North America, Travellers, United States of America

#Explorers Experience – Seattle & Olympia, Washington State, USA

The start of October this year me and a friend of mine spent on the (for us Europeans) other side of the ocean, in the Evergreen State: Washington State, USA. The excuse for this trip? The wedding of Nicolas’ host brother in Seattle. It also gave Nicolas with the possibility to show me around the state where he spent 1 year of his life as a high school exchange student. The wedding took place October 7, so we were provided with the opportunity to visit the Evergreen State at the start of Autumn. Just try to imagine the beautiful green forests that Washington State is known for, slowly turning yellow, light green, and even red. All this against the background of the mountain top of noble Mt Rainier. Spectacular, I can assure you.


Day 1 and 2 – Olympia & EF Seattle


Evergreen State Collega Olympia Seattle

We started our trip on Tuesday 3rd October in the capital city of WA, Olympia. EF Education First has their EF Seattle school located on the campus of the Evergreen State College, Olympia. Being in contact with EF Seattle prior to our arrival, we managed to get a bed on their campus, right in between the beautiful evergreen forest and college student housing. For two days, we imagined ourselves to be American college students, using all facilities the university has to offer. This includes breakfast buffet, sport facilities, free lunch, and a visit to the Washington State Capitol in Olympia.

Not of any less importance, we managed to capture all of this on the Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts of EF Nederland, the social media pages EF uses in the Netherlands. And of course, our own Hashtag Explorers Instagram account. On our last day on the EF Seattle campus we gave a lecture about being an EF Ambassador to all of the EF students, including pictures and short movies we made ourselves, about our experiences abroad with EF. Check out my page if you want to order a free brochure!

#Explorers Tip: When visiting Seattle, don’t be afraid to go outside of the city. Olympia makes a great day trip. Even though the city itself is small, the State Capitol is worth it and additionally, there are stunning forests and beaches around the area.

EF Seattle Olympia Seattle America USA

Day 3 – Downtown Seattle


After two great days in Olympia, we took our rental car straight to Downtown Seattle. We booked an Airbnb right in the middle of the centre, in the International District with a view on the Seahawks stadium. This allowed us to walk to Seattle’s highlights such. Have you been to Pike Place Market, the Seattle Gum Wall, the first Starbucks, and Pioneer Square? We could walk there in a mere 30 minutes. Or else, you can take the bus for only $2.50 a day. Our first afternoon we spent wandering around Seattle’s aforementioned highlights, finishing the day at Veggie Grill, a vegetarian restaurant right in the middle of the city centre. They have really amazing veggie food here. I had the seasonal Chickin’ Milanese salad, which I can really recommend.

Seattle Pike Place Public Market Washington State USA America Sunset
Pike Place Market

Day 4 – Maple Valley, real American High School experience


On Friday, we took our rental car to Maple Valley, the town where Nicolas spent 1 year of his life as a high school exchange student. We passed by his old house, which was recently sold by his former host family. We also went to his former school, Tahoma High School.


For me, it was my first time inside a real American High School. I was most impressed by the multiple football, baseball and track fields. We saw and heard the school band practice, I spotted a few cheerleaders, and Nicolas managed to talk to some of his former teachers. After a visit to Nicolas’ favourite Starbucks and the local supermarket to do some necessary shopping (if Reese’s count as a necessity at least…), we returned to downtown Seattle to bring back our rental car.

Campus Evergreen State College Olympia EF Seattle USA America


That night – Rehearsal dinner


As soon as the car was returned safe and sound, Greg, Nicolas’ host brother picked us up. Yes, he is the one we came all the way to America for! In the car we met Sebastian, also a former high school exchange student that was hosted by Greg’s parents. Greg drove us all to Tukwila, where the wedding rehearsal dinner took place. For Nicolas, this was the first time to see his former host family again in 5 years, and for me the first time ever. Fortunately, Nicolas was lucky enough to be placed in the most welcoming, heart-warming family in the whole of Washington State, so we rapidly felt at ease in Mizu Japanese Steakhouse.

We immediately started to order several dishes, as we are familiar with the all-you-can-eat concept from the Netherlands. As a result, we ordered around 7 different dishes. B-I-G MISTAKE! For you Americans that already start to think “Why would you order 7 dishes?” Well, let me explain to you, that in the Netherlands, when you eat in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, all meals are the size of an appetizer. So, you definitely have to order more than one dish. Dear Europeans, it doesn’t work like that in the USA! One dish here is enough to fill you up for days. I wish I could say this was either the first or the last time we made this mistake, but unfortunately neither is true (oops).

#Explorers Tip: Once you order too much food in a restaurant, say “yes!” to the doggy bag that they will surely offer you. We always gave our food away to one of the many homeless people that were outside.


Day 5 – Wedding!


On Saturday October 7, the main purpose of our trip was happening: The wedding of Greg and Kimberly. Even though Kim was in pain and was wearing a neck brace, because of a horrible car accident she was in just weeks before the wedding, we were the witnesses of a beautiful wedding. For me, it was my first wedding ever! All I knew about weddings came from Hollywood movies, so I guess not the most reliable source. We ate, drank, and danced the night away together with the newlyweds, their friends, and family.


Seattle Center Art Chihuly Glass and Garden Museum of Pop CultureDay 6 – Ride the Ducks of Seattle, Seattle Center, and Space Needle


Have you ever been inside an amphibious vehicle? No? Well, me neither. Until Seattle. Nicolas insisted on doing one of the famous Ride the Ducks tours, where you are seated in a vehicle with wheels that can drive and float. So basically, you both drive around Seattle, and go into Lake Union, all without having to leave the vehicle. On top of that, Ride the Ducks stands out because their tour guides are a lot of fun. Our tour guide was Helen of Joy who could even rap the history of Seattle. Also, she knew everything about the city.

After this 90-minute tour through Seattle, we walked around Seattle Center, where we took pictures of the Museum of Pop Culture, Space Needle, and Chihuly Glass & Garden.

We then took the bus to Fremont, to spot the infamous Fremont Troll. Don’t forget to change the time on your watch/phone, as the neighbourhood of Fremont has its own timezone! They live 5 minutes ahead of everyone else in Seattle.



Day 7 – Mt Rainier National Park


What do you do when you only have one day left in Seattle? Exactly. At 10am, you decide you can still rent a car and make the 2,5-hour drive to Mt Rainier National Park. And, to be back in time to have dinner with Nicolas’ host family in Auburn. Somehow, we managed to get to Mt Rainier National Park. Final destination: Reflection lakes, which must be the most beautiful part of Washington State. Imagine a lake with water as clear as a mirror, in the background the noble snowy top of Mt Rainier, air cold enough to see your own breath, and only a handful of tourists that made the effort to drive all the way there. Truly magical.

Even though we visited Washington State for only one week, I think we have seen quite a bit. From beautiful forests, to the city centre of Seattle, and from an American wedding to a national park.

Seattle Mt Rainier National Park Mountain USA America Washington State

Have you been to Seattle or Washington State? Tell me about your experience!


Pictures by Nicolas Cediey

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations, kickboxing, singing or horse back riding. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a civil servant, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.

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