All that a tourist needs

Coeur d' Alene offers pleasant B & Bs, outstanding antique shops, museums and delightful memories

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005

When I was a very young girl, my family, aunts, uncles and cousins often had picnics at the amusement park on Lake Coeur d' Alene. I especially remember the high Ferris wheel and the pink cotton candy.

Many years later in the late 1980s, I attended a conference at the Coeur d' Alene Resort. Perhaps because I am short, I was housed in one of the penthouse suites. The ceilings in the dressing room and in the bathroom were quite low and steep. My 5-foot-1 height was actually an advantage! However, from my vantage point in the penthouse, I could not see an amusement park in any direction. The large resort had replaced the park.

My husband, Don, and I drive through Coeur d' Alene at least once a year because we have friends who live in Montana and my mother and one of my sisters live north of Spokane. We usually stop and spend at least one night in Coeur d' Alene as a break in our road trip. Last August, we celebrated our anniversary in the town.

Most of the tourists come to Coeur d' Alene for conventions, conferences and to be pampered in the resort hotel that is expansive, luxurious and expensive. Don and I stay in B & Bs where we are pampered at less cost. Last summer, we enjoyed our stay at the McFarland House. However, because of a death in the family, the McFarland House is now up for sale. If you are looking for B &B accommodations, the tourist office and the Internet are quite helpful.

Not only is Coeur d' Alene famous for the resort, the town is also well known for its antique shops. Over the years we have found great old Alaskan souvenirs and curios as well as blue and white china, dolls and teddy bears at the Crow's Nest. This past summer, we found high quality antiques at remarkably reasonable prices in Worthingtons, a shop in the resort's mall.

However on a side street in downtown is the most incredible antique shop we have ever visited. Ciscos has museum displays of museum-quality Native American and Old West antiques and artifacts for sale. Ciscos has a second shop in the resort mall.

Our love of antiques means that we also love museums. We visited the city museum, the Museum of North Idaho. The local public television station has produced a good video about the history of the town and northern Idaho. The displays of local history are well done and informative, but the museum does not have the polished look of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. (I'm sure the Idaho museum relies on donations and volunteers.) French explorers, Jesuit priests, the U.S. Army, logging, the river, the lake, the Civilian Conservation Corps and tourism have profoundly affected the area.

Highway 90 offers a few must-see spots

A must-visit roadside stop while traveling east from Seattle along Highway 90 is the Wild Horse Monument just outside of Vantage, Wash. At the top of one of the hills is the metal sculpture of at least 12 ponies running, based on a Native American legend. The site is sign posted.

Last summer, on our way east of the mountains, we discovered the restaurant in the Best Western Hallmark Inn at Moses Lake. Our table at the window overlooking the lake was set with flowers, cloth napkins and a tablecloth. The food was well prepared and flavorful. The Hallmark Inn was a relaxing break from the desert and road construction.

Another must-visit site just off the highway is the Old Mission State Park at Cataldo, Idaho. The visitor-interpretive center shows a video and has exhibits about the Coeur d' Alene Natives and the Jesuit missionaries who came to the area at the invitation of the Coeur d' Alenes. The site includes the restored church and the parish house. According to the park's brochure, "The Mission is the oldest remaining building in Idaho."

North Idaho College is on the grounds of the former Fort Sherman. We talked to the proud painter who had just finished restoring the exterior paint of the only remaining officers quarters that are now used as an office building for the college.

According to the brochure we picked up at tourist information, the old Fort Sherman Armory houses the fort's museum. Like Juneau's Last Chance Mining Museum, the fort's museum relies on volunteers. We were disappointed that the armory was locked. However, we walked around the perimeter of the museum and looked through broken areas in the fence at the log buildings that included living quarters, an outhouse and a covered shed that protected two 1920s trucks and a wooden boat.

We fell in love with the Coeur d' Alene moose. Moose were in green spaces, on sidewalks, and even in the resort's mall. Fortunately, the Coeur d' Alene moose do not run in front of cars nor do they browse on the trees in back yards. We saw at least 20 life-size moose sculptures. As a fund-raiser, various artists were asked to paint or decorate the moose to be auctioned to the highest bidders.

Salmon swam up streams on the sides of one moose with a mountain range back, and the forehead and horns made up a very grouchy eagle's head, body and wings. The "First Man on the Moon" moose looked like the moon's landscape with a very tiny Eskimo dancing on the lower back. In the mall, a moose was cut in half and used as book ends for three 8- to 9-feet tall books.

Pleasant B & Bs, outstanding antique shops, museums, a beautiful lake with swimming beaches and lake cruises, an elegant resort, tree-lined neighborhoods of vintage homes and outdoor art - what else does a tourist need? Great restaurants!

We ate twice at Titos at the Coeur d' Alene on the Lake in the resort's mall. At dinner, we ate great Italian food, and we enjoyed the luncheon salads.

The day before our anniversary, we made reservations with the concierge at the Coeur d' Alene Resort for dinner at Beverly's on the Seventh Floor. The concierge, Brice, noticed Don's Juneau Raptor Center T-shirt and asked if we were from Juneau. Brice retired from the State of Alaska (Juneau), and we spent time talking about friends and acquaintances the three of us knew. Brice also made sure he noted that we were celebrating an anniversary.

The next evening when we entered the lobby of Beverly's, the receptionist wished us "Happy Anniversary." Our escort to our table wished us "Happy Anniversary," as he seated us at a table that provided a great view of all the activity on the lake. I lost count of the total number of folks who waited on us. The wine steward, the chef who introduced himself and brought us hors d'oeuvres, our waitress, the gal who served the rolls, and several others wished us a "Happy Anniversary."

The menu at Beverly's is expensive. However, the tenderloin steak dinner for two was a great bargain at $100. In addition to the tenderloin, the dinner included prawns, mussels, lobster, Yukon potatoes and steamed veggies. The Chianti Classico was perfect. The celebratory dessert was a complete surprise - pink cotton candy circling a scoop of vanilla ice cream, covered in whipped cream with a lit candle on top. The pink cotton candy reminds the locals and tourists of Coeur d' Alene's earlier amusement park days.

The dessert reminded me of the picnics at the amusement park long ago, and I was struck with the realization that Coeur d' Alene remembers its past with museums and pink cotton candy.

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