I like to see beautiful new places. I imagine that you can identify with that.
Can you also identify with the feeling of being certain that there are beautiful places all around you? Places that are within comfortable driving distance?
Can you ALSO identify with the feeling that sometimes it can feel hard or overwhelming to find these near-by beautiful places? Almost akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, even though you truly believe in your heart of hearts that there must be SO MANY beautiful places near by?
Well, my friend Meghan and I found a beautiful, relatively-close-to-us place.
Port Hope is the name of the place. It is about an hour and a half east-ish of Toronto, right along Lake Ontario.
I gathered from reviews online that people genuinely enjoyed their visits there, but when I looked at photos of the town and lists of activities to do in Port Hope I wasn’t immediately convinced that it was the perfect place for us to visit. It seemed like lots of small shops and restaurants. I’m not great at browsing “gift shop” type stores, and I confess that going to cafes that I’ve never been to before makes me feel rather anxious.
However, due to that searching-for-a-needle-in-a-haystack feeling (and the knowledge that having the absolute perfect location was not necessary for us to have a wonderful trip), we agreed upon a pleasant-looking Airbnb in Port Hope and booked it for one night.
The Airbnb turned out to be absolutely wonderful, with giant beds, many pillows, fresh flower bouquets, and juice and chocolate in the fridge. We spent most of our evening watching The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix. We both loved the book, and felt that the movie captured the spirit of the story well.
The next morning we had toaster strudels, chocolate, chips and salsa, and tea for breakfast. Our Airbnb did not have a toaster for the toaster strudels, but we had the foresight to pack one. Always pack a toaster. You will almost never regret it.
We packed up our things and headed out to explore Port Hope.
We started by taking a walk on a snowy trail right beside the lake. It was lovely, although somewhat icy. It had snowed overnight, so there was a fresh blanket of snow to brighten everything up. I carried my camera around my neck, and it was one of those situations where EVERYTHING seems like it would make a good photo.
We walked until we were very cold, and then we kept walking until we got back to the car.
We headed to the main streets, which were wonderfully empty and quiet.
Our first stop was a used bookstore called Gryphon Books, where we were greeted in a friendly way by the shop-keeper, but then left to peruse the shelves in warm, cinnamon-scented silence. There was a lovely wall that was partially covered with bookmarks.
Obviously, I bought one million books there.
As I waited for Meghan to finish paying for her purchase, a young man came in. He looked at the camera around my neck and said, “I bet you paid more for your camera than I did for my truck.”
I decided to just go with it, and told him that I think I paid around $500 for my camera and its equipment.
He nodded in a pleased way, and said, “Paid $420 for my truck.”
A few more friendly comments were exchanged before Meghan and I headed back out.
Next we went into a dollar/bargain sort of store. It was nothing spectacular, but I found the type of hat and gloves that I’ve been looking for. I went to the front of the store to pay for them, and found the elderly cashier reading what was definitely one of those “Amish novels”. Part of me wanted to rip off my winter hat and be like, “I’m a real Mennonite!” I didn’t.
She looked at me and my camera and said, “That looks like an expensive camera.”
It was a little bit of a strange conversation starter, but it turned out she just wanted to give me tips of where to take nice photos in Port Hope.
We continued on our way and found Dreamers Cafe.
The menu had many delicious-sounding options, but we both ended up getting a chicken salad sandwich with Caesar salad. This was no ordinary chicken salad either. It had cranberries and caramelized onions in it, and it was SO GOOD. I’ve been craving it ever since I finished eating it.
When the waiter brought us our food, he asked me what kind of camera I have, and then proceeded to tell me what kind it was before I myself could recall the name of it. (Canon Rebel T3i… Canon Rebel T3i… I’m memorizing it.) He told me about how he’d had the same one, but it’d been stolen, but then he’d bought a new camera for a great price… I tried to sound appropriately appreciative and understanding as he gave me the details. He was very nice.
The cafe itself was whimsical with many lovely details, including French music playing through the speakers. We sat in a lovely corner up by the window.
The place mats were clever… each one was an article about Dreamers Cafe. It was the place mats that told us about…
THE CRAZY COOKIE.
So good, folks. So good.
Read more about it here, if you are curious.
As we were paying, the same man who asked me about my camera asked us if we are sisters, which pretty much made our visit to the cafe perfect in every way.
We visited a thrift store (called Purpose) before heading back home, although it felt like there were more places that would have been lovely to explore.
Port Hope was an extremely pleasant experience.
I learned that I love winter beaches (always thought I would), a camera around your neck is apparently a conversation starter, and that going on a trip with a good friend is an entirely worthwhile thing to do.
What beautiful places- near or far- have you found in your travels?