Just Hanging Out: Pace of Life Easier In Sidewalk Cafes And Pocket Parks

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Just Hanging Out: Pace of Life Easier In Sidewalk Cafes And Pocket Parks

Wander around residential areas of a British city and you'll quickly spot small grassy squares here and there. They don't take up much land - only about as much space as a house - but they are welcome rest areas for city-dwellers in an otherwise grey landscape. In fact, these spaces were once occupied by houses, but after these were destroyed in the blitzes of World War II, the sites were developed as green resting places for residents.

Meanwhile, take a walk through Paris, and you'll see numerous cafes on the street that are substitutes for Britain's squares and offer citizens - as well as tourists - somewhere to take a break.

People in Seoul no longer need to envy Europeans those squares and outdoor cafes. Outdoor cafes and rest areas are popping up in many areas of the city these days - and not just in trendy districts such as Cheongdam-dong or Hongdae-ap (the area near Hong-ik University).

The Korea National Tourism Organization has opened an outdoor cafe on the street in front of their building, located downtown at Da-dong, Jung-gu. With stylish parasols, comfortable chairs and green plants, the cafe is an oasis for the foot-weary occupants of the bustling city, where they can rest and have a drink.

"I used to walk fast on the way to work and the way home, not bothering to look around the streets," said Park Beom-seok.

"But everything looks different when I view it leisurely from my seat at the cafe. If there were more places like this in Seoul, that give extra freshness to our surroundings, the city would look much better." Mr. Park is a frequent customer at the cafe.

There is also a special lounge in the building basement. Despite being underground, the lounge was designed to receive natural light and is decorated with some nice art pieces.

According to an official of the organization, taking unused space and turning it into rest areas has been a highly successful project. This lounge is especially popular among office workers and tourists.

These days, it is not rare to find benches on the street, especially around large buildings. Accompanying those benches are often beautiful trees or fountains that tempt passersby to take a rest. Creating outdoor lounges or cafes on top of buildings is also a new trend. Many new buildings incorporate such rest places.

Recently, the city of Seoul opened a new information center outside its main building. At the center, visitors can visit the city's Web site (www.visitseoul.net) that provides various information on cultural events and tours in Seoul or catch the city news delivered on huge LCD screens.

by Bail Sung-ho

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