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.


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!

30 Wonders

Today is a special day.

So I decided to celebrate it the way it should be!

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I woke up very early this morning, got picked up by a minibus at 4:45AM and by 5:45AM, accompanied by the sun, I rose into the air aboard a hot air balloon piloted by Lars, one of the most experienced pilot in the region of Cappadocia.

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This ride was a first for me and it will definitely be one of the highlights of my trip. Alongside a second identical balloon piloted by Lars’ partner Kaili, we were airborne for almost 2 hours reaching a max altitude of 800 meters (2400 feet). On a background spotted with tens of other balloons, we loomed over Cappadocia enjoying the valleys and the rock formations, descending in some of the canyons, brushing against the top of the trees, landing on the top of the fairy chimneys, hovering above villages or greeting people as they were peeking outside their house to find out from where that hissing sound was coming from.

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The two balloons followed an intricate choreography, played with the wind and with each other to see which one could get closest to the ground or a rock without touching it.
The view from up there was amazing and picturesque. People on the balloon were very nice and wanted to make this flight a great memory for me.

Long after all the other balloons had disappeared from the sky, we finally landed in a field several kilometers away from our take-off point. Lars landed the balloon right on the trailer (With some help from his land crew). We then jumped on the balloon to help deflate it.

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Soon after, we were served a celebration drink and cake.

Kaili, Sandie and some other people started singing the ubiquitous song for me.

Yes, today is my birthday. I am now 30. The big 3-0! My 30 Wonders :).

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If you did not guess it before, one of the goals of my trip was to fulfill a dream, a promise I had made to myself that I would go on a long trip before I was 30 y/o. I wanted to see more of the world. Especially its wonders and based on that list (that could be debated for hours on), Cappadocia is the 30th Wonder I have seen since I am born. How fitting!

Today is also the end of this trip. I booked the plane tickets and will be flying back to Paris tomorrow. I decided it was the perfect symbolic time to stop. I have been feeling overwhelmed and empty at the same time for almost a week now. If I had a lot more time planned for my trip, I would have settled longer here and waited until the will and desire would come back but since I have only 10 days left max, it does not make sense.

However, I am not fully finished with this trip yet since I will not be back to San Francisco and real life before mid-August. So keep on reading!

Wonderful Cappadocia

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At 6AM, the first things you notice when you arrive in Goreme (in the heart of the Cappadocia region) are the tens of balloons hoovering over the city and the valley. It is so much magical that I have decided to follow the advice of many people I have met on my trip and go for a ride before leaving from here.

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The second thing you notice, and you cannot really miss it, are the hundreds of houses carved in rock mushrooms spotted with doors and windows around which the town has developed, albeit in a more traditional architectural style.

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And as Petra should not be reduced to the Treasury (what you saw in Indiana Jones), Cappadocia is not just Goreme but a very large region with great landscape, interesting architecture and a very interesting history. Cool rock formations, fairy chimneys, cave houses, churches and even whole villages carved in the mountain, underground cities, valleys and canyons are scattered over the region and offer countless hours of exploration for hikers and sightseers.

Some tourists think it can be visited in one day. That is true you can see a lot in a day but you are merely brushing the surface if you do so. This place definitely deserves more time.

But as a start, the day tour providing an overview of the region is perfect and it is what I did today with Stewart that I had joined as planned this morning at the hotel. He had booked the tour yesterday evening and I just tagged along ;).

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The most interesting part of the tour was definitely when we explored the largest underground city. It is eight floor deep! It has very narrow passageways equipped with large rolling stones that were used to shut close the city in time of raid.

It is quite mind boggling to learn that the two first floors were dug by the Hittites around the XIIth century BC and that the city was extended by the Christians that used it to protect themselves against the Romans and then against the Army of Islam. There were up to 30 of these underground cities! And the one we visited was linked to another main one by a 9kms tunnel!

An added value to keep in mind is that joining an organized tour is always a good way to meet other backpackers that just arrived in town too. I have kicked myself for not doing it more often earlier in my trip – especially in Egypt but I guess I was also more courageous then 8). Of course, it sometimes does not work out and you do not meet anybody you get along with.

This time though, it worked out quite well and we met a bunch of nice people: Jess and Hana (Aussies), Sandy (Kiwi) and Sivan (Israeli). Jess and Hana are leaving tomorrow so we just hung out tonight. We had dinner and found a cool pub called Flintstones Cave. Like most, make it all, of the Aussies I have met on this trip, they worked in England for a while as part of a long trip.

Cappadocia seems like a wonderful place to linger and explore, I plan on staying for several days.

A Wonderful Time

Ledi had a week off work (yes, some people have to work) so we had decided to meet in Greece and visit the island of Santorini. It is considered a wonder by itself to the point that it has come to symbolize Greece, or at least the Greek Islands. We actually met in Athens on Friday evening and flew to Santorini early on Saturday morning to stay 5 days there.

Volcano’s Villa, our hotel, was just great with very discreet staff and an awesome view. The hotel is located a bit out of Oia (second largest city of the island) making it looking secluded at first but it actually is great to not be cramped in the city like the other nice hotels of Oia.

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And it even ended up being awesome when on the last day, the whole city of Oia got closed to cars as the mayor had decided to redo the streets then! Walking in the city became a bad idea as you had to go over hot asphalt. We felt so sorry for the shop owners and the tourists that had paid so much for their hotel room. Frankly, what a stupid idea to do large scale road work in the beginning of July in the heart of the tourist season. One sure thing is that this mayor is trying everything he can to make sure he is NOT going to be reelected!

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Anyway, that is it with the rambling :).

Our room was one of this nice cave house with all amenities and a gorgeous view of the Caldera and the Volcano. The pool was very nice too with a view as magnificent as the one from the room. But sadly, we did not get to enjoy it as much as we should have since we were most of the time gone to explore the island and its great beaches.

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For that purpose, I had the fancy of renting a scooter and ride along the winding roads, shirtless, and the wind blowing through our hair 8-). OK, I don’t know about that last part because first I don’t have much hair to blow and second, it would have been really reckless. Anyway once on the island, we realized how dangerous it was at night with the locals driving like crazy and how strong the sun was during the day and Ledi wisely and easily persuaded me to rent a car in place.

But I did not fancy a dull Hyundai so we looked for something a bit different. We ended up renting a Smart cabrio and it was definitely a smart choice :-p. First, I always had wanted to try one of those and second that little car was the perfect size to go around and park anywhere in usually full parking lots. It had a very cool blue color with numbers as you can see on the picture and we fell in love for it as soon as we got it. We took that little beater all around the island covering almost all its roads. Even if its little engine had some trouble sometimes getting through steep slopes, it never let us down and gave everything it had and more to get us where we needed to go. A real little warrior! Yeah, I know, I got gaga for that car. Ledi was too and we ended up haggling to know who would be driving :).

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While there, we mostly drove around checking out the landscape and stopping to nice spots to take pictures, to supermarkets to stock up on goodies, to small sandwich places to get the best panino ever or to major beaches to lay back and enjoy watching the time pass doing nothing. Exactly the kind of activities we needed.

Our favorite beach was the Red beach where we went the first day. It owes its name to the red cliff at the foot of which it is located. It is small and secluded, well protected from the wind and has some great spots to dive from. There we met a group of six cool Greeks that invited us to join them as they were diving from rocks and taught us some words in their language including some bad words.

We also visited quite extensively the city of Oia and Fira (the main city) jam packed with shops, restaurants and tourists. As it is the case on the rest of the island, the new view you get at every street corner calls for a photo and one has to control oneself to not take pictures all the time. Not to be missed, the port of Ammoudi at the bottom of the cliff in Oia is very nice and triggered our picture frenzy one more time.

Of course, we had to at least look at the sunset once but since the sun was not decided to go down and it was well over 8PM, we turned that time in a silly photo session, once more.

We sure had a great time in Santorini where everything was just perfect. I already miss that little island! We loved it, I am sure you would too 8-).