I caught myself, I was holding back tears as I drove over the bridge that connects our little island to mainland Ontario, that may sound super dramatic but we have only crossed the bridge twice since the onset of COVID. Once to see Mike's family before the tourist season started, (whatever that really means anymore); and the other an emergency trip to Kingston Animal hospital to tend to a nail situation, Marzipan's not mine. So as I crossed the bridge I realized I had been holding my proverbial breath for the past six months. Two months later and I’m still containing that energy from the little getaway to the shoreline of Lake Erie (Check out the awesome re-cap from Sarah here) . Lesson learned, explorers still need to explore, and now we just get to be a little bit more creative. This week I am staying close to home but discovered quickly that I still have a lot to learn about my own region. The Bay of Quinte is approximately two hours from both Toronto and Ottawa so it is the perfect distance for a weekend getaway or in my case the ultimate staycation.
I live and work in Prince Edward County, (check out a great post from Sarah on Prince Edward County here), we are neighbours but could be worlds apart. I discovered a unique exciting energy, the only kind you can get when you cross passionate and talented people, hustling with everything they have. A legit sense of people living, doing exactly what they set out to do.
Brighton Ontario was actually a super surprise to me, so many times I have taken the "long way" home from Toronto and meandered, relaxing along highway 2. Rocked gently by the car moving over the hills, being charmed by the small town facades and knowing that I made the choice not to rush home and just enjoy. But I have never stopped. Never peaked into the small independent bookstore or had a latte in one of the cafes. I hadn't even ventured to the popular Presqu'ile Provincial Park to have a quick stroll on its rocky shores (I am a proud rock hound). So yes it surprised me. Between the farm stands (Cricklewood Farms & Cheer Farms ) and the antique shops (Marion's Antiques), I swooned. Lunch at Lola's Cafe gratified my grumbly stomach, I had the most mouth watering Muffaletta (originating from New Orleans via immigrating Sicilians, so this should explain the party in your mouth you may have in response to your first bite), and body warming latte. The café was charming, stocked up with locally roasted coffee beans, art work (the greeting cards they had at the time were so perfect), and a delightful menu that would pull me back in. After a filling meal (I had to take half of my sandwich to go), we strolled along Main St. peering into the windows, before heading off to the Park.
Just before you head into Presqu'ile there is a little shop called Birdhouse Nature Store where I was able to stock up on some quality feed for our ever growing birdy friends at home. I even treated the squirrels to some peanuts (which actually resulted in a hoard of Blue Jays which was fabulous). They have a very great extensive website shop for those who can't get there.
Presqui'lle had our mouths agape from the gate. Heading towards the light house we passed multiple roads that pointed to the beach. Seemingly surrounded by water, with marsh lands on one side and Lake Ontario on the other the fall foliage but a memory it was still to me otherworldly. We were drawn here with the promise of seeing the second oldest operating light house in Ontario. The waves of lake Ontario rolled gently onto the rocky shore, where I came across a couple trilobite fossils (no fear I left them there). The light house itself, with now only a beacon on the top, is not large but still manages to have a goliath presence due to its storied history with many shipwrecks in the close vicinity. Bird watchers and beach goers are drawn here and I can see why, many kilometers of hiking trails, camp sites and sandy beaches are just the start.
Already thrilled and expectations exceeded I was sure there couldn't be a way I could be enchanted more, but here we were standing in line waiting for my favourite sweet treat , the doughtnut. The most lovely thing about doughnuts is that every single country and culture has their own variation from the Beignet to the Gulab Jamun, doughnuts can be found around the world! Wannamaker's BakeShop can be found in Quinte West and it is a sublime way to start the day, not only were the doughnuts amazing (I tried the Apple Fritter and Toasted Coconut) but you absolutely need to get the Cinnamon Bun, oh and side note it could feed a family of four. With another full day of exploring ahead it was the fuel we needed!
The only use for a cookie cutter is just that, to cut cookies. I have a weird aversion to corporate stores, although they do create jobs, as they generally have a little more spending power and in some cases buying power which in turn creates an exciting "discount" for the consumer, they leave very little to imagination. I love walking into a small business and feeling surprised, and then subsequently rewarded as if I just completed a treasure hunt. We were treated to a handful of bespoke and eclectic, curated shops on our trip; The County Emporium is situated in a big yellow church in Carrying Place. Not only will you be welcomed with open arms and probably a sample of a local wine but you your eyes will feast on the selection of local goods and other great finds like bathrobes (I got one for my bestie after she had her sweet little baby girl) and rompers, Squish gummies and scrunchies. They have stuff for the men as well! Oh and Wednesday nights they stay open late and we ate some delish Indian takeout and had some local wine. Boretski Gallery in Downtown Belleville was another favourite stop. Personally I love vintage, being a bigger girl most of the clothes fit me better (or they are at least tagged better) they are sturdier (not a an actual fact but an observation that clothing that was made before the 2000's seem to hold up a lot better than clothes now.) Also the colours. Swoon. Marina, the shop owner was wonderful to speak with and she showed us how she would take un-salvageable items and turn them into new fabulous pieces. She opened the doors in 2003 but you can tell she has not lost an ounce of fire as her window displays and the curation of the store itself was perfection. I walked out with a cute hat and a bag, I could spend hours in here and will most definitely be back!
Boretski Gallery Downtown Belleville
When was the last time you visited a Dairy? 40 years in and this was my first time! The pandemic made for a different experience, as I could see you would once be able to watch the processes through a big glass window which was now cordoned off. But we still were able to get a famous "Loonie Shake" and see all that they had to offer. Family run since 1910 Reid's Dairy supports local farmers and the products can be easily found in grocery stores in the Bay of Quinte.
After all the eating we had done (like the incredible jerk chicken from The Caribbean Jerk Spot ) we were ready to work off some of the excess by visiting a local conservation area. H.R Frink Conservation is about a ten minute drive outside of Belleville. When we arrived we were luckily greeted by an enthusiastic outdoor teacher who ran a morning program as we were already lost and hadn't even begun, as the trail options are plentiful. She pointed us in the right direction and off went. We were headed towards a boardwalk that jutted out into marshland. The walk is easy and pretty accessible (we saw lots of baby strollers). And after a short walk through a dense forest we were treated to a vast opening of marsh land, where a group of swans floated past a beaver house. The fresh crisp air was delightful and we were glad to be surrounded by nature. So many more trails to discover!
From the moment I started this post back in September I knew I wouldn't be able to publish it right away. I knew I would end up going back to make sure I did the Bay of Quinte some justice with my writing. There were many great stops a long the way I decided to leave out of this post because, well let's face it, these days our attention spans are a little less then robust. So thank you for reading along and hopefully I gave you a little glimpse into this sprawling, diverse Ontario destination.
Months later and Ontario is back in lockdown, but I have already started to plan some awesome road trips and getaways for 2021.
12/29/2020 01:32:57 am
What a wonderful read :) I hope to see more of BOQ sometime soon(ish).
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30 almost 40 something gregarious nice girl. Homebase Prince Edward County. Always looking for the next adventure, whether in my own backyard or travelling the world. I get excited over pugs, unicorns and rainbows.