Articles By Gord
As I see it... Athens, Greece

January, 2007 issue of Vibrant Magazine, view the actual article (including images).

As I see it... Kingston, Canada

ALL ABOARD!

When did you last take a train? Because if it has been some time, this trip is for you.

It's a great vacation and quite affordable…ish.

The train. There are terrific savings to be had with Via Rail, if you book your tickets far enough in advance of your planned getaway.

The train. Regardless of snow, fog, driving rain or Toronto traffic, you feel so safe. And secondly, you'll find that you're comfortable. The train cars have these big reclining seats, loads of legroom and storage space, not dissimilar to the luxurious surroundings you likely experienced on your last flight.

Yeah. An airline seat so tiny, you get to know your neighbours and their deodorants, or lack thereof, all too well.

From the comfort of your train you will see fields and lakes and forests and pass traffic jams on the 401 with childlike glee. Take a newspaper, magazine or book. (I hear “Please Welcome Gord Paynter” is a good read.) Take headphones, your best tunes and be sure to pack a picnic lunch.

Why?

Because, dorkus, you're on vacation. You're not going to the office. And besides, after you learn the cost of your tuna sandwich and can of pop, purchased from Via Rail, you'll feel as if you've bought the entire train. So pack your favourites.

Catherine always creates a feast that is to die for. Black forest ham and Swiss cheese in a crusty roll. Mustard, lettuce and tomato, salt and peppered. Or maybe this trip is peppercorn pate, stocks of celery and carrot sticks, slices of dill, black olives and stuffed hot peppers. (Wait, there's more.) Sausage rolls, some evil chippies and some almonds. Squares of dark chocolate and slices of apple and pear and perhaps chunks of Gruyere and five-year-old cheddar. And to wash it all down two juice bottles filled to the brim with our “special juice”.

Afterwards lull into a peaceful snooze, the rhythm of the train will have you nodding off in no time.

You have been heading steadily eastward, waking only at the called stops, until you hear…“Next stop, Kingston. Kingston in five minutes.”

Kingston. When were you last there? It is a wonderful city to visit. Great, if you're planning a trip with the kids and greater if you're planning a trip without.

There is every type of accommodation, from the “you can have ‘em, - you can keep ‘em” campsites, to quaint little cottages, charming bed and breakfasts, “Mom ‘n Pop,” motels and the likes of Holiday Inn and Sheraton. So if you've got the cash and it's a trip of celebration, warts removed or teeth straightened, 25th anniversary, badly needed R'n R or perhaps because the Leafs have won the Cup, or a face-off , spring for one of the hotels along the lakefront. No need of a car. Walk or grab a taxi, because as you'll discover most things are pretty centrally located in the Kingston core.

Amble up Princess Street and back along Brock towards Ontario Street. There is an eclectic feel to the shops and restaurants, as old world Kingston bumps and grinds with the energy of its university population and a slew of global visitors.

What am I talking about? Well, pop in to the Pilot House of Kingston, at the corner of King and Johnson streets for absolutely the best fish'n chips anywhere and later, much later, after you've waddled that off, worked up a hankering for the old feed bag, slide in to a place called Wooden Heads, on Ontario Street. I offer no clues as to what to order, just go in and play with their menu. You'll emerge younger and satisfied. And you'll likely have retained that same waddle.

If you've timed it well the farmer's market may be in full swing and just there by the market, visit a shop called Cookes, it will be like stepping back a century. Worn hardwood floors that will creak with your every step. Smell the coffees and sample some of their cheeses. Discover imported sauces, dips, crackers, candies, and I dare you to walk out having purchased nothing.

The store reminds me of shops like Hall's in Paris, brimming with character and quality goods.

Rest up at Confederation Park, it's right there where Brock Street meets Ontario Street.

Not sure which park? It's the one with the steam engine, “The Spirit of Sir John A. MacDonald”, built in Kingston in 1913. The park is a daily stop for Catherine and I. We often pause there. Feed the ducks. There may be none visible, but produce a chunk of bread, and magically they appear, emerging from amongst the boats moored in the marina. Catherine will describe the variety of crafts and together we select one for our next high seas adventure.

If you're yearning to be on the water, but alas have no boat, take the free ferry ride on the Wolf Islander across to Wolf Island. (Where'd you think it was going? Kookamonga?) It takes all of 30 minutes and in the good weather, sitting up on deck provides a terrific view of Fort Henry, Royal Military College, the Kingston waterfront, the marina and yacht club. It's just a pleasant little trip.

You may want to take a cruise of the Thousand Islands. There's roughly a thousand different cruises to choose from, full day, half day, sunset, sunrise.

I think if you're a Canadian and never done the island cruise thing, you pretty well have to go. But otherwise it'll be like dredging up shadows from some Grade 8 class trip.

“Look, Sir, another island. Wow. Only another 763 to go.”

Tour old Fort Henry or stroll through the campus of Queen's University (they won't bite). There is lots to do. Catherine and I were even approached by some guy, who attempted to sell us on a haunted walking tour of the downtown, until we said to him, “Buddy, are you nuts, we're from Brantford. Our downtown wrote the book on haunted.”

As I said earlier, Kingston is a wonderful city to visit at anytime of the year. Many of our friends have gone there on a weekend escape, and I've yet to hear a voice of disappointment. You'll need a minimum of two nights stay. Some folks stay much, much longer than that, but most of them reside in the Kingston Pen.

ALL ABOARD?

 
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