Thursday, September 3, 2015

Exploring a 1000 Islands.


We arrived into Kingston yesterday afternoon and spent the rest of the day walking about the Princess Street area. Maxy figured we'll all have more time to explore the city as we work on getting her daughter settled into Queen's. So, we decided to spend today going on a cruise of the 1000 Islands. When my parents deposited me at Queen's, we also did a cruise. Of course, I don't remember a single moment of that so today's visit was as if I had never been! I had read that the best place to take the cruise from is the nearby town of Gananoque so that was our destination.

Maxy and I made it down to breakfast just a few minutes before 9a which is when breakfast ends. There was barely any food left and by the time the kids made it down, it was really slim pickings. So, Maxy declared we would go to Tim Horton's for breakfast.  There were no complaints.   On the way, we stopped to get some gas for the car.

They pretend to be camera shy but I'm quick on the shutter.  I'll get their photos later :-)

Oh, Tim Horton's, how I remember thee!  My room mate and I used to go to one near campus - very late on a Saturday afternoon when the donuts were selling at half price.  We would each get a dozen and that would be our afternoon snack + Sunday morning breakfast + Sunday afternoon snack.  I don't remember how much we paid for our sweet dozen but it was dirt cheap.

Today, I couldn't resist getting a box of 10 Timbits - pretty much one of each of the donuts they were serving that day.  It was the perfect sampler!  At $2.09 CAD, it was a great deal!


After breakfast, we hit the road.  I Googled for a 1000 Island boat cruise in Gananoque and got a hit with the Gananoque Boat Line.  I set that as a destination figuring it would take us to the town's boat dock and from there, we could look at other cruise options.

The drive to Gananoque was a short one.  The town is located only about 35 miles from Kingston.  As we exited off the highway, the sign indicated that there were 5,200 residents living in Gananoque.  This is really a small town!  The tree lined streets were filled with older, Victorian style homes though like Kingston, many were quite rundown.  Small it may be but Gananoque is definitely not home to the wealthy.

We followed Ms Google as she led us down to the dock area. When we arrived , we saw the signs for the Gananoque Boat Line; it was also pointing us to the parking lot where we could leave the car for $2.  We decided to just go ahead and do that and then headed inside a nearby building to get our tickets. 

Ever since we agreed to take this trip together, Maxy has insisted on paying for everything for me.  At times, I wish she would let me chip in but I understand her reasons for doing this so I am holding back.  Although I am going to try and pick up the tab whenever I can.

There are several tours available and the parking attendant recommended we do the 2.5 hour tour as that one allows us to see the most sights so Maxy got tickets for that trip.  This time of year, tourists have dwindled in numbers so there was no problem getting any seats.

The 2.5 hour tour was scheduled to leave at 12:30p which gave us a little over an hour to kill.  We split up with the kids - figured they would enjoy some time on their own after having spent 8+ in a car with us yesterday.

Maxy and I started our time in Gananoque in the gift shop next door to where she had bought our cruise tickets.  There,  I ended up buying a long hooded, zipped sweatshirt.  Not just any sweatshirt - a really cute one with a whimsical design.  It'll be my souvenir for this trip.

We then walked towards the center of town.  Along the way, we stopped to admire a small, public garden.  I never realized that Maxy loves plants - it was nice to be able to say names of plants and have her know exactly what they were. 

Getting inspired by the planter box which was filled with a few different types of herbs and vegetables.

Maxy chatting with a volunteer from Gananoque's horticultural society who was busy watering the plants.

Maxy and I just strolled along the neighborhood streets, chatting all the way.  We talked about life and the pursuit of happiness.  The more I get to know her, the more I realize how much we have in common!  She's also a very generous person with a very big heart.  I think we'll be longtime friends.

By the time, we made it back to the docks, the kids were already there.   They are two, inseparable peas in a pod.  I describe her as a punk princess and he as the sweet nerd.  What they have in common is a love for music.  They are so cute together!

Lost in their own world.

Maxy and I made our way down to the dock to wait for our boat.

She patiently waits.
 

Shortly before 12:30p, the gates opened and people started to board.  Immediately, I headed up to the upper deck and got myself a seat.



As I had expected, it was not a full boat.  I would say there were maybe 50 people on board.  I stayed on the upper deck for only a few minutes as the other three had opted to be on the level below.  The kids were on front bow while Maxy had taken a seat inside.  I joined Maxy for a few minutes before heading out to the bow area myself - you can't really enjoy the view sitting inside.



It was a partly cloudy day with quite a bit of haze.  It was a nice day to be on the water but not so nice for taking photos - could have done without the haze.

In no time, we were  cruising through a stretch of pretty open water.  We are on a roundtrip so I presumed we were heading out along one channel of the St. Lawrence River and returning via another.  That would make the most of our 2.5 hour ride.

I soon joined the kids on the bow.  It was nice to feel the sun on my face and have the warm wind blowing through my hair.  It seemed like others also had the same idea and the bow quickly filled up with people.  I escaped to stand on the stairs which turned out to be a good idea as it gave me a better vantage point from which to take photos.   Soon, even the stairs got crowded so I escaped back inside and sat with Maxy.  Every now and again, I would head back outside to take in the view from the front of the boat and to take more photos.

Such a hazy view.

Bird Island?

Maxy asked me if there were indeed 1000 Islands and I don't think there are.  I think it's just a figure of speech indicating a sizable number of islands.  I was surprised to see just how small some of them were - just enough space to accommodate a small building.  Maxy and I both share a love for what I call Guilty Pleasure TV and one of our favorite shows is about building tiny houses, one of the latest trends in the home building industry.  We both want one and I joked that Maxy could probably buy a small island here and erect her own tiny house here.  It would be so cute and what a great view it would have!


Still lost in their own world.

Today, the waters were relatively boat free but I can imagine how crowded the waterways must be during the height of the summer season.




Periodically, a man's voice would blare out over the loudspeaker to provide us facts about the islands.  It was obviously a recording and for the most part, pretty well timed with the location of the boat relatively to the islands around it.  Even so, I had a hard time spotting several of the islands, let alone landmarks that the voice was describing.



The islands were all of different sizes and so were the homes.  Some looked like they could be full time residences and we even passed a stretch called Millionaire's Row where the houses were literally mansion sized!

As we cruised along, passing one island after another,  Both Maxy and I wondered what it would be like to live here all year round.  As bitterly cold as it can get in Kingston, I can only imagine how bad it could be in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River.  I didn't notice any power lines running to at least the smaller of the islands so they must use generators to provide electricity.  But what about water?  Hmmm.....the more we wondered about the practicalities of living here, the more we decided it wasn't a good idea for us two urban wimps.


Somewhere along the cruise route, we crossed the border back into the US.  We left behind the sight of houses flying the Canadian Maple Leaf and returned to homes flying the Red, White and Blue.

You don't need to fish off a boat if you have jet skis that do the job!

Just around half way through our cruise, we arrived at Boldt Castle.  Situated on its own island, the castle was to be the summer dream home of George C. Bold, a  millionaire hotel magnate as well as proprietor of the luxury Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  Boldt built the home as a gift for his wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt.

Construction began on Boldt Castle in 1900.  However, when Mrs. Boldt passed away suddenly in 1904,  all work was stopped.  The structure stood vacant for over 70 years.  The castle was restored after years of vandalism and is now a major summer tourist attraction.  There is a boat tour that you can take that includes a visit to the castle but ours was not that trip so we just made our way around the island - this was the point in our cruise that we turned around to head back to the boat dock in Gananoque.

This is a 6 story mansion that you can only declare as your summer home if you are filthy rich!



Money doesn't necessarily buy you taste or perhaps this was fashionable house design back at the start of the 20th century but to me, it all seems like a mish mash of styles. 

Not sure what this castle looking thing is all about.  Guess I need to go on the tour....on my next trip around the islands :-)


The Boldt Castle boat house on the right.  It was so large, I mistook it for a home!

On the return trip, I decided to check out the view from the stern of the boat.  There were fewer people hanging around on this part of the boat.


The view on the way back somehow seemed nicer.  We were riding much closer to shore and there was much more greener.  The homes were all nestled in the woods.


If I were to  own an island, it would be on this channel which seemed to me to be much more private.....except for the annoying cruise ships that bring nosy tourists with them :-)



By the time we arrived back at the dock in Gananoque, it was about 3p.  We were all hungry and decided to stay in town to have lunch rather than driving back to Kingston and eating there.  We asked our trusty parking attendant for suggestions on places to eat and he told us what he thought was the best place for a meal.  It was a short walk to the restaurant which happened to be just stone's throw away from the garden Maxy and I had stopped at earlier in the morning.  Maxy and I had also spotted a small Indian eatery on our walk but we decided to only go back if there was no other option. 

On the outside, the restaurant, that the parking attendant recommended,  looked perfectly acceptable but it also looked pretty empty.  Not really a place that we thought the kids would enjoy and neither Maxy or I were wowed by what we saw so we decided to walk towards town center, certain we would find a place to eat there.

Crossing the bridge to enter the center of town.


We made our way over the bridge leading into the center of town.  We came upon a bit of green space where vendors were setting up for the weekly farmers market.  It turned out the green space was the front lawn of Gananoque's Town Hall. 



As we stood near Town Hall, Maxy asked a passing local for advice on places to eat and the woman recommended we go to the pub a few blocks up the street.  But with a vegetarian in tow, I didn't think a pub would offer much, if any, vegetarian fare.

Then, we spotted it.  Located right across the street from Town Hall is a small cafe and restaurant called the Socialist Pig.  Based purely on the fact that the kids liked the name of the restaurant, we decided that's where we would eat.  They are an idealistic pair and well, when you're at their age, it's good to be idealistic.


Inside, it was a fun and funky joint.  The entire space was decorated with recycled materials.  Even the walls were papered with pages from an old magazine.  The simple wooden chairs were stenciled with the ISO codes for country names.


The menu offered simple American fare and there was something for everyone.  We ordered our meals.  Maxy and I decided to share the fish tacos.  Maxy's daughter is a meat lover so she went for the chicken and waffles which was more like chicken salad on top of waffles.  She enjoyed it.  Her friend is a vegetarian so he had veggie quesadillas.

The loving glance that a mother has for her daughter.  It's a sweet moment.

Our fish tacos were tiny bites and two each was not enough to even come close to filling the belly so we ordered two  more. 


The fish was breaded with corn meal and fried.  The small taco also held some freshly made pico de gallo and a slice of avocado.  There was some sort of creamy dressing drizzled on top.  I really enjoyed the dish - light but very flavorful and delicious.  I will have to try and make my own version when I get home.


After lunch, we checked out the farmers market which was fully setup by the time we finished lunch.

There were probably fewer than 20 vendors but there were quite a few people shopping.  As with most farmers markets, this one was a mix of food and items - you could pick up a pint of strawberries, a jar of local honey and handmade earrings all in the same shopping experience!

The busiest guy was the bread man - there was queue waiting to buy his baked goods.  Surprisingly, the only two restaurants that were represented were both Indian and they were both doing a brisk business! 




A small band set up to play and we hung around to listen for a few minutes.  It was modern blue grass and well, none of us are attuned to blue grass music so we didn't hang around for long.


All in all, it was a beautiful day to be outside, so even don't we didn't linger long at the farmers market, it was a nice moment to be had.


After the farmers market, we decided to head back to Kingston.  On the ride back, we all agreed that we enjoyed the boat ride!