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Stateside Images: Boise, Idaho

Stateside With Rosalea

Boise, Idaho

When I told friends that I was going to Boise, Idaho, the response I got was illuminating. "They're all survivalists up there." "White supremacist country. Beware." Coupled with my inkling that Boise (pronounced boys-ee) is the States' fun-time equivalent of Eketahuna, I didn't expect much as I set off on my trip last week.

The only other thing I knew about Boise was that some of its buildings are heated by water from hot springs. Maybe I would have as good a time as this lass in the Iceland Air ad on my BART train to the airport, I thought.

Well, I didn't get to soak in any hot springs (or meet any survivalists, for that matter), but one of the oldest buildings in Boise is named supposedly for the Indian words meaning "healing waters"--Idan-ha. There is a wonderful mural made of tiles, sculpted, on the rear wall of the hotel, and throughout the city there are many large painted murals as well.

The city's name is a corruption of the French word for woods--bois--but the forest it was originally named for have long since gone. Nonetheless, Boise bills itself as the City of Trees and is very reminiscent of Christchurch in its street plantings, one way street system, and hills in the distance. Not only that, but the Boise River runs through town and is flanked by a public greenway and parks.

Besides being a commercial centre, Boise is the capital of the state of Idaho, and has a very impressive Jeffersonian-looking capitol building near the centre of town. Other public buildings are much more modern, but the Capitol steps are popular for wedding photographs. Currently, the columns have huge yellow ribbons on them, because of the nearby Air National Guard base.

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Other architectural gems around town include a State Supreme Court faced with travertine marble, and some quirky buildings that still retain the stylistic frippery of their time. The Idaho Youth Farms Thrift Shop is housed in one such building, with my favourite-ever public clock face.

Just like in any university town--especially one that is reinventing itself to attract tourism--Boise has a restored Old Town, consisting largely of single-story brick buildings, and a Cultural District made up of re-purposed warehouses in what used to be an industrial area.

For some reason, chandeliers are very popular in Boise. The theatre I went to--reminiscent of Circa in Wellington in terms of size, professionalism and repertoire--had several odd specimens of these dangling light sources. And the Java coffee bar, along with its Andy Warhol prints, also sported a couple of iron monstrosities.

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Boise is only a couple of hours' flight direct from Oakland on Southwest Airlines. The airport there is very modern and just a $10 cab ride from town. The city has a population of about 185,000 and is nestled on a plateau at about 4,000 feet, so you have this wonderful combination of mountain air and sagebrush scent in the cool of the early morning.


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