I was traipsing around central Kentucky last week, picking up where I left off from my July trip there, for more bourbon and regional cooking research. And this week I’m in Pittsburgh, along for the ride while my husband takes a course at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon.  One thing about leaving my hometown is gaining a bit of perspective about how non-natives feel about the city I’ve called home all of my life. I’ve met dozens of people at a variety of events and easily 50 percent of them–soon as they hear that I’m from Seattle–respond with virtually the same phrase: “Oh, I LOVE Seattle.” And then go on to tell me of a great vacation they had there recently, or a college friend who moved there and fell madly in love with the city. Warms my heart with hometown pride! Just last night, the hostess who seated us at Six Penn Kitchen told us she’d been to Seattle in June for a cousin’s graduation and loved the city, aside from the fact that she saw the sun only once during the week. On the other hand, a woman I met in Lexington was there a week and not a cloud the whole time. Luck of the draw.

Another scope through which to see how Seattle is viewed by the rest of the world comes in this month’s issue of Travel & Leisure magazine. The cover feature highlights “America’s Favorite Cities of 2008” with results of reader survey. Twenty five cities were included, each ranking somewhere between 1 and 25 on dozens of characteristics. While there’s probably little surprise that Seattle ranked low in the weather department (23 out of 25; though when the weather’s just righ in Seattle there are few cities on Earth more beautiful), it was heart-warming to see how highly regarded the Emerald City was on a variety of points. From Number One position for “intelligent” natives, farmers markets, and (of course) coffee shops, Seattle also garnered high ranks for the skyline and views, environmental awareness and access to the outdoors. It’s fun to click through all the categories and city profiles to imagine where you might go next!