We arrived home late Thursday night and went straight to bed. So it was a delightful surprise to wake up Friday morning to a bright, sunny and warm day in Bellingham. The clear blue skies looked even brighter than we remembered. And the clean, fresh air felt so refreshing. As we walked the streets in town, they looked so much wider. And compared to the medieval hill towns we visited, they definitely are.
We couldn’t have planned it better. We arrived home just before the Memorial Day Weekend, a quintessential American holiday in most small towns, and even a bigger celebration in Bellingham because of a special event called The Ski to Sea. On Sunday, about 500 teams will ski and snowboard, run, bicycle, canoe and kayak from Mt. Baker down the Nooksak River to the Bellingham Bay. This 90 mile event first began in 1910 as a foot race and has been a relay since the early seventies. The race finishes in the small community of Fairhaven, where the streets will turn into a beer garden for a few hours.
On Saturday, the whole town gathered downtown to watch the annual parade of floats, horses, politicians and marching bands. After a pleasant walk to the Farmer’s Market, we joined the crowds and watched the parade for a while. Then, we walked a few blocks to get home and listened to the marching bands as we worked in the garden.
Bellingham has a lot to offer. It’s a small, friendly town with views of the beautiful bay, the San Juan Islands, Mt. Baker to the east and the Canadian Rockies to the north. Sure, it rains a lot. But those short, frequent rains keep this state green and we don’t have to worry about water shortages. Even though Google might show rain on the weather page, it often means a light shower in the morning and then, sun later on. The nice thing about our weather is the fact that it often blows through and leaves us with some sun and clear skies. Even our snow doesn’t last long.
But besides the weather, it will be nice to see friends and family again, be understood without a struggle and sleep in our own beds. Coming home after a trip abroad always gives us new insights and a new appreciation for what we have. In Bellingham the streets are clean, shopping is easy and abundant in choices, bathrooms have toilet seats and paper, cars stop for pedestrians and people are friendly and kind.
But living in Italy for almost three months has given us some new insights, too. We plan to walk, bike and take the bus more often. We’re fortunate that Bellingham has plenty of bike lanes and a good bus system. We’ll continue to eat a more Mediterranean diet and use fruits and vegetables that are in season. We saw that we don’t really need that much “stuff”, and we hope we can remember that more as we adjust to being back home. The Italians also have a special warmth in their greetings and social interactions. Their etiquette is at a whole different level than ours. I hope I can remember to slow down and be more polite.
Travel is always fun and interesting—and it always enriches us. But wherever we go, I’ll always be happy to return to America—not a bad place to call home.
This blog ends our spring 2012 adventure, but stay tuned for more blogs on slow travel in Italy and beyond.