Life is Just Better in the Hills of Northumberland
July 2015 marks my fifth summer of living in Cobourg and working in Colborne and Brighton. My city friends often ask about what life is like outside of the GTA. The landscape is different. The culture is different. The days unfold with a lot less noise and a lot more beauty. Life in the city has its benefits too–but living in a place where the natural world is so much a part of the human world grounds me in a way that the city can’t.
What Hooked Me
Years ago I had visited Spirit of the Hills as a guest to speak at a breakfast meeting. After the breakfast meeting a friend in the group asked if I’d like to go for lunch in Cobourg. Absolutely!
Sitting on the patio of the Oasis Restaurant on a perfect summer’s day I thought I could do this. I could live here. A few months later when I was thinking about applying for a new job, I applied in this region–and voila! Here I am!! Now I’ve bought a house and I feel like this is home–I will be here for a long time.
Things I love most about living in Northumberland
1. People know how to relax.
There is an easiness here. My first summer in Cobourg I walked down to the Harbour and Victoria Park Beach from the West Beach. After years of working so hard I was stunned to see so many people out for a walk, cycling along the lake, sitting on a bench with ice cream. Although it’s cliché–I literally felt like I had landed on another planet. Everyone was having fun, relaxing, enjoying the day and each other. No one was working! (I also realized in that moment how much I needed a break!)
From Port Hope to Brighton, there is a quiet easiness within the towns and within the people who live here. Drivers are respectful. Strangers are chatty. Beauty pops from the diverse landscape.
It’s a blessing to live in a place where the majority of the residents are retired–the 55+ crowd know important stuff about slowing down, appreciating each day, and taking time to drive out the pier and gaze at the lake.
Everyone I meet is a volunteer for something and the lists of volunteer work they do are astonishing! Volunteers make our communities kinder, more beautiful, and provide more opportunities for residents and travellers. From social justice organizations to dynamic arts groups to outdoors clubs, there is something for everyone. In our communities, most people contribute more than their taxes. Our communities are made up of generous, hardworking, heartfelt people who want street festivals and affordable housing and flourishing schools.
3. Sense of home. Peace.
Northumberland is not a sleeper community. People LIVE here. In fact, it hasn’t taken me long to make excuses to avoid the city. When I moved here I thought I would continue going into Toronto once a month to see friends, attend events. As the years have gone by the need to drive toward the city has slowly evaporated. Now I tend to get to the city once a season–and only in off-peak traffic!
It feels like home here. It has the peace of cottage country but with the convenience of a 20 minute drive to work and all amenities in town. Housing prices are better than the GTA so I was able to buy my dream house a few blocks from Lake Ontario.
We are proud of our communities. We feel a sense of connection because we are in this place. It’s important where we are from and how we came to be here, but it’s also important that we are all here. We are important because we exist here. My experience of Northumberland has been as a welcoming place.
4. Food is delicious!
The culture of food in Northumberland is the best surprise! Surrounded by farms we have access to outstanding local produce. Everything tastes better. The 100-mile diet is rich and glorious! (And oh the baking!!!!)
Restaurants and coffee shops have character. Independent eateries are more popular than the suburban chains. As a friend told me, “There isn’t a bad restaurant in Port Hope.” Port Hope certainly has a number of tasty places to go but I’ve enjoyed amazing meals throughout the whole region too!
5. “You can’t walk a block without bumping into an artist or creative person.”
From galleries to theatre to concerts, there is always somewhere to go or something to do. Creative people are everywhere. I can’t keep up with the arts events in Northumberland–in fact, I can’t even keep up with the arts in Cobourg! I’m an arts junkie and try to do something 3-4 times a month to support the local arts culture but I’m often faced with tough decisions as there are so many great options.
My Top Ten Favourite Things to Do in Cobourg/Port Hope
(in no particular order)
- MillStone Bakery in Cobourg. Amazing bread and baking. Try one of their ‘handwiches’ to go!
- Dreamers Cafe in Port Hope. Crazy Cookie–try one. Wowzer. (Also a lovely spot for lunch–or writing!)
- Cobourg Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. The most amazing honey and maple syrup you’ll ever try–among other delights.
- Capitol Theatre in Port Hope. Lots of great shows all year long.
- Avid Reader Bookstore in Cobourg. Friendly staff, good selection, a book lovers’ paradise!
- Corfu Grill in Cobourg–the food tastes just like it did when I visited Corfu.
- Cobourg Harbour and Victoria Beach. The opportunity to be on vacation any day or every day.
- Ten Thousand Villages in Cobourg. So many treasures.
- Victoria Hall, Cobourg–lots of great shows. Fascinating history. Stunning building.
- Burnham Family Market and Moore Orchards–love them both!!
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault.