Sunday, June 04, 2006

My Own Private Idaho (and Montana)

Back from the roadtrip. Which was terribly fun. A friend and I drove over hill (the Cascade Mountains actually) and under dale (across the wilds of Eastern Washington, Central Idaho and Eastern Montana). Gorges, rock formations and sagebrush for the bulk of it. It felt so open and devoid of humans compared to the incredibly densely populated area that I live in... I'd like about a month of that!

Our destination was Missoula Montana, a darling, little college town. My friend had been watching specials about Glacial Lake Missoula and the Ice Age Floods which originated right there around Missoula and whose effects are still obvious in the landscape. We visited their Natural History Center which had all sorts of exhibits and information about the glacier and local wildlife and habitats. They host all sorts of local programs (my favorite upcoming one being: "Leafy Spurge Flea Beetle Collection Party"! Sad to be missing that one!)

After all the Natural History we could stand, we explored some of the town. There are all kinds of historic buildings. We found an amazing church, St. Francis, that was choc full of stained glass and murals on every surface (apparently one of the church cooks back in the late 1800s turned out to be a master painter). It was gorgeous and had terrific acoustics. My traveling companion has an amazing voice - and sat in the middle of the chapel and sang. The sound filled every part of the beautiful room and was breath-taking. The county courthouse, parts of which date back to the 1860s, features murals by the artist Edgar Samuel Paxson (best know for his painting "Custer's Last Stand").

The town also features art, sculpture and galleries. The restaurants we sampled were excellent. They also boast a hand-carved carousel - one of the few left in the country, as well as one of the fastest moving.
But on to the most important discoveries! There was a fabulous shop called Butterfly Herbs - where I found any number of locally-made herbal teas that smell heavenly and that I can't wait to try. And the number one shop of the day (you may be able to guess) we stumbled upon tucked away and barely visible from the street. Of all places to find a shop called "Chocolat"! I bought a selection of delectable sounding truffles of such unusual flavors! Mainly herbal and spice combinations (fennel, lavender, honey-rosemary, coconut curry, etc...) and the Garam Masala and 10-year old Balsamic Vinegar with Strawberry are to die for! They are attempting to expand beyond Missoula and you can order and sample some of their truffles online.

So our stay in Missoula was lovely. The company was great, our hotel couldn't have been nicer, the weather was beautiful, the food was fabulous - and there was astonishing chocolate!

I've taken more pictures, but for some reason blogger won't post them. I'll try again later...


andrea said...

I remember driving 'over hill' and being hugely impressed by the super highway that goes over the Snoqualmie Pass (I was on my way to build a deck in Coeur d'Alene). In BC we have scary winding 2-lane roads up in the mountains and in WA you have freakily complicated, high-tech and fast-moving freeways and interchanges around Seattle. But enough about roads ~ I love the pansy photo above but the top one with the fuzzy bee is the best. Great colours!

tlc illustration said...

Andrea - I thought of you the whole time I was chocolate shopping. If you want to really treat yourself, you really must try some of their truffles! They are incredible.

PG said...

Hello, I thought I'd posted a comment here, but it vanished! Trust you to find chocolate...honey and rosemary, yum! That painting, Custer's Last Stand, for some reason I had it as a big jigsaw puzzle when I was about 8 - rather gruesome for a little girl! It's imprinted itself on my memory...

You have such spectacular landscapes!