Retour à la maison…

Day 513:

For some reason, I felt a lot smarter when I woke up this morning.

“Isn’t that plane a little small?”

GO!

Finland!! With only one stopover this time, the trip home shouldn’t be as painful as the one coming here.

Moomin!!

Hey look! I found ramen in Finland. Haha I’ll pass.

Time to go home.

PAin Progress indeed.

See you in Tokyo!

Poèmes du Japon…

Day 512:

Today would be the big day. But first…tsukemen, French style!

And French-style pork with mushrooms!

Then it was off to Grenoble University for my girlfriend’s charity poetry event.

I was her biggest fan.

The event was a great success. With more people showing up than expected, it was amazing to see them all show their support for Japan. My girlfriend was amazing too. It was my first time seeing her perform on a stage like this and I was very, very impressed.

Time to celebrate.

Now time to leave France. We fly out from Geneva tomorrow morning so we had to catch the last train out of Grenoble. A big thanks to all the wonderful people we met while in France. This has been one great life experience that I will never forget.

Upon arriving in Geneva, we decided to go for Chinese food…again. It’s funny how we’ve been craving Asian food every time we’ve been here.

Then it was off to our hotel to relax…

Now that was a fine beer!

Gourmandise…

Day 511:

I’ve been eating way too much, but with all this good food being placed in front of me how am I supposed to resist? This was breakfast.

On our way back from the market, we came across this pizza food truck and I just had to stop.

This is Tony. At first he looked like he didn’t want anything to do with me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying and he couldn’t understand what I was saying. But after he figured out that I was Japanese things got a little better. I still couldn’t understand what he was saying and he still couldn’t understand what I was saying, but at least now he had a smile on his face.

This is Kebab pizza!!!

Back at the house, we made some more instant tsukemen.

Isn’t this beautiful?

Yes this is.

This is Foie gras!!!

Because my new French friends were giving me so much, it was time to give them a taste of what rules my life. So I made them a bowl of ramen and they seemed to love it.

JMarc especially couldn’t get enough.

Way to go JMarc!

This makes me very happy…

Auf wiedersehen…

Day 510:

I don’t want to leave Switzerland, but I must. I wonder if anyone will notice if I smuggle this bread.

My aunt cooked us some spicy spaghetti for lunch and it was delicious. Perfect for the long drive back to France. Btw, if you ever drive through Switzerland don’t forget to buy a vignette!

Bye bye Basel.

Did you know that McDonald’s signs in Europe are green?

After a leisurely 4-hour drive through Switzerland, we decided to stop in Geneva for some food. Girlfriend was craving Thai noodles but we could only find a place that had soup without noodles.

I just got some egg rolls.

Later we found a Chinese restaurant with soup noodles.

It wasn’t exactly ramen, but close enough.

Close enough…

We finally made it back to France. Now time for the Maximator!

For the record, it tasted like **** but it gets you ****** up fast.

Swiss bliss…

Day 509:

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I froze for at least five minutes with my mouth and eyes wide open. I took a deep breath of the cool, crisp, clean, fresh, swiss air and immediately fell in love with the landscape. Ahh, now this is the Switzerland I remembered from my childhood. Yes, I have relatives in Switzerland, but this is only my second time visiting them. I can’t believe I haven’t visited more!! Thank you cousin Pete for welcoming us into your home under such short notice! I truly appreciate it and I’m really glad that I decided to come.

I probably would have stood looking out that window for hours if it hadn’t been for a familiar smell coming up from the kitchen. Swiss bacon!!! To my delightful surprise, my aunt and uncle (whom I haven’t seen in years) joined us for breakfast. It was a felicitous reunion!

By the way, my Aunt is a famous Japanese calligraphy artist in Switzerland. Please check out some of her work if you have time. I was lucky enough to tour her gallery and workspace and it was awe-inspiring. She has been following her dream for over 50 years now and look how far she has come. I am definitely inspired. Thanks Auntie!

After breakfast, my cousin Pete and his wife Olivera took us to the Basel Dreiländereck (tripoint) where the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and France come together at one point.

I’m in Switzerland!!

I’m in France!!

I’m in Germany!!

I’m dizzy.

Let’s go ride the Rhine. Into the city we go!

There are four ferries that can transport you across the Rhine using only the power of the rivers current. We decided to take the one named Leu.

Apparently the job of ferry driver is highly coveted, but good luck trying to become one. With only four ferries in existence you’ll have to wait a lifetime.

Across the river was Basel Münster. A medieval-like cathedral surrounded by red sandstone.

This is what happens when you go too many days without ramen. Let’s try to avoid this.

Basel is a wonderful city. I think I can see myself living here someday. Someday…

Is it that time again?

Yup.

I forget the name of this pizza-like pie, but just don’t let them hear you call it a pizza.

Pete: “There’s ramen in Basel. Do you want to give it a try?” Me: “Helllz yes!”

Namamen is a “Japanese Ramenbar” that serves ramen, udon, and Japanese tapas. It’s been around since 2004.

Pete ordered the miso ramen, which inevitably suffers the same fate that many bowls of miso ramen in the States do. I hate to say this, but it just tasted like miso soup with noodles.

I ordered the shoyu ramen. Well…this is ramen in Basel. Good or bad, it relaxed my ramen soul.

The noodles were more like what ramen noodles should be like, but the soup was too normal.

The ramen here was as I expected and I only have one real complaint. A radish in the place of chashu?? Wait, I take that back. I have another complaint. This bowl cost 16.50 Swiss francs. I’ll let you do the conversion.

Hmm…maybe I really should open up a shop in Basel. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

For dinner, cousin Pete was showing off his skills. Go Pete!

And Kyra had the best seat in the house.

Swiss bliss indeed…

Armoise…

Day 508:

You’re not gonna believe this, but I found ramen in France! Okay more on that later. First I must show you Lyon and our lunch at a bouchon. No, not a restaurant. A bouchon!

With the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière watching our every move, this second largest city in France was more than I could handle. I wanted to go here and here and here and here and here but since we would be leaving for Switzerland in the afternoon we decided to just experience the food that Lyon has to offer instead.

I’d say we made a good decision. I’ve never really experienced real French food and this would be as real as it gets.

Palate cleansing…

Saucisson chaud et sa cervelle de canut. Translation: Daaaaam gina! See that white stuff? It was some type of cheese that I couldn’t get enough of. I’m still dreaming about it.

Gigot d’agneau aux herbes. Translation: Tender strips of succulent lamb covered with herbs that will melt in your mouth and make you drool for more.

Pièce de bœuf grillé aux herbes. Translation: Beef…French style!

Ile flottante. Translation: Will make your girlfriend float.

You bet I am!

Now back to the lecture at hand. We found ramen in France!!

Okay I know what you’re gonna ask me. Do I really need to go there?

Yomogi is a ramen shop in the heart of Lyon. Benjamin, the owner, studied ramen in Matsumoto after his Japanese friends encouraged him to bring this coveted art to France.

The gyoza, I’d have to say, are top notch. Meaty, garlicky, and great.

The ramen…well…as Benjamin would admit, is not perfect. But I’d like to say that it was a lot better than I expected.

The homemade noodles, as I expected, tasted more like pasta. It turns out that kansui is difficult to obtain here (maybe even illegal?) and without a proper noodle-making machine, a pasta press is used. All in all, I see a lot of potential for ramen in France. Perhaps someday I will be able to help improve their efforts.

Speaking of which, after I introduced myself to Benjamin he was quick to offer me a job. He even said he’d fill out the papers for my visa and let me use the open loft upstairs for free. With the girlfriend planning a move to France for a year, it was tempting. I politely declined (for now), but he said the offer will always remain open. I guess I have something to fall back on… Merci Benjamin!!

Then it was off to Switzerland to visit my cousin and fam. After a CRAZY five hour drive through some of the hardest rain I’ve ever seen, we finally made it. Btw, this is not my cousin.

おつかれ!!

It feels SO good to be around family…

La Bastille…

Day 507:

Today we were invited to spend the morning with some students at a nearby school in Grenoble. We talked about Japan, shared stories, and my girlfriend even read some of her poems. They were all so happy to see us and we were overwhelmed by their thoughts and prayers. To see so many people who are thousands of miles away still care so much about the tragedies in Japan was amazing and very heartwarming.

Afterwards, we toured the city of Grenoble.

And hopped on the cable car leading to the Bastille.

Look mom, I’m flying!

The view from up here was astonishing.

And “the keep” was intimidating.

As explained to me by my friend, “this is the Château d’If of Grenoble.”

The view overlooking the city of Grenoble with the Chartreuse mountains in the distance.

I wanted to venture up the mountain some more, but we didn’t have much time.

So onto the city we went.

It’s still hard to believe I’m in France, but these scenes definitely tell me I’m in Europe. It feels great.

A Sator Square!

Break time!

Thank you JMarc!

French sushi!

My favorite snacks.

bon appétit…