a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Apr, 2024

Kingston, the solar eclipse, a cool bathroom

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

I’ve been teasing this grout-related psychological test and while it’s still absolutely worth exploring I’d rather write about our solar eclipse experience. To summarize: it happened, and it was very cool.

Many moons ago Mark and I booked an Airbnb in Kingston. That was the natural destination seeing as (a) it was on the path of totality and (b) both kids live there right now. We got a pretty good deal on our accommodations, mostly because April is not a popular time to visit Kingston and it was early enough that no one had yet realized there’d be a demand. What’s more, we were booking the main floor of a duplex – smallish and not overly fancy – or in a fancy part of town … albeit central.

The place was fairly nondescript other than the bathroom. It had a fire-engine red sink, toilet, AND sunken bath. With a rain shower. It was heavily mirrored with brass accents, a brass-coloured ceiling, and a clear shower curtain. I uploaded a short video of it on YouTube which you can watch here.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Here’s me, in Kingston, pretending to be the letter I!

Me in Kingston

We drove up from Ottawa on Sunday afternoon, and when we got there, bought a few picnic supplies at the Food Basics for the big day. The four of us met for an excellent dinner on Sunday night at Union Kitchen + Cocktails. This doubled as a celebratory meal because the youngest was about to turn 23 (!) and celebratory dinners are kind of a tradition here at Casa Fishbowl:

Table for four at Union Kitchen and Cocktails in Kingston

Birthday dessert was enjoyed back at our place and included some lovely cupcakes from Cooke’s Fine Foods. I was torn between cupcakes and eclipse sugar cookies but the cupcakes were more birthday-like in my opinion.

Cupcakes from Cooke’s

And of course, everyone took photos of themselves in the red bathroom. :)

Mark had a strange encounter the next morning. He was walking to Elm Cafe, a pretty little family-run coffee shop we had scoped out to pick us up some coffee when he heard someone saying hello. He stopped and looked around, expecting to see someone on their doorstep, perhaps, peeking out their front door. Hello hello! It seemed to be coming from an upper window, perhaps? Hello hello! That’s when he realized he was being greeted by a CROW.

Sidebar: Another fun Kingston wildlife moment…  the youngest recently witnessed an otter maul a gigantic fish at the pier. It was pretty much in the middle of the night but if you are there and fancy a dip at that time, please keep this in mind. KINGSTON IS WILD folks!

We had to be checked out by 11 a.m. so we packed up and set out to wander and shop before setting up in our planned location, which was a park near where the youngest lives.

We had no clue as to what to expect. Mark was imagining a degree of apocalyptic gridlock (if you’ve ever visited Kingston on Queen’s residence check-in day you will have an idea of what I’m talking about) and the city itself had no clear idea of how many people they were expecting. The estimates seemed to range from 5,000 to 500,000. All in all, from our perspective it was really no busier than a busy summer Saturday. (A caveat: we were not at the pier or by the water, and I think it was busier down there.)

We managed to snag a picnic table at the park and settled in. The eldest strung up a hammock. I brought weatherproofed picnic blankets so we could spread out on the ground as well.

Eclipse picnic in Kingston

We noshed on cheese, deli meats, veggies, and chips and dip. I bought too much food, of course.

We were fortunate to get some pretty nice spring weather. It was warm enough to sit comfortably outside with light layers.

The weather was practically the fifth character in this story. Like everyone else, we’d been watching and waiting with anticipation. The big question of course was whether the skies would be clear enough to see the show. We were on tenterhooks about it all day. Casual weather reports were delivered (by us) throughout that morning at regular intervals despite the fact we all have eyes to see for ourselves. i.e. “Look, there’s blue sky over there” and “I think the clouds are rolling in this direction.”

It was high drama, for sure. Isn’t it only during tornados and derechos and whatnot that people get so caught up in cloud formation? Clearly not. We had clear skies first thing, then, oh no, it became light and wispy, and then, behold!, a tantalizing patch of blue made an appearance. Sadly, it was too early and was eventually covered by cloud. As zero hour approached it wasn’t looking like we’d see anything. I had pretty much given up hope, but hey at least we’re together and having fun, right??

Then, it was time. We donned our glasses to look at the sun. I had been a bit worried about this, as Mark had bought them on Amazon and reports were coming out about knock-offs with no protective qualities and I really didn’t want to burn my eyeballs. (It was all good though.)

Me and my eclipse glasses. So cool, eh?

The clouds came and went and sometimes we could see the sun more clearly, other times it was too dense. And then… the world around us got dimmer. As someone mentioned to me later, it was like sunset without the colour of sunset. A sage observance methinks. Temperatures plummeted and suddenly it was as dark as night. NIGHT. I did not predict this level of darkness. The street lights came on. Everyone in the park cheered. Was there a sound of a church bell or a siren? I may have dreamed that part.


The skies must have suddenly cleared because the view was excellent. We took our protective glasses off and watched in amazement. About halfway through (!) I realized I wasn’t wearing my prescription glasses (!) so I put them on and immediately realized I hadn’t been seeing it in perfect focus. (!) I did get a good eyeful though. The next thing we knew, it was over.

We laughed and hugged and looked at each other in amazement. It was a very moving experience. I’ve read other people’s descriptions of this eclipse and while I agree this was a rare celestial event that reminded us of how small we are at this moment in time, for me, the most moving part was sharing it with the people I love most in the world. That was the most special thing for me.

We packed up and went home, and got stuck in some traffic along the way, of course. But that was ok because all in all, it was pretty close to a perfect road trip.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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