you groove to sweet & sassy Jazz, dine in culinary excellence, drink inspired wines from sustainable vineyards, dance under French moonlight, and be pampered at the l’Hospitalet hotel. Check out the Gerard Bertrand Web site for other interesting events like the L’Art De Vivre in June and the exquisite Truffle Hunt in December. A vote santé!

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Izmir – Part 4 – Agora, Museums, and Kultur Park

Travel insurance might be a good idea if you want to visit Izmir’s museums in winter since they are empty and you are likely to catch a cold from wandering around the freezing halls.

But, all kidding aside, there are some nice cultural sites to visit in Izmir and while in the month I was here, I didn’t come close to seeing them all, I did get to see quite a few of them.

Kultur Parc izmirFirst of all, the Kultur Park. This is Izmir’s idea of Central Park. After Attaturk retook Turkey from the Greeks and then expelled the greeks, most of the center of Izmir was burned to the ground. In the place where all those houses had stood, there now stands a beautiful park. Since it is winter, the park is rarely full, but the dogs at least get the chance to enjoy the flowers.

Fuar Izmir, Kultur ParcIn the center is a tower that is used for bungee jumping in the summer (or so I was told) and what looks like yet another creepy and scary Turkish amusement park. I’m guessing that during the warm weather there are constant crowds here, but during my visits I found very few people and plenty of space. Inside the Kultur Park is the Izmir Museum of Art and History. It really is history art, don’t expect to find any modern displays here, but overall it was a very nice museum split into three buildings. Coins and precious objects, ceramics, and statues. Winter tarif is 3 TL.

Trade Fuar Izmir FairNeighborhood AgoraApparently the main reason the park exists is for the annual trade fair where it is rumoured that Turkey is the only country in the world that holds a trade fair where import vendors outnumber export vendors. Leave it to the Turkish bureaucracy to figure out how to make that happen.

Leaving the park you will find a 24 hour McDonalds and you can stroll through the eerie part of the city that will probably someday be the biggest, richest, most prosperous part but right now looks like the hole at Ground Zero two or three years ago.

Izmir AgoraWander for a mile or so and you will start to see signs for the Agora. The Agora was the ancient Roman marketplace. Remarkably well preserved and sitting right inside of a modern city. Very strange. I didn’t bother to pay to go in. Maybe someday I’ll wish I had, but frankly, I’m pretty sick of seeing Roman ruins. Doesn’t do much for me anymore. Wow! Doric columns.

The neighborhood up the hill from the Agora is much more interesting. This is not another rich neighborhood and the number of women wearing headscarves goes up by about 999% the instant you enter this area. The winding streets, coal chimneys spouting noxious gas just about at eye level, and women carrying water from public fountains is about as authentic as Izmir gets. These are real people, really living a really hard life. You still see the crows and apaches hanging out in tribes, but the poverty that they sit amidst reveals that the purchase of fake designer clothes is a priority and not a luxury in their minds. Look like a million bucks but not a dime in their pockets.

Izmir Ethnography MuseumGoing down the hill and back into the Konak area you can find the Archeology and Ethnography museums. Again, both were empty and since there was no one to sell me a ticket at the ethnography museum, it was gratis. This, to me was the best museum in Izmir. Not too fancy, not too opulent, just a very cool old house on a hill filled with the products and crafts of Izmirian people. Not only were the displays good, but the descriptions of how glass ‘evil eye’ beads are made, how felt was made, and more was actually interesting, well written, and for a geek like me – fun. I never knew how felt was made before.

Rose petals on the ground IzmirAfter the ethnography museum , I went ahead and skipped the archeology museum even though I longed to see more old coins and pottery shards like no one’s business.

I have the feeling that there are a ton of little galleries, great modern artists, and more in Izmir, but in the month I lived here, I didn’t find them.