Perhaps not the most impressive epitaph, but there it is and that's mostly what we did.
Who knew that Kingston is a minor Mecca for Cambodian food in Canada? I didn't, but fortunately Raven did, and so set our itinerary for my first return to Canada's one-time capital city in about a quarter of a century.
(Is it come time for Young Geoffrey to give up his ever-more hoary moniker?
(Hell no! quoth YG!)
Kingston, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, is a small city of just over 100,000, located at the headwaters of the Saint Lawrence River. A long-time military town, a prison town, a university town, it is also a small city with a remarkably vibrant downtown. In fact, I've not seen the like anywhere outside of a metropolis like Montreal or Toronto or San Francisco. The narrow streets and sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians and parking was harder to find there than in downtown Ottawa, a city fully 10 times the population. The stores and restaurants seemed to be mostly locally-owned small businesses, though of course, The Gap makes its presence known.
A small city that hasn't been hollowed out by suburban sprawl? That is chalk full of buildings reflecting that city's history? Colour me impressed.
The restaurants — we tried three of them — did not quite live up to Raven's advance billing, but all were more than adequate. Cambodians, it seems, like curries and they make awesome, dense spring rolls. But they don't seem to have the Chinese interest in vegetables and, indeed, I doubt I've eaten so little green over three days in a very long time. (Glutons, and longing for the fire which we didn't, quite, find in Kingston, we ended our trip at the far end of Montreal Road back home in Ottawa, just getting in to Chahaya Malaysia — which I have praised here before — before closing time and had our usual fix, a pair of spring rolls, Raven her Laksa Penang and I my beloved Beef Rendang.
Flavourful lions, fiery lions and o! so subtle bears!
But I was babbling about Kingston. What else is there to say?
- The downtown waterfront is pretty nice, but has suffered an incursion of glass-walled condos that threaten to do to Kingston that which has blighted Toronto: to cut the city off from its own lake/riverfront;
- Shopping still baffles me. Oh, I think I get the pleasure on a theoretical level, but I have no gut understanding of how anyone can enjoy the process — especially in chain stores, where the produce is shoddy and the music atrocious and too loud (I'm pointing at you, the Gap!);
But Raven does enjoy the process, the poking and prodding, the looking and judging and even, sometimes, the purchasing of this or that item. And we have mostly reached an accomdation. She goes off to wanter and I find a place to sit, hopefully with book or fully-charged notebook;
- I can go out for a meal without also ordering a beer. Fancy that!
- Kingston is still a very white city. There are a few non-white folks walking around, but not many. In that, it reminds me a lot of what Ottawa was like a quarter-century ago (there's that fraction again!); and
- I find that I do a lot of writing when I am outside of my (home) office, even if the venue is wi-fi enabled. I think I will head out to coffee shops (not bars) more often, as I once did when I was so much younger.
Last night, coming home gloriously sated from Chahaya Malaysia, Raven reminded me that today, Monday the first, marks the third anniversary of my return to Ottawa and especially, of the first time Raven and I met.
Looking back on the sad and frankly almost broken man I was then, it seems a miracle that she took the chance of getting to know me, let alone that we have now been together as a couple for very nearly two and a half-years.
Happy anniversary, my love! May we share many more meals together!
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