Thursday, June 14, 2012

Michigan Road Trip, Part II

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Michigan Road Trip, Part II

The road trip continues!  We continue on to Leeland, Michigan, which is in the upper peninsula, just above Traverse City.
We got up really early on Tuesday morning, 5:00 a.m. to the exact.  On the road by 6:30 a.m. stopping at Burger King drive through for breakfast.  They have a pretty good breakfast sandwich, I must say.  Leeland is almost a four hour trip from South Haven and as we wanted to have time to see the little town and explore Fishtown, we needed to get an early jump on the day.  As you get closer to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, the trees tend to be of the fir type with decidious tress mixed in.  Beautiful drive with lots of water scenery.

Leeland, Michigan is just a beautiful little town with a main street of shops and eateries housed in restored homes and storefronts.  Lots of boutiques, art shops, a few places to eat.

I first got the idea of driving up to check out Leeland, MI from an article in Bon Apetit that came out last Summer.  It featured a two page article on the small, delightful little town with Food TV Network chef Mario Batalia endorsing it.  He and his wife had purchased a fishing camp near there as their summer home.  I was so taken by the article that I just knew it deserved a visit on our Michigan Mini Trip.  It did not disappoint!

We ate lunch at the newly updated Bluebird Restaurant.  That is me in front of the entrance.

History has it that Leone and Martin Telgard opened the Bluebird Restaurant in 1927, and that it was orginally a little building that protruded out of the back of the Lutheran Church up the hill.  They moved it down to just behind the main street and started a little snack bar that was very small.  Part of the original building is still kind of encapsulated in the waiting room.  The restaurant is now in its third generation of owners and it really has not grown much in the last twenty years.  We had some wonderful sandwiches for lunch.  Mine was very inventive.  A square grilled nan bread on the bottom with their version of a club salad on top, covered with yummy bacon and hard boiled eggs chopped up.  The nan was spread with a mixture of dried tomato paste pesto.  I must say, it was very good!  The two waitresses that took care of our corner were extremely personable and capable.  There is a larger dining room that was very well appointed kept for dinner.

After lunch, we explored Fishtown.  It is just down a side street that juts out into the Bay that heads out to Lake Michigan. 

Fishtown is a unique collection of fishing shanties that have been and are in the process of being restored.  It has recently been listed on state and national historical registers.  Fishtown Preservation Society has been working diligently on the restoration, which is still a work in progress.  Each year an astonishing number of people come to Fishtown, about 200,000.  The town represents a way of life on the Great Lakes that is slowly disappearing.  People fished for a living before the large commercial fishing industry took hold.  It is wonderful to see that so many people cared about preserving a "little piece of heaven" called Fishtown in Leeland, MI. 

Here are pictures of the restored fishing shanties that house area artists and shop keepers. 

One of the shanties is a working smoke house, where locally caught fish like whitefish are smoked and sold at a small counter.  If we had brought a small cooler with us, we would have purchased some to take home.  Smoked fish is delicious!  Because of the working smokehouse, the entire area smelled like smoke and even our clothing smelled like smoke afterwards.  It permeats most of the little shanties. Added to the authenticity of it!

I purchased several souveniers for our Grandchildren, and for myself, I purchased two wonderful clay tiles that were handmade by an artist named Leif Sporck of Sporck Tileart.  It is housed in one of the little fishing shanties.  I had a wonderful time visiting his unique shop and talking with him.  He learned his trade from his Father and he carries on the tradition.  His tiles are mostly of nature that abounds in the area, fish, turtles, leaves, insects, etc.  They are "art tiles" that you can use in a backsplash for a kitchen or bathroom, trivets, coasters, conversation pieces.  They come in several sizes.  The colors and glazes are amazing!  So lifelike.  He also maintains a gallery in town and sells at large art festivals, etc.  I wish I were redoing a backsplash in my kitchen, as I would love to incorporate some of his tiles.  The ones I purchased had a large snapping turtle on one and a local fish on another.  You can see more of his work at:  He is also on Facebook under Leif K. Sporok, were you can see all his latest endeavors and where he will be displaying his beautiful tiles for sale.

There is also a dam at the end of a small waterway where local fisherman tie up their boats.  The current from the dam is amazing and I don't know how they navigate the boats out into the bay.

I can see why Mario Batalia spoke so highly of the area.  It is a delight to visit and explore.  A wonderful look into the past showcasing how the local fishing industry survived to present day. 

We left Leeland and headed down to Traverse City which is a very scenic town on the Peninsula with delightful waterscapes along the way.  As we were staying overnight in Williamsburg at the Turtle Creek Casino, we wanted to save a few hours to play in their casino.  The accomodations were very nice, very new with confortable beds and rooms.  The casino is on the smaller side, but, plenty of slots and all the table games, even a high roller area (which we stayed out of). 

Williamsburg is about a ten minute drive from Traverse City.  We left for home early on Wednesday morning for the 6 1/2 hour trip back to Cleveland, Ohio.  One thing you can say about Ohio.  It has great turnpikes and wonderful rest areas.  No comparison to the area states we have traveled through.

Hope you enjoyed my little Travelogue.  We certainly enjoyed our trip and brought back lots of lasting memories.

Rosemary, Garden Gate Designs

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