“The trees! The trees!” fur traders exclaimed, in French, when they first saw the timber-lined (now) Boise River. Apparently weeks of traveling through nothing but grass and sagebrush made those cottonwoods look mighty fine. “Bois” = tree (wood, actually). Naming things was a no-brainer back then; congratulations, you just named a river. Somewhere along the way the town “Ada” was renamed after the river, an “e” was added, the pronunciation was bastardized, and voilà. (I just love this sort of stuff. This is the tale told on my tour today. If it is inaccurate in any way, don’t tell me. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” is my motto.)

Today I toured Boise with Boise Township Tours. I really lucked out, because two people made reservations. I decided to wing it and just show up. If I had been the only patron, the tour would not have gone forward. I imagine the trolley tours are packed in the summer, as they should be; we covered a lot of ground in 1.5 hours, and Julia, our guide, was excellent.

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It made me sad to learn that the train depot is for cargo only now. You cannot take a train to Boise. It seems such a shame given all the hard work and sacrifices to build the transcontinental railroad in the 1800s.

After the tour I hit some of the highlights on foot, including the Idaho Candy Company, home of the “Idaho Spud” (which I am told is better out of the freezer).

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My Candy Booty

A walk/run with your dog was occurring at the park. Lots of people were out enjoying a beautiful sunny and warm October day at the bustling farmers and arts market.

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This is a college town, and the sea of blue shirts and jerseys worn today illustrates a berg in love with its Broncos (who are 3-1 as I write this). In fact, I am a bit reluctant to go out this evening, as the game between the Boise State Broncos and Hawaii starts at 8:30 PM. It will be on every screen in every bar and restaurant, I am sure.

Boise has four seasons, and like most of the country, its summers are getting hotter – 108 in June this year. They do get some snow, but it’s not very much and doesn’t really stick. The biggest downside to Boise is how far flung it is from any other real civilization by car. However, there are plenty of flights.

I really like the look and feel of downtown Boise. The state capital building is wonderful.

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There are turn-of-the-last century buildings, many of sand stone and red brick, giving downtown an historic vibe.

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imageAnd who knew so many people from the Basque region of Spain settled here? I visited the Basque Block, which contains a Basque museum, mural, language school and several restaurants.

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imageBoise somewhat reminds me of Portland, albeit 20 years ago. However, today I was the only person with technicolor hair, and I saw few people with multiple piercings or tattoos. (Maybe I just wasn’t in the right place. I stumbled upon a great outdoor graffiti gallery.)

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Liquor is still sold in state-run liquor stores, and only one store in the downtown area is open on Sunday (for four hours). There are craft distilleries and breweries, but I don’t see marijuana being legalized anytime soon.

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With about half a million residents, Boise still retains its small town sensibilities. You can pay for parking on the street with a credit card, but the machines look like old parking meters. And parking downtown is still free on Saturdays! I can’t tell you how it chapped my hide when Seattle began charging for parking on Saturdays, and then had the gall to extend paid parking hours to 8:00 PM each day. Greedy bastards.

I was also impressed with the amount of green space retained in the downtown area. There are three parks in a row, all donated by city founders with names like Morrison and Knudsen and Albertson (the founder of the grocery store chain).

With all of its history and Main Street America atmosphere, Boise is also looking to the future. Construction is occurring downtown, including a new convention and community meeting space.

Part of this journey is to explore where I may live next. Boise made the “maybe” list. I need to do some more research regarding healthcare (St. Luke’s is here) and median house prices and how they treat their old folks, as I’ll probably be a senior citizen when I finally get back into a sticks and bricks!