Monday, July 17, 2006

Sister and Ink’s Excellent Adventure, or A Tale of Two Big Girls in One Small City (The 2006 Edition)

[WARNING: This is an epic post – a real roller-coaster of a ride crammed with sizzling gypsies!… Well, not really. But it is long. And things occasionally jingle.]

Some of you may remember that around this time last year, Sister StaceyPatrick and I got together for a girls’ weekend in Kingston, Ontario.* Well, we had such a great time that I jumped at Sister’s offer to arrange a repeat performance this year.

[*See "The Sister and GovGirl do Kingston" (Aug 15). I used the name “GovGirl” in my pre-blog days.]

On Friday afternoon, the good Sister took the train up from Toronto (approx 2 hours) while I drove in from Ottawa (approx 2 hours) and picked her up. Once again, we chose to stay in the Linden Room at the Green Woods Inn, a lovely B&B just outside of town run by the sweetest British couple – Nigel and Tessa. They remembered us from last year – including my dietary restrictions (no melon or pork, thanks!) – and were just as charming and gracious as we remembered.

After checking in and unpacking our bags, we took a taxi into town – Yeah! For once, I was NOT the designated driver! – and met up with Sister StaceyPatrick’s very own sister-in-law at Chez Piggy, the most famous restaurant in the area. The restaurant itself was packed, but, oddly, we didn’t have to wait very long for a table on the patio (which they run on a first-come-first-serve basis) and so I got to enjoy my first-ever Mojito – and the Sister got to sip her Cosmopolitan – while lounging in the warmth of a very pleasant summer evening.

[Chez Piggy’s patio, BTW, is one of the most pleasant I’ve ever been in. It’s situated in the spacious inner courtyard that was formed by the meeting of four or five limestone buildings. Access is through a couple of different pedestrian walkways, or through the restaurants or shops themselves. Chez Piggy’s has grown a whole variety of flowering summer plants on the patio… including a large grapevine sporting real, if still unripe, grapes. The whole place has a thoroughly European feeling to it, and is perfect for truly “getting away from it all.” What’s more, the food is as luscious as the location.]

We spent a good three hours or so at the restaurant, drinking, eating and gossiping, followed by a long stroll around the downtown core to work off some of the food and drink. Our progress was leisurely , if not completely aimless, since the Sister and I were really out to “case the joint” for the following day.

You see, Kingston is simply stuffed with bookshops – second-hand, specialty and discount, not to mention a store specializing in belly-dance gear (it had just closed for the day when we found it last year…grrr!) and a certain jewellery store that the Sister … well, I … patronised last year, much to the delight of the sales-girls. Getting through them all in one day required, shall we say, a certain degree of planning. So, plan we did.

Saturday turned out to be perfect in virtually every possible way – although it started off with some very ominous looking clouds and what my Mum calls a “good soaking rain.” Doing our best to ignore the weather … and the fact we’d only had about 3 hours of sleep after staying up gabbing most of the night … we enjoyed a delicious breakfast – fresh OJ; fresh fruit, nuts and natural yogurt; thick french toast made with real challah (a type of egg bread) with raisins, seasonal berries and maple syrup; croissants, butter and jam; and, of course, lashings of coffee (Tea for me, actually. What can I say? I’m a rebel.).

Our inn-mates (inmates?) were two lovely Italian couples – who spoke limited English – and a pleasant German family – who spoke limited English. Despite the language barriers … or perhaps because of them … we managed to solve most of the world’s major crises by the time the third round of coffee rolled through. We also discovered that the daughter of one of the Italian couples and Nigel and Tessa’s son were (1) married, and (2) due to have a baby that very day. Excitement and good wishes ensued all round.

We arrived in town (I drove this time, since we would definitely want someplace to dump our packages) just after 10 a.m., with lowering grey skies and threatening sprinkles the whole way but no proper rain. I thought about looking for a jacket and/or an umbrella but – fortunately, as it turned out – decided to wait and see what the day brought. So we began at the belly-dance store.

The proprietor of The Sacred Circle was a friendly, relaxed woman who chatted happily with the good Sister about their mutual acquaintances and experiences in the Ontario belly-dance community as we browsed through hip scarves, canes, beaded headpieces and other and sundry bits and pieces of belly-dance gear. While we were there the heavens, as the saying goes, opened. Real Noah’s ark stuff. So we stayed a little longer – which turned out to be a good thing.

In addition to a snazzy new triangular hip-scarf (very colourful and jingly in all the right places), the Sister spied an unusual pendant. She’d been looking for a new pentagram to replace one she’d lost, but when she picked up the pendant, it turned out to be, in fact, a Star of David set in an intricately chased “wreath” of leaves and flowers. The odd thing is that it “reads” as a pentagram, even when you know that it’s not. The pendant could have been made especially for the Sister – who is, as many of you know, both Jewish and Pagan. And who knows, perhaps it was.

By the time we left, the rain had stopped, and the clouds were thinning. It was turning into a beautiful, if hot, day.

Now, I’m not going to give you a play by play of our bookstore adventures. [you can stop applauding now, thanks!] Suffice it to say that we visited 7 bookstores during the day, and Sister StaceyPatrick went home with 15 books while I came back to Ottawa with 16. [That means I win!]

Although the book-binge took up most of our day, we did manage to stop long enough for a small feast at a Thai restaurant, and then, later in the day, an iced chai tea at The Snoozy Goat … or was it The Sleepless Goat? … The Dopy Goat, perhaps? … Some cud-chewer with problematic rest cycles, anyhow.

We also, surprise surprise, managed to spend (and I use that word advisedly!) some time at the same jewellery store we dropped into last year. Sterling is small, but it carries some really beautiful and unusual silver jewellery (they’ve got a little gold as well, but silver’s definitely their thing), and has the friendliest staff I’ve ever met. They actually remembered us from last year – right down to the pieces we bought. [See Sister StaceyPatrick’s blog for the details of THAT story.] Needless to say, they were more than a little pleased to see us back again, and we were pleased to find just as much gorgeous stuff there as ever. I walked out with two pairs of gold earrings (which I was looking for) and two silver necklaces (which I wasn’t) ... oh, and I don't need to worry about the Sister's birthday present again this year. The good Sister was just as successful, coming out with two(?) necklaces and a bracelet. The girls didn’t squeal this time, but then, we didn’t have the advantage of surprise either.

We finished up the day by wandering along the waterfront and watching some of the buskers performing as part of Kingston’s annual Buskers Festival. Some acts were definitely better than others, but on the whole it was a very pleasant way to spend an evening. I decided to get a henna tattoo on my lower left leg – just where I’d broken it in March. As it turns out, the very pregnant girl who inked on my design was also a belly dance performer and instructor. She and Sister StaceyPatrick had a great time talking about the belly-dance scene, and we all walked away happy.

[Unfortunately, the tattoo didn’t ultimately “take”… I’m not sure whether I was too sweaty, or the henna wasn’t very good quality … anyhow, it was fun while it lasted, and I made up for it the next day by buying – and wearing – a very pretty silver anklet with silver bars and an onyx bead. I feel quite flirty with it on. Sometimes it jingles.]

Another lovely courtyard patio, another dinner by candlelight – this time at Le Chien Noir, another excellent French restaurant. We decided to order a few substantial appetizers instead of a “proper” meal since neither one of us were particularly hungry. The food was again delicious, the service good, the weather co-operative and the company … well, you can guess. I really don’t know why both sets of couples at the table beside us left so quickly.

Sunday morning dawned bright and hot, with another delicious breakfast – fruit salad in honey, poached eggs and bacon (except for me) on mesclun greens, fresh baked country bread with all the trimmings, plus the usual coffee, tea and juice. Our Italian companions were still there – the baby was born the day before … a boy, just over 7 lbs, and everyone came through with flying colours … so there was much congratulating and discussion about the best way to get to Toronto from Kingston.

After packing and saying our long goodbyes and thank-yous to Nigel and Tessa, we toddled back into town and browed the local antique market. I bought a 1910 postcard of a young woman in her camisole and “pedal-pusher” underwear posed coyly by a brass bed, and, as I mentioned earlier, the silver anklet. We also spent a pleasant hour or so trying on wonderfully fun colourful Indian clothes and jewellery. The Sister walked away with a marvellous purple skirt, and I got a pair of funky wrap pants in a cool sea-water blue, a white flowy halter top thing (more flattering than it sounds), and a tangerine coloured shawl in thin cotton woven with silver thread. Altogether yummy!

Afterwards, we wandered down to the waterfront, where we caught the last few minutes of a drum & bagpipe / rock & roll / performance art group called “Squid.” Something quite out of the ordinary, and well worth seeing if you ever get the chance. Or watch their promo video to get a small taste of Squid.

Lunch was ice-cream from White Mountain Homemade Ice Cream, and, in a peculiar twist of fate, we ended up right back where we started at the belly-dance store. Sister StaceyPatrick picked up a very pretty openwork pentagram ring, and I indulged in another book (a scholarly examination of fairy tales) and a deck of tarot cards & instruction manual. I think the lady liked us – a lot.

After all this, the drive back to the train station seemed altogether too short. The wait for the train was long enough though, with much rushing about when the WRONG train to Toronto arrived at almost exactly the RIGHT time. Anyhow, it all worked out in the end and the good Sister and I went home tired, happy, and laden with enough goodies to keep us amused until we meet there again next year for our annual “excellent adventure.”


At 12:16 PM, July 18, 2006, Blogger Susan as herself said...

Wow! Kingston sounds like a blast. And it sounds like you two had a lovely time with many mementos. Good for you!! :)

At 2:34 PM, July 18, 2006, Blogger Sister Staceypatrick said...

The Good Father was beyond thrilled with the books I found for him and I am wearing the new Star of David necklace, new bracelet and pentacle ring as I type. Yesterday was the delicate yet glittery little skull and crossbones necklace graciously supplied by Ink that got many a double-take during the day! Yes, Kingston is a fun town and we do plan on making this an annual event!

At 11:54 PM, July 18, 2006, Blogger Snooze said...

It's great that you get such a wonderful time to get away with each other and I'm so glad to read that this is going to be an annual event for the two of you!

At 10:59 AM, July 19, 2006, Blogger EarthMother said...

Wow, your trip sounded great. Reading about it made me ravenous (your descriptions of the foods were so graphic) and also in the mood for a great shopping expedition. Glad you had a blast.

At 4:47 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger ink said...

Susan - We had a great time, and Kingston is a very lovely city indeed. Although when I read over this post it sounds like our getaway is an excuse to shop, the true mementos are the memories. (sounds sappy, I know, but it's true!)

Sister - I'm really pleased to hear the Good Father was suitably impressed by our sleuthing - and it sounds like you're enjoying the new jewellery just as much.

Snooze - It's way too easy to loose touch with the people we care about when we live in different cities. This seems to be the perfect way for us to create a space for ourselves ... and, of course, shop. And eat. And drink. And shop some more.

EM - It really was a perfect holiday. I am all shopped-out for another year (I swear, I only indulge like that when I'm around the Sister!) but, for what it's worth, I'm hungry too!

At 3:17 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger St. Dickeybird said...

Definately a great weekend!


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