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I flew from Johannesburg to Zurich via Doha by Qatar Airways, and as soon as I arrived in Zurich's international airport, Jonas came to greet me there. He is the boyfriend and will be the husband of my Japanese friend Yumemi.
We took a local train from the airport to Winterthur where Yumemi and Jonas were having their wedding over the weekend.

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The weather was fine in Winterthur. It was dry and hot during the day but it cooled down a bit at night.
The photo below shows Jonas's friends' flat where I crash while in Winterthur for free of charge. Lucky me!

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As a shabby backpacker to suddenly attend someone's wedding required me to make one effort in particular. It was to ask my mum to send me my suit, tie, shirt, and shinning leather shoes from Japan, all of which I hadn't worn for more than two years. Fortunately (after Skyping with my mum for a few times in advance), I got them all here in Winterthur just for the wedding. The photo below shows Yumemi in kimono and me. She looks fabulous!

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In the past I've attended my friends' weddings in USA, in Belgium, in Australia and many in Japan. Each one of them was different from others, depending on their nationalities, their religions, their budgets, etc. I always enjoy taking part of it and observing how things take place then.

Yumemi and Jonas's wedding was a little unique in a way that they seemed to have no religious thing involved, but an official sign-up to be made in front of the municipality and us. It only took half an hour or so. A new Swiss-style, I guess (?)

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Their wedding ceremony turned out to be super-simple, but little did all of the participants in this ceremony know that the after-party was about to go off like big fireworks at a very nice cottage located just outside Winterthur.
The photo below shows Jonas and Yumemi just after the official sign-up. They are married now!

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What I found really good in their after-party was that the whole cottage with a nice backyard was rented over the weekend for us. There were a big kitchen with all kitchen equipment, tables and chairs in a big living room, three bathrooms, and many bedrooms upstairs in which we would eventually crash for the night. No drink and drive!

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The party was fun. Everybody was quiet in the beginning, but we became louder and louder with music, lots of food, desserts, beer, wine, and laughter.

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After midnight the party eventually turned into karaoke with dancing and it seemed to go on forever. I stayed up till 2am or so but felt too old to keep up with young ones. Hahaha! Yumemi and Jonas were still having a great time.

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Happy wedding to Yumemi and Jonas.
Thank you very very much for having me today.

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スポンサーサイト

My Swiss friend Luzia lives in Lucern, about 40min by train from Winterthur.
Today I caught up with her and she drove me to one of the tiny European countries called Liechtenstein on a day-trip.
The photo below shows the car Luzia booked for us today. It was a car-sharing scheme which a few companies in Japan also introduced in major cities recently. Quite economical and convenient if you live in a city where this sharing system is thoroughly implemented. My home-town Kasugai also has this system now, but only two cars are available.... Useless!

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Luzia and I used to share an old three-story house on Richard St. in Vancouver, Canada in 2004 with eight other people. I still can't believe that ten of us in total stayed together in the same place in cold miserable Vancouver back then. I was young and broke at that time.
I've known Luzia ever since then and we actually met up again in December 2009 when I was on a business trip to Europe. So it was my second reunion with her this time.

It took us just over an hour to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein. It was cloudy and drizzling when we arrived there, but it cleared up by midday.

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Schloss Vaduz is located in Vaduz and is home to the royal family of Liechtenstein. You can never miss this castle as it's built over a hill and it's the biggest landmark in Vaduz.
The photo below shows Luzia and me with the castle behind us.

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Later we walked into a cafe for lunch. It was just a casual cafe to have a decent meal. Nothing fancy then, and Luzia and I had a drink and a meal for each, but our bill turned out to be almost 70 dollars. Ouch!

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!!!!! Note !!!!!
Don't forget to bring your passport with you. You can get a stamp of Liechtenstein at the tourist office in Vaduz. I forgot to bring mine today. So I got it on a piece of paper instead. Ahhh....




I took a local Swiss train from Winterthur to Munich. The train was very disappointing: not only because it was very expensive (about JPY8,000), but was also very uncomfortable as there was not enough leg-room and no air-conditions were working.... What did I pay JPY8,000 for?!
After spending a few hours in the stuffy hot Swiss train, I met up with Toni and Julia at a beer-garden in central Munich. My previous visit in Munich was when the October Fest was taking place in 2010: almost two years had passed since then and I was stunned to see Julia's belly pumped. The baby is due in a couple of months. A good surprise!

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While Julia and Toni were very kind to let me crash at their place again, I came to this funky German city for two specific reasons;

1. To go and see Xavier Rudd's live
2. To try the river-surfing

The first one was easy as Julia had already made a booking for me (EUR 37.95). The live was held in a venue called "Krone", a small circus place in Munich.
Unfortunately, Toni had to go to work early the next day and Julia was heavily pregnant. I went there alone, but the atmosphere was good and I met three Austrian people who sat next to me.

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The live was somehow sponsored by Billabong (What's Billabong doing here?! They should invest in J-Bay's WCT event!)
A couple of local bands played first and then Donavon Frankenreiter also played quite a few songs before Xavier showed up. And it was Xavier who stole the show. He was groovy, charismatic and stylish.

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The second one (To try the river-surfing) was something that I was super keen on doing during my previous visit, but I couldn't. So it was a must-task to be done this time. However, I immediately encountered one difficulty: it was to find a board to rent for river-surfing; I had my own surfboard with me then (a brandnew Hellfire 5'8), but I had no intention to take it out to that fast-stream and super-shallow river. A few dings on my Hellfire could easily be foreseen.
Funnily enough, despite no sea in Munich there are quite a few seasonal surf-shops in town, most of which change to ski & snowboard shops in winter.
I borrowed Toni's bicycle and cycled everywhere to check every single surf-shop, asking them whether or not I could rent a board for river-surfing. The first three shops that I walked in told me "No, we don't rent boards." And the fourth shop did have boards to rent, but all of them were rented out at that time....

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Utterly disappointed with the situation, I almost gave up looking for a board to rent by this time, and as the very very last option of "sacrificing my own shining Hellfire" started circulating in my head, I told myself: "Just try one more shop!" So I walked into a shop called Planet-Sports without any expectations.

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There was a basement inside the shop where I actually saw at least 10 brandnew surfboards standing up against the wall. I spoke to one of the staff members there, explained my situation to him and asked him very nervously if he had any board that I could rent. He replied to me: "Ahhh.... We do, but the board is very special and it was ridden by Quirin Rohleder, a professional German surfer, you know?!" I just stared at him and: "Okaaaay. Is there any chance that you let me use this board for a couple of hours?" I begged him. Yet his reply was very assertive: "Nope! This one is in very good conditions."
We were silent for a few seconds and then he opened his mouth saying "Actually, I have one more board." He brought a board out from a stockroom in the back and handed it over to me. The board clearly had a few dings on it, some were fixed and the others were taped up. I lifted it up and had a thorough look at all of it. Then I asked him: "How much is it to rent this board for a few hours?", "Oh, don't worry about it. You can just bring it back by tomorrow afternoon." he said. "Umm? You are not charging me at all? Are you serious....?" I looked at him with my mouth wide open.

Believe it or not, this is all a true story.


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The next morning Julia and I cycled to the park and I tried river-surfing for the very very first time in my life as pictured below (The board in my hand was the one from Planet-Sports).

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After a few failures I was able to stand up on the board. In fact, standing up was relatively easy for me, but riding the stream (not a wave) was very different from surfing. That's why I look very clumsy on the board in the photo below.

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Honestly speaking, it wasn't really fun. Hahaha.
This river-surfing in Munich was quite challenging or rather struggling with cold water. It might have been easier for me if I hadn't been a surfer. I just tried it for my own novelty value anyway.

The photo below shows the most famous river-surfing spot in Munich - Eisbach. There is much more water running at Eisbach than the spot I tried at today.
Some guys say that it might actually be easier to surf Eisbach than the other spot. Oh well, I might give it a go here next time!

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Munich is so vibrant and it's been great fun visiting this city and hanging out with Toni and Julia again. I owe Toni and Julia so much now, and I must treat them to the finest Japanese restaurant with best Sushi if they ever visit my country along with their son/daughter in the future.

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I caught a Euroline's overnight bus (EUR68.00) from Munich to Paris where I was initially going to catch a TGV train, but Jesper messaged me a couple of days ago and told me that he could pick me up in Paris as he just visited the mother of his French wife Soraya. They were also on their way to Lafitenia, a small town located about 8 to 9 hours south west of Paris by car.

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It was still dark and quite chilly when my bus arrived in Paris early in the morning. Jesper soon showed up by his parents' red VW van. Six months already passed since my time in Senegal. It was great to see him, Soraya and their cutest baby-girl Mia again.
We spent no time in Paris and dodged the crazy morning traffic of Paris in order to catch up with our surfie friend Arne and his family in Lafitenia.

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It was just after 19pm when we finally arrived in Lafitenia.
I came here not only because I wanted to catch up with Jesper and Arne, but also because I wanted to surf this right-hander pointbreak at any cost this time as I missed it out the last time I was here in November 2010.

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Camping Plage in Lafitenia was where Arne, his family and his German friends were camping. Arne very kindly set up a huge tent for me to sleep right next to his high-tech-fully-equipped camper van.
The photo below shows my tent with Jesper's daughter Mia.

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Arne and his son Andre were surfers from a town near Düsseldorf in Germany and I met them at Jesper's guesthouse in N'Gor, Senegal earlier this year. We all surfed together and had a good time then. And now here we were!
The photo below shows (from left) Arne, Jesper with Mia, Soraya, Arne's daughter Jenny, Arne's wife Christiana, and Andre's friend Dominiq. But where the hell is Andre?!

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Perhaps the last time I seriously camped for a few days in a row was when I was a boyscout two thousands years ago. This time I was so unprepared for food and sleeping, etc. Very fortunately, Arne had all kinds of equipment for camping. He and his wife Christiana even cooked for me every night.

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The surf in Southern France was surprisingly consistent with very warm water. Nonetheless, we still had a few tiny-swell / flat days on which we just went swimming or went snorkelling. Otherwise, we just chilled out at the camp-site. Arne and Andre sometimes went spear-fishing too.
The second photo below shows the catch of the day - an Octopus.

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One day Arne cooked something very very French for me - Escargot.
I'd neither had them nor had I wanted to try them before, but just because of the fact that I was curious about how they would taste, Arne grilled the snails with some garlicky sauce for me.
Honestly speaking, Ummm... they were edible but funny texture.

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A great thing about this part of Europe in summer is that there are no mosquitoes (at least around where we camped). This is completely opposite to Japan. Summer in many parts of Japan can be an ongoing battle with mozzies. Whereas, this northern part of the Basque region seems to be a perfectly mozzie-free environment with low humidity, even though the day-time temperature can reach more than 35 degrees.
I love Japan's hot sticky summer, but I also found the summer in Europe very pleasant. Furthermore, the long daylight combined with the daylight saving in France makes it possible for us to surf from 6am till 10pm in the evening.

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When the surf was small in Lafitenia, we sometimes drove to Guethary or Hossegor in search for better waves. Nothing epic but we always found some playful waves somewhere. I then borrowed Andre's bulky 6'0 NSP which turned out to be quite fun to surf with.

Beach-breaks in France could be really fun, but I came to France this time to score some proper waves in Lafitenia. And after two weeks of my patience a big low-pressure finally emerged in the north Atlantic.

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It was sunny and the wind was very light. Waves were 4 ~ 5ft on sets with occasional bombs.
Lafitenia can be very crowded when large swells hit the coast and when other spots start to close out. However, strangely enough, it wasn't too crowded on this day.

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Some of the waves that I caught had nice long shoulders and so rippable.
The photo below shows me on one of the waves then. It was taken by Christiana.

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My initial plan was to stay in Lafitenia for only a week, but I ended up staying there for three weeks in the end due mainly to the great comfort and food provided by Arne and his family.
The photo below shows all my camping mates from Germany.

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Arne and his family left Lafitenia for his hometown in Germany while I decided to stay for a few more days. I can't thank them enough for their wonderful hospitality. Danke schön!

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As Arne packed everything up, but he left a sleeping bag to me, I bought a new tent for myself at CarreFour for only EUR27.00. This is definitely the cheapest accommodation in town for sure!

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Lafitenia seemed to me somehow Euro-surfers' magnet and I ran into many familiar faces here - one French surfer who I met in Barra de la Cruz, Mexico last year, one Swiss surfer who I met in N'Gor, Senegal last December, and another German surfer Christian who I also met and surfed together in N'gor this January. Such a small world!

Niko - a long-boarder from Berlin - was also amongst frequent visitors to Lafitenia. He and I shared the same spot in the camping site. He was a very interesting guy to talk to and often made good coffee with his poorman's espresso machine every morning.

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My time in Southern France turned out to be 100 times better (and cheaper) than expected with some good waves.
The photo below shows Christian (far left) and his family members and Niko (far right). Many many thanks to all my Euro friends for their great company.

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A perfect summer vacation in France!




German long-boarder Niko kindly drove me to San Sebastian as the surf became as flat as a pancake at Lafitenia.
San Sebastian is a great city to hang out and there are a couple of surf spots in and around this city. That's why I ended up staying there for three weeks during my last visit in Spain in 2010. However, as the surf-forecast for the Basque region over the next few days showed very small swells, I skipped it this time and caught a local coach bus to Bilbao for EUR10.

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Bilbao is a decent-size city surrounded by a few mountains. No surfing here and I was just cruising around the central town as well as visiting the most popular tourist attraction in this city - Guggenheim Museum.

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Guggenheim Museum didn't really turn out to be one of the best museums I ever visited before, but it was very interesting with some experimental and enigmatic artworks featured in it, and this super-decorative building on the outside was very remarkable.

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I only spent three days in Bilbao and left there as soon as I noticed in the forecast that "some swells" were predicted to reach the coast of the Basque country this weekend.
Like what happened to me in Lafitenia, there was one surf-spot in Spain where I couldn't score any waves in October 2010 - a place called Mundaka. I had to go and surf there this time at any cost. So I took a local bus (only EUR2.50 one way) for Mundaka on Friday.

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BBK Bilbao was the hostel that I stayed in while in Bilbao. On the other hand there was no hostel or reasonable accommodation in Mundaka. Therefore, I just camped at a site located within walking distance to Mundaka's massive river-mouth.
This camp-site was about EUR8.00 per person per night and was better facilitated than the one I camped at in Lafitenia.

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It was the forth week of August and nearly the end of summer holidays for many Europeans. The town of Mundaka seemed as quiet as my last visit.

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The day-light was still long enough, and it was very warm and sunny. Summer holidays weren't quite over yet for some people, and certainly not for me either.

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Despite the fact that some forecasts showed the peak of swells to be on Saturday, on the actual Saturday the wind-direction was cross-shore/onshore and fairly strong; no good for Mundaka then. However, on the following Sunday morning the wind died down and the surf picked up finally. It was time for me to try one of the world's best rivermouth spots.

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Waves were only 3ft on sets, neither as big nor hollow as what Mundaka was reputed to be. Nevertheless, I had some fun waves and definitely felt the energy flow of this massive rivermouth.

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Unfortunately, the swells didn't last long and quickly disappeared by Monday. I packed my camping and surfing gears and decided to go south to my final destination in Spain - Barcelona.

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It was extremely busy with waves of tourists when I arrived in Barcelona....
This Antonio Gaudi's Wonderland (I mean Barcelona) appeared quite peculiar to me as Gaudi's artwork could be found almost at every single corner in town.

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Many people would highly admire Gaudi's work done on Barcelona. And so would I. But I personally thought that Barcelona had a little too much of it and his typical grotesque architecture somehow never clicked for my liking. And as most of you already know, the Sagrada Familia is Barcelona's most significant landmark. I surely went there to see what it was all about.

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Honestly speaking, it didn't actually impress me at all, but I was rather disappointed about that never-ending construction site on the already-ugly cathedral.
Who the hell in the world would be happy to see those heavy machines hanging all over the building?! Moreover, it was the actual design done on both the front-side and the back-side of the cathedral that made me simply think: "Oh, Ugly!"
Well, despite my utter disappointment I still took a photo of myself in front of it as a tourist. Hahaha

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What I found much more enjoyable than visiting Gaudi's eccentric architecture was this motor-bike museum in the old city of Barcelona. It was featuring some of the rarest Spanish motorbikes and I became enthralled into every single detail and history of them.

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Ok. My time in Spain is coming to an end now and I must head back to Switzerland to catch my flight in Zurich next week.
I'm quite pleased that I was able to score a few decent waves in Mundaka and that I visited Bilbao and Barcelona, both of which I could not go to during my last visit in Spain in 2010. The only pity this time is that I've confirmed how terrible my Spanish is despite having spent 10 months in Latin America last year....

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