Four fantastic days in Kingston, Ontario are coming to a close and at last I have a minute to update the blog.
I was a little perturbed to find myself flying here from Toronto on a 16 seater plane on Wednesday (just as well I was the only one in the plane who didn’t have a window!), and a bit more perturbed to find that my luggage had not joined me. It did eventually – six hours later – but not without some inconvenience, including deciding not to attend the welcoming cocktail party of the Association of Canadian Archivists’ conference in tracksuit pants and sneakers, and being without my asthma medication for more than 14 hours (my fault for packing it in my luggage).
I have/am summarising the papers I attended at the ACA conference on a separate page, so read on only if you want to hear about just about the most charming small city you could imagine.
Kingston has around 110 000 people and is very ‘human’ in scale. I walked everywhere I wanted to go (the conference itself was a half hour walk away), and enjoyed slow moving traffic, slow moving people and a really relaxed atmosphere everywhere. The city lies on the shores of Lake Ontario. From my hotel balcony I looked straight out over the lake, with the junction with the St Lawrence River just to my left.
One of the social events was a three hour cruise up the St Lawrence, through the 1000 island region, aptly named. It is absolutely gorgeous and I was gobsmacked at the green luxury of so many tiny islands. What I wouldn’t give to have one of the summer houses dotted over these islands. The evening was made even better by impressive thunderheads building up and eventually giving a fantastic light display.
Kingston is an old town, and very ‘British’ – with good reason. Previously French, it became effectively the ‘frontier’ for British loyalists against America. The town is full of gorgeous 18th and 19th century public buildings and homes, many of them built from the local limestone. I loved the Georgian houses and pubs (I did not find a single cafe or straight restaurant – there are combined pub/cafe/restaurants everywhere), like the Prince George Hotel
and this gorgeous private house (embellished, alas, with an Italian Villa porch – there are many spectactular if to my eyes slightly vulgar Italian Villa style houses from the Victorian era in the city)
Kingston is a university town, home to one of Canada’s best and oldest universities – Queen’s University – and the Royal Military College (more like Australia’s ADFA than its RMC). Many of Queen’s buildings are also built from limestone, but built from the mid 19th century, they are often in the Baronial style in evidence at Australia’s own ‘sandstone’ universities.
Kingston has been alive with summer since I’ve been here – their winters sound so gruesome that I am not surprised everyone gets out to bask in the sun and eat icecream! I’m listening to a live music performance downstairs at the hotel – nice cheerful rock – and on my way back from the last conference session stopped with others to hear a great band perform in the park near my hotel. It’s great hearing French spoken in the streets, and was even cooler to hear very funky, spunky, Francophone folk rock in the sunshine.
I really have enjoyed my stay here. Aside from the great conference, I’ve also enjoyed being around super friendly people, have eaten great food (it is so wonderful to have perfectly steamed veges!), and just the sense of a small and very relaxed community by the shores of the lake.