Last time through Kingston we mostly focused on the miserable heat index and mosquito plague. This year the weather allowed for a bit more, so like René-Bob de La Salle—the Frenchman who explored not only this area but also travelled the Mississippi River and founded Louisiana and thus simultaneously is responsible for delicious gumbo and, as we’ve previously noted, the societal abomination that is Ed Orgeron—we set out across Kingston on a mission of discovery. Starting at Confederation Basin, where we could see Shoal Tower from our back porch.
Shoal Tower was part of a geographically-remote defense system related to the dispute over whether modern-day Washington state should or should not be on the American side of the border. Several of these mini-forts—technically called Martello towers—dot the area but never saw action, undoubtedly because the British anticipated the emergence of grunge rock music in Seattle and decided they wanted no part of it. But the towers look cool.
Across the river from the marina is Point Frederick, which was home to a primary British naval base during and after the War of 1812. Now it’s home to the Royal Military College, where we walked through the imposing pedestrian entrance.
The campus is cool and all, with a much friendlier vibe than, say, West Point.
That said, we still can’t wrap our heads around the fact that Canadians—with their unrelenting politeness and Tim Hortons and back bacon and disgusting poutine—somehow remain subject to the snooty British monarchy.
Fort Henry sits along the Lake Ontario shoreline with a nice view of Point Frederick, which is helpful since its main purpose was to protect the naval base.
Because there’s no need to protect the Royal Military College—and because two-hundred-year-old cannons that lob aerodynamically awkward metal balls likely wouldn’t scare a modern enemy of the Crown—it’s just a museum now. With a secret cannon burial ground that we found by sneaking back to the employee entrance.
Most interesting—and confusing—is that Fort Henry still proudly flys the Union Jack.
Back closer to Tumbleweed we passed the plaque for Fort Frontenac.
This French outpost, used during skirmishes with British and Iroquois, would date back to 1673 except there’s nothing left of it.
Not far from there but a hundred years later, the British “purchased from the Mississaugas for some clothing, ammunition and coloured cloth a large tract of land” that now encompasses a huge amount of valuable Lake Ontario waterfront property.
One might feel sorry for the Mississaugas for the raw deal, except they apparently decided to rely on a Zillow valuation rather than get a real appraisal, so had to live with it. Plus they probably looked very sharp at the powwows in their fancy colorful clothes.
The coolest building in Kingston has to be City Hall, one of the zillion National Historic Sites we’ve been lucky to see. We had no business to conduct with the city so didn’t go in.
Perhaps confirming our shallowness, all it took for us to reevaluate our view of Kingston was better weather. We were able to walk around, see the sights, enjoy what TripAdvisor identified as the two best restaurants in town, and play some pickleball.
The city even compensates for the lack useable Wi-Fi by scattering colorful—which loosely translates to “colourful” in this British Commonwealth—muskoka chairs all about.
The bottom line is that we’ve completely changed our opinions, with Ottawa now dropping to the bottom of our list of favorite—which apparently means “favourite” up here—Canadian cities. That’s even despite the rain that set in on Monday.
Actually the rain nearly was a blessing, because it provided a second opportunity to find a theater—which these pseudo-Brits call a “theatre”—showing Top Gun: Maverick. This time it wasn’t in French. However, after getting online tickets we concluded the rain was too much to overcome. Strike two.
Tuesday morning was windy, but either our tolerance has increased or our good judgment has decreased so we headed off on the long trip to Trenton. Long days underway are tough for eating. One of us ate a banana for for breakfast. One of us enjoyed Mountain Dew and Doritos for breakfast.* But at least it wasn’t raining. In fact, it was gorgeous even with the wind.
Back past the bird island, from which the wind blew double-crested cormorant stench right into our pilothouse. Yuck.
Through the zig-zaggy Bay of Quinte. Back past Mallory Bay and Shannonville, named for our awesome daughters. Past the ferries. A windy day on the bay means every clown with a sailboat feels entitled—if not obligated—to get in our way. At least this guy made up for it by having a quite pleasing colourful sail for us to admire.
Then on into Trenton, where the AGLCA harbor hosts aboard Tropical Horizons II photo-documented our arrival.
Wait, did someone say Trenton? Trenton is the “Gateway to the Trent-Severn Waterway.” We’re not doing the Trent-Severn again. So what the hell are we doing in Trenton?
The plan was to go from Kingston to Cobourg to Toronto, where Dana needed to catch a plane for a quick trip to Austin for her mother’s birthday celebration. Happy Birthday Linda! Except Toronto sucks for transients with large power boats. So we had to find a place where she could catch a train to Toronto. And we didn’t want to stay in Kingston. So by default, we ended up back at Trent-Port Marina, which is a-okay by us because it’s solid joint in a solid town, even if (1) we fully explored Trenton during our extended stay four years ago and (2) the weather just turned hot and humid.
Trenton is home to the largest Royal Canadian Air Force base.
Given the location, however, it’s not surprising that CFB Trenton mostly is used to support military efforts elsewhere. Which explains the Boeing C-17 Globemasters hauling stuff right over us every day.
Otherwise Trenton is a nice quiet town. Unless you’re staging for the waterway, there’s not too much going on. Except for that one weekend, that glorious first weekend every May, when it’s walleye-to-walleye excitement.
Incidentally, some skeptics might think the commentary about Canadian goose poop in our last post was exaggerated. It wasn’t.
On Wednesday, Dana caught the train from Trenton to Toronto at Trenton Junction.**
In the course of two days her trip required planes, trains, and automobiles, but also a boat and a shuttle bus, unintentionally two-upping Neal Page in the process.*** Doug stayed behind with a fun and exciting list of boat chores, some of which actually got done.
On Sunday, Doug also boarded the train to Toronto at The Junction.**** The wait for Dana to return from Texas provided a golden opportunity to spends a few hours at Le Temple de la Renommée du Hockey. The Hockey Hall of Fame. The epicenter of the most Canadian thing in the world other than maybe poutine and goose poop. The special exhibit “9 & 99” is awesome but the entire place really is extra cool, even for someone who considers hockey a distant fourth in major sports, just ahead of cricket.
The other most Canadian thing is putting a Tim Hortons next to the Temple.
Horton—whose actual name was Miles—is a Hall of Famer and all, but every experience we’ve ever had at one of his namesake restaurants has ended with self-recriminations for being stupid. No offense to our Canadian friends, but Tim Hortons are as gross as something so gross you’d use it in a really exaggerated simile.
Now some other Toronto stuff. Like the Old City Hall.
According to Wikipedia, when the thing was completed in 1899 it was “the largest civic building in North America.” We’re dubious. Because it doesn’t look nearly as large as, say, the U.S. Capitol Building. It’s possible that we’re wrong, of course. It’s also possible that some Tim Hortons-loving Canadian fudged the Wikipedia page. Either way, it’s another of the cool old buildings we like to admire.
But here’s the sad truth. Toronto looks like a fun city to live in, but overall it’s not that great for tourists looking for historical stuff. In part that’s because—unlike the good people of Montreal and Quebec City who built their buildings out of brick—the folks in Toronto apparently never learned what happened to the Three Little Pigs. Thus they built almost everything with sticks. Which is why virtually the entire city burned down in 1849. Then they rebuilt, again with sticks. Which is why virtually the entire city burned down again in 1904. So there aren’t that many old buildings to be visited by tourists like us.
Toronto may not have much left of historical significance, but that’s not to say we found little of interest. For example, we’ve now referenced the under-appreciated classic Strange Brew in more than one post. Elsinore Castle? Filmed at Casa Loma. We’re ashamed to admit that we didn’t visit the mansion—which the government stole from the owner, then used for secret war research, then leased as a Kiwanis clubhouse—but we did get sort of a photo from afar.
Also, Toronto is quite proud of its major university, which indeed is internationally renowned. Not surprisingly, we have thoughts. For starters, the University of Toronto has a gorgeous campus.
Which is why it’s also been used in a lot of movies. Cocktail brought Tom Cruise up here. Matt Damon was a math genius up here. Lindsey Lohan became a Mean Girl at U of T as they call it, after she met herself at Camp Walden and got her parents back together by driving off evil Meredith Blake, but before she went all drunk and crazy.
Now about this “U of T” thing, which sounds enough like UT to startle us when we heard it. We both agree that there’s only one real UT, although we don’t agree on which one it is. But we know for damn sure the real UT ain’t the University of Toronto. Adding insult to injury, the Varsity Blues even use a bastardized version of the Power T. Somebody needs to be flogged and burned at the stake for that travesty.
We didn’t visit the provincial art gallery, but out front they did have a bizarre elephant, made of leather bags, standing on a brass ball. We don’t get it.
Also murals. Lots of murals. This one is on the wide end of Toronto’s Flatiron Building, which supposedly has the most coveted office space in town.
Over at the Rogers Centre—which is Canadian for “Rogers Center”—a huge sculpture of Blue Jay fans in action is even more odd than a leather elephant balanced on a ball.
The Rogers Centre is at the base of the iconic Canadian National Tower, so named because the Canadian National Railway Company built it.
CN Tower is really tall, and it takes much more effort to go up and take a photo of downtown than, say, it would take to get the same photo by drone if there wasn’t a geofence around the city. But we went up, because we’re tourists. Turns out the effort was well worth it.
A few more things. The Museum of Illusions was kind of interesting. We participated.
The greatest illusion, however, was the one where fifty screaming snot-nosed kids in yellow camp shirts were supposed to disappear but then the counselors who were busy looking at Instagram on their phones decided to let the kids stay and run wild during our entire visit.
National Geographic says the St. Lawrence Market is the world’s best. So of course we went.
Meh. It’s huge and fine and all, but we’ll take the Jean-Talon Market in Montreal instead please.
So that about sums up Toronto, a nice city that saw most of its history burn down and thus clings to stuff of barely-marginal significance.
With that said, we’re glad we stopped by.
This afternoon’s train took us from Toronto’s Union Station back to Trenton and Tumbleweed. Tomorrow we continue our counter-clockwise journey around Lake Ontario as we head towards new stuff on Lake Erie.
*“Junk food doesn’t deserve the bad rap that it gets. Take these pork rinds for example. This particular brand contains 2% of the R.D.A.—that’s ‘recommended daily allowance’—of Riboflavin.”
— Walter “Gib” Gibson
** Everybody sing along! “Come ride the little train that is rollin’ down the tracks to the junction.”
***And there you have it: a single paragraph that, with footnotes included, seamlessly weaves together oblique references to a movie starring famous Ontarian John Candy and Petticoat Junction. That’s got to be a first.
****“There’s a little hotel called the Shady Rest at the junction.”