ping...ping...ping.......... ...........ECHOES...the Floyd.........
Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine.
And no one called us to the land
And no one knows the where's or why's.
Something stirs and something tries
Starts to climb toward the light.
Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me.
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand
The best I can.
And no one called us to the land
And no one crosses there alive.
No one speaks and no one tries
No one flies around the sun....
Almost everyday you fall
Upon my waking eyes,
Inviting and inciting me
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning.
And no one sings me lulabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky....
One of the most impressive...
One of the most impressive treasures, the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, houses the world ‘s largest collection of original works by the renowned surrealist. The museum opened in 1982, 40 years after Ohio businessman Reynolds Morse first met the young artist and began collecting his works. In addition to 95 original oil paintings, the museum has more than 100 watercolors and drawings, along with 1,300grafics.
I can only give tips here for...
I can only give tips here for Canada and the USA.
Be nice to Immigration official, Policeman , Traffic warden and waiters. They can make your life hell.
Thew poeple in the US and Canada are usually helpful and pleasent natured.
Most Americans are patriotic....
Most Americans are patriotic. Don't mock that. It is enough to say thanks, no need to say Thanks very much as in UK. U nearly always get good service, so don't be mean with tips at restaurants etc.
Don't insult the flag .
Beach bums...surfer dudes and...
Beach bums...surfer dudes and dudettes...when you encounter this crowd...usually in Southern California..try not to stare or act like you are really surprised at the way they dress, behave, and the lack of modesty some possess. Those of you who have been to So. CA..know what I mean!
Forget your diet----our food...
Forget your diet----our food is full flavored, fattening and well cooked---dont try to order 'blanched' vegetables. Even our salads are fattening! Must try gravy and biscuits---also soup beans and cornbread.
learn to appreciate the...
learn to appreciate the different cultures of North America! A small town in Mexico, or the U.S. or Canada are each different and also very different from the big cities like Mexico City, New York, Chicago or Toronto! Learn to notice the difference and not just be a 'tourist.'
And.... Enjoy this continent!
If you're intending to do lots...
If you're intending to do lots of shopping here in the United States (especially), remember to bring along an extra bag in cloth material (like what I did). :-))
If you're coming from Europe or Asia, buy ONLY American brand products. They are really, really worth it (read: cheap).
Brands like Clinique, Prescriptives, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Anna Sui, Estee Lauder, MAC etc. are really good buys.
If you're really SERIOUS about coinciding your holiday with a MAJOR sale, I can't think of a better time than the 4th of July sale. O.K., for those who absolutely MUST know how cheap American products really cost in the U.S.A., here's a rough guide.
Let's take the brand Clinique as an example. Their LARGEST bottle of Clarifying Lotion cost only US$15.50 (excl. sales tax) in U.S.A. That same bottle costs:-
450 French Francs in Paris/ Nice (France).
US$34 (S$58) in Singapore.
Elsewhere, it costs even more..... Scary huh?!
Photo below: Lovely clothes at Jil Sander boutique (one of my fave places to shop) in San Francisco...
A 'live' weather...
A 'live' weather forecast.
Temperature updates... Very useful if you're planning for a major trip to the USA.
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Here's a guide to the USA ...
Here's a guide to the USA Lightning conditions.
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Again, this is extremely important if you're planning to visit the USA!
Your Guide To QUICK ACCESS...
Your Guide To QUICK ACCESS FOR CASH Whilst You're On The Road
ATM Networks (for Visa, Visa Electron & Plus). This is Visa?s ATM locator web page. And this site provides a searchable database that locates ATM?s belonging to the Visa, Visa Electron and Plus ATM network worldwide.
ATM Networks (for Mastercard & Cirrus) - MasterCard?s ATM locator web page. This site provides a searchable database that locates ATM?s belonging to the MasterCard and Cirrus ATM network worldwide.
Postcard Below: The Jefferson Memorial at dusk. Nice!
TIP, TIP, TIP! How to...
TIP, TIP, TIP!
How to jump queue at the bar/ restaurant.
If you are in a crowded bar/ pub and people are waiting for their drinks and you suspect that the waiter/ bartender will take forever to come and serve you... TIP the bartender/ waitress up front and let them know that you will reward good service. :-)) Yeah, sometimes, money talks. And if you leave a generous tip, the restaurant/ bar will remember you - forever. So, if you intend to come back again and again in the near future, start by leaving an impressive tip. No, not necessarily US$11,000.... If you leave a generous tip of say US$10 for a US$20-$30 bill, they will remember you. This usually seems to help them be able to pick you out of a crowd and remember what you
are drinking too! If you do spend time waiting at the bar for your table, don?t forget to tip the bartender. The tip you leave at the table might not make it back to them. O.K.?
How to get better service at a restaurant?
If a long wait has gotten you upset, remember it?s NOT usually your waiter?s fault. If you waited a long time to be seated or served, chances are the restaurant is packed to the brim and all the service staff are working like mad dogs. Relax... No need to let little things like this upset you. You will be surprised to know how a little friendliness will improve the service! Remember, if you treat your waiter poorly, even the most professional waiter will have trouble rebounding and providing you with a pleasant dining experience. Remember, that?s why you waited in the first place. So, smile! And be extremely nice to your waiter. They do sometimes have a bad hair day - like you. :-))
However, if you feel your horrid waiter deserves no tip, then don?t leave one. Ask to speak with the restaurant manager. And you might like to leave a partial tip with them to pass it on to your server or busboy. If the others were helpful, you ought to reward their service. This also makes it VERY clear that you DO tip for good service and that your waiter has disappointed you terribly.
If your waiter has done an EXCELLENT job in serving you.... then you should TELL him/ her that you sincerely appreciated their excellent service so they will continue to take pride in their work. Later, you may wish to drop a little note (email?) to the restaurant manager. As with poor service, you should let a manager know when you have received excellent service. Managers need to recognize their strongest employees to encourage great customer service, telling them about YOUR experiences will help them to do this.
Then, remember to TIP accordingly. Hopefully, you'll feel that they deserve more than the standard 15% to 20% tip. If you plan on coming back, be sure to get the waiter?s name. This way you can request them next time and have another wonderful dining
Likewise for chambermaids who clean your hotel room. ALWAYS leave a tip behind after your first night's stay. You'll be impressed how spanking clean your hotel room will be for the duration of your stay. :-)) Again, tip generously. This is my motto - They
(like you) are working to earn a living. Do you like it when your boss appreciates your hard work and give you a huge bonus? Most likely your answer is yes. This gives your morale a surprising boost and you'd work doubly hard. So I sincerely believe the same rule applies to other people in the service industry too. I don't believe in being harsh and make them work like slaves. I believe in using reverse pscyhology or offering monetary rewards/ incentives to make them work hard. We are, after all, only human.
I learnt all these important tips about treating a customer/ vendor/ client from my previous job with a huge American bank. They swear by the Six Sigma rules... We had to LEARN how some companies like McDonald's and Coca Cola have made IT. Our CEO wanted the Bank to be like Coca Cola... i.e. If a person were to think of hamburgers, inevitably McDonald's comes to mind (instead of Burger King). Talk about aerated drinks...Coca Cola comes to mind (instead of Pepsi). So, likewise... if we were to think 'banks' - it should be a bank who's motto is 'the Citi that never sleeps' and not other banks. If good service has been extended to us/ me, I will ALWAYS follow up with an email to their General Manager. Always. This method (believe me) works 200% of the time. If you treat people well, you'd find yourself getting the best tables in the restaurant without queuing, getting upgraded to business class on flights, getting invited to special movie premieres and getting invited to special events organized by the clubs and pubs (without even being a member) etc.
So, dear VT friends, best of luck with this new 'philosophy'. :-))
Photo Below: San Diego - as seen from the plane!
Still on the issue of MONEY,...
Still on the issue of MONEY, ATMs and CREDIT CARDS...
Most experienced travelers will tell you that ATMs are the cheapest way to get cash overseas. For that matter, so does Visa, which handles currency conversion for banks around the world.
Here's a statement from the Visa Global ATM Network Web page:
'Withdrawing cash at Visa/PLUS ATMs using a secured PIN can save you money and makes it easy to take advantage of the favorable exchange rates offered by ATMs. Cash withdrawals are dispensed in local currency, and are debited from your account in your own currency - this eliminates additional currency conversion fees and commissions often assessed by traditional currency exchange bureaus.'
Well, think again!
Some banks are now tacking an additional 'conversion fee' onto the Visa or MasterCard currency-exchange commission. Not only that, but this hidden surcharge is ON TOP of the flat transaction fees that banks often charge for ATM withdrawals away from home. :-(
Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the USA, is the latest bank to hit its customers with a 'conversion fee.' It now charges a 2% conversion fee 'for each purchase transaction in a foreign currency using any type of ATM & Check Card.' This means that, for a withdrawal of US$100 in a foreign currency, a Wells Fargo customer is paying a 1% commission to the Visa/MasterCard clearinghouse, a US$2 bank 'conversion fee' or surcharge, and a flat US$2 ATM transaction charge.
Total cost: US$5, which is equal to an eye-popping 5% exchange commission.
Such fees aren't limited to banks in the U.S. Many British banks have 'currency conversion fees,' and the Australian Consumers Association reports that four of Australia's major banks have conversion fees ranging from 0.5% to 1% plus transaction fees of A$1.5 to A$5.
How can you avoid being gouged by high bank surcharges?
One way is to switch banks. NOT all banks charge conversion fees, and many charge less than Wells Fargo's 2%. Another way is to charge purchases on a Visa or MasterCard from an issuer that doesn't levy conversion fees. But watch out--some credit-card companies charge conversion fees of up to 5%.
Bottom line: As banks lose income from traveler's checks, they're looking for new ways to extract money from foreign travelers. Check your bank's policy on conversion and transaction fees before you use an ATM card abroad--and if you feel that your bank's fees are unreasonable, look for a less greedy bank.
I happened to come across this article written by: Durant Imboden. And I think he's brought up some really good points. Kudos to Mr Imboden.
Below: Miami Beach!
Women traveling alone or with...
Women traveling alone or with other women, and whether on long or short drives, hear ye! ALWAYS bring a cellular phone or car phone along with you. If you don't have time to get a phone before your trip, take something that LOOKS LIKE a cell phone. If you ever feel that you are being tailed by a stranger or if anyone, especially a strange man, on the highway attempts to flag down your vehicle, DO NOT PULL OVER! Instead, whip out your phone and call someone, or even PRETEND to call someone. This is a major deterrent to would-be attackers who think you are probably calling the police. Oh, and it doesn't hurt to learn the phone number of the local police too. :-) Just in case.
Also, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pull over to help a hitchhiker or a person with car trouble. Instead, call the police from your cell phone or from a payphone further down the road.
Haven't you seen 'Law and Order' (yeah, the TV series) to know what not to do?
NOTE: MOTOROLOA has a tri-band
cellphone (yes, that's the one I'm currently using) in the market. You can use this cellphone in EVERY country in the world.... be it in the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, China or even, Timbaktu. It covers all the major networks in the world. Just ensure that you are subscribed to the 'Auto Roaming' feature and you're all ready to conquer the world! DON'T waste your money renting a cellphone!
Below: The MOTOROLA Tri-band cellphone. It's simple in design and I can't leave Singapore (read: home) without it!
ATMs If you're coming from...
If you're coming from outside of USA/Canada: The simplest way to obtain local currency when you're in North America is by using an ATM (automated teller machine). Yeah, that machine that dispenses cash from your local bank account.
An ATM will normally give you a better exchange rate than what you'd get if you were buying foreign currency with cash or traveler's checks since the exchange is made at the interbank wholesale rate. Or worse, some friends in trying to help - tell you to use your Visa/ Mastercard to withdraw cash from these ATMs. NO! Such withdrawals are considered CASH ADVANCES... a definite no-no because of the EXHORBITANT fees charged by these credit card companies! Then how do you think these credit card companies survive? :-)) Now, go back and knock your buddy's head for being so ignorant. :-)
Today, you'll find an ATM machine at nearly every corner of North America. I mean, the USA has some of the world's finest banks... and these brilliant Americans literally perfected the entire ATM network worldwide! The American banking system is at least 10 years ahead (in terms of technology) compared to their European/ Asian counterparts! I only found out this truth when I worked briefly for a European bank and went for a job interview for a big German bank. Having worked for an Asian, European and two American banks before, I think I'm much more accustomed to the American banking system (personally speaking, of course)... You can learn so much more things because these Americans are so advanced!
Oops, sorry to deviate... Back to ATMs and their amazing uses. Even in the remotest parts of USA or Canada, you can STILL find an ATM machine. If you see the words 'Cirrus','Plus' or 'The Exchange' etc at the back of your ATM card, you can safely withdraw cash from these ATM machines too. So far, whenever I use my Citibank ATM card abroad, I haven't faced a single problem. I can't guarantee for the other banks and their fee structures though. But my CitiCard works just fine for me. :-) And they have so many branches dotting the globe. Read: Ultra-convenient!
The All-Important Steps:
Make sure your ATM card is compatible and it's linked to an international network. Call your local bank if you aren't sure. Does your bank's ATM card have a Plus, Cirrus, Visa or MasterCard logo? These networks operate throughout North America... so you should have no problems finding an ATM machine. My personal advice is - It's always good to check with your local bank first before coming to America - since a handful of banks from YOUR country may put restrictions on overseas use.
Don't change small sums. Most banks charge a flat fee for each ATM transaction outside their own networks. If a withdrawal of US$30 costs as much as a US$300 transaction, then it does make more sense to get the higher amount. Right?
And, don't forget to carry a back-up credit card (just in case). If you lose your ATM card or a machine can't read it, your Visa or MasterCard can be a lifesaver! But use it ONLY for cash advance(s) - as a last resort. You'll also find a credit card handy if your expenses are higher than planned and your bank account runs dry. If you've an American Express card, you can use it to obtain money at one of the company's many American offices. And no, I'm not working for American Express. :-) I just find it's convenient to use their 'don't leave home without it' CHARGE card (with no set limit unlike a credit card). It's useful if you (the guy) is intending to buy an expensive American designer outfit from Donna Karan for your loving girlfriend/wife and you have just maxed out your credit limit on your Citibank credit card. :-))))
North America Hotels
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