Paris, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Canal de l’Ourq,  À Vélo au Bord de l’Eau, Bordeaux, Château Soulac, Château Carbonneau, Saint-Émilion, Endless Vineyards, French Wine, Belgian Beer, Happy Hour, Late Hours, Lunch in Babylone, Dinner in Odéon, Walking, Biking, Wedding, Jazzing, Jamming. Seine, Sex & Sun.

Seeing how I am about 5 Summer trips behind on that ongoing life-cataloguing project of mine, I am just giving up and posting my Europe pics with a bunch of random keywords in lieu of proper commentary.

Many fun random memories in what was supposed to be a very low-key wedding run to the south of France, including the wedding itself: much sunnier than the last one I attended there, filled with delicious wine and awesome friends I do not see often enough (most of which have been purposely excluded from the photo selection to protect the guilty).

Rest of the trip, as these things tend to be, mainly consisted in one long uninterrupted string of drinks and food, consumed at or around an eclectic array of Parisian locales. Among the more momentous episodes, perhaps: Pierre and I celebrating my last night on the continent by making our Happy Hour a tad earlier and happier than reasonable: hostess at Costes restaurant was duly unimpressed by our Arthur Miller/S Thomson duo act, indirectly leading to our sitting on a corner of Odéon, half-an-hour later, at one of the most coveted tables in the Parisian foodie world, serendipitously left empty by some last-minute cancellation a minute before we stumbled our way in. Bacchus was indeed smiling on us that night.

Unfortunately for this page’s needs, I mostly held to my general rule of not photographing the food people put in front of me: you’ll have to take my word when I say it was some of the best food I ever had, on the tail end of an already impressive week culinary-wise.

I know, I already did this title, but bear with me: I only have a limited number of topical literary references.

There might be other ways to get as violent a shock, for less than 100 euros and 90 minutes, than flying straight from the French Riviera to Berlin, but I suspect they would have to involve a taser and a few thousand volts.

Juan-les-Pins has the permanently warm weather, magnificent Van Goghian sunlight and a few breathtaking coastal sights to help temperate its insufferably posh botoxed denizens, whose main occupation involves sitting motionless (on a yacht, in a convertible, at an overpriced beachside café)…

Arm-aber-sexy Berlin just does not give a fuck what you think of its constantly gray weather or the fact that its entire public transportation infrastructure costs less than the cheapest boat in Port Vauban.

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Since the beginning of the month, I have been enjoying my hard-earned unemployment (technically: the long-programmed end of my two year post-doc fellowship) by travelling around Europe, visiting friends, family and new locales. I literally cannot remember the last time I had an entire month off (it would have to be at least 5 years ago, before that stint in indentured servitude commonly known as “PhD”) and the only downside is the incredible speed at which it has flown by so far. I must also work very hard at reminding myself that regular life, whether in Europe or Japan, does not usually entail spending days on end lounging by a pool overlooking the lush mountainous French countryside, evenings eating cheese and sausages bought fresh from the village market and a casual hop to the next region/city/country by plane, train or car, every couple days… But it’s nice to know that it’s there, were I to relocate westwards one day.

Featuring: sun, south, mediterranean sea, wine, more wine, wine&cheese, wine&sausage, dessert wine, mountain wine, Paris, Catalunya, Lozère, Côte d’Azur, Berlin, TGV, speed boat, airplane…

Not featuring: awesome clubs, DJing and miscellaneous moments of fleeting debauchery, because don’t we all have enough of that in our lives. Also because (good) Berlin clubs are still awesomely against any mobile-phone use indoors (anyway: if you really need to post a picture of your night out, you obviously aren’t having enough fun when it occurs).

Didn’t bring back much picturesque views of Paris from last month’s work trip… Have a few chuckles instead.

French people are a strange alien species I can barely communicate with (save for the couple old high-school buddies close to my heart).

Speaking French is soon going to feel less natural than even Japanese.

And yet Paris still feels as close to a hometown as I will ever have.

A cold, rainy, dirty, grey hometown.

Long due remaining travel notes (it’s been a busy few weeks)…

Antwerp Train Station April 30th: Apparently, many residents of Antwerp consider their city to be apart from the rest of Belgium (sort of a Kyoto situation there). They are not completely wrong: while Brussels might have the economic and politic pull (especially with the EU parliament and its attached contingent of bureaucrats), Antwerp manages to fit an incredibly cosmopolitan population in a human-sized harbour city: a small walk gets you from the Portuguese neighbourhood to the medieval centre through a mini-Chinatown. It also has one of the nicest looking train station I have ever seen: seamlessly blending the original stone building with a modern structure while managing to retain most of its character.

Swing Jazz Klezmer Band Thanks to Goldi’s impeccably tuned cool-dar, we spent our Monday evening at a small downtown bar, listening to a really cool Swing/Jazz/Klezmer band. Couldn’t always catch the finer nuances of the jokes in Dutch/Yiddish between songs, but still an excellent night.

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April 24th: I’ve ranted so many times about the comically horrid shortcomings of Parisian infrastructure that it has become a stale subject long ago. I still want to set the record once and for all: rallying in short succession the cities of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai from their respective airports, makes one really wonder, upon landing in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, what economic world-tier France sits in.

Forget the usual mess at immigration, the overall decrepit state of arrival satellites or the thoroughly unhelpful signage1“Paris by Train”? “Paris by Bus”? I lived in Paris for 5 years and I have no idea what these are supposed to mean. Give me a fucking line number I can find on a map.: riding the RER to Paris (only semi-reliable, affordable way to reach the city centre) made me honestly ache on behalf of hapless first-time visitors, their head full of clichéd romantic Parisian imagery, who get to sit on some of the nastiest train cars this side of Eastern Rajasthan, stopping at every single suburban town between the airport and Paris, having to meekly apologise to dour-faced morning commuters for taking precious space with their luggage. Who-the-fuck designs an airport line with no room for luggage and non-existent escalator/elevator access to the platforms?

Anyway, consider this my heartfelt apology, as a honorary Parisian, to anybody who ever had to land in Paris.

April 24th (3h and a quick shave later): The story of how close I was to end the Japanese chapter of my life prematurely.

Barely summarised excerpt of my exchange with Japanese embassy employee:

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This morning, I absent-mindedly answered a tiny obāchan’s barely intelligible shitamachi-ben address with “wie bitte?”

Language module of the brain = Fucked.