We spent the first part of our first day walking around downtown Seattle. As we walked from our apartment to the centre of town, I didn't feel massively excited by what I saw. It was a strange place - a beautiful waterfront blotted out by a double decker freeway. Some really fab looking restaurants followed by run down buildings with strange looking people lurking around outside. I'd read on the in flight magazine on the way over that Seattle was a city of misfits and our first impressions certainly bore this description out.
The Seattle uniform is a cross between grunge, punk and hobo in the young people. For the middle and older generations the look comprised flat shoes (moccasins or trainers) with straight-legged jeans or straighter legged trousers, with tucked in shirt and a parka. Usually made of fleece, with a waterproof outer. Seattle-ites don't carry umbrellas, despite the near constant rain. It's not cool apparently. If I had to sum up the general Seattle population with a very broad brush stroke, I'd say it's Geeky. But then again, it's the home of Microsoft, so go figure.
We found a coffee shop and instantly discovered three marvellous things. 1. Coffee that tasted amazing. I mean seriously amazing. I am not one of those people who likes coffee that's strip-the-plaque-off-your-teeth strong. I am happy with a cup of instant. Honest. But this coffee was just right.
2. As I sat down on the squishy sofa enjoying this wonderful beverage and starting to feel less like a jet-lagged zombie, I fired up my ipad. And yip, instant connection to the free wifi. No 'please pay £5 to enjoy this wifi'. Just turn on and start surfing. 3. Finally, having drunk our coffee and surfed maps of Seattle online, we headed out. But we obeyed the sign that said: 'Please bus your own table.' Now that's not a saying you hear much in the UK. We discovered that there were multiple bins so that everything could be recycled. Well there you go, Seattle is a green city - apparently the second greenest in the USA. That went into the pros column.
We ambled further downtown and started remembering what it was like to live in a city, where you can stroll under high rise buildings, nip into cavernous bookstores and grab a cab whenever you like. And all the shop staff were like the TV presenters, perky and friendly, only less irritating.
Our spirits were definitely on the up. This place was pretty cool.
We got into our hire car and fired up the Hertz NeverLost, the delightful satnav system which we quickly renamed Hertz Never F*ingOn or alternately, Hertz Never Shuts Up. It was temperamental.
We headed over to a posh suburb - Madison Park - we'd been advised to take a look at. The houses were old (as in turn of the century as opposed to the 300 year old cottage we currently live in) and much smaller than the ones I'd seen on the internet, but they had character. And best of all, they all had basketball hoops facing outwards onto the street. I could just picture neighbourhood kids shooting hoops on a quiet cul de sac. It was lovely.
Making our way from there, we stumbled - literally - into one of the top private schools we'd been advised to see. We hadn't managed to get an appointment, but popped in all the same. We were met with more perky friendliness and handed a stack of information including the fees schedule. Weep.
So we left and found the 'village centre' of Madison Park. It was nice. But didn't exactly rock our world. There wasn't much there and it felt slightly lacking in some way that we couldn't quite put our finger on. Nevertheless, we pulled into a Starbucks for another coffee and more free wifi, before deciding to head out across the 520 bridge spanning Lake Washington and into Bellevue, our potential new home.
We were finally going to see the places I'd been studying on Redfin for months, for real. Google streetview and reality were about to collide. This was the big reveal....