Fort Henry and Ghost Stories

More Big Ticket Tours: final week
Each trolley and cruise tour I took brought me tantalizingly close to Fort Henry. It was finally time to hop off the trolley and enter through the gates into the past. Another nod to the wonders of the K-Pass, the price was included. However, the $20.00 per person, including a tour in English or French, seems reasonable. For anyone wanting to keep to a budget this is equal to about 8 cups of coffee. Make your own coffee = a day of history. 

We were a small group, perhaps ten people including our guide. This meant no crowding, craning necks or being jostled on slippery stairs. Unfortunately, due to poor lighting it was not easy to take indoor photos using my iPhone that would turn out. That certainly made me appreciate the conditions the soldiers and their families lived in. Not that it was that much cozier for the officers.
First built during the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States – mostly over shipping rights – the Fort was built on a strategic location to protect trade and communication routes to Kingston. the Fort we now see was built as a fortification between 1832 – 1837 to protect the newly built Rideau Canal, only to be abandoned by the British in 1870 then by the Canadian military by 1891. Fort Henry became a a living museum in 1938. Someone was very forward thinking! It should be noted that not a single shot was fired against an enemy to the country. Great posting in my opinion. 

Cedar Island in the forefront; Wolfe Island in the distance.

The higher ranking officers lived in relative comfort with their own rooms, a desk, some personal belongings and meals. The latter were generally shared with fellow officers. The highest ranking officer had a larger room, a bigger and more comfortable bed, a nicer desk (this seemed important – probably for all the important daily events of the day, not that much was going on), a table for hosting guests and more personal items such as fishing gear and a special bed for a dog. Even a tub for bathing that neatly tucked under the bed. See Life In the British Army for an account of what life was like for officers and ordinary soldiers. 

Of course the differences between officers -usually commissioned (bought their way in) and educated – and soldiers were glaring. Officers lived rather sumptuously in comparison to non-commissioned soldiers, with two separate kitchens and staff, whereas soldiers and their families shared barracks with each other, the wives or single males did cooking other than the daily bread. Bread was baked daily in massive ovens that held 120 loaves of whole wheat bread each to feed the garrison of about 350. To my recollections, no photos, there were two ovens. Whole wheat bread was considered inferior with white flour saved solely for the officers. No air conditioning. No windows. With an average of three children per family and only a curtain for privacy life was not a bed of roses. Women and children counted on the support of the soldier in their family. If I were a soldier I would be glad for the days when on duty! 

Jail cell, sometimes soldiers would try to get thrown in.

The tour was very informative and well paced. With so few in the group I think we were lucky as it meant we could peruse the various rooms, most behind glass or rope, without feeling hustled out before another group arrived. I was glad to not have heard one of the ghost stories until later in the day from my daughter, I might have decided to move along a little faster. Seems there is a mischievous child, or young adult, who likes to hang out in the common kitchen, and goes about closing heavy corridor doors and moving items then gaily laughs as she skips away. (Or something along those lines) There was even a time when a guide could not open the doors – I think he started to believe there might be beings beyond us after all. I know my daughter does not disbelieve after working as a tour guide.
Playing at being soldiers. Candidates to work the summer go through rigorous training before making the cut.
The parade grounds and walls were pretty impressive despite the starkness.

As we left the barracks and returned to the sunlight everyone breathed a little easier, it was dark, dank and low ceilinged where the population of the Fort had lived. Of course the Fort has the best view of the lake and surrounding land, from the battlements the vista is fabulous, looking out to Wolfe Island with its giant, rather mystical wind turbines in the distance, and Cedar Island sitting a scant distance from the Fort. One ghost story dates back to Sep 12, 1846 when an oncoming storm found 23 men headed to Fort Henry in a 12 man boat. 17 drowned. The distraught fiancée of one, who visited the landing area daily, was found drowned on the nearby promontory one cold day? To this day people say they have seen the young couple, Robert and Elizabeth, walking hand in hand or picnicking on the island.

Another story, this one told to me by the sentry posted as I was leaving, had some holes in it when mention of men dying of malaria in the trenches was made. However, I decided to seek out the Lady in the Orange Dress, first through my trusted source – my daughter – then online. I did not find anything about a ghost but, as mentioned in the tour, there had been a garrison hospital nearbya and there was a cholera outbreak in 1832, and seasonal malaria was a problem, possibly into 1924 when the hospital burned down. Considering the bites I received while in Kingston I would not be surprised!

Keep an eye on the third, to the front soldier.
Somehow he did not flinch when the fellow behind him knocked off his hat. I expect 150 years ago he would have been thrown in the brig for losing his cap.
After the rapid firing they had to pick up all the spend shells. In the heat.

The tour was finished just as the guard was going through drills. Lots of fun; and I grateful I managed to find some shade while I watched them go through their paces. I even had time to visit the Springer Market for some fresh produce before heading off to meet my daughter. 
The Numbers: 5.00 coffee; 20.00 market; 15,000 steps


Day 11: Quebec City with my Grandson

Touring Quebec City is not for the faint of heart, nor the unfit. I was travelling with my grandson to Quebec, QC, the old city, so not exactly an unattended grandma. About six hours of an uneventful trip riding the rails. We had snacks with us which meant no need to spend money on expensive, packaged stuff. The Via station is at the bottom of Old Quebec, the hostel nearly at the top of Ste-Ursula Rue, just inside the old town walls. Thank goodness I am in better shape than last time I was here, of course I am also 3 years older. The next day we discovered it was easier to approach the from St. Anne Rue – one of the streets to explore and become dizzy deciding where to eat.

Cathedral Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec

The hostel is quite large – I neglected to ask how many dorms and private rooms. There are no elevators. We nearly needed a map to find our room! Walk up to top floor; go through the doors, turn a corner, down a corridor or two, down some stairs to access the connector, turn a corner, another corridor and a final set of stairs. . After sitting on the train for six hours I think I put in some major steps. I was not sure how to calculate steps when my grandson was carrying my phone for Google Maps to get to our destination so i just used those for my total. 

Of course we got caught in the rain, all I had was my tiny umbrella. It was raining buckets with lots of thunder and lightening. Very impressive over the river. I visited the Cathedral Basillica Norte-Dame de Quebec while my grandson stayed outside. He seems disinterested in architecture. Having already been there in 2014, and discovering there is some extensive work being done that means a screen depicting the altar and all that glitters gold is in place rather than the actual view, I only took a few minutes inside. We then headed down to part of the lower old city, ducked into a stairwell going down to another street to figure out where we might be able to find some dinner when my foot was soaked by water suddenly pouring through a drainpipe. I had a rather soggy foot the rest of the evening because I had chosen to wear socks and my walking sandals. A quick decision was made to head back to the Funicular, where we had asked when it closed, for the short ride up to the promenade outside Chateau Frontenac. Of course by the time we were back for the ride the little space for passengers was teeming with other soaked tourists. Everyone seemed in good spirits. For $3.00 you can scale the cliffside in a glass cabin in about two minutes. This is the only funicular of its kind in North America. First built in 1879, using counter weight water process and steam power to move it up and down the cliff, it was converted to electricity in 1907. A fire destroyed the structure in 1945 – must have been dreadful for firefighters to reach it. Rebuilt the following year and refurbished a couple of times the funicular has been operating for over 135 years! Well, I think it is impressive.

View from the Funicular, lots of rain!

By the time we had walked about some more, me trying to dry off, both of us getting quite hungry, I let my grandson choose where we should have dinner. I was not surprised when, after passing by two times and declaring it busy, he chose D’Orcy’s, fancy sport pub – not a lot of my preferred fare but my GS is 14 1/2 and this trip was for us to spend some time together. Fish and chips for my grandson, lamb sandwich for me. Worked out great, I gave my chips to my GS and ate his salad. Teenage boys eat a LOT! I was grateful to sit upstairs away from the giant televisions – they were there but I could not see them. I have to admit the restaurant does have excellent food and I had eaten there before. Sometimes the familiar is all we need.

Square outside the restaurant and across from the Cathedral-Basilica

Our final activity for our first day was a photo shoot at the cannonball tree at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde. I said we must pull all the photos of my GS standing there over the years he has been to show how much he has grown. The cannonball is said to have been embedded in the tree in 1759. There is no reason to doubt this occcured just as it is believable that Montcalm spent his final 24 hours at 47 Rue St-Louis (most likely not the street name at the time) after being shot by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham September 1759. The French soldiers had to take him somewhere.

Nice digs, close to everything! Rain and iPhone did not do it justice

A few townhouses further along for another photo of where my SIL lived when studying 1st year French. (He joined the navy instead of finishing.)
After all that wandering and then dinner we were both thankful to find the down path to our hostel on the hill. We just needed to get our bearings from previous visits. Old QC is small enough that it does not take long to become familiar with the whole area. We kept passing where I stayed in 2014.

The numbers: 

354.72 hostel (3 nights private room, single and double bunks. I slept in the double.) + HI membership; 2.50 coffee on the train; 5.00 funicular; 49.15 + 7.50 tip dinner 11,000 steps (my tracker says climbed 15 floors – must have included all those hills)

My Canada 150: Day 4

I set out to discover more of the beautiful homes in the downtown core. Let me say now that walking an average of 20,000 steps per day is extremely tiring when pounding the pavement! I only had a coffee at Crave, trying to be a thrifty spender. Then met met my daughter on her way to work – taking full advantage of her proximity to drop off my rather laden down bag. I had left the house prepared for stormy weather – only some squirrel spit. Although not nearly as entertaining as having my daughter be my tour guide I managed to unintentially cover two of the walking tours in about 2 1/2 hours. I started with Earl Street, and ended with William Street when my curious mind wanted to see what was there. Lo and behold it was one of the streets listed in my guide.

Earl Street is one of the oldest streets in Kingston, gaining its current name in 1850. Many of the homes were built as far back as the 1830s. The gentry and industry workers had dwellings here. Of course the grander homes belonged to the wealthy, although it appears some of what we now call duplexes, and row houses, were occupied by various professionals who had tenants, or offices, in the adjoining spaces, and several of the smaller homes were owned by businessmen and managers in trades such as hardware, and various shops. These days doors, verandah and sometimes even the facade of a duplex or row house may be painted in unmatched colours – owners do not seem to discuss choices. At the corner of Earl and Sydenham is the Rosemount, built in 1849. It is now a bed and breakfast – I stayed one night there two winters ago. Quite a difference seeing it surrounded by green. I love the chimneys. 

My room two years ago on 2nd floor. Restored cast iron fence
An early skinny house? Note the 1/2 in the address. I did not find any information. There are a few of these.

I did stop at the Springer Market outside City Hall, not many vendors to entice me to spend my money. Perhaps it is busier on Saturdays. At the urging of my pandas I bought a goodie baked on Wolfe Island. I am quite sure I have had too much doughy stuff since arriving in Kingston. The walking tours are a great way to get in at least 10,000 steps (to make you feel less guilty about a treat) and learn some of he local history of the area. I downloaded the App, so far have not listened to the audio but found the information more useful than in the booklet. 

In an attempt to keep away from a routine I am trying to eat any meals out at places I have not been to. Lunch was at Chez Piggy, although pricier than what I would normally pay for lunch I decided it was about time I checked this hidden place put. A nice outdoor patio, shaded enough for me to not regret the decision to eat al fresco. I chose the Cha Gio Salad: Vietnamese spring rolls (chicken, pork and shrimp), fresh greens, coriander, mint, glass noodles, cucumber, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts with a light dip/dressing on the side. Absolutely delicious! I sometimes worry that a popular tourist spot will be a disappointment, this was not. Attentive service without feeling I was rushed. Very fresh greens, a snap to the bean sprouts – they must grow them in house or buy locally – spring rolls lightly deep fried, none of the usual greasiness often encountered in spring rolls. A satisfying meal that did not sit heavily. I love a good salad. No photos, and my pandas were not happy with me when I told them they could wait until dinner.

The final photo is of Wellington Place, having gone through a major renovation I first noticed in 2014 and watch with interest whenever in Kingston. It is nearly ready for occupation; personally do not like the modern additions. I expect it is better than having it torn down.

2.50 coffee Crave; 2.50 chocolate de pain; 24.00 lunch; steps: 18,007

My Canada 150: Day 3

There is something comfortable about returning to a place previously visited. I expect it is along the lines of going to the cabin, or snowbirds flying to Florida, enough familiarity to encourage exploring without being completely out of ones depth. Kingston has become like that for me. It took this long to also discover that few of the tourist sites open until June. Kingston has become one of my cities to discover and what better time than for Canada 150.

I am still staying in the country which means up early for a ride to town. For my first week I expect this will be my routine. Crave was my first stop. Fortified with a good cup of coffee and a spinach feta danish I finished my book and worked on my first blog entry for this trip. With photos not uploading in town then sporadic internet in the country I was doubting my adventures will ever read. I shall persevere. I plan to shed books as I read them in an effort to lighten my load for going home.

A walk up Princess St., the downtown core, I eventually met up with my daughter for an early lunch (for me, late breakfast for her) at Geneva Crepe Bistro where I tried the Great Canadian crepe with peameal back bacon, (I am absolutely certain I have never had this before – it must be an Eastern Canada thing) scrambled egg, mushrooms and green onion. It was very good but far too much. I only ate half. A doggy carton spent three hours in my hand – next time I will insist on a bag also. My daughter had the Elvis crepe, topped with banana, bacon, maple syrup and chocolate ganache – and peanut butter on the inside from what I could see – somehow my darling child (28) ate the whole thing. We definitely needed to walk off our meal. 

Always feed your pandas first

A self guided Walking Tour of Kingston was the perfect outlet. To suit the upcoming Canada 150 festivities we chose to “Walk in Sir John A.’s Footsteps.” Rather than plug into the App I had downloaded my daughter became my personal guide, reading aloud each short blurb in the booklet I also had. Until recently she worked with Haunted Tours of Kingston proved an easy transition and she added some snippets of unexpected information along the way. (No secrets of the trade were revealed).
Sir John A. was the first prime minister of Canada, with Kingston slated as the capital of the country. Rather short lived, with Ottawa eventually becoming our capital city. We spent a lovely afternoon looking at some of the homes Sir John A. either lived in or rented for family members. Kingston reminds me in some ways of Victoria, maintaining many homes built in the 1800s, the main difference is that homes in Kingston were build using stone, brick or limestone. Some of these were beautifully crafted with many retaining their fabulous brick or stonework. 
Few of the grand homes are single family dwellings these days
Just look at the detail!

I was quite happy to see that St. George’s Cathedral was open to visitors. My last visit to Kingston found only one church actually open to the public, this was not one of them. Playing in the air was the sound of what the flock might encounter, an organist was practising the pipes, quite enthralling. Finding signs of the inane in places too often sombre always delights me. I was not disappointed – pews are uncomfortable so why not soften the seat with a personal cushion? On the way out I was tempted to give a go on the two bell pulls flanking the main doors. I refrained. 
Sunday’s best outfit

I was also quite exhausted by the time we made our way to where my other daughter had parked her car. My grandson had a friend over so the early evening and dinner were quite boisterous. I was in bed by 9:00 and probably only woke up once until I had a near cramp in my thigh. Wearing my runners tomorrow. 

4.60 coffee and danish (Crave); my daughter treated me for lunch; 21000+ steps