Sleepless in Seattle

October 2010

My husband and I purchased a “weekend getaway” package (roundtrip first class flights anywhere in the Continental U.S., and one night’s accommodations at a Starwood hotel) in a charity auction, and decided to use it for a spur-of-the-moment Columbus Day weekend trip to Seattle.  It was a VERY quick trip (we only spent about 36 hours there) but we packed a lot in and it was a great introduction to a city that I know we’ll want to re-visit in the future.

We left Providence early on Saturday morning for the short hop to Newark Airport. From there, we flew first class on Continental Airlines nonstop to Seattle. This was my first time in first class, and I loved it! But what’s not to love? Sitting in a comfy seat, drinking a mimosa, eating a hot breakfast on real china, watching movies on the seatback entertainment system, and then being treated to warm chocolate chip cookies (and milk) for a mid-flight snack. It was a far cry from my usual experience on Southwest!

We arrived in Seattle at about noon (local time) and walked over to the Link light rail terminal that’s attached to the parking garage.  It was an easy walk, the signage was very clear, and you can’t beat the price. We paid $5 total (for the two of us) for the ride into the city – versus the $30 or $40 we would have paid for a cab – and the University Street station where we got off was just two blocks from our hotel.  Could not have been easier, though if we had a lot of luggage it might have been a different story (there’s no place to store your suitcase, so you have to pile it into the seat next to you)

We walked up the hill (so many hills in Seattle!!) to the W Hotel and checked in for our one night stay. I knew from reading reviews that the hotel is very modern and “hip”, and that some guests have complained about the dark décor, but I was unprepared for just HOW dark the hallways are.  If I were travelling alone, I think I would have felt unsafe. Thankfully, I had my husband with me, and everything else about the hotel was great. Staff could not have been more helpful, the room was spacious, the bed was comfy, and the location was great! The hotel is (like everything else in Seattle) across the street from a nice big Starbucks. It’s just up the hill from the waterfront, in the middle of shops/restaurants, about 3-4 blocks from the Westlake Center monorail stop (which takes you to the Space Needle), and a very short walk from Pike Place Market – we were able to walk absolutely everywhere.

After a quick lunch at a local brewpub we spent a few hours exploring the city by foot, wandering up and down hills in the misty rain, marveling at the locals (none of whom were even bothering with an umbrella), and getting the “lay of the land”. We went back to the hotel to clean up and meet a family friend (who lives in Seattle) for dinner. He picked us up at the hotel and took us for a ride to see some of the sights outside of downtown – we went to Alki Beach to look back at the Seattle skyline, took a drive through the University of Washington campus, and finished up with dinner at a great little neighborhood restaurant serving Persian food. A delicious end to a fun-filled day.

Sunday, our one full day in Seattle, was a whirlwind. We checked out of the hotel, stored our bags, and walked a couple of blocks to a little hole-in-the-wall breakfast place we had spotted the day before. Sweet Iron Waffles is TINY (just three tables) but it serves a mouth-watering array of sweet and savory Belgian waffles, along with delicious Stumptown Coffee.  After fortifying ourselves with a decadent Banana Brulee waffle (me) and a Choco Razzle Waffle that should really have been dessert (for Everett), we headed for Pike Place Market.

Not surprisingly, the market turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We got there early enough that crowds were light and many of the vendors were still setting up, so Everett was able to take some great photos.  After exploring on our own for a while, we went to Starbucks to meet up with our two-hour guided walking (and tasting) tour of Pike Place Market. The guide from Savor Seattle Tours was great, and he really educated us on the history and context of this Seattle landmark. He took us behind the scenes at some of the shops and stalls, introducing us to the vendors, describing the provenance of the food we’d be tasting and – of course – bringing us samples of dozens of tasty treats. We tried everything from donuts and chocolates to smoked salmon, chowder, cheese, crab cakes, and more. I would recommend this tour to anyone who visits Seattle!

After that much food, we needed a good long walk, so we set out across the city towards the Space Needle.  The persistent drizzle/clouds had let up, so we were able to enjoy a nice view from the top of the Needle (along with an entire bridal party shooting portraits on the viewing deck!)  Afterwards, Everett took a quick tour of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, while I rested my feet on a nice bench outside. We did some souvenir shopping and then rode the monorail from the Seattle Center back to Westlake Center and did some window shopping along Pine Street and Pike Street before grabbing a fireside seat and a latte at one of the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Rested and rejuvenated, we did a little more walking and photo-taking and then stopped at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery for an early dinner, a beer (or two) and the football game on TV.  Since our flight was not until 10 pm, we took our time retrieving our bags from the hotel and taking the light rail back to the airport. Our red-eye took off right on time, and we tucked ourselves into the comfy seats to try and get some sleep.  We were back at Newark airport at about 8:00 Monday morning, and home in Providence by 9:30 a.m.

A few overall thoughts/impressions:

  • This was a long way to go for such a short trip, but we both felt that it was worth it since we got to see and do so much
  • The red-eye return flight definitely helped maximize our time, but when you sleep the whole way it’s really not worth being in First Class (no time to take advantage of food, beverages, entertainment)
  • The W Hotel was well-located, and the staff was great, but I think I’d try a different property next time (the atmosphere and décor really didn’t appeal to me)
  • For anyone traveling with just a carry-on or a small wheeled suitcase, the Link light rail is a great way to get from Sea-Tac into downtown. Those carrying more luggage than that will probably want to stick with a shuttle or a cab.
  • If you’re taking a cruise out of Seattle, I would definitely recommend arriving at least one day (and preferably two days ) before you depart; the city is well worth exploring.  Now that I’ve seen the downtown, I would actually like to go back and get outside of the city to see Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, Victoria Island, etc.

For those who are interested, the complete album of photos is here.

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)