In Search of the Northern Summer: Part IV

When we weren’t lying around on the private beach like lazy seagulls, we were out and about, exploring the little towns that dot the coastline and interior of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. Less than ten minutes from our inn was one of the most popular: Leland.

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At first glance, Leland can have the appearance of a shallow tourist attraction with only the thinnest veneer of being an authentic town. But — once you really open your eyes and ears — you start to notice that people actually live and work here; leading lives that do not revolve around tourists.

Of course, Leland does have its share of the ubiquitous fudge shops, ice cream parlors, t-shirt vendors, etc. that you would expect from a town that’s a popular vacation destination. But, it’s also more than that, and it becomes apparent once you start talking with the shopkeepers and take a walk or two down streets off the main road.

While we were walking around and looking in some of the shops along M-22, I stepped into the Leland post office to mail a few things. IMG_0892I suddenly realized that I’d found one of Leland’s gathering places. No tourists here! Two neighbors ran into each other and discussed a party that was to take place soon.

Another lady stopped by and mentioned that the post office seemed to be unfairly monitoring its bulletin board, noting that she’d been told that only government and community meetings could be posted. The other two ladies nodded in agreement, while the third gestured at the bulletin board, “Mad Dog Brown? Performing at the Sleepy Saloon?! Is that a community meeting??” I chuckled, pretending I’d read something funny on my phone bill.

In the way of shopping, though, Leland does have a lot of interesting things to tickle your touristy fancy and even your taste buds. One of my favorite places to visit is right off the main street: Brownwood Farms. Walk in the doors of Brownwood Farms and you can see that they’re all about the business of getting you to sample their foodstuffs. Mustards, chutneys, sauces, jams, preserves — it’s all here! What impressed me most, this time, was their Pear & Cinnamon Preserves. Pear is such a delicate, easily cooked-out flavor and yet — somehow — even the smallest bite of these preserves practically screams PEAR! Amazing stuff!

James and I are also fond of browsing through the artsy stuff to be found in Tampico — right on M-22 (Main Street). From sterling silver jewelry to authentic Mexican folk art to paintings to really quirky sculptures, this store is guaranteed to have something to grab your attention.

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Aside from being host to lots of good browsing, Leland also boasts a nicely maintained piece of Great Lakes maritime history. Fishtown — Leland’s historic district — is a collection of remnants from a time in America when the Great Lakes were regarded as vast, inland oceans. People would board giant steamships and head for places like Leland, looking to start new lives or to have an exotic, extended vacation. Fishtown was also headquarters for IMG_0897the once thriving Great Lakes commercial fishing industry. Nowadays, of course, these old shanties are home to souvenir shops, sandwich shops, and chartered boat operators — including the only ferry that can take you to the Manitou Islands.

That’s another fascinating thing about Lake Michigan — and all of the Great Lakes, in fact — there are entire islands out there, largely unexplored and usually uninhabited except for hikers and campers who brave the waters and the isolation. The North and South Manitou Islands are two such islands. They can be seen from the coastline, but — being an hour-and-a-half ferry ride away — are definitely more remote than they appear. While such isolation and seclusion makes the little hermit inside me squeak with glee, my saner self knows that I could never make such a journey without lots of people to keep me company!

While seated at breakfast, one morning, two fellow guests at the inn were telling us about the camping trip they’d just returned from on North Manitou island. They spent two nights — one of them a very restless one fighting gale force rain and winds — and were definitely glad to be within the safe and comfy confines of Snowbird Inn!

Speaking of comfort, Leland is also home to Stone House Bread Café: an outpost for Stone House Bread who we were introduced to, earlier in the trip, at the Green Cuisine event. Having sampled some of their breads, we were eager to stop in and have lunch.

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Though it looked just like any other bakery/café, upon stepping inside, what immediately caught my attention was the giant basket of Pecan Rolls. Be still, my soul! Before I’d even decided on LUNCH, I had one of those in my hands! It was — as you can see — very moist and tender and yet not overly sweet… they weren’t even stingy on the pecans!

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Keeping with the local spirit, for lunch I ordered the Leelanau Chicken Sandwich. It was quite an interesting combination of flavors for one sandwich: sliced roasted chicken topped with goat cheese, fresh spinach, and a zesty cranberry relish all on their signature Cherry-Walnut bread! Quite a party was had on the palate!

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James ordered one of their panini sandwiches: grilled chicken and bacon topped with gouda, spinach, tomato, and dijonaise on toasty Focaccia bread. He also sampled their Tomato-Basil Soup. (Ha! He had soup, I had a pecan roll…)

Having been thoroughly stuffed at lunch and having toured in and about the streets of Leland, we retreated back to the inn for more beach time! In the interest of reporting the truth, I should tell you that we ate ice cream for dessert, that night, and it was some of the best ice cream on the planet — was even made locally in Michigan. More on that ice cream, later…

UPDATE: As of December 5, 2013, the Stone House Bread Café in Leland has closed its doors. This is a loss for Leland and the surrounding area, of course, but I fear it’s also a mistake for Stone House. The owners aim to expand their wholesale business by abandoning their admiring, local patrons. We’ll all miss the friendly employees and the homey atmosphere of the cafe… that’s certainly something you can’t pick up in the supermarket.

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~ by Jason on July 28, 2010.

9 Responses to “In Search of the Northern Summer: Part IV”

  1. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your Tales of Thyme & Place!

  2. I love your blogs and I love to follow you and your little love adventures all over the place, keep em comin!
    Jessie~

  3. I LOVE Fishtown. I have a Fishtown sweatshirt that Vince and I bought on our honeymoon!

    • I’d like a t-shirt from Fishtown that says, “I just came from ‘The Dam Candy Store'”. 😀 That sign makes me giggle every time I see it.

      (for those who aren’t aware, there’s a candy store located on the dam in Fishtown called “The Dam Candy Store”)

  4. We backpacked & camped on Manitou Island a couple of times, what an experience! No vehicles of any kinds allowed (not even bikes), which leads to a quiet, restful experience. Someday we will go back! Sounds like your trip was amazing!

    • I’ve gone this far in life without ever having slept outdoors… oddly enough, I’ve been meaning to do it and just haven’t gotten up the nerve. I’d LOVE to camp somewhere like the Manitous, but — as I said — James and I would definitely have to go with a few people to keep us sane (and keep us alive)!

  5. Leland is one of my favorite places. I’m extremely happy to be reading about your Michigan adventures in places I grew up visiting! You’re making me homesick!

    • Thanks for reading! That whole area is a very special place — very delicate, at the same time. Hearing about the recent oil spill on the Kalamazoo River has really been upsetting. I hope that Lake Michigan isn’t in any (more) danger of meeting the same fate as the Gulf of Mexico.

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