Wanderlust 2017: Make Me a Hercules

A decision I made once I decided I was going to quit my job, move, and go back to school was before I became a broke college “kid” again, I was going to go on an adventure. Originally, I wanted to drive around North America and potentially parts of South America for a few months to a year, depending on how the trip went. Then, while visiting my dear friend Riley up near Boston in February, an ad popped up on her Facebook for the EF College Break travel agency. She sent me the link and we joked about me going on an “Ultimate Europe” trip which spanned the course of 35 days with group of random people ranging from 18-28 years old. Two days later, I put a deposit on the trip and never looked back. Four months later, I took a flight to Athens from New York City.

THE ARRIVAL

The flight takes about nine hours. November 2016, when I flew to Warsaw, I had a layover in Zurich, which broke up the eight hour flight into a five and a half hour flight, then a two and a half hour flight. My flight to Athens was an over night direct service on Delta with solid meal choices, as comfortable of seats as possible for coach, and a decent amount of leg room (keep in mind, I’m 5’10” and leg room can get tight on flights).

As we landed in Athens, I met up with the group of people with whom I would be spending the entire trip. Everyone was exhausted, I was in a very weird mood, and the combination can be hard meeting 29 other people for the first time. I think the only thing that saved us from grumpiness was the fact that we were in Greece.

THE SITES AND HISTORY

As you know (hopefully), Greece is rich with history that is still apart of every day life in Athens. The city is relatively touristy, but it’s to be expected when you have structures such as the Parthenon, Acropolis, Olympic Stadium, as well as dozens of other historical locations.

The first day, we did a walking tour of the main areas in Athens where you could buy knick knacks and food. The area was swarming with street vendors chasing you around to buy bracelets and other useless goods. The first thing Mayra, our tour director warned us of was the fact that you could easily be pick pocketed if you’re not careful. I think this instilled a lot of fear into the others who are on vacation with me, but living in NYC for six and a half years, you tend to be a little more comfortable in busy areas and don’t necessarily dwell on the idea of being robbed. However, safety is important and gypsies are everywhere.

On day two, we woke up bright and early and headed straight for the Acropolis. When I say this was one of the most amazing things I have seen, I’m not exaggerating. From the Acropolis, you can see the Parthenon, Dionysus Theater, Athena’s Structure, and a breathtaking view of Greece — from the Mediterranean to the mountains.

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We also went to the Acropolis Museum, where hundreds of historical artifacts and works of art can be found that date back to the inception of the founding of Greece. Some of the made-up names of the structures did crack me up. When you have a head of an artifact and one small piece of their body, how can you possible name it “Young Warrior Who Rode a Horse”? WHERE IS THE HORSE? HE’S NOT EVEN PRESENT! As you can imagine, I found the need to read the name out loud of most structures to simply entertain myself. Soon enough, the couple of people I had visited the museum with was soon questioning the names of each statue. Needless to day, it was a great bonding experience.

After the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Acropolis Museum, we decided to go for a stroll through a beautiful park to see the Panathenaic Stadium. This is where the first ever Olympics were held in 776 BC. The structure is massive and extremely fun to look at. You start to imagine olympians running in their full armour, barefoot running laps around the stadium and competing to be the first ever Olympian.

At the end of day two, we all took a hike up a hill to watch the sunset over Athens. Talk about a perfect ending to a perfect day. Nay, talk about the perfecting ending to our last full day in Athens.

The next day, we took a ferry to Paros to continue “Greeking out”.

THE FOOD

The first night, we had an orientation dinner at a gorgeous restaurant overseeing the Parthenon. I cannot exaggerate how important it is to have at least one nice meal when in Athens. Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines — I’m pretty sure it’s what kept in in Astoria, Queens for the five and a half years I lived there. Feta, tomatoes, olives, kebab, gyro, tzatziki, octopus, and the list goes on. Everything was fresh. Everything was cooked to perfection. Everything made me extremely happy. And the food I’m talking about wasn’t only at the nice restaurants, it was also in the small little hole in the walls you find on the side streets, the more generic locations, and the bakeries!

Speaking of the bakeries, if you have a chance to get a ham and cheese pastry for breakfast, do it. It’s very European, it’s very messy, but at the same time, very satisfying.

The final thing I will say that I loved about Athens is that the wine is always flowing. There is a different perspective on life there. You work and you work hard, but you also enjoy life. You don’t spend a ton of money on your home or material possessions. You spend money on food and drink that brings people together. Everywhere, people are happy, deep in conversation, sipping wine, indulging in their meal, and happy. Coming from NYC you very rarely see this type of relaxed lifestyle and happiness.

I was so happy with the food that I texted my mother and told her I was no longer on a traveling adventure to see new things, but I was simply on a food tour. She found it to be hilarious, but I wasn’t kidding at all.

THE DEPARTURE

We ended up extending our trip in Paros, which got us back to Athens very late the night before our flight from Athens to Rome. It was very sad. I felt at home in Greece — I really do think has a lot to do with my tenure in Astoria. I know Athens is a place I will be visiting again. I will probably spend more time in the islands or out in the country side, but a stop in the busy city of Athens is a must!

Dine n’ Dash: Pokéworks

By: Stella Sitt

Pokéworks, GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!! In light of the recent PokemonGo fad (or is it here to stay?), I am extremely excited to write about poké – the new trend that has hit the streets of the East Coast. But…what exactly is poké? Poké, pronounced “poh-kay” is essentially a Hawaiian raw fish salad marinated in soy sauce topped with yummy goodness along with condiments.

Pokéworks, the first poké shop, opened in Midtown West – Manhattan last year, and after seeing this place on Yelp, I knew we had to check out this new phenomenon. The first time Terah and I visited, we hit the lunch time rush. We waited in a queue outside for ~45 minutes before stepping foot into the restaurant to place our order. There is minimal seating in the actual store and it gets cramped during lunch time, so arrive early (11 AM) if you plan to sit down and beat the line outside. The second time we visited, we arrived by 11:30 and only waited for ~20 minutes.

I would liken Pokéworks to the Japanese version of a Chipotle – a fast food restaurant with an assembly line. You’re prompted to choose your base (white or brown rice), protein (type of fish or chicken), mix –ins (seaweed, edamame, etc.) and a flavor (sauce). For $11.95, you can pick two proteins or, for $13.95 you can pick three.

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Terah and I both loved our poké bowls! The fish was fresh and the toppings and mix-ins were plentiful. I opted for salmon and tuna on a bed of brown rice topped with with shiso leaves, edamame, hijiki seaweed, seaweed salad, avocado, wasabi, sesame seed, spicy furikake, onion crisps, ponzu sauce and soy sauce. Terah ordered the salmon and tuna combo as well ,but spiced up her bowl with crab salad, which she raved about after. With everything mixed together, the combination was absolutely delicious, fresh,and  healthy! The variety of mix-ins and toppings available are a bonus as well.

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We give Pokéworks 4.5 stars! Pokéworks definitely lives up to the hype in our books, but we subtracted 0.5 stars because it was a bit pricy. Although we’re both not fans of the Midtown hustle and bustle, our love for poké will bring us back! For you gamers out there, let’s hope it doesn’t become a Poké stop or else there would be real madness.

Dine n’ Dash: The Mermaid Oyster Bar

This is long overdue, but I guess this is when you say “better late than never”… I’ve had a crazy couple weeks, which includes madness at work and moving my entire life from Queens to Brooklyn. Stella has been extremely patient with my lack of posting.

Two weeks ago, Stella and I went to The Mermaid Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village, NYC, and they did not disappoint.

When you first walk in, you notice a cleanliness. Everything is white and silver. There’s organization and thought put into how the ambiance is set. Though the walls are white, there’s a warmth that comes with this restaurant. Stella and I were seated immediately (honestly, we were shocked. Happy hour in this part of town at a place with such deals and delicious food can be difficult to get immediate seating) and started reading over the happy hour appetizer menu. We look up and nod in agreement that we wanted EVERYTHING.

 

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First came the east coast oysters ($1 each during happy hour). Perfectly shucked. Perfectly paired with a lemon and cocktail sauce. We sucked down 10 each with smiles on our faces.

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Within minutes, our other food arrived. Fried clam sliders ($6.50), mini mermaid fish tacos ($3.00), shrimp & avocado sliders ($7.50), and fried calamari ($7.50); I wasn’t kidding when I said we wanted it all.

We continued with the calamari. We both found that there was too much breading, but we both prefer foods that aren’t heavy on breading in general. I commented to Stella that my brother would love Mermaid’s calamari based on the way it was cooked and their delicious marinara.

Then we were off to the tacos and sliders. The food was delicious. Our notable favorite was the shrimp and avocado slider. We could’ve eaten eight of them had we not ordered the other food and knowing we had planned to order another round of oysters.

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I know what you’re thinking: these girls can throw down. You’re damn right we can. Why do you think we grab a meal at least once a week together?

The other round of oysters were perfect, even though we were ridiculously full. This time, we were able to fully appreciate them. I can admit; we were so excited during the first round of oysters that we may not have appreciated them as much as we should’ve.

Then, something amazing happened. A little chocolate mousse cup was placed in front of each of us. It was whispering sweet nothings in our ears and we couldn’t resist but enjoy every last bite. I love when restaurants provide a free dessert. It was nice and small, and honestly, I think it’s a classy thing to do. For the record, the mousse was perfect.

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When the check came, we were impressed with the overall cost considering all the different food we tried and the simple fact that we were stuffed to the brim.

Overall, we would give The Mermaid Oyster Bar 4 out of 5 stars. The food was delicious, the ambiance was great, and I didn’t even mention how friendly out waitress was. If you’re in Greenwich or downtown Manhattan, I highly recommend stopping over and getting some fresh oysters and delicious sliders. They also have a full menu and other locations!

Finally, Stella and I only found it fitting to play with Snapchat filters while walking off our meal afterwards. Here’s a taste:

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Dine n’ Dash: Up Thai

By: Stella Sitt

Yesterday Terah and I ventured up to Up Thai (get it?) for the second time together. Up Thai is located on Second Avenue between 73rd and 74th Street in the Upper East Side. And now…without further ado, let’s get down to the nomz!

Upon walking into Up Thai, you are greeted with a cement wall engraved with Thai writing on it. The interior is nicely decorated – adorned with wooden accents, greenery, and beautifully strung lanterns with an array of colors. The lanterns themselves cast shadows on the walls during the night (I’ve been here for dinner), which creates a very relaxing and wonderful ambiance. That being said, the design alone was very welcoming, and the lanterns put me in calm, relaxing mood. There was ample seating since we arrived early, and they do take reservations if you’re coming as a group.

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The lunch special (from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM on weekdays) is a great deal for Manhattan standards – for $11, you can choose a soup/salad, small appetizer, and an entrée. We arrived right when it opened – mouthwatering and hungry. Once the restaurant opened, the waiter promptly seated us with a smile. We started out with drinks. Terah ordered the usual Thai Iced Tea ($3.50), whereas, I was feeling a little more adventurous this time with a Lychee Thai Iced Tea ($4.50). Terah described the Thai Iced Tea as smooth, creamy, just the right amount of sweetness. My Lychee Thai Iced Tea came with two lychees, and no milk was added. It was very refreshing for the hot day (close to 80 degrees in the concrete jungle), although I found it a bit too sweet for my taste. Terah had a taste, and agreed, but since I haven’t seen this drink at many other Thai restaurants, it’s a must try and you’ll love it if you have a sweet tooth.  The drinks came in cute little Mason jars, which is always an added bonus for someone like me who is a sucker for cute canning jars.

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We both started with a salad with Ginger dressing, which hit the spot. Ginger dressing is one of our favorites! This was followed by the small appetizer we each ordered. Terah opted for the steamed pork dumplings and I ordered the spring roll. Terah described the pork dumplings as cooked perfectly; a good portion and she liked how compact they were. The sauce that accompanied her dumplings was the perfect amount of zest for her taste buds. The spring roll I ordered was filled with pork and vegetables, and crunchy, and fried to perfection without overdoing it.

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For the main entrees, I ordered the usual Chicken Pad See Ew. The portion was good, and the wide noodles and chicken were scrumptious. The right amount of soy sauce was used and the broccoli was cooked just right. I’ve been to Thai places where the broccoli is often undercooked and hard. I also liked how the dish was not too oily, which is a major turn off because my stomach does not deal well with excess oil. My foodie in crime, ordered a much more interesting dish – the Moo Dang (I’ve heard that Pad See Ew is Americanized Thai). Terah commented that the pork belly was perfectly crispy, the sauce was the right kind of sweet and sticky, and the Chinese sausage had a little spice to it and reminded her of pepperoni (in a good way).

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Overall, the food was extremely flavorful, and we look forward to coming back again! I would give it a 4.5 stars, based on the food, service, prices, location, the fact they accept most major credit cards, and the décor. Compared to other Thai restaurants I’ve tried (and that is many, since I love Thai food), this definitely ranks up there.

Dine n’ Dash: Totto Ramen

Once a week, my coworker/friend/co-foodie, Stella and I grab lunch in New York during an extended lunch break. We have come to realize that it is one of the things each week that keeps us going in our grueling jobs in finance and we want to share our love of food and experiences with you!

The plan: to post about our NYC food experiences. We will rotate who writes each week…and I’m up first!

Today, we went to Totto Ramen on 52nd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. Totto’s original location is in Hell’s Kitchen, but its popularity brought it to Midtown. The one thing I will say before talking about the food is this; you will wait at least 45 minutes if you go during the lunch or dinner rush. The place is always packed, does not take reservations, and is CASH ONLY.

The waiter sat us in back where plywood was decorated with Totto inspired graffiti and hung to decorate the walls. The lighting was calming and the aroma welcoming. We started with the Char Siu Pork Bun (two for $6), which were nothing short of perfection. The pork belly was cooked to the proper temperature and fell apart in your mouth. The hoisin sauce was thick, sticky, and smooth, was extenuated with a light swipe of mayonnaise, and piece of iceberg lettuce. That brings me to the bun, which was warm, soft, and delightful.

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The one thing with Totto is, when you go early, you get your food extremely fast. Our ramen came out before we were finished with the pork buns. At times, this can be quite a turn-off, but because we were mid-workday, it was welcome. We promptly received the check without asking which was marked with what an 18-percent tip would be; another situation that maybe off-putting to some.

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When I asked Stella how she would describe her Spicy Paitan with Pork ($12) and Poached Egg ($2), she immediately responded "creamy, rich, wavy, flavorful, hearty". I couldn’t agree more.

I ordered the Chicken Paitan with Pork ($10) and Poached Egg ($2). To piggy back on what Stella said, the broth, though without dairy, was creamy in its own right; the flavor was amazing. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the firmness was just right. The pork and chicken were hearty. I’d never seen such a beautifully poached egg. The nori was deliciously crisp and finally, the scallions and onions were fresh.

I added pepper, based on personal preference, and rather than hiding flavor, it truly enhanced it. I cannot tell you of an experience where I’ve had such delicious ramen.

Overall, I would give this place a 4.5/5 stars. How did they lose the half star? Stella and I both agreed that the poached egg wasn’t worth $2 based on the other item prices on the menu. But, if that’s our only complaint, then I would say Totto Ramen is a keeper.

Like what you see? Make sure you follow unfamiliarTERAHtory; and check Terah out on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat (xxTerah).

It’s Just Snow…

I’m going to rant for a few minutes, so bear with me…

First of all, if you live in New York, New Jersey, or the Northeast, guess what, we’re going to get snow. How do I know? Because I’ve lived here my entire life. Get over it. If you can’t handle the snow, get out of the northern part of the United States. If you are shocked every time the weatherman (who, by the way, doesn’t know what he/she’s talking about 95-percent of the time) says that there is going to be snow, get over it, or get out.

Speaking of the weatherman, don’t buy into all the B.S. they put on the television. They take dramatic clips from different events, compile the clips, and act like The Day After Tomorrow is doing to happen to scare you into stocking up on canned goods and water. The reality is, we’re going to get maybe a foot of snow. If we get more, GET USED TO IT! It is what it is. It’s the northeast.

I know this sounds harsh, but driving scared, or being scared of snow is absolutely ridiculous. You choose where you live, for the most part. Can’t handle it, move south or west. If you’re not comfortable driving in the snow, stay at home because YOU are the ones causing the accidents. YOU are the ones that are messing everything up for everyone else. Has there ever been a time when it hasn’t snowed up here? Not that I can recall. So sack up, or ship out.

If I hear one more person complain about the weather, I might just lose it. Want to hear about terrible weather? How about LITERALLY being snowed into your own house. Not because you’re too lazy to shovel the foot-and-a-half of snow on your side-walk, but because there’s three to four feet of snow blocking all your doors and you can’t get out of the house. Yea, that’s happened to my family and I in upstate, New York. Guess what, we survived. How about not having schools close when all the roads are ice, and driving to school at mph, spinning out a bunch of times, and then getting detention for being late. Yea, that’s happened to me, and I am completely fine. Now-a-days, snow is mentioned, and what do we do? We close all the schools, some major highways (really?), and most of the businesses in the area before anything actually happens. I can’t…

What’s the saying? If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. How about, if you can’t stand the snow/cold, get the F out of my town.

End of rant, if I offended you, then chances are, I’m talking about you. Sorry, not sorry.

The Summer of 2013

As I wrote that title, I started singing “The Summer of ‘69” by Brian Adams. It’s safe to say, it will be stuck in my head for the remainder of the day.

I had an amazing summer; so amazing that I didn’t have time to create one blog post. Here are a few highlights from the summer of 2013 (June to September):

    • I spent a great deal of time in upstate, New York, specifically Saratoga County. I took a lot of time off to just enjoy the pool, the fresh air and everything that comes with the country. I loved every second of it. I spent a bunch of time with some old friends, and overall enjoyed country living. It was extremely difficult to not take more time, but I need the PTO days for the holiday season.
    • When I was in the city, I enjoyed the local park, some local bars and beer gardens, the east side of Manhattan, and enjoyed my last summer in the apartment I live in now. A little bittersweet, but I would not have it any other way.
    • I went out to Smithtown, Long Island for a quiet weekend to see my two close friends from college. We went to a brewery, laid on the beach and sucked up some rays, and caught up with each other’s lives. As you know, I live in Astoria, the one girl lives in, you guessed it, Smithtown, and the other lives in Poughkeepsie, NY, so it can be difficult for us to get together. It made me realize that we need to meet up more often, and hopefully we’ll do so.
    • June and July called for a lot of travel for work. I spent a lot of time in Chicago and West Virginia. I also did some time in Binghamton,NY,  and my last travel week was in sunny Florida. The great thing about traveling for work is all your expenses are paid for, which made the travel worth it. I also got to spend a bunch of time with coworkers I have great relationships with, which made work fun.
    • I GOT A NEW JOB! As much as I loved the people I worked with at my last company, and I loved the travel, the change was needed. I moved from the healthcare industry to the financial sector. It was quite a step up. I don’t have the opportunity to travel anymore, but I do get a beautiful view of Lexington Avenue from my desk. This reminds me that I should change the About Me section of this blog.
    • I saw Zac Brown Band at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for my birthday. They were amazing even in the rain. The tailgating was a lot of fun, and the outdoor arena was perfect for the instrumentals. They are one of my favorite bands, one of the best bands to see live, and I can’t wait till next summer to see them again.
    • Oh yea, I turned 25 and I didn’t die or have a nervous breakdown. #winning
    • And to end a great summer, I went to Nashville for the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival where Zac Brown Band performed, and Kenny Chesney, Jason Mraz, and Kenny Rogers made appearances. I wish I could say I tried the festival food and saw other performances (Kacey Musgraves, Eli Young Band and Willie Nelson were all there) , but we were too busy enjoying all that Nashville had to offer. We also ate at some of the best southern restaurants you could possibly imagine. It’s still stands true that I am meant to live in the south.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I am just now getting settled into the fact that summer is over – maybe it’s the fact that it’s snowing and the middle of November. I hope everyone gets to have a summer like the one I had this year, it really makes you appreciate all the hard work you put in all year long. Cheers!

 

Like what you see? Make sure you follow unfamiliarTERAHtory; and check Terah out on Twitter and Instagram.

Country Girl “Surviving” in the Big City

When you mention that you’re from New York, people automatically assume that you mean New York City. Well, I hate to break it to you, but most of New York is NOT A CITY. I’m from New York but I’m not from the city. I’m from New York and I didn’t grow up taking mass transportation or cabs. I’m from New York and I definitely did not grow up knowing that NYC is one of the safest cities in the world. I’m from New York and I grew up in a rural/suburban area, with horses and goats in my backyard, a lake a mile down the road and a car because it’s about a 15 mile drive to get to the grocery store.

I am from Ballston Lake, a small town in Saratoga County. Whenever someone says, “oh, you’re from Albany” I cringe. NO. I’m not from Albany. Albany to me is one of the dirtiest places. The only good thing about Albany is their state school and their hospitals. To be honest, I would rather have someone assume I grew up in NYC.

Ballston Lake is an extremely small town with no street lights, two restaurants and a couple of country stores. Ballston Lake has horse farms and trees and wildlife. It’s what I consider home.

When I lived there, all I wanted to do was leave. It was hard growing up without neighbors when your friends could ride their bikes down the street after school and socialize. Once I turned 16 it wasn’t so bad, but the first 16 years of my life were frustrating.

I thought for the longest time I wanted to move to NYC so my mother brought us down. From the second we hit Time Square I knew that NYC was the last place on Earth I wanted to be. When I went to college, I immediately decided to not look at the colleges in their because I knew it wasn’t for me. After college, I looked for jobs EVERYWHERE except NYC. I was willing to move anywhere in the country. I was ready to pick up my life and just start a new adventure. Tennessee, Texas, California, Arizona, anywhere but the city. Once I realized that no other place was hiring except for places in Manhattan, I caved.

I think that’s the funniest part of my life. I live in NYC but I really am counting down the days until I can not live there. Yes, I have amazing friends down here, it’s only three hours away from Ballston Lake and I’ve gotten used to living the “city life” (as my grandmother calls it). But, right now, my heart is in the country.

Why am I telling you this? It really comes down to not knowing what you have until it’s gone. All I wanted was to live on my own and be Miss Independent. And the second that happened, all I wanted was to move back to Ballston Lake, swim in my parent’s pool all summer, bask in the central air conditioning, complain about the ridiculous winter weather and have a car.

When it’s my time to leave NYC will I move back to Ballston Lake? It’s not really the plan but it probably will happen. Living in the city is so expensive that it’s near impossible to save for a big move. Will I complain about moving home? Definitely, but it’s in my nature. Will I secretly love living with my parents? Absolutely, but I’ll only let them know every once in a blue moon; I have to keep them on their toes.