Friday, August 26, 2016

Past POIs - Kingston Penitentiary [Kingston, Ontario, Canada]

Our recent trip to Kingston and Ottawa was for one purpose (well, one main purpose) and that was to visit the Kingston Penitentiary. Opened in 1835, this penitentiary housed some of the biggest criminals in Canada was closed in 2013.

This year (and I believe it happened one other time), Kingston Penitentiary is open for public guided tours, however, the tickets were being scooped up really quickly (probably by scalpers), but if you visit the website (, you may luck out for some tickets. The price is $25 per adult and it is a guided tour which lasted about 1.5 hours in length and you do walk around a majority of the penitentiary.

When you are wandering around, you will notice how things have changed over time from what it was like almost 200 years ago. A lot of sections were added, cells were expanded, buildings were added, and many more. I don't want to cover too much since the guide tour itself does talk about a lot of these details.

During our tour, unfortunately, there was only one corrections officer that talked about their experience while working at KP. When checking online, apparently some tours had more officers, which would have made the tours more interesting in my mind. This was due to the fact that the tours themselves were actually run by teenagers (at least when I did my tour). They did seem to know a bit about the history, however, it feels a bit weird when someone so young is talking about something so historic especially since this is probably their summer job.

But that should not deter you from paying KP a visit if you can. It is currently unknown as to what will happen to it and nobody knows if the tour will run again in the future, so if you want to see it, now is a good time to go. While you are here, check out the museum just across the street for some artifacts and historic items from KP and as a bonus it is free!

For more information you can visit their site at

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Past POIs - Changing of the Guard [Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]

Another summertime event that takes place in Ottawa is the Changing of the Guard which happens at Parliament Hill every morning at 10:00am since 1959!

Make sure to arrive at around 9:30am to get a good spot to watch the show. Note that while it does formally begin at 10:00am, you want to be here a bit early to find a good spot to watch. In my opinion, pick the area near the road on the south side. You will notice an path that allows people to go into the green field, that is where you want to be, just make sure not to be in the path since that is where the people come in.

The Changing of the Guard has ceremonial guards along with a marching band and pipers performing the ceremony which provides for a good show. The guards are from two regiments, the Governor General's Footguards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards. I did feel bad for them since they are fully clothed during the hot summer weather.

The event itself lasts roughly 30 minutes, during this there is someone over the speaker explaining the history and what is happening in both English and French. It is a free event, so there is a good amount of people here to watch. It is a nice way to start the morning.

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Past POIs - Remic Rapids [Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]

During our long weekend roadtrip to Ottawa we visited Remic Rapids for the first time and it is a very interesting stop if you happen to come during summer time. Why it is interesting only during the summer time? The rock art!

In 1986, John Felice Ceprano started to build balancing rock art at Remic Rapids and has been doing this annually since. It only lasts during the summer time since it disappears when it gets colder and the tides are higher. Each year there is a different theme and you can actually view all the previous works on his website.

We were fortunate enough that John himself was there while we were visiting, unfortunately, he was repairing a damaged sculpture due to vandals. It was nice to chat about why he does it and how it came to be.

Worth a stop if you are driving and have some free time. I know we see this all the time at CNE, but it was neat to see this elsewhere and the gentleman seems to do this for relaxation and peacefulness since he talked a bit about that while we were there.

Parking is readily available and free. It is a bit of a walk from downtown but it is only a short drive from Chinatown. For directions just look for Remic Rapids Park. For more information, visit

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 - Kingston / Ottawa - Day 4 (Ottawa)

Today, we head to Tangier Kanata for a bit of shopping and then head back to Toronto.

Breakfast at The Business Inn
We had breakfast at The Business Inn and the food was the same, it never changes from the several times that we have been here. Checkout was fine, not that parking is not included in the hotel cost and it roughly $15 a day with in-out privileges.

We made it to Tangier Kanata and it reminds of the Tangiers that we have visited in the past. The deals were okay, it wasn't very business when we arrived since we made it just after they opened. I ended up getting a pair of Banana Republic shorts for just under $20, Allison didn't get anything.

Country Diner (poutine on top left, gyro on top right, turkey sandwich on bottom)
Lunch was at a random diner that we came across on the way home called Country Diner in Smith Falls area. We order the Coney Fries, Chicago Style Gyro and the Turkey Sandwich. The food was good, no complaints. Came out to $21 before tip.

Headed back home after lunch and called it a day. The drive back was not as terrible as the drive in, but it still took us an extra hour to get back due to stop and go traffic. I'm still not sure why it was so busy, there were no lane restrictions, there was a bit of road work. We will need to rethink when we head east because it was super busy to get out.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our trips, until next trip!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 - Kingston / Ottawa - Day 3 (Ottawa)

Today, we see the Changing of the Guard, try to get tickets for the parliament tour, and visit Remic Rapids.

Breakfast was the same as usual at The Business Inn, minus the free take-away cheese that they used to have, I guess to save on costs it makes sense. Included are breakfast sandwiches that come with ham, sausage, bacon, or just plain egg and cheese. There are bagels, toast, waffles, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, coffee (including a Nespresso machine), juice and take away bags which include a bottle of water, oatmeal cookies, an apple, and a juice box. Overall, still enjoy the breakfast here.

Breakfast at The Business Inn
After breakfast we went to see the Changing of the Guard which starts at 9:45am and we got there at 9:30am. It was my second time and Allison's first time there and it was neat since we actually were next to someone who participated in the event 20 years ago and he was explaining to his family (wife and three boys) what happens, why it happens and how it works.

If you come, there is a road parallel to Wellington on the south side of the field. In that area, there should be a cordoned off area with one section that is open, this section is where the guards come in, so try to get a spot there, make sure to not stand in the open section since you will be asked to move. It lasts roughly 30 minutes and is worth a watch if you have never seen it before. There is a live marching band to go along with it and over the speakers is someone explaining what is happening which is helpful for those who don't understand, this is in both English and French.

Changing of the Guard
Now with less crane!
We couldn't get tickets for parliament since it was the long weekend and it is really popular, maybe next time. So, off we went to Remic Rapids which unfortunately was not accessible when we tried to go Sunday Bikeday was going on. For those that don't know, on Sundays in the summer time, over 50 km of parkways and roads are open to cyclists, runners, and walkers alike and this means that there are road closures. Because of this, we went for lunch instead and ended up at Ginza Ramen in Chinatown. We ordered the spicy tonkotsu and the hakata tonkotsu which were $12 each. Came out to $27 before tip. The food was good, although I've had better ramen back in Toronto.

Ginza Ramen
After lunch, we try for Remic Rapids again! What is Remic Rapids? Well, it is an area near parliament where John Felice Ceprano decided to make balancing rock sculptures since 1986 at this site. Every year, he goes here to build the sculptures and they eventually get washed away with the rising river, making it different every year. We came at an opportune time since John himself was there to build the sculptures! However, some of them were destroyed due to vandals and he was rebuilding them but it was neat to talk to him. Worth a stop if you are in the area or if the pictures look neat. Parking is free and there was plenty of parking spaces when we came at around 1:30pm.

Remic Rapids
Remic Rapids
Ended up at Buskerfest next which is on Sparks St near parliament, free event where there are buskers from around the world (that's what they say, I can't tell if that's true or not) and they busker. There are some freebies here and in general, there were a surprising amount of buskers here. It was the first time that I have seen a contortionist perform and she stuffed herself inside a small box. Very cool to see. It was a bit disappointing to hear that some people comment about how much money this one lady was making but they don't realize that they don't get paid all the time. We saw a few acts, the contortionist, a show performer (he created a show, nothing really special, but he was entertaining with his props and comments), and a couple that was Popeye and Olive and performing tricks and rode a unicycle. We greatly enjoyed watching Buskerfest here since it was more spacious than the ones we have seen in Toronto and the buskers change really quickly between acts, so it seemed more eventful. I think we would have stayed longer but we had dinner reservations at The Whalesbone Oyster Bar which we failed to make during Winterlude.

The menu at Whalesbone Oyster Bar is small, but the food was really good. We ordered a platter to start which had mussels, oysters, and clams, all prepared in different ways, had the mackerel and lobster risotto for our mains. Overall, I think the food was really good, however, I can't really comment too much on it since I am not a big seafood person. Service was okay, when I think about some other restaurants, I wondered why the service wasn't up to par. I expected my water to be full, never needing to ask for more water, waiters/waitresses to be wandering around to tend to us but that just didn't happen. Bill came out to $118 before tip. In general, I think the food was really good, however, I probably wouldn't come back.

Platter (clams at the bottom row, mussels in the silver cups, oysters in the spoons)
Lobster risotto
After dinner, we went back to the hotel to clean up and pack up since we would be leaving for Toronto tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we visit Tangier Kanata and head back to Toronto which will conclude our trip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016 - Kingston / Ottawa - Day 2 (Kingston / Ottawa)

Today, we try to visit Kingston City Hall and head to Ottawa.

Breakfast is included with our stay at Quality Inn & Suites. They have a waffle maker, hard boiled eggs, sausage and egg patties, juice machine, coffee, two types of cereal, muffins, bread, pre-packaged danishes, and yogurt. The waffles always taste good to me at these places since you have to make it fresh yourself. Everything else was okay. No issue with recommending the hotel outside of it's location which is a bit outside of the downtown area.

Breakfast at Quality Inn & Suites
Our goal was to make it to Kingston City Hall at 10:00am for the guided tour and we got there at 10:15am, but apparently, we were the first to arrive and we got our guided tour started! We were actually the only ones there, part way through the tour, a son and mother came and joined in as well.

Kingston City Hall
Kingston City Hall
Kingston City Hall is definitely worth a visit in my mind and you should check it out. While they do have guided tours, they also have self-guided tours in the event that you don't make it in time. This was the original capital of Canada and due to the location and proximity to USA, it was later relocated and during this time, it came on hard times and the building was rented to anyone who would rent it including the local police department. As part of the tour, you go to the lower level which actually has the old holding cells there which is very neat to see. The tour lasted one hour.

Kingston City Hall
Right outside the City Hall was the local farmer's market that happens on the weekends and it is worth a peak to see a lot of fresh fruits and produce.

Kingston Public Market
While there, Princess St Promenade was going on which is where they close Princess St and it becomes a street festival with lots of things to see and do. There was a farm, lots of stalls with some food and some freebies as well. We lucked out and I thought it was interesting to wander a festival that wasn't planned.

I'm a llama!
Lunch was at Harper's, a local burger joint. We ordered the wolf's paw shake and the steakhouse and lalaland burgers. Came out to $41 before tip. The drink and burgers were good, worth a stop if you want a quick bite to eat.

Wolf's paw shake
Steakhouse on top, lalaland on bottom.
When we reached Ottawa, we saw that the Pokemon Go craze was here and at the local park, there were tons of people there catching pokemon. It was the first time that I have seen the craze in person.

Aroma Meze is where we went for dinner, it is tapas style food. We ordered the char grilled cremini, rosemary scallops, keftedes, greek poutine, lamb tacos, and cazuela. It came out to $63 before tip. The food ranged from okay to really good (scallops). Service was really slow though, we were told due to new cooks. It seemed like there were a lack of servers, they actually ran out of menus which seems really odd for a restaurant. We ended up here for 2 hours and that was mostly just due to us waiting a lot. The food was good, however, the service needs a lot of work.

Lamb tacos
Greek poutine
Eggplant Roulade
Last thing for the day was the Northern Lights show at parliament which happens every night during summer time. It is a free 30 minute light show that uses the parliament building as the backdrop. It is very neat to see and it was nice to learn a bit about Canadian history, especially for those that don't know it. Worth a stop, make sure to bring some lawn chairs though since it is pretty long.

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Tomorrow, we explore Ottawa.

Monday, August 8, 2016

2016 - Kingston / Ottawa - Day 1 (Kingston)

Off for another long weekend trip and I know that we have been to Ottawa a number of times but the purpose of this roadtrip is to visit the Kingston Penitentiary which has a limited run of guided tours available during this year and we were lucky enough to get some tickets for Friday evening. After Kingston, we will head to Ottawa to do some things that we haven't and it will be our first time visiting Ottawa outside of Winterlude.

Kingston Penitentiary
Unfortunately, it took us 5 hours to get to Kingston from Toronto, normally a 2.5 hour trip due to the crazy amount of traffic. We stopped at a Burger King for dinner, so no much to comment on there.

Kingston Penitentiary
Our Kingston Penitentiary tour starts at 7:20pm and we made it there for 6:30pm, it is advised that you arrive 20 minutes before your tour start. Parking is free and available right next to the penitentiary. If you have time, you should visit the museum just across the street (although we did that last time we were here).

Kingston Penitentiary
The tour lasts roughly 1.5 hours long, it is a 1km walk in total and you do visit a majority of the grounds and you end up going in and out of most buildings. It was neat to see an actual penitentiary in Canada since we just saw two in Ireland. We could see the differences and similarities and I thought it was an interesting stop. If you have never visited one before, you can't go wrong here. My one complaint would be that since the guided tours are managed by teenagers, it took away from my experience just from an mannerism perspective. Our guide was a teenager who would say a lot of umm's, ahh's, uhh's. Nobody could be done about this though since it is clearly a popular attraction and it was probably done this way for cost purposes.

Kingston Penitentiary (prisoner mail boxes)
Another issue which is minor is that since the tours are 20 minutes apart, you do end up running into other groups, with no dedicated audio headsets for everyone, you end up having troubles listening to your tour guide if they end up being someone who speaks lower than the other guide. Overall, I would still recommend seeing it if you can, nobody knows what will happen to it down the road so it may not be possible to see if in the future.

Kingston Penitentiary
We stayed at Quality Inn & Suites, which was a roughly 15 minute drive away from Kingston. I chose this location due to the reviews and the cost. The site is new, the reception staff actually said that the site was open 4 months ago and it does show. Everything seems very new and we were happy with the room so far.

Kingston Penitentiary (prisoner cell, yup, that's a Nintendo 64 and yes, that's what was in a cell)
Tomorrow, we visit Kingston City Hall and then head to Ottawa and try to fit in what we can.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Past POIs - Northern Lights Show [Ottawa, Ontario, Canada]

Over the Civic long weekend we visited Ottawa and got to see the Northern Lights show there which happens every evening during summer times and is a free bilingual show.

The Northern Lights show is a huge projection against the parliament building and talks about the history of Canada and I thought was a neat attraction for tourists and Canadians alike. It lasts roughly 30 minutes long.

Make sure to bring some lawn chairs so that you don't need to stand throughout the show. A worthwhile visit in my opinion, especially since Ottawa doesn't have much of a nightlife.

To put on such a display, there are 17 projectors that create the seamless single projection, 18 speakers provide a 7.1 surround sound.

For more information, visit the official site at

Come back next Friday for another Past Point of Interest!