30 Cents

My black backpack has finally made its way to Mountain View from London thanks to Rav and Fedex. The bag was locked and it took me some time to figure out where I had put the key :).

But everything is fine. The bag was only weighting 2.5kgs (5.5lbs) so I was a bit worried about it (and stuff stored inside ) being smashed by heavier pieces of luggage. The camera is fine (except for the LCD screen that was already broken), the IPod is fine, the glasses are not worth than before and the books are all there.

The picture CDs are fine too. I think it is mostly due to the hard shell CD case I bought in Egypt at the beginning of my trip for 30 cents. I had decided to buy this shell once I realized the 2 first CDs I had burnt were getting scratched by dust and could break if something went wrong. Maybe the best buy of my trip! I will definitely add this item to my packing list for my next trip.

And the story of a French Canadian girl I met in Istanbul makes this even more compelling. She had got a professional recording of her singing done in Budapest and the audio CD broke by Istanbul. She was quite upset about it. Gladly, the master digital CD was still fine!

I am now in the process of copying all the pictures on my computer hard drive and I will burn them again on DVDs.

I also got my notebook back so I will be able to type some of stories I did not get the chance to publish before.

Back In San Francisco


We’re back, we’re back in San Francisco
We’re back and you tell me I’m home

If anyone wonders, this is what I was singing in my head as I was walking out of the plane as I had just landed at San Francisco International Airport today.

Around 12 hours earlier, I had said bye to Rav that had taken me to Heathrow way early as I did not know how long it would take to register and then go through the security checks. The security restrictions have been eased up and everybody is now well aware of them so it went smoothly.

Back to San Francisco. Since I had been out of the country for 5 months and had visited many countries of the Middle East considered at risk by the government, I had to go through a lengthy interview process. But it actually went very well as the officer was very nice about it mixing probing questions with genuine interest for my trip and the things I had visited. I was prepared for a rougher reception so it was a pleasant surprise :).

My friend Gregory offered to host me while I will be looking for a new place. It is Kind of surreal though as it seems like I was leaving yesterday but really, I have been away for 155 days! It has not sank in yet. At the same time, I really feel the need (pressure?) to get back into “normal life”. I will try to balance that feeling in the following days as I am adjusting to the jet-lag.

Later on, as I was checking email, I got a message from Rav telling me a bag had been delivered to his place! The good news is that BA located my bag. The bad news is that they did not take into account yesterday’s phone call and still delivered it in Southall. Well, it is still great news and I am quite happy that it was not stolen or completely lost. As usual, everything ended well. My lucky star is not going away. Rav will be sending it to me next week. I will soon be reunited with my pictures. Quite a good start for my come back 8).

Posted in USA


The first time I came to visit my friend Rav in London in January 2003, I did not have much time so we did an accelerated visit of the main sites. It got a bit fuzzy actually and while I remember most of the places we visited, I was not able to remember how to go from one place to the next.

This time is different as I am staying more days here and I am on my own most of the time since Rav is busy at work. In a way, it is better as it is when I visit by myself and sometimes get lost that I get a good feel for a city. At these occasions, my strategy is to walk as much as possible using the bus or tube only if I am in a hurry or if the place I want to go to is too far to walk to.

After having lunch with Rav and some of his coworkers at their office, I wanted to go checkout the Dali museum located close to the London Tower and the London Eye.

I didn’t have a map of London so I had to rely on some directions given to me by Rav and on my tube map. Of course, I got lost and ended up walking a long way with an unplanned detour by Buckingham palace. But I did not mind as it gave me a chance to explore some side streets and a park and I finally found my way to the museum.

Big ben from Dali museum

The museum ticket is a bit expensive and Rav had warned me that some of his friends had not found the exposition worth the money. But I really wanted to go as I have never really got the occasion to explore Dali’s universe and I have had a kin interest for a long while.

It was actually very interesting for me but if you have already seen things from Dali, it might not be worthwhile as most of the pieces in exposition are not originals. The paintings are mostly lithography and the sculptures are all one of a serie.

Like Picasso, Dali had definitely another vision of the world than most of us. I liked what I saw :).

Later in the evening, I met again with Rav that took me for a walk through the center of what is known as Little India (downtown Southall). It might well be the largest Indian mall out of India. Also, the neighborhood is stuffed with places of cult for the different religions cohabiting there: Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

On other news, it is now the fifth day my backpack went missing. I finally got through the BA phone system. The representative told me there was 5000 bags left to process but they would be processed tomorrow. As I am leaving tomorrow, I asked him to change the details on my file so that my bag is delivered to San Francisco now once they find it.


I have visited the British museum twice before today. I first visited in January 2003 concentrating on the Ancient Egypt collection back then as I was on a very short visit to London. I came back with Rav last Sunday but we did not stay very long and again, we concentrated on the ancient civilizations collections: Egypt, Greece and Asyria.

That is a very limited experience of such a great museum so today, I went to checkout the museum one more time wanting to see some of the other collections. And since the entrance is free, I don’t see why I would not come again and again!

Anyway. To my delight, I found out there was a very nice exposition named Enlightenment that picked up my interest.

As I wrote yesterday, an historical period I am very interested in is the period of the French revolution. And a movement that in a way led to the French revolution is the philosophy of Enlightenment (Les lumieres in French) that took up during the XVIIIth century.


The exposition is really good. Organized around the library and personal collections of George III and some scientists of the period, it provides a good overview of all the topics that started to be examined at that period: Biology, Geology, Archeology, Antiquities, Science, History and Origins of Art, Ancient Languages study, Mysteries, Spirituality…Some great scientific tools of the period like globes and astrolabs are presented. There is also a copy of the Rosetta Stone that not only one can touch but also examine for a long time without being pushed around by other people trying to get a picture of it as it is the case for the original located somewhere else in the museum. I am sure most of these people don’t even look at it and could not tell you in which order the languages are written on the stone! It is quite nice to be able to feel the cavities of the text of such important document.

Everything is well documented and very educative. I finally stayed a lot of time in the room as everywhere I was looking, I could see one more item or presentation of interest.

Since I was at the museum, I could not pass on another visit of the Egyptian collection. It always brings back very good memories and at the same time, I can put many pieces in context so it is a lot of fun. I really liked the part on the book of the dead with some great papyrus including one depicting the last judgment (I bought a similar one in Cairo for those that did not follow 😉 ).


Since Rav and one of his good friend work close by the museum, we went to lunch. He took me to a dive Korean restaurant that cannot be found if one does not know about it beforehand as it is not advertised outside. I even wonder if it has a proper license! We entered a Korean grocery store, chose between two main dishes, payed and walked all the way to the back down a staircase. We ended up in a room with some tables and chairs surrounded by shelves full of tapes and a stack of VCRs surely used to produce these tapes! We were served promptly. Food was very good! A unique experience ;).
We met again later after they were finished with work. We tried some bars around the same area and ended up at a Taco bar/club with excellent tacos, coronas and cool music. It was a lot of fun. Thanks guys.
Another good day in gloomy rainy London ;).

On other news. Today is the 3rd day since my backpack went missing. I could not get through the system in England but Ledi managed to get someone in the USA. They don’t have any idea of where it could be. Hopefully, it is partying with the 20 000 other bags stranded at Heathrow!

Magna Carta

One of my plan while coming to England this time was to go checkout Stonehenge that is considered a major wonder. So, with some help from Rav, yesterday, I booked a round trip train ticket to the city of Salisbury (South-West of England) for today.

From Rav’s place in Southall to Salisbury train station, it took around 3 1/2 hours taking the bus from his place to the tube station, tube to Waterloo station and train from Waterloo to Salisbury. 7 hours spent traveling might look a lot to many people but I guess it does not anymore to me. It is only half the time it took me to go from Adana to Antalya or Selcuk to Goreme by bus in Turkey! And since the train is way more comfortable, it ended up feeling like I spent the day on the couch at home reading a good book except that in place of the TV, I had a great landscape scrolling in front of me :).


Anyway, I arrived in Salisbury a bit after noon and bought a round-trip ticket to Stonehenge. It is an interesting place and I liked to listen to the free audio-guide that is providing a lot of information about what the historians and archeologs know of the place. It is difficult to get a good grasp of the place though since in my opinion, one cannot get close enough to the circle and stones. Also, some roads have been built very close by making the place less impressive than it could be. Fortunately, the British government has started a program to cover one of the road and remove the other in order to return the site to its former state: lost in the middle of the plain. Actually, to be perfect, it would need to be surrounded by a forest. In this case, Stonehenge would really look surreal.

As you can have guessed by now, I was not that impressed. A bit disappointed actually. I think the hype killed it but it is still worth a look though :).

I took the bus back to Salisbury and since it was only 3PM, I thought I would walk around the city and maybe look for the cathedral Rav had advised me to checkout. I really liked walking around the city. It is very charming. Exactly the architectural style I associate with an old British college town. I could definitely live in downtown Salisbury :).


I finally found the cathedral at around 5PM and decided to take a look. It has a very interesting architecture. Walking inside while the service was on added to the spirituality of the place.

Eventually, I stumbled on something I was not expecting. In the very nice library, I had the opportunity to checkout a copy of the Magna Carta (Great Chapter). I did not remember much about it from school but the very nice lady that was guarding it provided me with a booklet full of information. It was really interesting to read the translation and learn more about its influence on other countries’ constitution including the American constitution.

It actually brought back fond memories of when younger, I was studying the preparation of the Estates-General in 1989 (Event that led to the French revolution, my second favorite historical subject after ancient civilizations). At this occasion, the citizens of France had drafted a list of demands to the king that are very interesting since they show the concerns of the time. While not as broad, the Magna Carta still gives a good feel for the concerns of the barons in early XIIth century in England.

Anyway, I digress. Enough to say it was a good surprise and this made my day :).

All in all, a very good day-trip. And I even have some pictures to share thanks to Rav that lent me his camera.

On other news, my backpack is still missing. I tried to call the mishandled luggage line of BA all day but I cannot get through :(. Rav’s brother that works for BA told me over 20 000 bags had been mishandled and BA was recruiting volunteers from other departments to help. Hopefully, I get some news soon.