Falling Under Pella’s Charm Spell

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Pella, Iowa is a charming town built around a square, as many communities in #MiddleAmerica are, with architectural distinctions from its Dutch founding families. There is a historic portion of town where the buildings are preserved as they might have been in the 1800s. I focused on the more modern parts of town during “Thursday Night on the Square.”

This particular Thursday had an agricultural theme with Vermeer tractors, NRCS soil health booth, and the Iowa Corn trailer explaining the many wonders and uses of corn. There are also a number of fun stores to browse (including a quilt shop), but a must is Jaarsma Bakery where I tried the Dutch Letters for the first time. The only letters are an “S” and they are a light flaky pastry around an almond filling similar to that used in bear claws. It was delicious.

My cousin Lori lives in Pella, but because the other six siblings and families live closer to Stuart and Des Moines, she’s always been the one to drive to our gatherings. I decided on this trip to satisfy my curiosity about Pella. It is famous as a Dutch town with a tulip festival. It is a sister city to Holland, MI (where I visited in May). It is also the headquarters of the window manufacturer. It is a prosperous and friendly community. It is definitely worth the drive, even if you don’t have a cousin to visit.

Dining near Lake Michigan

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Pier Cove, the smallest public beach I’ve ever accessed. Fennville, MI on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is huge, but if you find yourself on it’s shore in western Michigan, you are in luck. I am sharing two eateries I enjoyed in Saugatuck and Fennville, both less than 30 minutes south of Holland, Michigan.

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The owner greeted us at Pennyroyal Cafe and Provisions in Saugatuck.

My friend Ray, his young daughter and I were hungry for lunch. We stopped at the Pennyroyal Cafe & Provisions (3319 Blue Star Highway) in Saugatuck. They didn’t have a high chair but the bench seating was perfect for a toddler and dad. She was happy moving up down and all around and pausing to eat her blueberry pancakes.

 

 

You can order coffee and pastries as you enter, or pass through to the dining room. It just opened in 2019 and they serve breakfast and lunch.

IMG_7891We ordered blueberry pancakes for V., johnnycakes and ham for me, and whitefish salad for Ray. We shared bites and everything was delish. The service was terrific. Saugatuck is about to be fill to the brim with Chicagoans enjoying their summer vacations and Pennyroyal is ready for them.

IMG_7919Our second stop was for pie. Ray was showing me downtown Fennville and as we drove towards the village I saw the sign for Crane’s pie. I asked Ray if we could stop. My intention was to get a slice of rhubarb pie.

They were having a special event with a guest chef and wine tasting. The sign said closed but they welcomed us just the same. They couldn’t sell a slice of pie, but they had some whole pies for sale: cherry or apple. So we took home a cherry pie (frozen last season when cherries were ripe), and it was yummy. V. loved it too. Ray was on a diet. He urged me to take it home with me but I demurred because I didn’t want TSA to make me throw it out.

IMG_7922Ray is an excellent cook and he grilled steaks, paired with wonderful salads from Farmhouse Deli in Douglas, Michigan.

If you find yourself in western Michigan be assured that you will find good eats.

Tulips in Holland, Michigan

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The tulips are blooming everywhere in Holland, Michigan. They are planted along most of the main roads and in the gardens. The tulips were already spent in my hometown so it was a treat to see so many different shades of tulips in bloom.

I was visiting my friend Ray and his daughter Victoria. We all went to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Holland. Not much was ready for harvest yet–just a lot of asparagus and rhubarb. The booths that in a few weeks will be filled with fresh fruit and produce were filled with plants for the house and garden.

IMG_7883Holland just finished expanding the community center, providing additional space for more processed food vendors. I’d bought fudge already. And Ray had purchased lots of single serving quiches at The Bakewell Company.  I was tempted to purchase some Worcestershire sauce from Black Sheep Gastronomy when I remembered I couldn’t pack it in my carry-on. (As it was, TSA in Grand Rapids debated if the fudge was allowed!) It was the first farmer’s market of the year so it wasn’t super busy. There was good energy and it is always hopeful to see local farmers offering beautiful vegetables. And I love seeing rhubarb!!! This under appreciated vegetable is still grown in western Michigan.

Tour de France: Making New Memories

Jens Voigt in his element: media interviews. He earned the KOM jersey in Stage 1 2014.
Jens Voigt in his element: media interviews. He earned the KOM jersey in Stage 1 2014.

This time last year I was having an absolute ball in Yorkshire with Trek Travel. This year the Tour is in Holland for the first two stages and I am watching it from California. Today in Stage 2 the wind, rain and nerves resulted in a split in the Peloton with a group of a couple dozen riders about a minute ahead of the rest of the Peloton. Crashes and pressure created a third group that fell off the back of the race for awhile. It was exciting to watch. One additional bonus was hearing Jens Voigt’s commentary scattered throughout the broadcast on NBC Sports.

When I arrived in York and met my Trek Travel tour guides I had a mental list of my cycling heroes that I definitely wanted to meet and ask to sign my California state flag. 1. Greg LeMond, 2. Jens Voigt, and 3. Fabian Cancellera.  Just 24 hours later I had all three!  And Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara struck me as opposite personality types. Fabian seemed almost shy whereas Jens is an extreme extrovert.

Cancellara's nickname is Spartacus and his Trek bike is tricked out accordingly.
Cancellara’s nickname is Spartacus and his Trek bike is tricked out accordingly.

Whereas Jens retired, I am still following Fabian Cancellera’s career. He had a serious crash at the beginning of the season and it was uncertain if he would make the Tour team. He is definitely coming on form as he came in third in the Stage 1 Time Trial. As he started Stage 2 he said in an post-race interview that he had not been thinking about winning the yellow jersey for the 29th day in his career. I guess it is possible that it was not a conscious thought, but he is such a canny cyclist that I do not believe that he had not figured out the scenarios where he could win the yellow jersey (fastest time overall).

The Trek Team must have given him a free pass to do what he can as he was the only Trek team member to get into the breakaway group. The three great sprinters were also in the group: Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Andre Greipel. (Of the four favorite GC riders only two made it into the breakaway: Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.) If Cancellara placed third, the bonus time in the sprint would give him the yellow jersey. Tony Martin was in a similar situation and he also made the breakaway. However, there is a difference between theoretical opportunities and having the bike skills, experience and confidence to execute.

Cancellara preparing for Stage 2 in 2014
Cancellara preparing for Stage 2 in 2014

The sprint started at 500 m to the finish. It may have been too early for Mark Cavendish as he was out fast and first. The Peter Sagan broke wide and poured on the gas. Then Greipel’s huge engine kicked in and he surged forward. But who was the only rider with them at the finish? Fabian Cancellara. And he took advantage as Mark Cavendish faded to take third place and grab the yellow jersey.

I am delighted. This may be his last Tour and I am enjoying the new memories he is making!