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Rome dips and tips

Intro

I was very confused at the beginning when I heard that ” Ciao Bello” can be for both males and females. While having breakfast at Yello bar in Rome, Italy, Ciao Bello was the most used phrase. Really cool! For someone who does not speak Italian, it was interesting, but this is why the simplest things we learn are from our experiences through interacting with people from different parts of the world.

Rome

Can I say romantic? historical? magical? charming? Rome is combination of everything. It is a beautiful city with lots to see. There are many landmarks such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican City, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and the famous Leonardo Di Vinci  artwork at the Sistine Chapel. These are some of the major attractions in Rome. The city contains history of never ending stories that will blow your mind. I would like to focus on more important things so it can help you ease your travel once you land in Rome.

Airport

Once you land in Fiumicino Airport aka “Leonardo Di Vinci Airport” make sure you know these tips:

  1. If you want to purchase a phone line with internet -highly recommended- DO NOT get caught buying -WIND- service. It is very expensive and the internet connection is bad. Buy -VODAFONE- which is cheaper, great connection and works all over Europe if you are within the EU. I paid $45 for 1000 Minutes and 8G internet.
  2. Once you exit the airport, the train station is across the street from the arrival terminals. You want to be in the area of Termini station. That area is where all the hotels, hostels and the main attractions are a walking distance. Most people arrive to that station and either take the bus, or walk towards their destination.

Renting a Car

It is recommended if you can afford it. Here is why:

  1. Renting a car requires passport, driver license, credit card.
  2. If you choose to pay a 3PL company for your full coverage, you are required to pay $1600 deposit to the car rental company.
  3. If you choose to pay the car rental company the insurance coverage, it will cost you between $27-$35 per day (highly recommended) depending on the car.
  4. Gas is very expensive in Italy. Prices are between $5.6-$6 per gallon which is equivalent to $2.73-$2.9 per Liter. Make sure you get a car that will give you at least 35 Miles per gallon which is equivalent to 56 KM. 1 gallon = 3.6 Liters
  5.  Tollways between Rome and Florence are calculated depending on how many miles you drove. It is about $20 going one way.

I rented a Fiat 500 2 door which was very good on gas. It helped me move around in Rome, and drove to 5 different cities. Think about going to 5 cities by buss or train, it might cost cheaper but you will not have the freedom to move around and stop whenever you want. I was very happy that I did.

Parking

Parking can be very expensive if rent a car. There are 3 colors on the streets of Rome that you need to know about:

  1. Blue means you need to pay for parking. You will pay either hourly or daily.
  2. Yellow is for special plate parking only.
  3. White means parking is free but you need to be lucky enough to find those spots. Since Rome is full of tourists from all over the world, this could be challenging.

Driving

Driving in Rome is very different from many cities that I have drove in. You have to watch for signs and roads attentively. There are lanes only for buses. Sometimes you will turn right but there are 2 roads on your right. YUP! It is very challenging and my best advice is to drive really slow once you come up to a turn. There are some roads that allows only Taxi drivers to pass. It happened to me when a police had to stop me and luckily did not get a ticket.

Roads

Inside Rome city, roads are very tight, narrow, and full with holes. Outside the city roads are good but you might encounter some wavey roads that could make your car jump up and down. If you are driving a small car, be careful not to blow one of your tires. Pay attention to the speed limits.

Polizia

You might get pulled over randomly like they did to me. Do not be afraid! This is a normal procedure that the police do to make sure that you are legally driving. make sure your paper work and driver license is with you all the time while driving.

Transportation

There are busses, trains, and bus tours. It all depends on what you are comfortable with. Bus tours have different prices depending on the attractions you choose. Buss and train tickets cost about $2 and you have 100 minutes of usage-This could change- to use once activated. In general it is easy to move around inside the city. Internet and maps are highly recommended.

Walking

Prepare yourself to walk at least 10 miles per day in Rome. All the attractions are close to each other relatively. Wear a good walking shoes and if you are visiting in the summer, sun screen and umbrella are a must. Weather changed dramatically in Rome.

Food

This will shock you! The food in Rome is very tricky. If you want to eat in a nice restaurant, double check the menu, prices and area. Mainly touristy areas have tons of restaurants and catered to tourists. You will not get a quality rather than just something to get by. If you really want to have a real experience with food, you must go outside Rome for about 30 min to some village. You will notice many shops sell pizzas by slice for $3 or more.

I will definitely go back to this amazing country. There are so much to see and do and 2 weeks was not enough. Plan your trip accordingly, be ready for it and HAPPY TRAVELING!

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Hello 2019!

1.      Oil and gas companies will have some mass layoffs.

After the New Year of 2019, companies will go through another round of letting people go due to over-hiring in the last quarter and now is the time to shape things around.

2.      Restaurant industry will also take a hit in some cities in the USA.

The rise of cost of living in certain cities are forcing people into moving out to more affordable locations. Most restaurants open in areas where it has high population either residential or commercial

3.      Goodbye to passwords and say hi to a new way of identity theft protection called “Trusona”.

This company is taking over with their new technology in the next few months. You will see many companies switching to this technology. You might not like what the company has to offer with their accessibility to the personal information. Some companies might enforce this new tech on their employees and customers.

4.      Generation X & Y will dominate the workforce.

Most of the Baby boomers generation are preparing for retirement. The crossover from old school way of doing things into new millennial way will be taking over. Be ready for a huge shift in work environment, values, principles and leadership style.

5.      Ubereats, postmates, GrubHub and more apps in the food delivery will take over.

Most Small restaurants will benefit from this amazing apps, since they are mainly dependent on walk-ins and have few tables in the dining room. Big dining restaurants will have to experience lots of turnover in their staff due to lack of tip-income. Some restaurants may even close because many people are choosing to stay home which save them time, drive and gas.

6. Prepare for a recession.

Not to be negative, but recession will start knocking our doors soon. Many people are in debt due to mass loans being given to buy houses, open businesses or refinance. You know the drill!

7. Middle East and GCC conflicts 

Political conflicts will rise in the Middle East. The powerful countries are re-strategizing their interests. Either war is on the way or political solution. The most effective way for boosting economies is to create a war.

8. Lazy but not lazy     

More people will switch to online shopping versus going to any store, push a cart, wait in line to checkout, load the items in the car, and drive back home. Sounds like too much!! Time efficiency is the new trend now.

9.      “Cyber Cold War”

US-China, US-Russia cybersecurity street fight continues until who knows.

10. Work from Home? Oh YEAH!  

More remote jobs are created, companies save on their space and rent expenses.

11. Is it Social media or Business Media?  Maybe Both!

Social media is being used more for business than socializing. If you haven’t started yet, it is never too late.

12. European Union  

Europe will experience an economic crisis. We witnessed some strikes in France, it is not over yet. In the beginning of 2019, more countries will join the parade

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Puerto Rico Blog

If you never visited Puerto Rico, this island is one of the must see destinations because it is full of life and lots to do. Puerto Rico is an American territory but main language is Spanish and English is second language. We all heard the stories about the pirates and this is where all started. Puerto Rico is known for its Rum. The world known Rum company Bacardi is located in Puerto Rico. Before you pack your suitcases and get all excited to visit Puerto Rico here are things that you need to know.

Visa

Applying for Visa can be hard because you are basically visiting a US territory. Once that is taken care then call it a success because I will mention another surprise for you in the end of this blog. If you are a US citizen, you do not need a passport, you only need a photo ID. I recommend you carry your passport in case you want to jump to neighbouring islands.

Rent a car

If you want to move around in the Island, it is better to rent a car. It may look like a small island but moving around paying for taxi can be costly. The downside of renting a car is finding a parking space if you are staying in Old San Juan. Here are the reasons why I recommend renting a car:

  1. Old San Juan to El Yunque Rain Forest- 1Hr drive
  2. Old San Juan to the Ferry-ship- 1.5 Hr drive
  3. Old San Juan to the Longest Zipline on the other side of the island- 2 Hr Drive
  4. Weather is unstable, so imagine taking a cab and then it starts raining. Hard luck!

Old San Juan

I highly recommend staying in Old San Juan. The area is full with hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, shopping and all tourist attractions. It is very nice and safer than other areas in Puerto Rico. You can walk around or hop in a cab for another attractions such as the casino, or the fortress San Cristobal. Old San Juan is full of life at night. Lots of bars and clubs for dancing depending on your choice. Old San Juan has beautiful architecture. Lot of colors and nice building with graffiti on the walls. You can relate the city to the Spanish history.

El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque rain forest is about one hour drive from old San Juan. The forest might seem small on the map, but do not be fooled. You will need a whole day to hike depending on the weather conditions. The forest is known to be safe from any wild animal and rarely you will find snakes. You can drive inside the forest, and find parking on a week day. Also there are maps for the trails provided if you decided to hike. The trails are muddy so a special shoes and ponchos are a must. There are some waterfalls inside the forest and some people like to to swim. Another cool activity that I did was ziplining inside the forest. Check the weather in advance because sometimes they close due to heavy rain.

Vieques or Culebra

There are two neighbouring islands that are about 45 minutes ferry ride. This part is tricky when it comes to seeing these islands. These are the things that you need to know about visiting these amazing islands. Vieques is known to have great activities. Culebra is known for the best top ten beaches in the world.

  1. Check the weather before you go
  2. You have to be at least 2 hrs in line waiting for the ride and you maybe lucky to find a place on the ferry.
  3. Once you buy the tickets, stand in line, and do not leave. Local people have the priority, so purchasing the ticket does not mean you have a secure place on the ferry.
  4. Book a hotel with transportation in advance because you will be lucky to find any.
  5. Depending on which island you are going, they have different times of leaving and returning.
  6. The other way to get to these islands is by plane.

Night Life

I love music and dancing, and Puerto Rico is the place to be. We all know Mark Anthony, J Lo, and famous “Despacito” song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. All from Puerto Rico. If you are ready to get down, you have to practice on some moves.

Food

Puerto Rico has many different types of cuisines but they are famous for their Mofongo. They have nice breakfast places in Old San Juan. You can also hit some nice restaurant on the weekend depending on your mood.

Surprise

Once you get the visa to Puerto rico, it does not hurt to jump to the Virgin Islands-St. Thomas- check out my blog “Surrounded by water”– It is with no doubt heaven on earth. Flights are so cheap from Old San Juan to Charlotte Amalie is about $140 round trip and 45 minutes flight. ENJOY PARADISE.

Conclusion

I had great time in Puerto Rico, check the weather forecast before you travel to that amazing island. People are very nice and friendly. The island has so much to offer and lots of beautiful scenery. I highly recommend visiting.

Bonus Tip

If you are from the US, T-Mobile phones work good without any extra charges. ATT has better connection in the caribbean islands.

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Surrounded by Water

Intro

Every year on my birthday I travel download app-somewhere I never been. It is more of a yearly tradition. One thing that I like doing is to experience things that is different and challenging. This time, I made a trip to St. Thomas Island which is considered U.S Virgin Islands. I made a trip to Puerto Rico and booked my ticket from San Juan to St. Thomas for $131 round trip which is about 35 minutes flight.

The Norms

A normal person will book a hotel room in a resort to enjoy the services and luxury of a nice expensive stay. However, I am different. I used to do that but after traveling many places, I started thinking about budgeting my travels and focusing on spending money on more important things such as activities and transportation. Mainly these are fixed prices. What about to tell you may not fit every person that loves to travel. Some like to have that luxurious service, some like medium and some just want to have a place to sleep and shower nothing more nothing less.

Drive Safe

After landing in St. Thomas, shuttle took me to the rental car place, and here are few things you must know:

  1. It is better to have your insurance upon renting the car. Call the rental place and make sure they accept your current insurance. If not buy cheap one online while renting the car.
  2. Renting a car is cheaper than taking cabs to go places on the island. It might seem small on the map but you will be surprised. Traffic gets bad, especially when the cruise ships passing by and dock.
  3. Driving is on the left side. Unlike normal driving in most countries, driving can be little challenging on the island.
  4. Do not get sand in the car, you will be charged at least $100 for cleaning. It is better to keep it clean.

The challenge was to get to the location where I had rented my sleeping, luxurious and comfortable place to stay on the island for the next 4 days. Driving on the left side was little dangerous if you are not paying attention because your left is right and your right is left. The location was about 1 hour away. ARE YOU READY?

Challenge yourself

I rented a sailing boat to sleep in for 3 nights and 4 days in a gated marina. Does this sound cool? Wait for it. At first thought, many people think it is cool and easy, but you will be surprised. It takes an adventurous person to take such chance to sleep in a sailing boat alone. To me it was a great experience, and loved every single moment of it. However it is not meant for anyone and here is why:

  1. Although sailing boat was in a gated marina, that does not mean it is 100% safe.
  2. The sailing boat will fit maximum 2 people although there are beds for 4.
  3. Phone connection with internet was very weak and most of the time was not working. If you have ATT service, it might work.
  4. You have to be quiet because there were many boats around with people sleeping in them, so forget about boat partying.
  5. You might be sleeping and storm comes, thankfully did not happen while I was staying.
  6. You will be sleeping like a baby sleeping in a rocker.
  7. If you are not used to sleeping in a boat, you will wake up sea sick and dizzy.
  8. It will get really hot if you sleep in the main bed, I had to sleep in the middle space.
  9. Bathroom is very difficult to use. You must follow instructions or you will face major problems with the owner of the boat.
  10. Make sure you tell the owner to fill up the water tank for the boat day in advance, and try to save water usage because you might run out in the middle of taking a shower.
  11. You have to be careful walking on the boat, lots of wires and ropes.
  12. You would wish for the water to be calm and smooth while sleeping, else the boat will be rocking left and right all night long preventing you from a good night sleep
  13. Buy snacks and water, collect trash and take care of it, else you will be charged for cleaning fees.

Create your moments

I had an amazing time waking up in the morning on a cup of green tea, and a book to read before I head out for activities. Water is clear and you can see fishes swimming around. Sunrise is beautiful, cool breeze is relaxing. I loved every single moment of it and definitely would do it again.

Life is Beautiful

All the above were things that I didn’t know prior booking. However, it was a great learning experience and wanted to share them with you. In the end, traveling to me is all about challenges along the way that teaches you how to handle situations in real life. Over all I had an amazing time in St. Thomas. The island is beautiful, people are nice, and lots to explore. I hope this information will help you with your next trip.

BON VOYAGE!

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White Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Intro

It is the largest Mosque in UAE, located in Abu Dhabi State. For some of you who may know that UAE has 7 states. Dubai is the most famous among all of them. The mosque was constructed between 1997 to 2007. Most know it as Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand White mosque. This mosque represents the Islamic religion, culture and combination of old and modern architecture.

Entrance

If you are riding in cab or have your own car, you are allowed to enter and park in the designated spots. There are two separate entrances for males and females. It is recommended for females to bring their own “Abaya“-to avoid renting one– as you are not allowed to enter without it. You will be searched before you walk in. No cigarettes, lighters, or any hazardous material allowed in the mosque. Believe me they are very strict. The mosque is huge, lots of barefoot walking, bring a small bag so you can place your shoes inside that bag and carry it on your back. If you wear expensive shoes, ask one of the security guards to put your shoes inside a private room with shoe racks. Not too many people know this but I did it.

Gate

After 5 minute of walking, you will see a water fountain, with two pools on each side of the entrance. The gate is very high and beautifully designed in the arc shaped islamic architecture. Before walking in, take off your shoes. Place them on the shoe rack and remember their spot.

White Mosque

As you see in the pictures above, beautiful architecture, high ceilings, clean, shiny marble, flowery designed walls and floor. It is a great piece of art and recommend it to every visitor in Abu Dhabi. Best time to visit this amazing place is before sunset depending on the time of the year. Remember that UAE is very hot during summer times. Avoid noon time on a any Friday, unless you are going for prayer. The mosque can fit 40k people, and it is mainly for praying at that time. There are security guards monitoring the areas where you can walk. Follow the rules and watch for signs as you walk around.

Fun Facts

  1. Carpet was made by 1300 Carpet Knotter, it weighs 35 ton , there are 2,268,000,000 knots in the carp, and took 2 years to complete
  2. Mosque took 10 years to build
  3. More than 3000 workers were used to finish the project
  4. Gold, precious stones and Swarovski crystals were used in the mosque
  5. Rihanna the singer was asked to leave after taking inappropriate pictures with the mosque in the background back in 2013

It was a great experience. The Grand White Mosque is the 2nd most visited landmark rated on Tripadvisor. ENJOY!!

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ALUX Restaurant

Perhaps one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever experienced was ALUX in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We were a group celebrating a friend’s birthday where we decided to pick a nice restaurant and ALUX came through. I have to say our minds were blown up after we left. It is very hard to find restaurants with a unique experiences that combines nature, experience, and food all at once.

Entrance

We were welcomed by two Mayans as soon as we walked in the gate. They were reciting some rituals “I HAVE NO CLUE”, and playing some instruments. According to what I heard something has to do with Sacrificing a Virgin. I might be wrong but again it was very cool to experience such warm welcoming. As soon as you walk in, the stairs for the restaurant is on your right. Entrance was nicely designed, although it will not occur to you that you are walking inside a huge cave.

Dining

Atmosphere, ambience, lighting, and setup are all very nice and well designed. We were sat next to a falling water from the limestones next to a small spring. It was very soothing and relaxing. I loved every single moment of it.

Menu

The menu is in two languages, English and Spanish. I love restaurants that have the courtesy to make it easier for their customers. I believe it is very important since management know that people from all over the world would come and visit. They serve appetizers, soups, salads, seafood, and Steaks. The variety is there so no worries when it comes to selections. Wine selections are from all over the world, ask your waiter/waitress to take you inside the “CAVA”.

Recommendations

I would recommend to take your time, do not rush if you are visiting ALUX. It is not only a restaurant but more of an excursion, and great experience. If you are planning to go after party, call and reserve early. It is highly recommended for couples and special occasions. Garden salad, Portobello mushroom, and Bone ribeye steak are delicious. If you are looking for cool dessert, as for the flamin coffee.

BON APPETIT!!

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