On a warm evening in late August of 2018, I had my first tryst with the Quinte region of southern Ontario. After having settled into my residence building on the Loyalist College campus in Belleville, I treated myself to a picturesque view of the sunset over my customary evening cup of tea. I had never seen maple trees before. The pale sunshine flooded through the abundant greenery, and I stood in awe of the natural beauty that welcomed me.
I moved to Canada from my home town of Pune, India to complete my education after getting accepted into Loyalist College’s prestigious Public Relations program. Two years on, my time in Belleville marks one of the most memorable phases of my life.
The Quinte region is a group of communities along the Bay of Quinte in Ontario. Belleville is the largest city in the Quinte region. The city is flanked by attractive tourist destinations like Prince Edward County and Batawa, while Belleville itself has a beautiful waterfront and plenty of remarkable landmarks.
I arrived in Belleville during fall when the outdoors were favourable for long walks in my flip-flops. There’s a distinct meditative calm in the rustling of autumn leaves in the wind, and Belleville is one of the few places I’ve lived where the sound of traffic and urban chaos doesn’t drown out these melodies of nature.
Yet, Belleville is no second fiddle to bigger cities. Malls and markets bustle with activity throughout the year. Innovation and a resilient spirit keep the city’s businesses and communities ticking, one of the most recent examples being the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Downtown Belleville moved its retail and restaurants online and the community came together to help each other overcome tough times by shopping local. Even before the pandemic, the people of Belleville celebrated their local businesses and culture by promoting everything local. It is blessed with the proverbial best of both worlds, and its charm was growing on me.
With a number of international students attending Loyalist College every year, the community is a melting pot of cultures. Interacting with the larger community outside of my classroom through school activities was a unique experience. Cultural differences made for great conversation topics. The people of Belleville are incredibly warm and friendly, which helped me overcome my inhibitions. Soon, I was attending house parties and indulging in evenings of card games with my new friends.
I celebrated my first Diwali, the biggest Hindu festival and the biggest festival in India, with my new Canadian friends over Indian sweets and chicken tikka.
When I wasn’t busy working or attending school, I was exploring the Quinte region for places to see and things to do. During the summer, Quinte is a revelation. The sun-drenched beaches and the home-grown wineries of Prince Edward County are a short, scenic drive away from Belleville.
I frequented the Wellington beach in the County on my days off work and indulged in some delectable scoops of ice cream, conveniently available at a stone’s throw from the beach. The streets of Picton in the County resemble the Indian holiday capital, the state of Goa. It has an air of carefree calm, with aromas from the many specialty restaurants enticing travellers and locals alike.
I also enjoyed Belleville’s Waterfront Festival, an event that brings together cuisines from around the world every summer for locals to enjoy in a waterfront picnic-like setting. Brighton’s heritage buildings and museums make for great day-trips. The Quinte region offers a lot of adventures look forward to during the summer.
Hailing from a tropical country with relatively warm winters, I experienced my first snowfall in Belleville. The elegance of the Canadian winters is understated. The first few hours after a snowfall are my favourite when fresh snow gives a mystic silver highlight to everything it touches, especially the dormant trees. Christmas is when Belleville is dressed up in lights and vibrant colours. The festivities are palpable as ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ plays in supermarkets and malls. The holiday spirit is infectious, the joy is almost tactile. I looked outside my balcony during the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, reminiscing.
In this little city charmingly nestled on the shores of the great Lake Ontario, I had found a home.
My fondest memory of Wellington beach is Canada Day 2019. I spent the evening marvelling at the celebratory fireworks with a friend, a jolly young man who is a longtime resident of the Quinte region. I soon moved in with that friend when our bond outgrew the confines of friendship. After graduating from Loyalist College, I decided to stay in Belleville. I now always have my evening cup of tea with my partner. Life has come full circle.