Catedral Basílica de Manizales: Week 237

Sculpture outside the entrance of the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

Overlooking the massive Plaza Bolivar, in the heart of downtown Manizales, is the Catedral Basílica de Manizales. It is a massive concrete structure that is both raw and refined at the same time.

In fact the architect who won the design contest in the 20s believed that the raw concrete was the soul of the building and was something to be celebrated instead of covered.

Due to the rough nature of the material, it is also possible to see the repair work from several major earthquakes. The most significant damage occurred in 1962 when one of the towers collapsed.

Cute cafe inside the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

The cathedral entrance off of Calle 23 has a small elevator that leads up to an open-air cafe. Dainty colonnades surround the cluster of tables and the north side of the cafe overlooks Plaza Bolivar and the buttercup yellow Gobernación de Caldas building.

View of Plaza Bolivar from the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

Tile mural from the Plaza Bolivar: Manizales, Colombia

Aside from people watching, the plaza is also enjoyable for its sculptures and tile murals. This part of the city also has the oldest buildings, which make for an interesting architectural stroll.

View from the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

There is also a tour that departs from outside the second level cafe and continues up into the highest tower. The tickets are sold on the ground level and initially I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to pay the $10,000 peso entry fee. However, the view from the top is really something else.

View of Chipre from the top of the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

One of the most memorable parts though was the old wooden staircase that led up to the tower. This part of the cathedral is called el Corredor Polaco. Although only small portions of it were left for display, the reason it was replaced was quite evident.

For starters, the staircase had been extremely narrow and dark. It had actually been completely enclosed in wood and for this reason it resembled a large, upright coffin. If there were more than one person on the staircase, the structure creaked and trembled.

Staircase inside el Corredor Polaco at the Manizales Cathedral: Colombia

To make matters worse, the staircases were in segments (these are the tiny rectangular platforms above). This meant that one exited the staircase on the right hand side of the tower and then slid along the wall to the opposite staircase to continue the journey.

Of course there were no guard rails then to prevent someone from slipping off the landing and plummeting to their death. For safety reasons, this part of the church was actually closed to the public between 1976-2008.

Now that secure metal staircases are in place, it is a much more enjoyable walk up el Corredor Polaco. The only obstacle that remains in the way between you and a beautiful view of Manizales are 456 steps. Bring some water.

Swweping view of the city from the top of el Catedral de Manizales: Colombia

How to get to the Catedral Basílica de Manizales: Carrera 22- between Calle 22 & 23, Manizales

View of the street from el Catedral de Manizales: Colombia

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Dress Cafe: Week 184

Polaroids of a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

“Is it ok for Barret to see you?” Amy looked worried when she saw me come out of the dressing room in a strapless wedding gown. “He isn’t supposed to, right?”

“Nah, it’s fine.” I replied as I glanced at my freckled scoop-neck tan line in the mirror. “It’s not like it’s my real wedding dress.”

Amy, Eun Soon, Barret and I were right next door to Ehwa Women’s University in Seoul. Most good university neighborhoods cater to their student population, and in this regard Ehwa does not disappoint. Within walking distance from the hallowed school grounds are nail salons, jewelry carts, cafes, and tiny clothing shops crammed with pastel blouses and hair ribbons.

While those are all great reasons to visit the bustling neighborhood, the four of us were there specifically to visit a dress cafe.

Prior to arriving in Seoul, I had lamented the fact that the four of us didn’t have any photos together. “Eun Soon,” I declared as our flight drew nearer. “We need to go to a dress café.”

“You mean the wedding one?” She asked.

“No, just one with lots of dresses.”

Barret at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

“There are only two types,” Eun Soon quickly clarified, “hanbok and wedding.” The loose-fitting traditional Korean costumes, called hanbok, are beautiful and come in a rainbow assortment of colors. However, the idea of renting wedding dresses for a photo shoot with friends was just too oddly intriguing.

“Let’s take a bunch of wedding photos!” I decided. “Can you make a reservation?”

Tree prop at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

We were the only customers when we arrived at the café. The term ‘photo studio’ is a more apt description, but we did each order a sweet beverage. There was a large pink flowery tree behind us and over to our right was a vanity mirror piled high with makeup and glittery tiaras. The closet next to the vanity held three racks of dresses divided into four separate price categories. The most expensive dresses cost 40,000 won a session.

When I finished my drink I picked out a dress and slid the curtain across the closet. The barista helped me into my dress and afterwards asked what size shoe I wore. “Namu kun,” I replied and she laughed at the thought of my feet being too big for the 40 odd pairs of heels on the ground.

“Well,” Amy translated, “she said you should just wear your sandals.”

Choosing accessories at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

While I waited for the others I sidled up to the vanity to touch up my makeup and select a tiara. Almost immediately, the photographer came over, removed it, and put a different one on my head.

“OK?” She asked.

“Sure, why not.” I smiled. She then selected a necklace and clasped it around my neck.

“OK?”

“Yeah!”

A veil appeared next to my head in the mirror. Ii was long and had gauzy fabric and a lace detail along the edge.

“Heck yeah!” I wasn’t planning on saying no to anything.

While Barret was putting his tux on and selecting his bow tie, Amy and Eun Soon were curling the tips of their hair and touching up their makeup.

About an hour after we first arrived we were finally ready to go. I just don’t know if the photographer was ready for Barret.

Barret playing the piano at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

The group posing with a boquet at a dress cafe in Ehwa: Seoul, South Korea

The dress cafe rose room: Seoul, South Korea

How to get to Ehwa University neighborhood in Seoul: Line 2 – Ehwa Women’s University Station – Exit #3

Cat Cafes & Game Cafes: Week 11

Cat Cafes

A consequence of dense urban living is the infrequency of pet ownership. In response to this, numerous cat cafes have sprung up to satisfy the cat-cuddling urges of men, women and children alike. Coffee and refreshments are served while many people also purchase catnip to lure the wayward cat. Loud noises and flashes are prohibited, however one frequently hears a whole room exclaim in excitement as they whip out their cameras whenever a cat does something cute- like chasing a feather. The place we visited even shoots webcam footage so remote patrons can watch the cafe in real-time and post comments.

Game Rooms

In addition to space, privacy is a precious component for any young couple’s developing relationship. This is hard to come by though, as most unmarried individuals live at home even if they are in their 30’s and professionally employed. This dilemma has been solved in a number of ways, from the more tawdry love hotels with their privacy curtains shielding the parking garage to the innocuous private coffee shops. These businesses, found all over Seoul, have created a new era in youth culture.

After squeezing a few kitten bodies, Barret and I headed to a game cafe. Instead of a table, these private rooms offer throw pillows upon a cushioned floor. Although the room is secluded, the labyrinth of numbered curtains is not sound proof. The dull chatter of companions, punctuated by periodic exclamations from the video gamers, is always present. The room fee, around $10 per person, entails a dessert, unlimited access to the colorfully adorned refreshment bar, and 2 hours of TV or Wii rental time. There was even a listing of restaurants which could deliver food to our booth. Olleh!

How to get there:

 Line 2 Gangnam Station

Cat cafe: Godabang Cat Cafe

Room cafe: Cafe Rumi

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