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Oh, To Be Rich in Coeur d’Alene

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Hotels In Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene is the largest city in the Idaho panhandle; a mix of remote nature, urban ease and ostentatious wealth. It’s well-known in the Pacific Northwest as a resort destination, with a prime location on the lovely lake which shares its name. We had been eagerly anticipating our short, two-day stay there, and found it to be just as memorable as advertised.

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On the banks of gorgeous Lake Coeur d’Alene, you might not see another person for hours. We drove up and down Highway 97, through the historic town of Harrison and right alongside the eastern coast of the lake. On an old dock sticking out into the water, we took a lunch break, with nothing but a cool breeze for company. The faraway sound of a boat motor eventually broke the spell; Coeur d’Alene is actually one of the most popular lakes in Idaho for water sports, especially among the rich weekenders who come in from Washington and California. (See more pictures of the scenic drive.)

No, Coeur d’Alene is no hidden gem. A stroll along the boardwalk of the Coeur d’Alene Resort should convince us of that. Hundreds of expensive speedboats, sailboats and cruisers anchor in hotel’s marina. It was hard not to feel inferior while passing by. Even the floating boardwalk is over the top: the world’s longest. We stood on the bridge for awhile, watching a sun-tanned gentleman and his young, unnaturally voluptuous wife (we’ll be kind, and assume “wife”) steer their yacht underneath us and into its parking spot. A parking spot which is probably more valuable than my life.

With the lakeside resort as its nucleus, downtown Coeur d’Alene extends to the west, where there’s a beach and park, and also to the north, where we found art galleries, upscale souvenir shops, slow traffic, a couple good bars and cafes, and … hipsters? Yes, Coeur d’Alene harbors a healthy population of trendy young hipsters, complete with tight-fitting jeans and thin mustaches. We spent a couple hours in Java on Sherman, sitting next to a couple fashionable young dudes who were playing chess and discussing Grizzly Bear’s new album (their verdict: it’s great). I almost felt like I was back in Savannah!

CDA, as the cool kids call the city, takes its name from the Coeur d’Alene people … who take their name from the French for Heart of an Awl. This strange name was bestowed upon the tribe by a French Canadian fur trader, who was impressed and frustrated by their unforgiving negotiating style. If there are any tribe members left in the city, they stay out of sight; like the rest of Northern Idaho, CDA is overwhelmingly white. 96%, in fact.

We stayed in Coeur d’Alene’s Best Western, just north of the city center along Highway 95 — it was a comfortable place to rest, with decent restaurants in walking distance. After a long day of sight-seeing, we had dinner at Tomato Street, where one portion was enough for a small family. I slept well that night, belly bursting with pasta, and dreamed that I was a rich playboy tooling around the lake in my new mini-yacht. Coeur d’Alene is the kind of town that inspires such dreams of grandeur when you’re asleep. And fits of jealousy, when awake.

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October 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm Comments (4)

McCall – Idaho’s Four Season Getaway

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McCall Hotels / Vacation Rentals

Whether you’re walking down Lake Street, driving along the Warren Wagon road, cruising by the surprisingly busy airport or sipping a cocktail while overlooking the majestic Payette Lake, one thing is never in doubt: life in McCall is pretty sweet.

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We only had the opportunity to see the early-fall side of McCall, but the town is a premiere destination in any season. There’s a ski resort just minutes away, a state park within walking distance of the town center, a 27-hole public golf course, and the picturesque Payette Lake. McCall is a playground for the wealthy of the Pacific Northwest, and definitely has the vibe of a well-to-do resort town.

We spent a few days lounging around McCall, sunglasses on and collars flipped up, pretending to be wealthy playboys on vacation. The town is only about 45 minutes north of Cascade, and there are plenty of reasons to visit: cozy cafes like the FoggLifter and Moxie Java, and a wide selection of restaurants such as Chapala (Mexican) and Red Pavilion (Chinese), both of which share an unbeatable view of the lake.

Just past McCall’s marina, a peninsula juts into Payette Lake. This is Ponderosa State Park — an 1000-acre escape which, given its proximity to town, is more wild than you might suspect. In fact, our most exhilarating brush with Idaho’s nature happened within the Ponderosa’s confines.

Highway 55 cuts through town, skirting along the southern side of the Payette. Beautiful, but for an even better view, try taking the Warren Wagon road up the western edge of the lake. You’ll be amazed at how large it is — by the time you’ve reached the northern shore, McCall has completely vanished from view, leaving only a pristine panorama, unblemished by signs of humanity. Complete the loop back to McCall by turning onto East Side Drive, for more incredible views.

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September 14, 2012 at 12:24 am Comments (0)
Oh, To Be Rich in Coeur d'Alene Coeur d'Alene is the largest city in the Idaho panhandle; a mix of remote nature, urban ease and ostentatious wealth. It's well-known in the Pacific Northwest as a resort destination, with a prime location on the lovely lake which shares its name. We had been eagerly anticipating our short, two-day stay there, and found it to be just as memorable as advertised.
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