Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blu Skies

I’m about to let you in on a little secret that many in the United Arab Emirates don’t know about. It’s something I discovered on my very first visit to the UAE several years ago. Tucked away amongst the hotels on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is an absolutely gorgeous hotel with breathtaking views, attentive staff, and fabulous food.
The Radisson Blu on Yas Island always brings a smile to my face, because it is where I fell in love with Abu Dhabi. I remember waking up my first morning in the emirate, and looking out from my balcony at the Radisson Blu in sheer amazement at the beautiful crystal clear Arabian Gulf, the beautifully manicured grounds of the hotel and the adjacent Yas Links Golf Course. As a matter of fact, it’s a picture taken from the balcony that morning that I share with people when I want to show off the place I now call home.
My favorite picture of Abu Dhabi taken from the Radisson Blu on Yas Island

Besides spectacular views, Radisson Blu on Yas Island boasts extremely comfortable and luxurious rooms with beds fit for a queen. The staff is extremely hospitable, and the customer service goes beyond that of many 5 star hotels. There are warm welcomes and smiling faces to greet you at every turn it seems.
As if the beautiful landscape and gracious staff aren’t enough to entice you to stay at Radisson Blu, they have absolutely amazing food. Whether it’s cheeseburgers and fries ordered from room service after midnight (I did this my first night, and my husband and I still talk about this meal), or the oh so fabulously delish Italian food offered at Filini, Radisson Blu’s dining choices are sure to please any palate. I highly recommend the PaccheriallaSiciliana at Filini, it’s a paccheri pasta with eggplant, smoked ricotta, and basil, it is one of my all time favorite pasta dishes.It will be love at first bite, trust me.
PaccheriallaSiciliana and Ravioli Gamberi 
Oh, and did I mention the spa? For the weary traveler or just someone that needs a relaxing escape from reality, the tranquil spa at Radisson Blu on Yas Island offers a variety of treatments to help you relieve stress and feel refreshed.  Or perhaps laying by the pool is how you like to unwind. Radisson Blu has your relaxation needs covered.
Are you thinking about booking a trip to Abu Dhabi, or perhaps a staycation here in the emirate? This fabulous hotel is close to all of Abu Dhabi’s attractions including Yas Marina Circuit F1 track, Ferrari World, and the new YasWaterworld. For a limited time guest can save 20% on bookings at Radisson BluYas Island in Abu Dhabi, and other select destinations including our neighbor to the north, Dubai. The Radisson Blu at Deira Creek in Dubai is also a splendid hotel with wonderful views of Deira Creek and it’s many dhow boats.
Book a stay with Radisson Blu, and I assure you an experience like no other. Make sure to sign up as a Club Carlson member and take advantage of future Radisson Blu offers around the world. I’ve stayed at several Radisson Blu hotels including properties in Milan and Salzburg and they all adhere to the same high level of customer service I’ve come to expect from this exceptional chain.
 I have been compensated for this article, but as a Club Carlson Member and Radisson Blu fan all experiences, thoughts, and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Raha International School - An Excellent Choice

In May our son, Andrew, sported a cap and gown down the aisle and was recognized at Raha International School's Graduation or Celebration as they called it. A few days ago, we actually received his final results from the International Baccalaureate for his Diploma Program exams he took for all of his subjects in early May. These exams are what determines if a student actually receives the coveted IB diploma and truly graduates. Yes, it's a little "cart before the horse", but lots of things are different when you're an expat kid.
Prior to moving to the UAE, I did extensive research on schools and the various curricula for our two teenagers. With university in sight, I knew the educational choices we made for them would be paramount to any other made during our move.

In my research I found that the International Baccalaureate fit our children perfectly, as both were excelling in all of their subjects at the private school they had attended in the US for many years. I have never been a fan of curricula that teach to a test like the Virginia Standards of Learning offered in public schools in our home state. To each his own, but I prefer my children learn to be free thinkers and learn to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to become global citizens. To me this is far more important than being able to mark A,B, or C on a multiple choice test. The IB curriculum may not fit every child, but the learner profile can be found here for those interested.
In 2010 when we made our move, Raha International School was the only all IB school in Abu Dhabi catering to all 12 grade levels. I'll be honest when I say there are no perfect schools in Abu Dhabi, they are all run as businesses and this can lead to some hiccups from time to time. Still, I can not say enough positive things about our experience at Raha.

The value of Raha and the IB education have become extremely evident this past week as we received my son's final marks. He indeed passed and has officially earned an International Baccalaureate Diploma, but that is not all he has earned. You see his scores on his final exams translate to credit hours at universities in the United States. In fact, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University aka Virginia Tech, which he will be attending in the fall, these exam scores have earned him a year's worth of credits at the university and he hasn't even started taking classes there yet. Not only has the IB reduced the time it will take him to earn a bachelor's degree, it has saved us thousands of US dollars in tuition. The later of the two my son keeps pointing out to us.

For my husband and I, it's nice to see choices we made as new expats years ago were the right ones. You can do tons of research, but sometimes you just never know until you see them played out. We are both extremely proud of Andrew, and we look forward to him being just as successful at Virginia Tech as he has been at Raha. He currently plans to stick with his Arabic language studies, so that he can return to Abu Dhabi to work after earning a degree in business.

He left for the US in June, and was only gone for about a week before he was telling me how much he missed the UAE. It's nice to know he loves this country he now calls his second home, again some reassurance that we made the right choice by moving here.