Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Day Of Coffee Shop Hopping - A Kingston Experiment

Gazing forlornly at my never-ending pile of readings this weekend, I sighed and wondered what, pray tell, could I do to make my hours of reading and study time a little more exciting. Nursing a cold and a minor bout with the flu, I wanted to do something more than sitting for hours reading at the same office, on the same chair, at the same desk. Mackintosh-Corry Hall, I love you, I really do. But I do need a change of scenery once in awhile. Preferably one that involves food. And so in a flash of inspiration, I was struck with an idea for a little experiment. To instill some excitement into my study time, I decided to engage in something I'd like to call Coffee Shop Hopping.

A few months ago, I blogged about the many uses of The Coffee Date, briefly mentioning my love for sitting in coffee shops for hours to study or read. Well, friends, this love for reading in coffee shops couldn't have been put to greater use this weekend. What is Coffee Shop Hopping, you ask? Quite literally, I spent most of my afternoon amusing myself by hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop across campus, in sequence, throughout a set period of time, incorporating my study and reading time into the hours I spent at each coffee shop. A cozy little coffee shop is a great place to study, no?

I assure you, I'm not crazy. There was indeed a method to this madness. My two goals behind this little experiment:
1) Get to know Kingston's coffee shop scene. I haven't visited most of Kingston's popular coffee shops, and I also haven't explored Kingston very much. And so this was the perfect conclusion, really. Exploring Kingston and studying at the same time? Exciting.
2) Reading in coffee shops beats sitting in Mack-Corry Hall on a weekend. Enough said?

The Tea Room
10:00 am: I walked down Union Street to The Tea Room, clutching my Political Parties readings, eagerly anticipating my first destination. I knew exactly what I was going to order at The Tea Room: a large Lychee Tea. It tastes as good as it sounds, friends. Friendly tip: A huge, gigantic, enormous mug of tea can be purchased here for a mere $1.98. Heads up: the price for a Large is the same as the price for a Small. Excited, I reached the corner of Union Street and Division, arriving at my destination. The Downside? The Tea Room is closed on Sundays.


Coffee & Company
10:15 am: Unfazed, I left the entrance of The Tea Room, and strolled down Division Street with my next coffee shop target in mind: Coffee & Company at the corner of Division and Johnson. I entered the shop, found myself a cozy table tucked away in the corner, and decided to order a 12oz cup of hot chocolate. Because a cup of hot chocolate is always nice on a chilly morning (and it really was chilly. Summer's over, friends!).

I found nothing special with Coffee & Company. My drink was mediocre, at best. The service was less than mediocre, and the barista hardly cracked a smile. Leaning against the counter, she ignored her customers by checking out her nails. The entire line-up stared at her as we waited to place our orders. Despite lackluster decor and service, I was still able to get some work done. I also witnessed the most hilarious exchange between a Master's student and the blonde he nervously attempted to flirt with, finding the most awkward ways to talk to her. He used gems such as "Can I borrow a pen?," "What time is it?," "You look like someone in my program!," "You have beautiful hair," etc. Oh, how I love coffee shops. Studying and people-watching: my two favourite pastimes.

P.S. I don't think I'm coming back here.

1:00 pm: Completing my Political Parties readings, I tucked the journal articles away in my folder, left Coffee & Company, and crossed the street to my next coffee shop haunt: Starbucks. Let me just say, first of all, that I'm quite indifferent to Starbucks' appeal. Walking into the Starbucks on Division and Johnson, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The building that houses this location is incredibly pretty. And unlike many Starbucks locations I've encountered in Toronto, Division Street's location is quite cozy. Students sat around the room, flipping books, highlighting pages, surfing the Internet. A picturesque campus coffee shop, really. I can't wait to see it during Christmastime!

I did most of my work in Starbucks. Completing all my readings for Comparative Politics of Development, I sighed in satisfaction as I took the last few sips of my overly-complicated-overly-priced London Fog and munched on the last bits of my Banana loaf. Upon completion of my yummy Banana loaf, I packed up my belongings and headed to my next coffee shop target: Common Ground.

P.S. I crave a London Fog all the time. It's an unhealthy habit, really. I found a coffee shop booth in Stauffer Library that whips up a pretty good one.

P.P.S. I liked this Starbucks location so much that it wins among all my coffee shop targets today. Something tells me I'll be studying here quite frequently.

P.P.P.S. 2:45 pm: Walked into Stooley's Cafe on Division & Johnson, decided it was too busy, grabbed a menu, sampled a coffee, and left.

Common Ground in the Athletics & Recreation Centre
3:00 pm: On to my next coffee shop target. I remembered that I needed to get the sticker on my student card for the Athletic Centre's drop-in classes, so I headed over to the ARC. After my errand, I headed to the Common Ground: a cute little campus haunt. Affectionately called the CoGro, it's cheap(er) than Starbucks. And despite drinking a Grande London Fog just an hour before, I ordered yet another one here at the Common Ground (I'm telling you, friends, I'm obsessed with this drink). Downside? It's overrun by undergraduate students. Upside? Their London Fog is amazing.

P.S. It was at this point that I started getting woozy from all the coffee shop beverages I consumed that afternoon. Too much tea and hot chocolate. After sitting down to organize my reading notes, I decided it was time for desserts. On to my next coffee shop target!

Pan Chancho Bakery
4:30 pm: After an afternoon of reading and coffee shop hopping in the area around campus, I walked over to Kingston's "downtown." And by downtown, I really mean our one street with ten stores. My next target, Pan Chancho, is one I've heard a lot about. I've been told that if I wanted to re-live my Paris pastry experience, I needed to visit this bakery and, by association, it's cafe. It didn't disappoint. Friends, I had the yummiest scone I've ever purchased. And biting into its cheesy goodness, I was in a happy place. A very happy place. Going through the last of my readings by flipping through Gary Cox's Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination In The World's Electoral Systems, I sipped my cup of tea and happily munched on a Buttermilk Blueberry Muffin. It doesn't take much to make me happy, really.


Coffee Shop Count: 6
Coffee Shop Drinks Consumed: 6
Coffee Shop Desserts Devoured: 4
Upside? - My study time was highly entertaining, as I hoped it would. It was also very productive. I finished much of my work within the coffee shop environment, and discovered one of my favourite study places on campus.
Downside? - I ate desserts and drank tea or hot chocolate all afternoon. I shamelessly admit that I'm a tad wired as I write this blog post. These experiments of exploration do have its tolls, I suppose. Really, I'm surprised I'm not bouncing off the walls.

What a satisfying Pan Chancho-esque conclusion to a day of coffee-shop hopping. Due to my time constraints (and the fact that I had a lot of work to do), I obviously didn't visit every single coffee shop in Kingston. Rather, I visited the typical coffee haunts I've heard the most about. Overall, I'm glad I explored Kingston's campus coffee shop scene. Oh, Kingston. There's so much more of you that I've yet to explore.

"In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet."
- Sir Winston Churchill

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