By Guest Blogger JamillahNeeairah Nasir “Mama J”
When I was a young girl, I spent countless Saturdays pouring over back issues of National Geographic and imagining myself dancing through the streets of the Congo, backpacking along the Chinese wall, or as part of the discovery team on the dig of a lifetime in Cairo. But before I could even pack my knapsack, I met a guy, fell in love and became a parent for the first time–trading in my National Geographic dreams for the much-needed tips and pointers found in Parents magazine. And while becoming a mother was a rewarding experience, I knew I had to put those dreams on hold and pour all my efforts into being present and available for my family.
Before I knew it, my children were planning and executing the blueprint we created for their lives–and their plans definitely did not include staying home with me. So, after a few months of floundering and many nights of crying, I decided it was time for me to get on with the next phase of my own life. l had no idea how to be “just a woman,” but I was determined not to cry in my beer for more than a year. I tried (and quit) quite a few hobbies, drank lots of wine, read lots of steamy romance novels (and starred in a few stories of my own). Now, I get to hang out with my girls for as long I want and as often as they would have me, without needing to check-in or rush home. And, thankfully, I’ve also had the opportunity to pursue some of the dreams I put off, including the desire to travel.
Recently, I got an opportunity to visit Seattle, Washington and it was just the kind of adventure I dreamed of having. We were there for a week, which absolutely is not long enough to see everything this wonderful town has to offer. Two of my children have lived in Seattle and they both told me how much they loved it, so I was extremely excited to go, but I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced!
The first thing I noticed as I exited the airport was how mountainous the terrain is! I was blown away by how I could be walking on a flat surface on one block, round the corner, and find myself headed down (or up) a very steep hill. The athlete in me loved the experience and I was glad I only traveled with comfortable clothing and shoes. The air had an electric crispness to it, and although the temperatures were in the 40s and 50s, it didn’t feel miserable; but I took a page out of the tourism book and dressed in many layers that could be removed as needed because I found that going up and down the hills of the Downtown district truly caused one to break out in a sweat.
Our hotel was within striking distance of galleries, museums, the waterfront, and so many perfect venues and tourist attractions that there was no shortage of things to do. I even got to see Philip Bailey in concert on my birthday! Every day, I set out with no particular destination in mind and stumbled upon the most exquisite experiences! I began and ended every day with a smile on my face.
I spoke with so many strangers who eagerly gave great advice about where to eat for breakfast, how to take the bus to Chinatown, where to shop for good deals on anything you’d want or need, and where to find the best clam chowder you would ever want to eat! Coming from Maryland, I did not expect to find seafood as delectable as I was accustomed to having. But I was so delighted by the sights and smells of Pike Place Market, that I ate there at least three times and had some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever tasted. If you get to the market early enough, you will see the purveyors loading mountains of monstrous-looking fish and other sea creatures onto beds of ice, and if you return in the evening, you will see those same stalls have been cleared by customers who were eager to take them home to their dinner tables.
Everything I ate in Seattle was fantastic! Anytime someone suggested a restaurant, I went. In fact, I’m sporting a new, seven-pound belt as a result of setting aside most (but not all) of my regular parameters around food so that I could have an authentic Seattle experience.
And what Seattle experience would be complete without coffee? While Seattle is the home of Starbucks, I was pleased to see so many wonderful, independently run coffeehouses Downtown. Two shops stand out in my memory, although I had coffee from a different place every morning. I had a wonderful breakfast sandwich and cup of very rich, dark roast coffee at a place called Specialty’s Café and Bakery. They make all the pastries on-site, so when you walk in, the aroma of coffee and croissants make promises that absolutely deliver. The Pegasus Coffee Bar was another spot; it has the distinction of being Seattle’s first coffee bar. It’s a small place, and the staff and customers were pleasant and knowledgeable. Try the espresso, it packs a real jolt!
Seattle is a very family-friendly city with so many interesting galleries; everywhere you look, there are intricately lovely sculptures and murals adorn many walls throughout the town. I took the bus and the train while there, so I saw so many wonderful places where the eye could land on something beautiful. I would suggest taking a walking tour through Downtown instead of public transportation or renting a car to get the fullness of the experience.
I was sad to leave Seattle, but I’ve vowed to return in the early Summer, when, I’m told, it’s the most lovely of all. But, as a newly untethered woman, anytime I get an opportunity to travel, I’m going.
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