When I was younger, it seemed very easy to sling on a rucksack, hop on a train or plane and arrive somewhere new to explore… In fact, it was encouraged; Gap years, 6th Form Summer holidays, post-uni mini breaks before Real Life kicked in – friends flew off to rescue turtles in Costa Rica, pootled around Eastern Europe in clapped out vans, or went to learn diving in Thailand… After my A levels I went inter-railing through Italy and Greece… with no mobile phone, no internet and 4 pair of pants.
But as we get older, these pauses in working life, allowing us to whizz off to pastures new, just to explore for fun on our own, are far more rare. Especially if you find yourself in a relationship, perhaps with children, and other responsibilities at home and work.
Booking.com has found that travelling to places for the first time and relishing new experiences boosts your confidence, makes you more successful in your life and career and encourages you to make life-changing decisions… so with that in mind, a couple of weeks ago I hopped on a plane to Seattle. For 5 nights. On My Own.
As I boarded my plane for the 10 hour flight, I realised I had butterflies… I was excited! And a bit nervous… but mostly excited. And for those of you who love some geeky numbers, Booking.com’s research showed that a first-time travel experience is more exciting than a first date (53%), a first job (51%), making a new friend (62%) and even a first kiss for more than one in three people (36%).
They’d also done some research into which cities around the world were most similar to London, and Seattle passed this test with flying colours… so I was off to investigate, explore and really feel what it’s like to be on my own again. In a strange city. Except, with a mobile phone and internet – handy ;)
As soon as I stepped out of the airport in Seattle, despite my crazy jet lag, I felt relaxed. It somehow felt familiar… there was a dryness to the humour of the taxi driver I hadn’t experienced out of London before, there was a breeze in the air and there was something about the way people interacted with each other that just felt like home. These people felt like my people. In a weird tribal way. It was lovely.
I was staying at the very beautiful Kimpton Palladian Hotel – a boutique oasis of loveliness in an incredible location on 2nd Avenue. In every corner there was something unusual and interesting to look at, the attention to detail was incredible and I was looked after so very well. I don’t believe housekeeping in most hotels will drop off some rose bath salts one evening, on the off chance you might fancy a soak. What a treat. (Especially as my jet lag showed no signs of waning – I was wide awake at 3am every day!)
I was welcomed by the hotel as if I were an old friend and on my final day, it felt a little like I was leaving a little family behind. The waitress in the restaurant, the doormen, the cleaners, the receptionists – by the end of my stay they all knew my name, and I knew theirs.
Seattle is on the water, with bank side markets, shops and a wonderful buzzy vibe… What I hadn’t anticipated were the stunning snowcapped mountains in the distance, which gave a sense of adventure and real exploration. I hadn’t realised how close I was to Canada! It’s a 2 hour drive, or 20 min sea plane over to Vancouver…
Seattle has many different neighbourhoods, each having its counterpart in London. Pike Place Market had a very Camden vibe, Ballard was quite Dulwich with a bit of Columbia Road thrown in, Down Town with its shopping was not dissimilar to a quieter and smaller version of Oxford Circus… and Queen Anne reminded me of Shoreditch in its early days, when it still had its quirk and shuffle…
Each day began with breakfast in the hotel restaurant – Shaker and Spear. I’d sip my coffee, catch up on the news and my emails before heading out into the city with my phone, my camera and my little legs for walking. Just like I do in London…
I explored the city mostly on foot, but you can hop on and off buses, trams and trains – traffic whizzes this way and that, but there are oodles of pedestrian crossings. And standing kerbside, waiting for the little man to go green (or white, in Seattle) I felt like I was trying to get over top Top Shop on Oxford Street, every time.
It’s a very techy geeky city too, with 70% of the population working in the tech industry – Amazon has its headquarters in Seattle and the cafes are full of folk with laptops, drinking coffee and creating their own little bubble offices… something I relate to enormously.
I explored as many of the neighbourhoods as I could in the short time I was there, and for one day was lucky enough to meet up with the lovely Alina, who whizzed me around in her car through the city, to Fremont, Ballard and the beach… the beach! There are so many beaches in Seattle! That is definitely not very London… (It should be. I’d love that).
There was so much to see and really so little time to see it all… I will be posting again tomorrow with all the amazingly wonderful foodie haunts I discovered on my trip, so you can bookmark it easily for when you find yourself heading to Seattle.
My jet lag was hilarious – I was up every night and awake before the early bird – I truly was Sleepless in Seattle. But it didn’t hinder my trip one bit. I loved every second and the opportunity to have gone and explored this new exciting city on my ownsome, is not lost on me.
Booking.com’s research found that opening the door to new destinations can be daunting, but the rewards are huge, including the increase of self confidence, which I most definitely felt. I can’t wait to jump on another plane!
What a wonderful thing.
I can’t wait to show you more tomorrow….
This post is sponsored by Booking.com and all thoughts & opinions are my own.