Sunday, November 27, 2005

A party, some cows, an onsen and Japanese style home cooking... what more could a man ask for in a weekend?

Yes ladies and gents, this seems to have turned into another marvelous weekend... I'm getting tired of using that line... but that's just the way it is!

Saturday night, after two looooooong days of work, I was able to wind down for a bit at a little get-together organized by Happy Motoki, party planner to the stars of Utsunomiya. We headed out to "C'est la vie", a restaurant just behind AEON for some drinks and food. Now, don't let the name fool you... it stands for "That's the life" in French, but this does not mean the restaurant is French. I would say it's mostly Italian with some Spanish, Indian and French (Escargot and Frog) thrown in to the mix. Pretty good food though, all in all, and the wine flowed nicely through the evening. Great big thanks to Happy Motoki for putting this together... it was a blast and I apologize for having to make an early exit... ah the life of a busy English teacher...

So here is some of that wine I was mentionning which was flowing so freely. I had my first taste of Chilean wine, not bad... but the New Zealand was better, maybe even matching my current favourite Mission St-Vincent Bordeaux from France...


Quite unfortunate the photographer had so much to drink... this would have made quite a nice picture... lol


Some of the highlights of the evening, steamed Chinese-style vegetables and boiled garlic shrimp.... mmmmmm The rissotto, pasta and grilled mushrooms were also fabulous.


While the presentation of this Paella was nice, I was rather disapointed with my first taste of this famed Spanish dish. The rice was hard, and everything seemed to taste the same... my one critique on an otherwise outstanding lineup of food, and of course great service at C'est la vie.


So I left the gathering around 10PM, with my girl coming down to pick me up. This morning we headed out for a drive to Nasu, just to spend time together and check things out... nothing special planned... it was a great day! The weather was great, and since it's a bit chilly and the leaves have mostly all fallen, there weren't many people out there. You'll recall my first trip to Nasu in July? resulted in Scott, Yoshiyuki and I being stuck in traffic for 2-3 hours... YUCK! Today was great, I really enjoy just being out in the mountains, and there were still some colours out and about...


Our first stop was a nice farm\amusement center where I got to get re-acquainted with some animals which I've missed in the last little while. Having been around farm animals since childhood while visiting uncles\cousins or others and helping out with the chores, I think I may have surprised a few people when I walked up to a cow and started scratching it behind the ears like a dog... lol It was obvious by the way they were trying to feed the cow (by leaving food on top of the fence, too scared to lose a finger or something) that they weren't comfortable with this relatively large animal being so close to them. I even got to pet some dogs today!!! You have no idea how much I've missed having a dog around the house. Little Pinotte certainly livens up the place and is always there if you need some company... it was nice to play with some pups today.


While the landscape was pretty nice out there, I found it quite difficult to frame shots without including some power line\power tower\pachinko parlour... here's one of my few succesful attemps at doing so...


Next stop was a foot onsen along the shores of a river, and while we waited for it to free up a bit, we took a walk accross this suspension bridge.



The bridge spanned this river, one of the more natural sections of river I've seen here in Japan... notice only one side of it has been destroyed by concrete... the other side is natural rock...


On the road out there in Nasu, we spotted this construction project which neither of us could figure out a purpose for. It seems to be this rather large overpass being built over a field... and well off the highway on what is essentially a residential road connecting 2-3 houses together... this must be one of the colossal wastes of taxpayers money we keep hearing about out here... it's unbelievable the amount of pointless construction going on out here and with every extra dump of cement, another piece of Japan's countryside (mountain, river, stream, waterfall, forest) disappears... quite sad if you sit down and look at it for a second... which many people out here seem to be quite happy avoiding. The Japanese PM is hell bent on pushing government reform starting with the postal service, let's just hope his push eventually carries his party into taking a look at these "make work"\"spend money" projects that are defacing this once beautiful land of theirs.


We leisurely made our way back home where I was treated to my very first Japanese Nabe!!! This picture is a bit off, but Nabe is essentially meat and vegetables cooked in this ceramic dish, usually at the table before eating. It was great!!!


So that was last night and today... tomorrow I'm meeting up with Alex and we're heading over to a Thai buddhist temple for lunch... should be interesting.

Turning to my hometown of Ottawa now, the weather there was a bit nuts this week. To all those who are complaining to me about the cold (High of 12 during the day, low of 5 at night... celsius that is) Tochigi weather... have a look at what Ottawa dealt with this week... First here is a screen capture I just took of the live webcam overlooking Parliament Hill. This was essentially the view I had from our offices when I worked with OR... notice the white stuff, and yes, they had to shovel the snow off the walk to Parliament...


Next, let's have a look at a picture from Camp Fortune, where I was a frequent visitor last Winter and which I will miss dearly. Fortune is a ski hill which offers night skiing only a 15 minute drive from work... I could work until 5PM, hop in my truck and actually be skiing by 5:30... how cool is that!!! And yes indeed, they are open... with the blast of Winter Ottawa got last week, they were able to get enough base down to open up a run... a relatively early start to the season I beliee...


And third, the nastier side of Winter in Ottawa... there is always a period of adjustement where people aren't used to driving in the snow, don't have their Winter tires on yet, aren't slowing down when conditions are bad... this is what happens... this was the scene of a fatal collision on the highway through Ottawa last week when the first major snowfall of the season hit. Not quite sure how a front end loader ended up in this position... but there it is.


On another Winter related note... the Red Hot Ottawa Senators continue to rule the NHL this season, racking up 18 wins and only three losses in what has been a history making start to the season. They also lead the league with the highest goals for (100) and the lowest goals against (43)... Woohoo! Too bad I won't be home to see them take home the cup this year... I'll be cheering from the other side of the planet though...

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