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!

2014 Recap

Before I start going on about some of the things I have done this year, and get back into the blogging spirit, I realized that I should give you guys a recap of 2014.

2014 was a crazy year. I saw a lot of live music, went to a few fun sporting events, and overall, had a great time.

I started off the year with seeing my first ever NY KNICKS basketball game at Madison Square Garden (MSG). I had gotten the tickets for my brother for Christmas, and the seats were pretty great. The environment was a lot of fun, and it’s interesting to see the celebrities that show up to these games, considering the Knicks aren’t the best team.

A few weeks later, my brother and I brought my parents to the COMEDY CELLAR for their Christmas present, and I don’t think any of us have ever laughed hard. I had too much fun, if that’s even possible. I may have drank a little too much over the course of the evening, but I regret nothing. It was such a great time that I brought my parents back again this year for Christmas.

In April, I had the opportunity to go to THE APOLLO to see a def poetry competition. My friend’s little sister is wildly talented, and she competed against some of the best stand up poets NYC has to offer. Here is poem she performed during the competition. I also recommend you check Abigail out here and here.

In May, I took my first trip to ARIZONA. I had such an amazing time. I very close friend of mine got married, so, I went out to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and experienced a very different way of living (not to mention no humidity, which was glorious). I spent a day in Sedona, which was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

01 - Sedona

To continue with New York’s sporting events, for my mother’s birthday, we went to go see the NEW YORK YANKEES play against the Minnesota Twins. Granted, I’ve been to dozens of Yankee games, but this one was great because they were the best seats I could’ve purchased.

02 - Yankees

June was very hectic. I started off the month being the worst DD ever for my parents to go see JOURNEY with the Steve Miller Band up at the SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (SPAC). Surprisingly, I had an awesome time. Journey (even without the amazing Steve Perry) are still rocking hard.

Then, the weekend after, I saw ZAC BROWN BAND (for the third time in a rolling year) at FORREST HILLS STADIUM. The venue was packed, but as always, they put on an amazing show. They even covered Billy Joel, which was fantastic. I’m not going to blabber on and on about them, because it’s very clear through my Play Something Country posts that I love them, but what I will say is that the way they harmonize brings chills down my back every time, and that is reason enough for everyone to see them.

July consisted of me moving to the other side of Astoria. I’m still trying to figure out if I’m happy with my decision…

August consisted of two things: live music and the beach.

To start off the month, I saw JASON ALDEAN with Florida Georgia Line and Tyler Farr out in Hartford, CT. I would see him again in a heartbeat. Such a talented artist. Two weekends later, I saw LITTLE BIG TOWN with Eli Young Band out in Long Island. Another band with fantastic harmony. When they sang “Boondocks,” I nearly died. I need to see them again.

03 - LBT

The day before my birthday, I saw MIRANDA LAMBERT with Justin Moore at Bethel Woods. Miranda is hands down my favorite country artist. When she came out with her first album back in 2005, I was instantly hooked. It was a bucket list item marked off! (Fun fact, I’m going to see her again this week at MSG – stay tuned for a post – and I bought BALLER tickets).

The second part of August, as mentioned above, was me spending most weekends at the beach. Fire Island, the Jersey Shore, and Long Beach, LI to be specific. I loved every second of it.

04 - Fire Island

Then, the summer ended, like it does every September. I stayed occupied with random trips to the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden (my favorite was my birthday party), and I even went to my first heavy metal concert (an experience I cherish, but don’t see myself doing again). But more importantly, with summer ending, football season begins.

I went to my first ever NEW YORK GIANTS football game at MetLife Stadium. My new goal is to make enough money just so I can buy season tickets. Let’s just leave it at that. Well, that and to marry a professional football player, because, I mean, who doesn’t want that?

05 - Giants Stadium06 - Giants

In October, I saw FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE at Terminal 5. I know what you’re thinking, “Terah, you had just seen them in August.” Yes, you are right. But Terminal 5 is an experience in itself. It’s a much more intimate setting. Also, they were headlining, so they got to play most of their songs.

October also brought floor seats at ERIC CHURCH at MSG. He’s such an amazing performer, and I would have to say it was the best concert I saw this year (and that’s going up against Miranda).

My roommate happens to work at a company where she gets a lot of swag. That also includes free tickets to events from time to time. She brought me to MSG to see the NEW YORK RANGERS play against the Minnesota Wild. I had so much fun. The Rangers came back from a four point deficit, and everything in the suite was FREE (a very rare thing in this life).

08 - Ranger with Riley07 - Rangers Rink

I saw my first Broadway show! WICKED was basically an emotional rollercoaster that I willingly boarded. It was such an amazing production, and has led me to seeing quite a few other shows over the course of 2015.

09 - WICKED

In November, I decided to go blonde. I’ve always wanted to try it, and I kind of love it. I’ll probably end up going back to brunette at some point, but let’s just consider this a quarter-life crisis.

10 - BLONDE

The rest of the year went swimmingly. My holidays went well, and I ended the year celebrating my brother’s 23rd birthday.

11 - Tyler 23

If we were to break it down, 2014 consisted of seven concerts, four sporting events, one vacation to a new location, a few new life experiences, some new friends, some excess baggage being removed from my life, a quarter-life crisis, and a partridge in a pear tree.

My only hope is that 2015 can even come close to competing 2014.

Cheers.

If you want to see more of what 2014 had to offer, check out my Instagram and Twitter.