I am by no means Japanese, but if I would be, or indeed even speak the language, these two kanji is how I would write my name; Ran, meaning approximately "chaos" and Zen meaning, well, "zen". It is my ambition to use this blog as a forum for highly irregular anecdotal rambling on topics on everything from travel, music and philosophy to bioinformatics.
Donibane Lohitzune (St. Jean de la Luz in French), is a small seaside town in Lapurdi, in Iparralde (the French part of the Basque Country). Once famous for its corsairs and pirates, it is nowadays more renowned for its nice light, its beach and historical buildings. We dropped by on Easter Thursday, had a fantastic meal at Kaiku and a walk around town, and ended up buying too much sheep cheese from Iraty (one of my absolute favourites).
Beachfront houses with walkways to the protective barrier.
Ibai-Eder (means "beautiful river" in English) is a water reservoir outside Azpeitia. You can park on the road crossing the dam and walk around the reservoir, like we did. According to the internet, this is 6 km, but in reality it is 8.5. It is a flat and easy walk through some nice forest and we met almost nobody, except many birds, like marsh-tits (Parus palustris / Entita / Caraboñero palustre / Kaskabeltz txiki), bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula / Domherre / Camachuelo / Gailupa) and Long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus / Stjärtmes / Mito / Buztanluze).
Outside Hernani in Gipuzkoa lies the typical Basque cider house (sagardotegi / cidería) where lots of the awesome cider typical of the region is being produced and drunk every year. We visited and ate a typical sagardotegi menu with cod omelet, cod with peppers and tomato and a huge beef chop, finished off with sheep cheese, membrillo (quince cheese) and walnuts, and washed down with generous amounts, of course, of cider.
Txotx is the most important tradition and means simply to go and drink the cider straight out of the barrel
Some of the food
Another good thing with this place was that it has lots of nice walks nearby, so this we tried out afterwards, to start digesting the pretty heavy meal and the litres of cider..
First I thought this was a silly idea; a thought experiment. Then I read more and realised that it mindboggingly makes sense! Religious people might not like it. Although, another way to look at it is that eating pork is kind of like cannibalism, so perhaps the muslims were right all along!
And just like humans might come from chimp-pig hybrids, platypii are apparently best explained by hybridisation between a bird and an early mammal.As, of course, aborigines knew since a long time ago.
It is time for an update to my not-so-regular report on global cross-cooking phenomena. After haggis pakora in Glasgow and dangerous experiments in my own kitchen, the time has come for the Basque country. Just in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, between Europe's finest surfing beaches (south of France and north of Spain), lies Donostia or San Sebastian. Not only is it a beautiful city, to which I am soon moving, but it is also the place with the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita! One of the best things with this part of the world are the ubiquitous pintxos (the Basque answer to tapas). In one of the fanciest places serving pintxos, called A Fuego Negro, they have embraced experimental cross-cooking in an awesome way. The basic recipe is easy:
One part Japanese: a small but delicious piece of ground kobe-beef (神戸ビーフ)
One part American: let's make a hamburger of it
One part Basque: it is a miniature, i.e. a pintxo
The result is called Mc Kobe, was brilliant, and can be seen below.
was the first time I had eaten kobe beef. For those of you who don't
know, it is a very special Japanese delicacy, made from cows who get to
drink beer during the last weeks of their life, and get hour long daily
massages. This makes them very happy and relaxed cows. And tasty. I
highly recommended it (both the massage and beer parts, but mainly the Mc Kobe).
Bergen has Europe's most polluted air, due to horrible traffic. So what does the city ("Bergen kommune") do? Cuts up locks and removes people's bikes! Because parking them outside is illegal. So this morning mine and all the street's bikes were gone, some previously decorated with stickers that I had noticed ("varsel om fjerning" / "notice of removal") saying approximately "Illegal parking. Not frequently used, thus junk". Not on mine though. It had been standing exactly 2 days. It's hard to use your bike every day in the icy winter streets, so I don't see how this makes them junk in either case. I think I will start stealing cars from the people working for the kommune if nobody seems to be using them at the time. Maybe leave a notice a day before on some car nearby.