Now where was I before I drove all day with four boys and a big dog…
The Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan has more options for activity than people who live there full time can pursue, let alone those of us who try to tick off a long list in a couple weeks of a visit. For the local lake shore dwellers, “town” refers to Traverse City. From my point of view, being a big city dweller of Houston, Traverse is a darling town. I can’t say enough good about Traverse. I subscribe the the Magazine: Traverse, whose photos and stories continue to remind me why I love the area. It has not only some nationally awarded beaches on Lake Michigan, a marina, airport and mall but one of the most vibrant downtowns I’ve found here in America. The restaurants, coffee shops and interesting boutiques offer endless diversions from the sand across the street. Front street parallels the beach only two blocks away and is bustling with people at al hours.
Interlocken is a local school for performing artists, and just on the outskirts of Traverse. It offers excellent performing art concerts, plays and performances which the locals faithfully attend. As a child in lower Michigan I dreamed of attending there. My professor of dance at UofM (I was a dance major my freshman year!) was a principal dancer for Martha Graham in NYC, but he had always spent his time off at Interlocken teaching, and claimed the area to be the most beautiful in the world. He’s probably there now retired, fat and happy.
Traverse also has a movie theater on Front street, and our yearly trip coincides with the annual film festival organized by Michael Moore. It’s lively with films showing from sun up to sun down and people every where happily enjoying the festive mood. I’m “told” even some movie stars show up. Whatever, I am the last person on this earth to follow the lifestyle of America’s hollywood celebrities. For the fourth of July it is “cherry festival” which is the year’s highlight. I’ve never been able to attend that event, but some day I will. I hope you do too.
I mostly love Horizon Books on Front street. If you know me, then you can already see that I spent an hour in there and emerged with an armful of books that piled higher than my nose! The staff are knowledgable and their selection is vast. It’s not a big chain, but a carefully crafted store that is the fulcrum of this downtown area and privately owned. I mentioned to a woman there that I devour foreign travel memoirs and she lit up like I remembered her secret birthday,”me too!” Then she proceeded to show me books I didn’t know existed. We got to talking about why I was focused on Africa, and I shared about our adoption of our little girl this coming fall, and she said, “oh, let me take you to the person who manages the children’s books”. This woman knew every book that I haven’t been able to find about being a multi racial family, or specifcally about being a little black girl. These are hard to find. It makes me think…. hmmm… I ought to get busy and write a few… Anyway, talking books with new friends is my nerdy idea of endorphin inducing fun.
My sons love going into Traverse to wander the shops and soak up the lively atmosphere. There’s a farmer’s market in town on Wednesday and Saturday morning. I bumped into it on my way to the airport when Craig had to return to the real life. I loved it so much that I insisted we make it the priority for Saturday morning. And so we did, even though it was a down pour. Again, on our way out of town after sad goodbye’s we stopped at the market to buy produce to take to my Dad’s house down state. I didn’t miss it. In Michigan the growing season isn’t long, but the conditions are ideal. Everything comes for harvest at once! It’s such a delight to the eyes I buy much more than we can consume. This was particularly peak time for peaches and blueberries. The flavor of a plump berry freshly picked is as close to heaven on this side as I might get.
The whizzing bikes, dogs on leashes, vacationing families and locals on their way to work in Traverse never fall short of sharing a friendly smile and even a word or two. It’s hard not to be happy in a place like Traverse on Front street. There are several small villages along the peninsula shore that I’ll talk about in the following posts. They are in my opinion simply wonderful, and from my mom’s place, a nice bike ride away…even better.