MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Canada's First Capital - Kinsgton

After our quick tour of Ottawa, the Canadian Capital, we headed to Kingston, the first Capital of Canada (named so in 1841).  It's a small, quaint city on the water, and the water remains important to the city's identity - it is the gateway to 1000 Isles National Park.

One of the first things you notice about Kingston once you get into its heart is that City Hall looks like a state house.  There is good reason for that. Due to a fire that burnt the city to the ground in the mid-1800's, city leaders called for the city to be reconstructed using non-flammable materials - namely, limestone.  City Hall's design was a large completion for a stately look.  Canada moved it's capital to Ottawa before the new building could ever be used as the state house (until the fire on Parliament Hill resulted in a temporary move back to Kingston). 

Today, City Hall is one of finest 19th century buildings in Canada and a nationally designated heritage site. Kingston, itself, is nicknamed "Limestone City" since the rebuild resulted in a central business district filled with grand heritage limestone architecture. 
There were plenty of grand buildings to take in since Kingston is also named the Education City; home to 3 major universities, including the first diploma granting University, Queens University and the Royal Military College.  We took several loops around town in the Hop On/Hop Off trolley, as we toured, giving us good looks at the schools, the city and its notable architecture.  We even got off at Queens to tour the Geology Museum and its impressive collection of minerals located in the halls of one of the campus buildings, and the student art museum.  I think I drove my friend crazy talking about the connection between my alma mater and this school, but I just could not help it... Rutgers University was originally Queens College, and was one of the first colleges in the colonies.  It is older than the country itself.  And here we were, walking around Queens University, that boosted a similar story of being founded before Canada itself.  I did leave with one question about the campus though... what did the clocktower's clock have no hands?  No one could tell us! 

On our tour of Kingston, we stopped by Bellevue House, National Historic Site, the home of Canada's first Prime Minister (and Kingston's famous son) Sir John Alexander MacDonald.  Here we watched a historical introduction and then were granted access to the visitor center, the gardens and the home.  We learned that Sir John moved here thinking the air would be good for his very sick wife, whom on many occasions could not gather energy to leave her bed on the first floor (she had consumption). And then we learned that they had had children in the home.  Hmmmm.... that raised our brows.  We had more fun with the costumed guides were scattered throughout all shaking their butter containers - apparently that is easier then churning it and it only takes several thousand rattles of cream to whip it into a spread... these girls were sure to have amazing shoulders and bi/triceps at the end of the summer.  They let us try some home whipped butter on a cracker in the kitchen. Yum.  Thanks ladies.  And if that was not old school enough, we tried our hands at hand dipping candles in the basement.  I have not tested this skill  since I visited Waterloo Village in NJ, and I must be rusty because our candles came out looking phallic and pathetic.  This was a time consuming procedure - dip in wax and then then in water using twine.  I don't remember that in Waterloo... maybe NJ knew a trick. We left the dipping to the kids and continued on our Kingston tour.

Easily the highlight of the trip to Kingston was the sunset boat tour through 1000 Islands National Park.  This was an incredibly fun and beautiful evening with my friend as we wined and dined aboard this vessel sailing up the Lawrence river from it's mouth in Lake Ontario.  The food was a pleasant surprise - they make it on the boat.  I was ready for rubbery steak and chicken, but we were instead greeted with a menu of choices including seafood, pork, steak, chicken and a veggie dish.  And because we know how to maximize our experiences - we ordered 2 different meals and shared tastes.   Likewise with the desserts... that carrot cake cheesecake needed to be tested afterall!

The boat ride included entertainment, as in a crazy musician that "morphed" into any artist he needed to be.  Armed with outfits, wigs and dolls, he kept us laughing.  And because I don't shy away from zaniness, he picked on me, as the only one on the boat from the United States.  It had become a theme of "what is up with Trump"... and you have to laugh because there is no other way around it.  The night only grew more grand as golden hour hit and we were treated to stunning views inside and outside the boat.  The crew gave us time between courses to top side and soak it all in.  My friend and I marveled at the homes built on the tiny islands; the only way in and out would be a boat.  Now, my non-Canadian butt might enjoy this in the summer months, but I know what happens a few months from now... it gets COLD.  And not just DC cold... nope, Canadian cold.  And living on the water, in a home, surrounded by ice just does not sound that amazing.  So, sure, you could make that a summer retreat... where you have to travel by boat to get to your home island... but me, I like the looks of the area without the homes.  Just the small islands dotting the landscape.  To limit the numbers of homes taking over the islands not protected by park status (only 40:1750), there are requirements for the island - including at least one tree.  So, a tree needs to live on it so you can cut it down to build a home?  I didn't get it... but I did appreciate the scenery.  And if you have Canadian anti-freeze in your blood, it makes plenty of sense to want to live there.  It was beautiful!

Before we left the beauty of Kingston, we did one more round on the trolley and headed past the Royal Military College to Fort Henry National Historic Site.  Here we got to experience 1860's British military life at the fort and take in the sweeping views of the city.  Our tour guide walked us through the structure, showcases the dichotomy between officers and the enlisted lower ranks.  From dining experiences, to housing, family accommodations to responsibilities, these guides, in full dress and in character talked of life at the fort.  While it was never used in battle, it was fully operational.  They needed to protect themselves from those pesky colonists to the south.  In fact, I heard a lot about the war of 1812, and how they beat back the invaders... I learned more Canadian history in my one week trip through its capital cities then I ever have before.  It was educational.  It was beautiful.  AND I am going to do it again.  It's a big country and someone has to see it!




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