Monday, December 17, 2012

Canada: Kingston Fortifications & Royal Military College of Canada

The first thing I researched when I learned I was joining the inaugural flight of Philippine Airlines to Toronto was the nearest UNESCO World Heritage Site to Toronto. And that was the Rideau Canal, which has several component sites from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario.

Kingston was the nearest city, a three-hour drive from Toronto. And since we had one free day during the trip, we decided to rent a car and drive over to Kingston. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate that day. But we still decided to go for the adventure! 

Once the capital of the newly-united Canada from 1841 to 1843, Kingston was being prepared for this important role that was however cut short when Queen Victoria decided to move the center of government to Ottawa. In fact, a grand neoclassical Kingston City Hall was completed in 1843, one of the major landmarks of the old city center. On the way to the Kingston Fortifications, we saw a view of this historic skyline from across the Rideau Canal and St. Lawrence River. I was hoping we'd get to explore its weathered stone houses and historic streets, but the rains prevented us from doing that.

Our first order of business was getting to any of the Kingston Fortifications which is part of the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site. Fort Henry was closed for the winter. So our next choice was Fort Frederick on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada. The RMC is itself a very venerable ensemble of architecture and worth a visit if you like old architecture.

We had to brave the rains and cold to get to the Point Frederick, the southern end of the RMC grounds, where Fort Frederick is located. The two forts, together with Cathcart Tower, Shoal Tower and Murney Tower formed the Kingston Fortifications which protected the entrance of the Rideau Canal.

According to UNESCO, "The Rideau Canal is a large strategic canal constructed for military purposes which played a crucial contributory role in allowing British forces to defend the colony of Canada against the United States of America, leading to the development of two distinct political and cultural entities in the north of the American continent, which can be seen as a significant stage in human history."

We were wet and cold from the rain, and hungry since we missed lunch. So we called it a day and drove to the nearest fast food. On the way back, we stopped by the outlet mall off the Ontario Highway 401 exit, before driving back home.

How to get to Kingston, Ontario from Toronto
There are regular bus trips from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario. If you choose to drive, it's a 262-kilometer drive via ON-401 East.
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