Suitcase and World: O Kingston!

Monday, August 24, 2015

O Kingston!

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into the office of a former colleague, Maxy.  I really just wanted to say hello and do a bit of catching up as it had been quite some since we had last connected with each other.

As the conversation progressed, I come to find out that she would soon be taking her youngest daughter to university and that by sheer coincidence, it was my alma mater - Queen's University!  Her plan was to drive her daughter up to Queen's and she invited me to come along.  How could I say no?  It'll be a fun road trip and I've not been back to Queen's in decades.

Queen's is located in Kingston, a small city in the Canadian province of Ontario, located on the shore of Lake Ontario where the lake meets up with the St. Lawrence River.  From the DC metro area, it's a long but easy drive up to Kingston.

As a student, I only knew as much of Kingston as I needed to live my daily student life - it was all about the buildings on campus, Lake Ontario, and the few places that I needed to go to to do my banking and buy food and other items.  So, it'll be interesting to not only see how the Queen's has changed but also, for the first time, to really visit Kingston as a tourist.

First, my alma mater.  We'll spend whatever amount of time is needed to get Maxy's daughter fully settled in.  I'm sure we'll be walking about the campus.  I spent four years there and I love the place!

I might be just a wee bit biased when I say that the Queen's campus is a gorgeous campus.   First off, it's nestled among tall trees and is located right on the shores of the lake.  When we had some time to spare, my friends would head down to the park that runs alongside the lake to just relax.  We'd do that even in the dead of winter when it was bitterly cold though the bone chilling, ferocious winds whipping off the lake would make sure we didn't linger long!

Aerial view of part of the Queen's University campus.  The circular building is where I used to go for my physics classes. The sideways V-shaped building on the upper right is actually two arms of an X shaped building.  That's Victoria Hall - a woman's dorm where I stayed.

Kingston's nickname is *Limestone City* because so many of its heritage buildings are constructed of the local limestone.  Queen's is all about limestone buildings, many of which are covered with ivy.  The campus has a very old world feel to it.

The campus is also quite small and very walkable - I don't think it took me more than 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

Kingston City Hall
(Photo @John Vetterli, Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Back in student days, being a tourist was not even a remote thought in my mind.  I never knew what points of interest existed in Kingston.  Now, I get to go back as a  tourist and with that perspective I am seeing Kingston in a totally different light.

Kingston's history dates back to 1673 when it was first settled as Fort Frontenac.  Because of its strategic position on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, it served as an important military installation.

On February 15, 1841, Kingston was named the first capital of the Province of Canada by Governor Lord Sydenham.  However, its time as a political center was short as the capital city was moved to Montreal in 1844.

Today, Kingston is one of the most historic cities in Canada with numerous churches, old buildings, picturesque neighborhoods, and 19th century fortifications. 

As small a place as Kingston is, it has a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada, the Rideau Canal and the Kingston Fortifications have together been inscribed as a single UNESCO.  They join the Frontenac Arch Biosphere which is designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Additionally, Kingston is home to 22 National Historic Sites of Canada.

There are ample historic sites and museums to visit but I don't know how much interest and time Maxy and her daughter will have so we'll just play it by ear as to what places we go to see and when.

Rideau Canal lock 49 at Kingston Mills.  (Photo from

Even if they are interested in seeing historic sites, you can really only see so many before you tire of it.  So,  maybe we can enjoy bit of the Canadian outdoors. The Rideau Canal is a chain of beautiful lakes, rivers and locks extending 202 km (126 miles) from Kingston Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Completed in 1832 by the British, this historic waterway with its 45 locks and 19 km of canal cuts is maintained and operated by Parks Canada.  It's possible to do a boat cruise along a section of the canal.  Might be a fun thing to do on a nice day.

Thousand Islands region.  (Photo from

Another water related fun thing to do would be to go on a cruise of the Thousand Islands.  I do vaguely remember doing this when my parents dropped me off at Queen's 38 years ago!

I don't think we'll have time but Ottawa is only 120 miles away - it's just close enough for a day trip.  Just a thought :-)

I'm excited to be going back to Kingston and visiting my alma mater (Go Gaels!)  Whatever we end up doing, we'll be having fun.....for sure!