The Adventures of Anastasiya Didok

Life and faith in a nutshell.

Category: Travel

Why I want to move to New York

If you’ve ever been to New York, you probably wanted to do one of the following:

#1. stay forever
#2. get out as soon as possible

I really haven’t seen much middle ground for this city, and I happen to fall into the #1 category. When we lived on the East Coast, I would visit New York about twice a year. Every time I came there, I wanted to stay. Here’s why:

#1. It’s instinctual, like having a crush. You aren’t sure why you like the person so much, but you just want to be with that person. You don’t need an explanation, and no matter how much you try to convince yourself that the person has flaws, you still like them. New York is like that.

#2. The energy. There is this mega vibe that the city gives out the moment you enter it. It’s drive. It’s happiness. It’s business. It’s moving forward and sweeps you off your feet with its current.

#3. The breeze. Sounds cliché, but the breeze on the streets that run from one side of the Island to another is symbolic of freedom to me. I remember standing on 6th Ave by the Time-Life Sculpture, the wind in my hair, and just feeling completely free of any restrictions or expectations.

#4. Its acceptance. New York is the most diverse place I’ve ever been to. There are no rules to the type of person you need to be. You can be whoever you want, and if you don’t like that person, change at any time, and it’s ok. Nobody will be disappointed, and plenty will accept the new “you.”

#5. Its motivation. New York is where the best of the best flock to. The competition motivates you to keep going and develop the work ethic and resilience you would have never otherwise known you had.

#6. Its history. The history of New York is really unlike any other city in America. And I like unique things.

#7. How much there is to do. I think the dream of never being bored can only be accomplished in New York. Same goes for having a good selection of, say, everything. I don’t believe there is such a thing in NYC as “we don’t carry this in our store, do you want me to call the one in _________ and ask them to ship it to you at an additional charge before you can try it on and no, you can’t return it after?”

#8. The food. This is nothing new, but if you haven’t tried the pizza and the bagels, you seriously wouldn’t understand.

#9. The real estate. There is something quality about buildings that were built 100 years ago. I am lucky to own a house that’s almost 100 years old, and its character and quality of craftsmanship could never be matched by the newer constructions. Well, New York is, for the most part, that old!

#10. The fashion. People look good in New York. In fact, when I started interviewing in Seattle, I was somewhat shocked at what people wore at professional organizations (I am afraid I may have fallen into that trap myself by now). It’s not even about designer looks, but more about looking put together and paying attention to details. Just like everything else, it’s a higher standard.

#11. The directness. People in New York don’t like to waste time, so they say it like it is, and don’t preface their interactions by useless pleasantries. This approach is widespread in the rest of the East Coast, but apparently not the case elsewhere. I am still adjusting to having to have a “nice” tone of voice and forming my sentences to include niceties. Apparently what I consider direct is considered abrasive here. (But of course, when I moved to the West Coast I was floored with how nice everyone was.) I think I would enjoy being direct again, because I hate wasting time.

#12. The subway. It reminds me of childhood when we used to visit my mom’s cousin in St. Petersburg and take the subway everywhere.

#13. Having to walk. I love to walk.

#14. The view. Another thing you wouldn’t understand if you’ve never taken the Staten Island ferry, crossed Brooklyn bridge, or had a layover at Newark airport.

#15. The unity. As diverse as New York is, when disaster strikes the city unites like no other. I had the privilege of visiting the top of the Twin Towers, and then returning to New York a few months after the tragedy of September 11th. I didn’t have to live there or have anyone say anything to understand. The unity was apparent in the silence by Trinity Church as people roamed the boardwalk approaching Ground Zero.


Places to live before you die

Today I finished booking the hotel for our vacation in Hawaii this upcoming May, and realized that I wouldn’t want to live there. I have been to Hawaii once, and now my husband and I will return to the same Island so that we can share our experience. A “catch up” of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hawaii, and one of my bucket list items is to visit every island. I’d go back there for a vacation in a heartbeat any day. But I wouldn’t want to live there. In fact, even though I’ve done some travel, and have plenty more cities I’d love to return to (like Paris), there are only a couple of places I would want to live. I have to say that after our honeymoon I was surprised to learn that I wouldn’t want to live in Paris. Or Milan. In fact, I have loved coming home to Seattle after every trip, and even if I never move again I wouldn’t mind a single bit! (Well, maybe a little bit). Nevertheless, the following three places are on my “places to live before you die” list:

1. New York, New York

I know. Shocking. Everyone wants to live there. Well, I guess I am not an exception to the rule. When my family lived on the east coast, I used to make it to New York for one reason or another every six months. or so Every time I went to visit, I longed to stay. The energy, excitement, and diversity of the city called out to me, and I felt a little more at home in comparison to the small town where we lived at that point. I got to go on the top of the Twin Towers before they collapsed, and the next year to stand at Ground Zero.  Being there gave me a peep-hole into the collective pain of NYC at that time, as well as its drive to recover and move on. I wanted to be a part of it all. I wanted to be included. I wanted to be there full-time. Not to make it big, or to live the high life. I just wanted to be a small drop in the huge life of the city. The closest I ever got to fulfilling my dream was when I was wait-listed for a college application to NYU. Talk about crushing dreams. But we moved to Seattle after a little bit, and I got a chance to really make it my own, so I’m not complaining. But I do still have the itch to live in New York.

2. Venice, Italy

I can’t really explain what exactly is attracting me to that city as a place to live. Perhaps it is its age, secrecy, and history. Perhaps it’s how laid back yet full of life the city is. In contrast to New York, Venice is definitely not as fast paced. But it is most certainly a city with a large character of its own. Just like I was surprised that I didn’t want to live in Paris, I was shocked to find out that I would, in fact, want to live in Venice for a bit, although it’s quite small! I probably wouldn’t want to stay there for and entire lifetime, but a sabbatical of sorts for six months to a year would be ideal in that city.

3. Somewhere closer to the mountains of WA state.

Yes, this is the polar opposite of New York City. Lately though I’ve found a certain appeal in the stability and utter calm that the forest and the mountains exude. I would love to have a comfortable cabin on large enough acreage to have goats and sheep. I would love to have no cell phone reception there so that I could completely unplug and concentrate on nature, family, and God. It would require a lot of work, but this is somewhere where I can see not only raising a large family, but also retiring.


That’s it for now. I only have three locations in the world where I would want to live. Perhaps that will change as I visit more and more destinations. Do you have a place where you have wanted to live but haven’t had the opportunity to move to? What do you think is holding you back?

Things we still want to do in Seattle and WA state

Although we live here, WA state has as many things to explore as days in a lifetime! Below are a few items that we have yet to accomplish, but haven’t gotten the time or the finances yet! I will keep adding to the list as I come up with more things I want to do, and write about experiences that we already accomplished.

1. Visit the Museum of Flight

2. Climb Mt. Rainier

3. Take a hot air balloon ride over Snohomish Valley

4. Subscribe to Smith Brothers milk delivery

5. Select 50 restaurants, visit one each week, and write about our experience

6. Visit the car museum in Tacoma

7. Visit a show together at the Paramount theater

8. Go to a classical concert together at the Benaroya Hall

9. Jump from a parachute

10. Go Kayaking in the Sound

11. Have a photoshoot at Deception Pass

12. Take the underground tour in Seattle

13. Visit the animal safari in Sequim

14. Visit the lavender farms in Sequim

15. Go snowboarding together

16. Take an overnight trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs resort

17. Plan an overnight staycation at Hotel Bellevue and eat at Polaris

18. Hike to lake Serene

19. Hike the Monte Cristo trail

20. Attend a Seahawks game

21. Attend a Sounders game

22. Go to Wild Waves

23. Go to a horse race at Emerald Dawns

24. Ride Seattle Great Wheel

25. Take a train ride to Leavenworth

26. Go to a show at 5th Avenue Theater

27. Attend a rally at the capitol in Olympia

28. Do Seattle art walk

29. Go to the Museum of History and Industry

30. Go to Klondike Gold Rush National Park

31. Go to Seafair

32. Visit San Juan Islands

33. Visit Bellevue Botanical Gardens

34. Go to Kids Quest Children’s Museum

35. Visit Bellevue Arts Museum

36. Visit Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett

37. Visit the Flying Heritage Collection at Paine Field

38. Visit the Schack Art Center

39. Visit the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens

40. Go to Historic Everett Theater

Things to do in WA state

This post was inspired by the author of Bucket List Publications blog. On her list of things to do in 2014 she mentioned visiting WA state. Since that’s where I live, and my husband and I also love traveling, I figured I will start the “travel” category of my blog with the obvious and closest — home. There are a million touristy things to do in WA in general and Seattle in particular. But there are also other, little known, off the beaten path places that are definitely worth visiting if you are in town. Below is a tour that I typically take my friends and family from out-of-town on when they come to visit!

Downtown Seattle:

If you are staying downtown, I would recommend the W, Hotel 1000, or the Four Seasons. All of those hotels are newer and have a cool vibe to them. If you are not staying downtown, I would recommend either taking a bus or a train downtown, because parking is expensive, and the best way to tour Seattle is actually by foot. If you do find yourself with a vehicle, the best place to park is at the garage on 3rd and Union, which has the best “early bird” special — but you have to check what the early bird hours currently are. I don’t believe there is a cheaper garage downtown, and you definitely do not want to be paying an hourly rate. Make sure you re-park before the designated time you need to be out. Street parking is free after 8p.m. There is also a bus system that runs in a tunnel under the city. Busses are free downtown during work days, so you can hop on any bus if you need to and will not have to pay anything as long as you stay within the ride-free zone.

Start in Pioneer Square.

1. Visit the viewing point at Smith Tower. It’s the oldest skyscraper (and was the tallest on the west coast for a while) in Seattle and is half-empty. The view is actually not that great from the top, but the feel of riding in an elevator operated by an actually human operator is pretty cool. Add to that original tile, mosaic, wood carvings and the mood is almost haunted. An antique store on the bottom of the Smith Tower is also where the infamous underground tour begins that I hear is pretty good but I’ve never been on it (on my bucket list!). The tour starts on the hour every hour beginning at 10:00a.m.

2. Go up to 5th and Columbia to visit the top of the Columbia Tower. This is the highest viewpoint in town, but it is only open during business hours: 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. On a clear day, you can see Tacoma, and Vancouver, B.C.! Admission is much cheaper than the Space Needle, since people don’t generally know that it exists. There is also a Starbucks on the 40th floor, which is just a cool place to hang out. Have a snack there.

3. Go down to 4th and Spring to visit The Public Library. It’s an architectural feat, it’s free, and it’s cool. Make sure to go to the very top viewing point by using the escalators (which have cool artsy… things… inside) and then take the elevator down to the red room on the 4th floor (it will seriously mess with your brain).

4. If it’s summer, stop by the Gelato place on the corner of 3rd and Union. Then head down to Seattle Art Museum one block down at 2nd and Union. Admission is free every 3rd Thursday of the month.

5. Go down Union until you can’t go any further. Take the stairs down to the waterfront and get on the Ferris Wheel.

6. Go back up and head to the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market. This is a “duh” place, but it’s actually pretty difficult to find. It’s also quite crowded. My favorite place to eat at Pike Place is Pike Place Grill. It has the best chicken wings downtown (the best chicken wings in Seattle are at Wingdome in Greenwood, but that’s too far for you to walk to at this point). I like it because you can watch the hustle and bustle of the market in a relatively down-to-earth atmosphere.

7. If you are a shopping type of person, head up Pike/Pine until you hit the stores. Don’t get scared by the block between 2nd and 3rd street — the shopping is on 4th-8th streets. The Pacific Center is actually a huge shopping mall that connects to Nordstrom and has stores like Tiffany’s, Coach and J. Crew. The more upscale shops are a few blocks up on 5th and University (Prada, Luix Vuitton).

8. After you are done shopping, take the monorail from downtown to the Space Needle and snap a picture by it. The monorail entrance is inside the Westfield Center. If you are a tourist, you will probably want to go on the top of the Space Needle. Although it’s probably wise to do so in order to be able to tell your friends that you have, the view from the Space Needle is not that great, because you can’t see the Space Needle from the Space Needle, and Seattle skyline is actually nothing special without the Space Needle. In addition, admission to the top is a robbery in broad daylight. The Space Needle also has a revolving restaurant. The food there is actually horrible, but costs a lot. If you want to experience a good revolving restaurant, I would recommend flying to Phoenix, Arizona, and visiting Compass on the top of the Hyatt downtown.

9. Since the Monorail is a round-trip ticket, do actually head back downtown to eat a fancy dinner. Remember to re-park your car before you head to a restaurant. You may actually want to drive there at this point. The best restaurants include El Gaucho, and Six – Seven Lounge at the Edgewater hotel on the waterfront. For a less pricey experience, choose Wasabi in Belltown. It’s Sushi like you’ve never tasted in your life!

Other areas of Seattle to visit if you find yourself with plenty of time on your hands and a car:

1. Fremont. It has a statue of Lenin and a troll under Aurora bridge on 6th Ave. The best place to eat is Paseo — an unmarked cuban sandwich place right on Fremont Ave. by 45th St. You will not see a sign, but you will see a line. It’s worth the wait.

2. Ballard. Ballard locks is a stinky place but pretty cool. It’s where the ships wait for the water to fill up to transition from the harbor into Lake Union. There are lots of places to eat in Ballard and it’s pretty compact so feel free to choose what suits your mood.

3. Queen Anne. Queen Anne has two hidden gems: a tiny viewpoint called Kerry Park, which has a cool statue and a breathtaking view of Seattle up close. If you head further down W Highland Drive, you will find a beautiful garden on your right. Not too many people know about it. Best time to visit would be spring or summer.

4. Discovery Park. Located on an old Ft. grounds, Discovery Park is as mysterious as it is beautiful. What you are trying to get to there is Westpoint Lighthouse. I believe there is a hike towards it, but you can also find it by driving all the way down (I don’t believe it’s legal to park down there though, so the hike is your best bet).


The Olympic Peninsula is an awesome place to explore. You could do an easy weekend trip around it. This is how I would do the trip — it can also be reversed:

From Seattle, head South towards Tacoma/Olympia. Take exit towards Rt. 101 to Ocean Shores. Then hop on Rt. 8 which will turn into Rt. 12. It’s a LONG drive to Ocean Shores. Ocean Shores is a tiny town with a beach. What people do there is fly kites.

From Ocean Shores, head north on Rt. 109. It will give you beautiful views, as well as a passing through a very charming town that is built old-style but was actually established in 1994. It’s pretty cool. Stop by one of their coffee shops for a break. Keep heading that way until you get to Moclips. Then turn right on Hwy 26/Moclips HWY towards 101. Do not attempt to proceed north on 109 because it turns into a dirt road, and although it does show up on google maps, it is pretty much impassable and you will not be able to cross the river unless it hasn’t rained in WA for the past 3 months (Haha! I’m so funny! No rain in Washington!). Merge with rt. 101 and keep driving. If it’s time to camp out, there are several camp grounds by lake Quinault, but you better get there early (like 7-8p.m.) to get a spot. Or you can keep driving until you get to the part of 101 that’s close to the beach. There’s a great camping site there as well.

Keep driving until you get to the sign towards Hoh rainforest. The rainforest is only worth visiting if it has been raining. (This comes from my experience there on a bright sunny day after a week of no rain. It looked unimpressive at the least…). After you are done with whatever length of hike you wanted to do at the rainforest, head to Forks. Congratulations! You’ve reached the Twilight zone, and there’s actually absolutely nothing there except one very tiny convenience store. Of course feel free to stop by anything that catches your eye on the way there.

After a bathroom break at the Forks convenience store, keep heading north until you reach rt. 113 towards Neah Bay. Head there. What you are trying to find is a 1 mile hike towards a viewpoint that looks out on a beautiful cave and a lighthouse on an Island across the bay. If you are lucky, you might see an Orca, or Indian canoers training for whale hunting. That hike is at the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula, and it’s going to take you a couple of hours to get there from rt. 101, but it’s definitely worth the trip. I’d say it’s one of my favorite places in WA state.

Head back toward rt. 101 the same way you got there — via rt. 113. DO NOT take Rt. 112 to Port Angeles. It looks like a beautiful scenic road by the coast. In reality, it is a ways away from the coast, which is hidden by the forest around, has absolutely no scenery around, is in horrible condition, and has so many sharp turns that by the time you get to Port Angeles you will be light-headed.

If you have an extra day, stop by Sol Duc hot springs off of Rt. 101. It’s a resort with natural healing hot springs, and offers camping and RV grounds as well as cabins. It also has a hike to a waterfall and the best massage! Or you can head to Port Angeles. If the night catches you there, and you are not a cheap Inn type of person (or have money to spare), head to Olympic Lodge a few minutes away from the town center. It’s the best place to stay in Port Angeles, but do not upgrade to their master suite. Although the fancy tub will be tempting, what you do not know is that the heater in that room is as loud as a tiger (it literally woke us up at night) and the bed is as soft as cardboard. They have a wonderful pool and spa to relax in, which is available no matter what room you stay in. The best place to eat in Port Angeles is Port Angeles Crab House located by the Red Lion hotel downtown. They have the most delicious crab I’ve ever tasted, and it’s well worth the $27.00 price tag.

If you have another extra day, you can take the 90 minute ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C. If you hop on the morning one (there are two), the town will have just enough things to do by the time the second ferry leaves back. Or you can make a dash for the ferry to Seattle.

Head towards Kingston. On your way there you will pass the town of Sequim. Sequim has a cool animal safari and lavender fields, which will be open or closed depending on what time of day you made it there. Unless you are attempting to catch the very last ferry, do not worry about being late, because you technically want to be. The reason for that is because there is a wonderful creperie at the entrance to the Ferry terminal. Once you leave your car in line, head up there and order a fancy crepe and a Nutella Latte. They are to die for! The place was rated best creperie in WA fo 2013.

Take the ferry across the sound to Edmonds. From Edmonds, follow the signs to I-5 towards Seattle.

Rt. 20 to Rt. 2 Loop

This is another cool weekend loop, but take note that Rt. 20 is generally only open during the summer months because of snow and landslides at the passes.  You can start on Rt. 2, head north on Rt.97 and then back on Rt. 20, or the other way around. Rt. 20 is a bit more scenic in my opinion. There are many stops to make, including Lake Diablo, the water of which is turquoise, Washington pass rest area, which will have blue birds and squirrels eating out of your hand if you let them, the apple orchards, and the historic towns of Winthrop on Rt. 20 and Leavenworth on Rt. 2. If you are an adventurous kind, you can look up Mountain Loop Road — a dirt road that connects the town of Granite Falls and Rt. 20, and go that way instead of I-5. It is as beautiful as it is haunting. It’s also where the hike to the abandoned Gold Rush town of Monte Cristo begins. That is a day hike and I believe is currently closed for road repair. I’ve never taken it, but have seen videos and they are pretty cool. That road is also where the ice caves form — frozen waterfalls that thaw from the bottom up, forming giant caves made out of ice!

Crystal Mountain

Since I am writing for a specific person who also wanted to try snowboarding, I would suggest this site. It has many different slopes of various levels of difficulty, as well as options for snowboarding lessons. Stevens pass on Rt. 2 also offers a snowboarding site if someone wants to tag this on to the loop above.

Mt. Rainier

Of course this place is a trip of its own. Climbing Mt. Rainier can be a pretty exciting adventure that I can’t have any input on because I’ve never done it.

Museum of Flight

Another cool place that I’ve never been to. It’s actually on my list of things yet to do in WA state.

I sincerely hope my trip suggestion helps someone have a good time here, and will be happy to answer any questions or provide more suggestions in the comment section. If you live in WA, is there anywhere else you’d recommend going for someone out-of-state?

Stay tuned next Saturday for my list of things we still want to do in WA!