5 Bucket List Libraries to Dream About Visiting

One of the worst parts of the pandemic for me has been the limitation on travel and even travel planning. I apparently spend a lot of time researching and planning travel, even for short trips, and all that has been put on hold. My husband and I are really privileged that being cooped up in our studio apartment is really the most challenging part of pandemic life. We know many people who have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut or their lives entirely disrupted. But I am still dreaming of all the places to go and things to see, and when I saw that Rick Steves had written an article on beautiful libraries worth traveling to, I knew I wanted to draft my own bucket list.

As you probably know if you follow Rick Steves, he concentrates mostly on European travel, so the libraries he picks like the Bodleian library in Oxford reflect that. He also seems to have a thing for the baroque–libraries that are almost cathedrals in their own right that glitter with gilding and smell of spicy, dusty histories.

Interviewed by American Libraries magazine, he had this to say about libraries “For me, libraries are the great equalizer. Everybody goes into the library, whether they’re powerful or not, whether they’re rich or not, and they realize, man, there is so much out there. We’re so little compared to all that there is in this time and place that we live. I like that dimension of libraries.”

Without further ado, here are some of the libraries I’m dreaming about visiting someday.

The Bodleian Oxford, England

image credit: https://ivisitengland.org/daily-ivisit/2017/8/10/ivisit-bodleian-library-kd429-2prt9

Thomas Bodley’s library was opened in 1602, and if it looks familiar that’s probably because it’s been used as a set for films like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s closed right now, but they have some online exhibits available for perusal here on Tolkien and advertising in the 20th century.

Dokk1 Aarhus, Denmark

image credit: Dennis Borup Jakobsen https://www.visitaarhus.com/aarhus/plan-your-trip/dokk1-gdk1077504

This is one of the most exciting new libraries in the world based on the idea that a library is a community center, gathering place, and hub for ideas–not merely a place for books. One of the features I love about this library is that there is a bell inside. This bell is activated by new parents in the hospital who can choose to ring the bell after the birth of their child. So every time you hear the bell ring, a new person has been brought into the community. You can take a virtual tour of the library, and you can learn more about the library in this Slate article.

Trinity College Library Dublin, Ireland

Does it get more gorgeous than a building that makes the books look like they’ll go on forever? The 18th century building holds the Book of Kells, a famous 9th century gospel.

Harold Washington Library Center Chicago, United States

image credit: Chicago Tribune

We were all set to go to Chicago this May with one of my oldest friends. Whenever I travel, I try to make time to visit one of the libraries, and I think a visit to this indoor garden at the Harold Washington library would have been just lovely.

Bibliotheque Mejanes Aix-en-Provence, France

Image credit: marlenedd on Flickr

This library entrance could not be a more perfect homage to the works inside the building. I love how whimsical this library is and hope that one day I’ll be able to go back to France and visit it.

Do you visit libraries when you travel? What is the most beautiful library you’ve ever been to? Let me know in the comments!

Caribbean Trip Highlights

A shipwreck that the reef has grown into in Roatan, Honduras.

In December, my Nana and I went on a cruise together to the Caribbean and had a really lovely time. Though I’m not really a huge cruising fan as a means of travel, it does give you a very nice, relaxing vacation. I had just submitted all of my grad school documentation, so it was nice to celebrate that as well.

The ship itself was a lot of fun. I’ve never been on Norwegian before, and I really liked that you could go and eat whenever you wanted in the different restaurants instead of being tied to one place at one time. The entertainment on the ship was really good–we watched an entire off-Broadway production of the Million Dollar Quartet on board.

As fun as the ship was, the highlight of any cruise is the ports of call.

We stopped in Honduras, Belize and two cities in Mexico. Out of the four ports, my favorites were Belize and Cozumel.


It was not my first trip to Belize. When I was there with my parents on a cruise as a junior in high school we had an amazing day in Belize City with a wonderful tour guide that we found. This trip was a little bit different because the cruise line has sort of built up this little “town” on an island called Harvest Caye. After buying some rum for my husband, we joined our group and were off (via a ferry to the mainland) to the Mayan ruins and a spice farm.

The spice farm was amazing. We ate fresh cocoa off a tree (the inside is so crazy looking). The fruit is tart and almost gooey and then there are the fresh nibs inside, chalky and bitter. We saw nutmeg growing and vanilla. The vanilla beans they grow take almost a year to reach an end buyer. The flowers bloom only for one day and have to be hand pollinated or they won’t produce a bean. That means in 6 hours their crew of 20 people has to pollinate almost 10 acres of vanilla. It’s really no wonder vanilla is so expensive.

The tour was really fantastic. We got to taste and smell and hold all kinds of spices from allspice (which, despite its misleading name is really one plant that’s native to Belize) to fresh pepper to lemon grass.

The ball court.

The ruins we went to in Belize are not very big (there are much larger ones there), but Nim Li Punit is notable because there are a lot of stele there (carved stones).

Before going, I watched a documentary about how scholars learned to read the Mayan language, and it was really fascinating to watch them try and work backwards. There’s so much artistry in their carvings. The same sound can be represented multiple ways, and each artist would combine symbols and try to create something unique.

I loved archaeology as a kid, and this was my first time visiting any Mayan ruins, so I was pretty excited.


In Cozumel, we went to the Discovery Park, which puts on all kinds of programs and is also an art gallery. There we made our own chocolate, which was so much fun, and we watched the Flyers.


The Papantla Flyers are a small tribe in Mexico, and we were lucky to see them perform their rain ritual. Four men with ropes attached climb to the top of a pole that’s about 30 feet off the ground. They wind themselves around and let themselves fall, upside down and attached at the feet, until they reach the bottom. But the real crazy thing is the fifth man, who climbs to the top with no rope and plays an instrument and dances ON THE TOP of the pole. He stays up there until the end and uses one of the other guys’ ropes to come down, which ends the ritual. You can watch Discover Mexico’s video here.

Our tour guide, Bou, was super knowledgeable about the history of Mexico, and I have to say it was probably the most enjoyable and information-heavy tour I’ve ever been on.

All in all, we had a great time, and I will remember it fondly.


So over to you–have you ever been to the Caribbean (on or off a cruise)? What was your favorite experience there? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 5 Favorite Places in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho


I’m taking quite a few trips with my Nana this coming year, but even with a trip to Paris looming on the horizon, this little jaunt to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho was absolutely lovely. We went in early October, so it was definitely not tourist season anymore, and the air was brisk and the leaves were starting to change. It looks more like my old stomping grounds in Oregon than it does the parts of Idaho that I am familiar with. Everything was so green, and the lake, which is much larger than I’d imagined is gorgeous and impressive.

Since it’s only a thirty minute drive from Spokane, WA (a much longer drive from Boise), we flew into Spokane and made our way east. It was a very relaxed trip, but we definitely made the most of it and found some really cute places.

If you’re ever in Coeur d’Alene, these are the places I suggest hitting:


Gaiwan Tea House

This little tea house was so lovely. It’s in a remodeled Craftsman style house and is modern and Asian inspired inside. They make lovely tea lattes and they also sell loose leaf tea. But the real surprise was their curry, which was flavorful and full of vegetables.

Natural Grocers

You wouldn’t think a grocery store would make it on a best-of anywhere list, but my Nana and I had a blast shopping here. They had an amazing assortment of natural foods with decent pricing. Their baked goods were lovely (we bought a sourdough pumpkin loaf that we tore in chunks) and they had a great selection of giftable goodies like local soaps and items that had been produced in sustainable ways.

Culinary Stone Cooking Class

This giant kitchen store is really fun if you like kitchen stuff (which I do–I always love looking around these places), and this one is cooler than most since it has a tempting looking gourmet foods section with a small deli and a charming cafe attached.

A lot of big kitchen stores do classes, and this one was no exception. We thought taking a class might be a lot of fun, and we went in to see if there were any openings, but unfortunately they were all marked full on the calendar.

Luckily though, I spoke to the cashier, and she said there was so much interest in one of the classes that another had opened up and there were two spots left, which seemed pretty meant-to-be.

We came early to get a good seat (I highly advise this, since it’s much easier to hear and see and smell in the front), and bought a glass of wine while we were waiting. Patricia Hébert-Jenks, the chef, was French and lovely. She was very charismatic and her description of things tended towards the poetic, like the sound of butter singing in the pan. She urged us to make our own chicken stock and to take our time cooking–food is a pleasure that shouldn’t be rushed.

She made: Velouté de Pois Cassés aux Lardons et Aux Oignons (a velvety pea and potato soup topped with caramelized onions and tiny strips of bacon), Filet Mignon Farci à la Poire et au Romarin (baked stuffed pork tenderloin with shallots, pears, blue cheese, and rosemary), and Poached Pears with caramel sauce, the bottoms of which she filled with rum spiked whipped cream.

The food was so good, the more so for getting to watch her prepare it. And at the end you got to eat it all as well as the little chocolate they gave you to take home. It was the first cooking class I’d ever attended, and I loved it.

I would definitely recommend her class to anyone in the area–but note that they fill up quickly.

Paris Flea Market

The nice thing about antique stores in less busy cities is that they tend to have better prices. It’s also a great way to kill an afternoon, and an activity I love doing while traveling.

This particular antique store had two locations in the city. The original has a giant metal cow out front. Both are a lot of fun to poke around in.

Museum of North Idaho

I’m not usually in love with tiny local museums. I think it’s great to support them (usually the money you spend there goes to support local history work and other worthy causes), but they’re usually really boring and lackluster.

However, this museum, located right on the river, was actually pretty good. They had a number of interesting displays on homesteading, mining, logging, and fire watching, as well as Native American, geological, and military history. It was less expensive to get into than a lot of small museums, and you could spend a good hour there, especially if you watch the film (which we didn’t).



Have you ever been to Coeur d’Alene? Did I miss your favorite spot? Let me know in the comments.



The Library of Congress or the Best Thing in Washington D.C.


I apologize (again) for being MIA last week. My fiance and I were in Washington D.C. visiting one of my best friends, and blog posts sort of took a back seat. If I’d been better prepared, I would have scheduled them, but I’m not that good.

Since we spent the better part of five days going over all the more well-known D.C. sites, I want to share my top five D.C. attractions with you, but before that, I have to take some time to express my love for the Library of Congress, also known as the largest library in the world, also known as whyhaven’tIbeenherebeforebecauseit’sbasicallyamagicalplaceonparwithDisneylandbecausebooksbooksbooksandmorebooksplusit’stotallygorgeous. I think the last one might be incorporated into the official title at some point.

We almost didn’t get a chance to go into this amazing building. Paul and I came down on Sunday to see it, not knowing that the Library was in fact closed. On Tuesday, just before our flight, we decided to go down again to see it. And it was so worth it.

The Gutenberg Bible (the first book in print) and the Mainz Bible (which is written by hand but looks nearly identical to its newer counterpart and took 15 months to produce) were on display. Jefferson’s personal library was also out to look at. If you’re interested, he organized his books by subject and by height. Though a third of over 6,800 volumes were lost in a fire, the shelves were filled in with similar books from the same era, the same books from different eras, and black boxes to represent the missing books. It was amazing.

There was also a display of some huge maps from the 1500s and artifacts from the Mayas. My friend, who is a huge map lover, was extremely happy.

We were also able to view the main reading room, which is a huge circular chamber in which there’s a ton of reading desks, via the overlook.

But some of the most amazing parts of the Library are the walls and ceilings and floors, which are inlaid with mosaics, have intricate stone carvings, have paintings and quotes about the importance of reading and knowledge. It’s a temple to reading.

And my other top picks for D.C?

  • My favorite monument in the city is Jefferson’s–it’s a place with presence and quiet even when you’re with dozens of people. It’s a place of hope for me as well, I look at the quotes on the walls and think about how our country was meant to stand for justice through change and progress.
  • Singing the “I’m just a bill song” while skirting around the Capitol Building
  • Food. D.C. has a great, if slightly pricey food scene. One of the more affordable highlights was a cream puff place in Georgetown called Beard Papa where you can pick your filling and it’s filled up right in front of you.
  • The Newseum is amazing and completely worth its high entrance fee. It’s all about media and journalism and has 7 floors of interesting exhibits.

Honorable mention:

  • The Smithsonian museums are always worth a visit–they’re free and they’re great. My favorite of the ones I’ve been to is probably the American History museum–though we didn’t hit that one this time. I just get a kick out of Dorothy’s shoes.
  • The Folger Shakespeare Library is right behind the Library of Congress. We didn’t get to spend very long in there because we only caught the tail end of the tour, but it’s worth reserving a tour. They have the largest collection of First Folios and an impressive art collection as well as various Shakespeare related artifacts. Next time I’m in D.C. I’ll be making a point in going there.



Caribbean Vacation Part 2: St Martin/Maarten


St Martin/St Maarten was the second stop on our trip. We booked a short tour of the island and then had planned to spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach. We didn’t make it to the beach in the afternoon, but I’m glad we stopped by one on the tour. St Martin has some of the most beautiful beaches with the softest sand you can find. The water is beautiful and clear. Truly, the island is a small treasure.

A small boutique type hotel on the French side.

St Martin/St Maarten is the smallest island in the world that is shared between two countries. The Dutch side, St Maarten, is the more touristy side of the island, since they opened up for tourism twenty years before the French side. The capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg, with Front Street providing some of the best shopping on the island. It’s also a place where you can go and sample guavaberry liquor, which is the national beverage. The liquor is slightly sweet, but mostly spicy with hints of cinnamon and clove.

The French side is known for its food. St Martin is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and in Marigot, you can get French pastries as easily as barbecued chicken and fresh fish. We didn’t get to have lunch there unfortunately, but if you’re going you should definitely sample the many delights this country has to offer.


The people of St Maarten are extremely warm and friendly. They are much more easy going than I would be about the fact that at each end of the 13 mile island they use different currency (the French side uses euros, the Dutch side US dollars), have different power systems, and have international cell phone restrictions between the two sides. It’s generally cheaper to physically go and talk to the person on the other side rather than call them. Many people who do business on both sides have two separate cell phone plans.

It’s fairly ludicrous, but the two sides live in relative harmony, and have done so ever since the treaty was drawn up in the 17th century stating that the French and Dutch would share the island. On July 12, 1848, massive uprisings in the large slave population led to the abolishment of slavery.


St Maarten’s biggest industry before the tourism boom of the 1970s was salt. The picture above shows a (dried up) area of brackish water. Places like this would be used to harvest salt, but poor regulations led to the pollution and ultimately the dissolution of the salt industry.


Almost all the goods used every day by the people of St Maarten/Martin are imported. The island is extremely dry and growing food is very difficult. All luxury goods like jewelry and electronics are imported along with cars and gas and food stuffs. A car in St Martin costs about 3,000 dollars more than the same car in the United States because of import fees. The cars I saw the most of on the island were Hyundais and Nissans, which are relatively lower priced and fairly dependable.


It only takes about an hour to drive all the way around the island. While you do so, you’re rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding water and beaches. There’s a beach for almost every mile of coastline, and, in true European fashion, there are many clothing optional beaches and resorts as well.


St Martin is definitely a place to come and enjoy and relax. It’s beautiful and relatively quiet, for all the hustle and bustle of the main towns.


While I definitely enjoyed the tour, the highlight of the day for me was visiting The Yoda Guy on Front Street. It’s a non-profit museum and store dedicated to the work of Nick Haley, who worked on the development of puppets and makeup for 54 movies including Star Wars, Terminator, Superman, MIB, Highlander, and a ton more. He is absurdly talented, and really is the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. He and his wife run the museum and spend their days talking to young people and encouraging them to follow their dreams. He talked to a young couple about being “normal” and how following what your friends and other people expect you to do was not going to let you grow as a person the same way as following your passions. He was extremely inspiring and very kind. We bought some of his artwork and walked around the museum oohing and aahing over the memorabilia (as we–my Mom, my honorary aunt, Mel, and I are big movie nerds). We were hot and tired, but this museum was like hitting the refresh button and I’m so glad that we made the stop.

Have you ever been to St Martin/Maarten? What did you think of it? What was your favorite thing about this little treasure of an island?

Caribbean Vacation Part 1: San Juan, Puerto Rico

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San Juan was our first stop on my family’s Caribbean cruise. We’d already spent a full day at sea, so we were more than ready to get off the ship and explore. IMG_2703

As we approached the shore, we saw Fort San Felipe del Morro. The fortress, built in the 16th century, is strategically located on a jutting piece of land you have to go around in order to make your way into port. It was from here that the Spanish controlled most of the access in and out of the Caribbean. We didn’t actually visit the fort, but it was an impressive sight nonetheless.

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As we only were allowed a few hours off the boat (we disembarked at 4:30 and had to be back at the ship by 10:00pm), we only had the vaguest of plans, which was to wander around Old Town. We did a little shopping and snapped pictures of the architecture. We tried only to buy things actually made in Puerto Rico, and were impressed by (though we didn’t purchase) some of the beautiful Panama hats that were made there.

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The streets are amazingly colorful and extremely narrow. They combine a beautiful European style with bright  Caribbean colors.

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We met quite a few pigeons outside a 16th century Catholic sanctuary near the old walls. They cooed and strutted contentedly on the blue cobblestones that line many of the streets.

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The boys weren’t interested in asking anyone to guide us in our walk, so our steps stayed fairly uninformed. We ended up eating at a local restaurant that was okay, but I know much better food can be had in Puerto Rico. I’m the history nut of the group, so I missed having someone or something inform me of what I was seeing. But the place is beautiful with a rich tradition and culture that I would love to go back and experience more deeply. We only got a glimpse, but it was an intriguing beginning to our journey.

Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? What were the most interesting places, people, or food you encountered? Any place we shouldn’t miss for our next visit?

How to Choose the Best Vacation Reads


There’s a week of peace and relaxation ahead of you. Nothing can get between you and your book, except your choices about which books to bring… This guide will help you bring books that you will actually read and enjoy.

How Many Books To Bring

While the above photo may be slightly misleading there was a (not too distant) time when I would bring a ridiculous number of books on a trip with me. I didn’t want to run out. There have been very few times where I’ve actually read all the books that I brought with me. I’ve never had to buy more (though I’ve always secretly wanted to). The best way to decide how many books you’re bringing with you is to realistically think about the number of books you will actually read. Think about this seriously, and use past trips as a guide. For most people, that number is one. Then you should add another book, just in case you don’t like the first one or you need a change of pace.

If I were to write this out in an equation it would look like (where n=number of books read) n+1= number of books to bring. I’m bringing four books with me on this trip because I’m going to be spending time with my parents first. I’ll probably read at least three of the books, and I’ll make sure to have at least two with me on the trip.

Bring Paperbacks

This seems like a no brainer, but you have no idea the number of times I’ve convinced myself that a hardcover was a smarter choice, and indeed the only choice. There are always more books. It may be worth going to your local thrift store and picking up a few paperbacks rather than taking up more room and adding more weight with awkward hardcovers. Obviously, if you’re an e-reader fan, this won’t apply to you. In that case, my advice is to bring your charger and make sure all your books are downloaded onto your device.

Be Careful About Bringing Library Books

Libraries are a wonderful resource, but if the book gets lost or damaged, you feel bad and you have to replace it. If you’re downloading eBooks onto your eReader from the library, make sure that you check the dates carefully, so the book won’t be returned just when you’ve gotten to the best part.

Bring a Book You’d be Caught Dead With

Lurid covers have their place, but I try to keep the covers simple and without half-naked people and blood spatter. I mean–there are children around.

Choose Shorter Books

Although you might look like a genius lounging at the pool with your 500+ page book, chances are you won’t finish it, and even if you do, what were you missing while you were reading? And, back to the heaviness aspect, large books are heavy, and if you drop them on your face while you’re reading on your back, they hurt way more than other books (trust me, I know this from experience). A perfect vacation read is about 200-300 pages in length.

Skip the Classics

Again, you look awesome and serious with Wuthering Heights or War and Peace in your lap, but even when you’re used to reading heavy literature, it just doesn’t sit well on vacation. You read a few sentences and then fall asleep. Those are the books that always seem to get left at the bottom of the suitcase. A great choice in genre is contemporary literary fiction or contemporary nonfiction. You want memorable characters over plot, so that you can follow the story more easily and lazily.  If you can explain the book’s story in two-three sentences, you’re on the right track. I also really love historical fiction for trips–it makes everything feel sort of timeless.

Skip Straight Genre Fiction

Romances, westerns, mysteries, and intense sci-fi and fantasy all have their place, but in the normal, everyday world we typically use these books as an escape. They’re typically written in a formulaic style, requiring little of the reader. But guess what–you’re already on vacation. You’ve escaped. The goal now, is to be transported–taken on a journey that parallels your own. If you’re super into your genre, that’s great. Maybe try a more literary take on your favorite so that reading becomes an interesting activity in its own right. If you’re not invested in the book you brought, you’re probably not going to read it.

Try Young Adult 

Even if you’re not a huge young adult reader, you might want to give the genre a try. Young adult authors typically focus on strong protagonists and gripping, easy to follow stories. The writers have more freedom within the genre to take risks and it often pays off.

Pick a Book You’ll Actually Like

This is not a time for penance reading. Vacation reads are for pleasure. They should be fun, light but not too light. This isn’t a time to read about depressing subject matter (I don’t bring books about the Holocaust on vacation)–they bring the tone down and you can’t devote your full attention to them. This is also not the time to catch up with your academic list (you know you’re not going to read a book you have to anyway, why bother bringing it?) or the book your friend begged you to try but really you have no interest in.

Read a little of the books you’re thinking of bringing and see if you like them before you take them with you. If you’re going to toss it aside after twenty pages, better to know now before lugging it halfway around the world. This is a time to read the things you want to read!

Embrace the Exceptions

Sometimes you just need to bring Song of Ice and Fire with you. The whole series. If you need to tell yourself it’s really, finally time to get through Catcher in the Rye or Don Quixote that’s perfectly fine. We’ve all been there, or at least I have. Even if you feel you’ve made a mistake with what you’ve brought, remember reading is just a supplement to your trip and (though it kills me to say it) if you never pick up a book at all, you’ll still have a wonderful time.

Happy reading and happy adventures!

What’s the best book you’ve ever brought on vacation? Have any tips for vacation reading I missed? Anything you disagreed with? Put your comments down below.

I hope this helps make your vacation reading as pleasurable as possible. This is a list of books I’m bringing with me:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
  • The Piano Teacher by Janice K. Lee (historical fiction)
  • Last Voyage of the Valentina by Santa Montefiore (historical fiction)

This is a list of books I’ve reviewed on Aliza Shandel that I think would make good vacation reading:

Idaho Botanical Gardens


There’s something magical about a garden tucked away in a city. Gardens are places of contemplation and beauty, places that feel slightly apart from time and yet when you’re there you feel connected. I’ve always loved beautiful gardens, so when I found the Idaho Botanical Garden on my birthday, it became one of my favorite places in Boise.

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The garden sits on the grounds of the Old State Penitentiary, so scattered around the garden are placards talking about the history of specific buildings that used to stand there. I found this to be thoroughly fascinating, and I’m looking forward to going on a tour of the prison itself to learn more.

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Separated into different sections, each with their own theme (rose garden, herb garden, English garden, Lewis & Clark garden and so on) there is plenty to discover and learn (there were some children there on a field trip), and I learned quite a bit about Lewis & Clark’s expedition, which was an unexpected bonus.

Part of the Rose Garden.

Throughout the year, they hold special events, like concerts, in the garden. It’s also one of the most popular spots in Boise to get married, and you can definitely see why.

The wall of the Old State Penitentiary borders the garden.

Beautiful orange poppies

If you’re in the area, you really must visit. It’s $7 to get into the garden, but it’s worth every penny. Beyond being beautiful, it’s the perfect spot to read or write and think, with benches around every corner and the sweet smell of roses in the air.

Hiking Table Rock


Just a few minutes outside of Boise, you’ll find the Old State Penitentiary and the Idaho Botanical Garden, behind which you’ll find trails that lead up to Table Rock, which at around 3200 feet offers amazing views of the city and a wonderful hike.


Paul and I went up there this weekend with one of his coworkers, his lovely wife, and their baby girl (and if I was pretty tired by the end of the 1.6 mile hike, it was probably nothing to what they felt). After being a little put off by the dead snake at the trail head (it suddenly occurred to me that I had been remiss to not check on the kind of snakes native to this area), it turned out to be a great hike, moderately challenging, but with gorgeous views. We were certainly not alone in our climb, as the area is extremely popular, and there’s a great feeling of camaraderie. It’s very open, and you can see for miles as you climb, rewarded with spectacular views at the summit.


When we arrived and looked towards our goal, Paul and I noticed a giant cross, which seemed strange and continued to seem strange when we were up close, so I did some research on it. Table Rock was once used by Native Americans as a place for ceremonies and healing rituals, and now plays host to a tall, white cross that overlooks the city. Built in 1956 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Table Rock Cross has been a source of controversy for about 60 years. Though Table Rock is technically on private land, following a small sale of the tiny parcel surrounding it, the circumstances behind the sale were considered a little shady, and there was some talk in 1999 that the sale of land would be found unconstitutional and the cross taken down. However, there was a huge rally to keep the cross in place, and so there it stands. There’s also a giant “B” for Boise painted on rocks on the ground in front of Table Rock that are painted new colors every so often, usually blue or orange for the BSU Broncos. When we were there this last weekend, it was red.


I appreciate that for many people, the cross is a symbol of faith and its presence is comforting, but in my opinion it distracts from the natural wonder of the area and doesn’t help non-Christians feel very welcome. However, it doesn’t look like it will be taken down anytime soon, so as others have done before me, I’ll just have to make peace with it. The area is beautiful after all, and the views can’t be beat. It still makes my list of one of the top things to do in Boise.

What’s your opinion on the Table Rock Cross?

My Top Five: Roseburg, Oregon Area

If you’ve ever been to Canyonville, Oregon, it’s probably because you were visiting the casino and resort: Seven Feathers. You probably took advantage of the plethora of wineries and the easy access to outdoorsy type activities. But if you’re looking to go to the area and need a couple other ideas, I have a few.

Paul is doing an electrical engineering internship and went to Riddle for work. I was able to go with him and have a kind of vacation while he was tromping around in the heat. I did not get the opportunity to visit the wineries and I didn’t engage in any of the outdoor activities that I’d have liked to because I was by myself all day. Still, I did manage to make a few discoveries, and I’m sharing them with you in case you’re going to be in the area. I was there around the Fourth of July weekend, but since Paul had to do some follow up work there this week, it was on the brain.

The nearby towns are relatively small. The casino is the main draw and the closest city, Roseburg, is not very big. There are larger cities further south, but since I didn’t want to spend an hour by myself driving, I didn’t visit them this time.

Here are my top five, in no particular order:


1. Alexander’s Greek Cuisine, Roseburg Oregon

I went to Roseburg for the day and found the most charming little Greek restaurant. This is not an area known for its ethnic food (it considers American pizza to be Italian), so this was quite a find. I had warm, fresh pita bread with a lemon chicken soup, which was tangy and light. I had some great hummus, a crispy triangle of spanakopita, and one of the best slices of baklava I’ve ever had.


2. Vintage and Antique shopping

The best thing to do in this area is shop for old things. Two of my favorite antique stores were the Millsite Mercantile in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and the Jackson Street Mall in Roseburg. Both of these store had lots of variety, plenty to look at, and were reasonably priced. The proprietors were friendly, happy to answer questions, and really knew their stock.

The whole area is a treasure trove for collectors. I went to a couple garage/estate sales in the area and came upon some great stuff. You have to do a bit of digging sometimes, but there’s a lot of great antiquing in the area and most of the little towns have at least two or three antique stores.


3. Ken’s Sidewalk Cafe

If you’re staying at the casino, you really don’t have an excuse to not visit Ken’s, which is less than half a mile up the road. The burgers are simple and delicious, the fries crisp and flavorful. The food is good–but the best thing about Ken’s is the milkshakes. I can’t remember a time I had a better shake. They’re creamy, flavorful, but not overpowering. Seasonally, they do berry shakes with fresh fruit (strawberry shake is out of this world), but the chocolate malt is easily my favorite.

4. Riddle Fourth of July Fireworks

If you’re thinking about staying at the casino over the Fourth of July weekend, you really need to go down to the Riddle Fireworks show held on the high school football field. The locals take their fireworks very seriously, and their display was quite spectacular, including a huge explosion–like a car blowing up–that you’ve  probably only seen in the movies. The show isn’t super long, but you’re right up close and personal, and there’s plenty to ooh and ahh at. You’ll find details about it online (and they typically have a festival the whole weekend, so it’s a good weekend to visit the area).


5. The Broadway House in Myrtle Creek, Oregon

The best baked goods in the area are made by the fabulous woman who runs the Broadway House. Her cafe, with a well curated selection of gift items, is bright and cheery and densely populated by regulars. Her soups, which change everyday, are flavorful. The croissants, my favorite pastry, are light and buttery. She has wonderful cookies, muffins, you name it. It’s best to get there early for your favorite pastry (or a slice of quiche) and a cup of coffee before heading out for a day of antiquing or wine tasting.

And there you have it. My middle-of-Oregon favorites. Have you visited any of these places? Did I leave out one of your favorite stores or restaurants? Let me know below.