Worn tennis shoes pound the pavement as I march uphill, a crooked smile on my face as I admire skyscrapers reflecting cotton clouds and dwarfing neighboring trees. Cars zip past buildings labeled Microsoft or Expedia.
My newly-wed husband works in one of them. He’s the reason this big, beautiful city named Bellevue, in Washington state, is now home.
At first glance, Bellevue is a city of progress and growth. I’ve heard it billed as the “new Silicon Valley.” Up close, it’s much more. It’s a city where people of all ages play in the downtown park. It’s a town where coffee shops fill nearly every corner and restaurants serving seafood and sushi line up in between. It’s a place where thousands of residents get together to celebrate the city’s history with a strawberry festival every summer. It’s a land of opportunity for those looking for a fresh start.
Since moving from my hometown of Chico in Northern California to Bellevue, Washington, I’ve learned to adapt to life in a big city. I walk or ride the bus rather than tackling traffic whenever possible (although the streets are nearly empty after dark). I’ve learned to love coffee and sushi (not in the same meal). I’ve stopped getting dizzy from riding elevators (my ears still pop occasionally). And I’ve soaked up historical information about my new home (Bellevue means “Beautiful View” in French).
While walking through downtown I’ve noticed some residents smile and say, “Good morning,” while others stare pointedly ahead. I’ve appreciated the city’s ethnic diversity and tried to place the many languages I’ve heard. Many residents dress in business suits and don short sleeves as soon as the temperature hits 70 degrees. Light summer rain – sometimes just a mist – dances in the wind. Cool air pushes clouds away exposing a smiling sun before the cloud pageantry begins again. Only tourists carry umbrellas.
Washington’s breezy weather is a nice contrast from Chico’s sweltering summers. Taking advantage of the low temperatures, I’ve explored two community parks – Downtown Park and Viewpoint Park. I’ve also frequented Bellevue’s two farmers’ markets and Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The markets and parks are all different, but enjoyable.
The Downtown Park is a community hub where people walk or jog around the perimeter, and play sports or enjoy picnics on the central lawn. Ducks inhabit the man-made waterway that circles the park. Art sculptures scattered throughout the area highlight the city’s creativity.
A few miles away, Viewpoint Park – a small, secluded forest – features a meandering trail, towering pine trees and frilly ferns. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk and get a respite from city life. Visit http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/ for directions to Bellevue’s many parks.
I’ve twice hopped on the bus to Seattle, where I’ve explored Pike’s Place Market – a must-see for many Emerald City tourists. The expansive marketplace offers fresh seafood, locally-grown produce, various arts and crafts, Seattle souvenirs and more on a daily basis. Check out http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/ to learn more.
Bellevue’s two farmers’ markets – which run Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings – have a small-town vibe, reminiscent of Chico. They’re special, so I’ll devote details to a future column.
I’m no longer in Northern California, but, dear readers, I hope you will join me as I pound the pavement and explore the Pacific Northwest. The world is our oyster.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Bellevue, Washington. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.