Stepping out – October in Kingston

I have continued my walks around Kingston this month and have enjoyed the fresh air and great autumn colours. Here are three composite videos that I have made of photos I have taken on my walks around Kingston this month. Enjoy.

The photos were all taken with my iPhone 11 Pro and edited and compiled on the iPhone and iPad using QuikStories and Kinemaster.

Stepping out – Week 10

I have lived downtown for ten years and yet I did not know that there is a Sunday Market at the Memorial Centre (Kingston). In keeping with my goal of learning more about my community through walking every street in the Kingston core, I headed over to the Memorial Centre this morning.

I discovered a busy market with vendors from near and far selling local goods and produce.. I chatted with a baker from Kemptville and bought a bacon butter tart from them before they were all gone (by 10:15 am).

I also picked up some frozen Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls that I will have for dinner from a vendor from Lyn, Ontario. (I didn’t know where that is. It is a hamlet just west of Brockville.) There were also lots of stalls selling fresh local produce and greens, iincluding dandelion leaves in bunches that look like a head of lettuce and bunches of garlic scapes (the green tops with the little flower bud at the top).

If you are a Kingstonian and have not yet checked out this Sunday market, give it a go. I will be back for sure.

And while we were wandering the neighbourhood, Anne-Marie and Dave flagged us down to go for coffee at the nearby Coffee Way. We had lots of theatre chat and I learned about Connor’s little venture selling good condition LEGO sets. If you want some Vintage LEGO, let me know and I will put you in touch with him.

On my way along Montreal Street I encountered this delightful streetside garden, just a few steps from Blakey’s Flower Shop.

All in all it was a great Sunday morning. By noon I had walked 10 km, visited with friends, found a new market and come home with something special that I can warm up for dinner. Ahh, summer.

Stepping out – Week 9

It’s crazy, really. Why do we think we need to go farther afield to find interesting things to explore. Within a few blocks of where I live are two absolutely beautiful cathedrals. I rarely go into them. But when I travel, if I see a church I always go in, sit for a few moments to soak up the ambience and reflect.

St Mary’s Cathedral on Johnson Street in Kingston is really magnificent inside. The cornerstone for the present building was laid in 1843 and the cathedral, much as it remains today, was constructed over the next five years. Over a few years around 1990, a seven million dollar restoration of the original building was done. The limestone was carefully restored or replaced and one of the walls and buttresses was replaced.

The interior of this building is stunning and inspirational. Guided tours are available throughout the summer on Weekdays (except Wednesday) from 1-5. Check this wonderful building out.

St George’s Cathedral is more familiar to me as I have been to concerts there (the acoustics are wonderful) and even last Christmas Eve I wandered in to just sit in the back pew and absorb the peace. St George’s Cathedral was built in 1862, replacing a smaller wooden St George’s church that, from 1792, was located opposite the Market Square ( about where Morrison’s Restaurant is now) . It was enlarged between 1891 and 1894 but then much of the roof and interior was destroyed by fire in 1899. It was quickly repaired to be as it appears now, 120 years later.

St George’s also has a beautiful interior and throughout the summer the doors are open for visitors to come into the church and witness its grandeur.

I suspect that many visitors to Kingston admire these churches but how often do local residents who are not part of these congregations drop in to spend a few moments of quiet and absorb the grandeur that is part of our community? Both are worth a visit.

To show just how close to home these wonderful churches are to me, I took this photo from the rooftop of my apartment building. The spire of St Mary’s is in the left upper horizon and the dome of St George’s is in the middle right third of this photo.

Stepping out – Week 8

As summery weather finally hit us this week, I took the opportunity to get up early to watch the sun come up on my own home town. When I travel I often post video montages of the cities in different countries so I thought it appropriate to share one of my own home town, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

These scenes were shot between 5:30 am and 6, all within a few blocks of home, when the streets were quiet and serene. Enjoy this little tour of my neighbourhood.

Stepping out – Week 7

It’s getting a bit more difficult to walk the streets where I have not yet been in the Kingston core since it is farther just to get to them. But I continue with my quest to cover all the core Kingston Streets in the next several weeks. So far this where I have been since early May.

I’ve walked all the streets marked in yellow on this map of Kingston’s core.

Part of my challenge was not just to walk but also to stop to notice and discover and chat and I have also realized that there are a lot of interesting places right in my own neighbourhood that I have not really explored.

For example, this week I ventured into the Pump House Steam Museum that is at the base of West Street. In addition to the permanent exhibits about the building and it’s contribution to providing water to Kingston there is a new display outlining the changes along Ontario Street (where I live) over the past couple of centuries. ( I notice that there is a free curated historical walk to explore along Ontario Street on Saturday June 29 at 11 from the museum. I plan to take my granddaughter. Ice cream at White Mountain after the walk might be the teaser.)

The Pumphouse building was built in 1849 at which time it started to provide piped water to the community, privately at first but later as a public utility. Prior to this clean water was at a premium in the city and typhoid and cholera epidemics were not uncommon.

The Kingston waterfront was not always the pleasant, clean, accessible place that it is today. The apartment building where I live is called “The Locomotive” because it is on the site of a factory that once built steam engines, including the Spirit of John A that is now on display across from City Hall. Shipbuilding and trade by ship along the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River was once the main activity by the waterfront here. The railway took over in the late 1800’s.

In the photo above, I have blended two pictures taken at what is now Confederation Basin. I took the one on the right this morning. The left half is from 1953 when there were still tracks running through what is now the park where the fountain is in front of City Hall. The train is leaving a bit of a carbon footprint, I think.

Also a block from where I live is a restaurant that is now PJ Murphy’s Irish Gastro Pub. It used to be Frankie Pesto’s. Within a week of the new owners taking over this building it had a sign outside saying that it had been voted Kingston’s #1 Irish Gastro Pub. I wondered who had even been in it yet, let alone who was doing the voting. Then I realized that it is Kingston’s ONLY Irish Gastro Pub.

The building is where the Grand Trunk Railway passenger station was from 1886 to 1929. Apparently the ticket agent, J.P. Hanley, sold steamship line tickets, railway tickets and also operated an insurance office. The station became known as Hanley Station. The Grand Trunk railway was in competition with the Kingston & Pembroke line that became known as the Kick and Push. The station that is now the Tourist Office across from City hall was for the K&P.

The Grand Trunk Passenger office around 1900 and PJ Murphy’s today.

My neighbourhood must have been a busy one in those days. I suspect I would have loved it then as much as I do now.

So if you have stuck with me this far, here is the bonus that ties all this together. At the Pumphouse Steam Museum is a room full of model trains. I had great fun pushing the buttons to make them run. And there in the corner was the train set that was used in the opening of the Friendly Giant. Find the boot. Now look up. Look way up.

Stepping out – Week 5

May 30-June 5

I am back home in Kingston and have picked up where I left off exploring my home town after two weeks tramping around cities in the U.K. and Europe.

If you didn’t see what my mission is in the next few months you can find more about it here. My plan is to get some exercise while the weather is good and at the same time take more notice of what is surrounding me. And share photos each week of discoveries I have made on my walks.

This old building was one of the first breweries in the core of old Kingston. It was built by James Robbins in 1793. It underwent name changes from Robbins Brewery to Kingston Brewery to Bajus Brewery and was operated by the Bajus family until the 1920s. The brewing industry was an important part of this district and what is now Rideau Street was called Brewery Street.

Across the street is s dry dock that was opened by Sir John A MacDonald and has been operational since the 1870’s. This week they are preparing it to bring in a houseboat for renovations.

This property has also been the site of boat building since 1676. Metalcraft Marine has used the property since the 1980’s to build Fire/Rescue/Patrol boats that are sent all over North America (like this one that is soon headed to Miami, Florida.)

Lots of flowering trees this week, including these two beauties in front of a house on King Street that was built in 1841. At that time the farm lot across the street (now City Park) was being considered as a site for the Canadian Parliament Buildings.

And, high water levels in Lake Ontario caused a bit of flooding, including the Parking Lot and entry to the Kingston Yacht Club. This mother duck took advantage of the puddle to teach her ducklings to swim.

My friend, Sue, gave me the guided tour around the Rideau Street neighbourhood she lived in as a child. She pointed out the church where her brother used to go to sales to buy Christmas gifts more than 50 years ago and as we approached the church…they had a rummage sale on. Some things just don’t change.

Tracing my footsteps through 2018

My iPhone tells me that in 2018 I took over 4,900,000 steps with it in my pocket. We averaged 8.7 kilometers every day in 16 different countries. My phone and I also took hundreds of photos as we made that trek though the year together.

Here is just one photo from each of those countries.

Longboat Key, Florida, U.S.A.

Amalfi, Italy

Rotterdam, Holland

Copenhagen, Denmark

St Petersburg, Russia

Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm, Sweden

Brussels, Belgium

Berlin, Germany

Tallinn, Estonia

Baridi, Kona, Kenya

Maputo, Mozambique

Costa Maya, Mexico

Roatan, Honduras

Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala

Magog, Quebec, Canada

Italia 2018 – Part 1 – San Michele

I’ve spent the last few days visiting with friends Luca, Gloria, and Enrico in San Michele, Italy – not too far from Bologna and Modena. The district, Reggio Emilia, is famous for Ferrari and Pavarotti and balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese, among other things.

I first met Luca and Gloria rather serendipitously online in 1999 when I was working in Bosnia and ICQ was the online chat programme that was popular then. We have seen each other several times in several places over those 19 years. I first met Enrico when he was 3 months old. Now look at him!

It’s always wonderful to spend time with them and to have the opportunity to experience Italy with my Italian family. Gracie, amici.

Here are a few photos of my time there.

Centre of Modena. The reflection in the pool of water caught my eye.

I always enjoy a hike up the hill behind San Michele for a “divine” view of the surrounding countryside and the town below.

The historic covered bridge, an icon in Pavia, near Milano.

The courtyard of the Castello Visconteo in Pavia

Downtown San Michele. Not a metropolis.

I revel all week in Gloria’s cooking. This is a ricotta and chocolate cheesecake/pie. Delizioso.

Random musings from my week in Ontario’s North

It was drizzling and muddy when I arrived at the Moosonee airport on my way to Moose Factory on Monday.  There followed a short ride in a van to the edge of the river where I boarded a motorboat taxi that wound its way to the island.

The first thing I was asked was “Did you bring rubber boots?” I had not. The roads in this district are basically all gravel/dirt roads and when it rains they become muddy swamps. Luckily I was able to borrow some rubber boots and this proved a good omen since the weather quickly dried and I didn’t need them after my first day.

Moose Factory Hospital.  Surrounded by muddy roads.

 

img_3707An evening tour of Moose Factory by a colleague who has worked there for years took me to the dump to see the bears who were fattening up in preparation for their winter sleep. There was frost overnight and no heat in my accommodation. I ended up turning on the oven for a bit and sitting by the open door of the stove to warm up. An indoor campfire.

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The next day I ferried back to Moosonee then bounced to Fort Albany to Kasheshewan to Attawapiskat on a flight that sometimes barely got off the ground until it was time to land again. In the winter these communities are linked by ice roads that traverse the many waterways and frozen tundra.  Supplies are brought in over the ice roads and people travel out of the community then by skidoo or truck. During the summer and fall the only way into them is by plane.  Food and fuel and other goods are expensive since they all have to be either flown in or brought in by barge until the ground freezes and trucks can traverse them.

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Attawapiskat is flat and looks barren without any vegetation

Attawapiskat is an indigenous community of about 2000,  mostly Cree. Some speak only the Cree language. It has had a lot of press over the years for its poverty, mental health challenges, high youth suicide rates, drug and alcohol abuse and water and sanitation problems. There have also been allegations of money mismanagement by the local leaders.   Many of the people were friendly but reserved and hesitant to engage spontaneously.  Nevertheless, it felt foreign to me in many ways.

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Attawapiskat airport waiting room

At the “Atta” airport all baggage was searched by hand and we all had a pat down looking for smuggled drugs or alcohol. Attawapiskat has been designated a “dry” community for the past few months in an effort to curb abuse.  It took about 45 minutes to get my luggage cleared. I heard that, in the past few weeks,  one health worker was arrested and sent back south for possession of marijuana that he was taking for “medical” reasons. Zero tolerance. I wonder what they though of my Cooke’s coffee beans, grinder and bodum.

 

While I was there, news broke of an arrest of three people in Kingston who were part of a drug ring smuggling narcotics and whatever else to the James Bay West communities using the hospital shuttle flights like the one that I took during the week.

Northern

“The Northern” is the main/only store in town, selling everything from bullets to overcoats to apples.  Fresh food is limited.  Lots of canned and processed food.  Good nutrition is hard to come by for these folks.   Notice everyone drives a 4-wheel drive truck as well.  Gas costs $2.99 a litre.

Lucky the weather in Atta was dry so I did not need my boots to walk around the little town. One of the Public Health nurses took me in a 4 wheel drive truck about ten kilometers out of the town to near where the river meets James Bay. The road reminded me of some of the muddy rural roads in the Massai Mara. The brush along the road was scrubby and tall grass. ( there are virtually no trees in Attawapiskat so it looks really barren.) A few times we skidded through mud, needing the 4-wheel drive to get through. An Africa flashback for me in Northern Canada! More than once, I was making mental comparisons of what I was seeing and experiencing to what I have encountered in Africa.

Once we got to the end of the road near the Bay, the vista was serene and washed in warm fall colors. In the spring, polar bears are sometimes seen here, I was told.

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Baltic cruise

In May of this year, I took a 12 night Holland America Baltic cruise on the 1600-passenger ship Rotterdam and it was a great opportunity to visit several cities that have been on my bucket list. The cruise left from Rotterdam, Holland and visited Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin, St Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm. I took hundreds of photos and it has taken me this long to whittle them down to one per stop for this blog article.

I will post one representative photo and a short comment about each city.

Copenhagen, Denmark was clean and bright and one thing that struck me as unusual was that people just left their bicycles (and they use them a lot) unlocked without fear of having them stolen. This says a lot about the people who live there, don’t you think?

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Tallinn, Estonia was a delightful small city to roam in or climb the streets up to the top of the hill for a great view. It would be an ideal place just to hang out for a week, soaking up the ambiance, reading books and drinking coffee.

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Tallin, Estonia

Berlin, Germany was a 2 hour drive from where we docked but well worth the effort. A vibrant city with lots of parks and trees and recent history. The city is very open about acknowledging with a certain amount of shame, but more determination not to have it ever happen there again, the horrors and trauma of WW2 and the Nazi regime.

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Berlin, Germany

St Petersburg, Russia was certainly interesting visually but the glitz became almost too much. Much of St Petersburg (previously Leningrad) was destroyed during WW2 so, although the buildings like the Palaces and the Hermitage were impressive, they really were reconstructions, not the originals. Ostentatious comes to mind.

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St Petersburg, Russia

Helsinki, Finland seemed a bit drab after St Petersburg. Russians go there to shop. I spent the day there taking a ferry to a nearby island where there were no cars and lots of opportunity to walk near the sea. A refreshing change and I actually walked over 20 kilometres that day, not something you might expect on a cruise vacation.

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Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm, Sweden was a photographer’s delight. The old town on the island was very wanderable with colorful alleyways and streets at every turn. The city also has a lot of canals and waterways that made a hop-on-hop-off boat trip a must.

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Stockholm, Sweden

Rotterdam, Holland, where the cruise both started and ended, strikes me as a city with a shipping port/industrial past that is gradually gentrifying and becoming an interesting destination, not far from Delft and The Hague as well.

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Rotterdam, Holland

Taking a cruise like this is an excellent way of seeing these spots. It is so good to have all your things in one place for the trip and have a “hotel” room that moves with you.

Where would I return? I would gladly go back to spend a few days in Berlin. Lots of culture, history, museums, parks, restaurants, coffee shops. And Stockholm was also somewhere I could hang out for a few days.