I forgot to mention the whole POINT of our trip to Boise, which was going to Colleen’s housewarming party on Saturday evening! Their house is adorable, with a backyard full of foliage and a very nice deck. We met their cool and laid-back Boise friends, snacked on snacks, drank some beer, and disappointed Colleen’s ten-year-old by not bringing Mario Party 8 with us so he could play it on his new Wii. Sorry, kiddo! We’ll bring it next time if you don’t have it by then.
Okay, so. Sunday morning, after being a little disturbed by how well I could hear the male and female voices in the hotel bathroom next door, Ben and I walked a few blocks to Boise’s Basque Block on Grove Street. Say what now? That’s right, Boise is home to the largest community of Basques (approx. 15,000) in the United States. We met up with Colleen, her hubby, her son, and her mom for brunch at Bardenay, a very cool restaurant and distillery.
It was a beautiful morning, but we opted to eat inside. After living in Utah for a few years, Ben and I were perhaps overly impressed by the beautiful bar taking up the length of the restaurant without any barriers or weird liquor laws. But we were rightfully impressed by their selection of breakfast cocktails on the menu. I opted instead to drink coffee and eat “Bardenay French Toast,” which was a miracle breakfast food dipped in orange/cinnamon batter and dusted with powdered sugar… served with a side of Basque-style chorizo and rosemary red potatoes. Except I substituted eggs for the potatoes because, truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of potatoes. So, no, I didn’t eat any Idago potatoes.
The meal was still delicious, and the company was lovely. We parted ways, promised to come back to Boise, and took a nice stroll back to the hotel parking garage. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center was right across the street from Bardenay, but it was closed, so, with a sigh of relief from Ben, we kept walking. He hates going to museums with me because I find EVERYTHING interesting. Sor-ry!
According to Colleen, the sheep-friendly Idaho hills attracted the Basque people. I can see that. I visited my grandfather while he was still alive and living in Hossegor, which is a resort town in Southwestern France very close to Basque country. I’ve tasted Basque cuisine and driven through the hilly countryside, where at times the car was stopped on the narrow road by a herd of sheep passing by with a lone (and very tan) sheepherder. Like to the point where we couldn’t open the car doors because the sheep were thumping against the car on all sides. So I can see how the Idaho countryside would attract people from that area.
(When I was 13 and stayed in Hossegor for a few weeks, my step-grandmother took me to a Basque museum/store where I learned about the culture and famous tradition of high-quality weaving and subsequently fell in love with the style of traditional Basque linens (linge Basque in French). It was something like the Basque Eco-museum in St Jean de Luz, but that was established in 1999 which was a few years too late for me to have visited. Maybe I saw an early version of Jean-Vier‘s headquarters before it was an official museum. My mom gave me a set of linge Basque table linens a few years ago after her last trip to France, but I’ve never used them because there hasn’t been an occasion special enough, you know?)
Right. Boise’s Basque Block evoked some older memories beyond the cool factor. Another cool thing in Boise was this faux-crack on the side of this building (maybe Colleen can enlighten us in the comments section with what building this is?). It had little misting jets to cool down passersby—not to worry, we did not let them dampen our spirits, hardee har har!
We finally made it back to the car and returned to Interstate 84 less than 24 hours after arriving in Boise. Based on the information we received at the Twin Falls Visitor Information center on Saturday, however, we elected to take a detour along Route 30, the “Thousand Springs Scenic Byway,” which followed the Snake River. So we ditched I-84 at Bliss, population 275.
Bliss was podunk and sadly desolate; truly the antithesis of its name. Its few businesses were in disrepair or perhaps closed forever. If it ever had a prime as an amusing stop for motor tourists like us, that time has long past. We saw one resident while we stopped to stretch our legs and take a photo of the welcome sign, and he was driving a bright red truck with two happy dogs in the truckbed, kicking up clouds of dust from the dirt road next to the silent railroad tracks. There was also a shrieking killdeer bird hanging around the sign that clearly wanted us out of his insect territory, dammit. So we drove on and left Bliss in the dust, so to speak.
We stopped at a “Fossil Beds” National Monument outside the tiny town of Hagerman—which boasted “Library of the Year” on a sign outside its library that was seriously smaller than a bookmobile. The “monument” consisted of a roadside sign and a gorgeous view (my photos do not do it justice). I’ve never seen black rocks before, and these looked particularly brilliant against the bright green hues from a rainy spring. Back in the car, this is what the road ahead of us looked like. Not too bad, eh?
There was another fossil bed scenic view not too far away, with a wooden plankway to a spot overlooking a crook in the Snake River. It was serene and quiet and I kind of wanted to build a house on top of all those fossils (that were supposedly somewhere in the striations of the cliffs; they were too far away for me to make anything out) just for the view. Oh, and the birds. There was a pelican in the water and what we determined (with the help of a sign nearby) was an osprey flying overhead. But it might have been an American White Pelican based on what Teh Internet is telling me today. Either way, that thing was huge.
There was a smaller bird that kept shrieking at us from the top of a telephone pole to leave his habitat, just like the killdeer in Bliss, so we moved on. We wanted to stop at Shoshone Falls and get back on the freeway before dark.
Shoshone Falls, according to the Twin Falls Visitor Center Man, has been dry for the last six years because of drought. This year there the falls were running again, and we happened to be driving through during the peak three weeks of rushing water flow. So we veered down a windy road lined with rocky cliffs and ponied up three bucks to enter a park… and suddenly found ourselves facing the 212-feet-high “Niagara of the West.” Once again, my photos do not do this place justice. There are lots more on my Flickr photostream.
The roaring water, the fine mist swirling around faces and through parched desert-lungs. People of all kinds lingering, drawn to this place for their own reasons. We hung around for a while, enjoying the day, enjoying the view, and enjoying each other’s company. We haven’t celebrated the anniversary of our first date since we were married, but May 11, 2009 marked ten years of us being a couple. As the sun started to set, we returned to the road—one decade of adventures, misadventures, accomplishments, and changes of direction behind us, and hopefully many more in our future.