Seattle: the Emerald City. Gateway to Alaska. The coffee capital of the world. Seatown. Queen City. And the list goes on. A lot of names, and a LOT of rain. But I’d bear a whole vacation of thunderstorms just to stay at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel again. From the moment my feet swung out of the taxicab onto the driveway to my last lingering look at the wood-paneled lobby walls, it was an unrivaled experience that made the term “sleepless in Seattle” (written on many a tourist t-shirt) a flawed notion indeed.
Built in 1924, the Italian Renaissance-styled Olympic Hotel sits on the original site of the University of Washington, and has over the years narrowed their guestroom number by almost half, all the better to accommodate today’s space-happy travelers with larger, comfortable suites. Listed with Historic Hotels of America, famous guests have included President John F. Kennedy – actually, every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover – John Wayne, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
But don’t let the high-end hotel brand name, or their AAA 4-Diamond status, deter you – the Fairmont’s social media-savvy team has made it surprisingly affordable for the 9 to 5-ers of the world like me to enjoy their luxurious confines. By booking through Twitter we saved 25% off the regular rate, which after some research proved to be the best deal in downtown by a good $30 per night. I also received a prompt response from the executive offices when I posted a message through their Facebook page. But I didn’t expect to walk into a plush deluxe room (most appreciated after 2 days in a cramped train cabin), nor to find a thoughtful note and welcome snack placed squarely on the desk. I kid you not when I say I blinked so hard I actually lost a contact lens…though perhaps that was my fatigue.
Our double room featured ample moving-around space with a huge closet, dresser, flat-panel television, desk, 3 chairs (including 2 softly-upholstered sitting chairs, one with an ottoman), minibar, nightstand and large bathroom with tons of counter space and even a separate light over the bathtub/shower. Odds and ends included an alarm clock, a radio alarm clock, 2 luggage stands (hallelujah!), 2 phones (1 cordless, one next to the toilet), lots of lighting, a Keurig coffeemaker and a scale that made me 4 pounds lighter than I thought I was (nice touch). Plentiful bathroom amenities and lots of hotel literature rounded out the bevy of room features, and if you’ve read any of my reviews before you know how much importance I place on information about the hotel – you’d be surprised how scarce it seems in many places. I need to know restaurant and bar hours, spa service prices and where the ice machines are located. I also just happen to love a good brochure.
The furniture was immensely comfortable, the beds even more so. Even the alarm clock, which I normally hate with the fire of a thousand suns, pinged a pleasant rhythm instead of startling you awake. The usual downtown noises drifted up only lightly from 6 floors below at street level, and I didn’t hear so much as a door slam from another guestroom in 4 days. Good water pressure? Check. Clean as a whistle? Check. Lots of towels? Check. Uber-fluffy bathrobes? You bet. I tried but I just couldn’t find anything to complain about…and that’s exactly how it should be.
Can we move on to food? Because I ate my way through Seattle and every time I think back, the Fairmont had something to do with the memories that stand out most. Our first full night there, after a day of walking around downtown, it began to pour right at dinnertime. So we ended up at Shuckers, the popular casual oyster bar at the hotel that looked like a cross between an upscale steakhouse and your neighborhood pub – dark wood paneling, heavy chairs, a long be-sconced bar. Between a server who couldn’t have been any friendlier, spectacular presentation and a mouthwatering meal, (high marks for the butternut squash risotto, salmon skewers, fresh oysters and buttermilk fried chicken) we were impressed from start to finish.
To the Terrace Bar we went - a routine that would become our nightly tradition. I can think of few ways more relaxing than to settle into one of those comfortable couches, surrounded by the grandeur of the Olympic’s historic high-ceilinged lobby, sip a cocktail, rehash the day’s events and listen to the tranquil sounds of live piano wafting Frank Sinatra tunes from the back corner, all while knowing that all you have to do when that last drop is gone is slip into the elevator and up to the cozy environs of your room.
And let’s not forget the elegance of the Georgian. I decided to forego an hour-long in-room massage, courtesy of the spa that’s located downstairs in the hotel, in favor of splurging on a full Afternoon Tea in what you could mistake for a grand ballroom, were the Fairmont not using it for the nicest version of a 3-meal-a-day hotel restaurant I’ve ever seen. My mom & I have tea-d it up at some of the finest establishments known for their service - Kensington Palace in London and the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles to name more recent ones. We went for the works (the works being Prosecco alongside our tea) and the Georgian made a 2-hour ladies’ lunch a true event that matched up nicely. Their potent 1907 Anniversary blend tea was a great compliment to the fresh fruit, delicate open-faced sandwiches, buttery lemon scones with the fluffiest Devonshire cream imaginable and rich desserts we could only taste before having to push our plates away, full and happy. Beneath the glittering chandeliers and impressive Palladian windows, tea at the Georgian was certainly not to be missed, and we were thrilled to have done it.
The icing on top of an already-perfect cake was our last evening in Seattle, where we dined at Cutter’s Crabhouse, located on the water by Pike Market. I wish I could have seen the shock on our faces when our server came by with a complimentary dish of their signature rock crab dip, saying it was courtesy of the concierge at our hotel. We racked our brains – none of us could remember mentioning our evening plans to the concierge at any point…but somehow word got to them. I’ve been gifted with some acts of kindness at various hotels, but none that equated to the kind of detail we’d come to see from the Fairmont Olympic. I mean – we were a mile from the property and they’d still found a way to sweeten our visit.
Needless to say, it was with great difficulty that we checked out and made our way out to the chilly afternoon for a cab ride to Sea-Tac. For everything a hotel should be, I commend Fairmont and the Seattle hotel staff for impeccably personifying hospitality in every sense. From an ex-hotelier, retired flight attendant & Navy veteran who’ve seen their fair share of hotels, this one took the cake for all of us. We can’t wait to be back in that lobby someday soon, sipping our martinis, escaping the rain and awaiting that good night’s sleep.
- 450 rooms include amenities like in-room dining, bathrobes, safes, 2+ telephones, CD player and alarm clock, internet/wifi (charge) and LCD flatscreen TVs
- 2 restaurants and 2 bars on-site
- Health Club (complimentary for guests) includes indoor swimming pool, cardio machines, saunas and locker rooms
- Penelope Beauty Bar (downstairs in the hotel) offers massage (also in-room, by request), nail treatments, lash extensions and more
- other services include a business center, gift shop, valet parking