Why why would you go to Winnipeg?

View all of our Winnipeg photos here

Winnipeg is lumped in the same basket as Saskatoon.  A flat prairie town in the middle of the not unattractive farming country known as the central Canadian void.  Winnipeg is a long way from any other big Canadian city.  It’s a 15 hour drive to Calgary and a two day epic drive to get to Toronto.  It’s easy to see why Winnipeg would get overlooked on many Canadian itineraries unless you were making a point of driving across the country.

If we’re measuring the worth of prairie cities by flatness then Winnipeg has it all over Saskatoon.  Maybe there are some hills somewhere in the surrounding landscape but I didn’t notice any during our visit.  Winnipeg gets bonus points with me because of this.  It was a very satisfying flatness.

Looking beyond the topography Winnipeg is another attractive and pleasant city with lots of greenery around, bearing in mind that I’m viewing the place through summer-tinted glasses.  We visited the beautiful Assiniboine park downtown which like many in North America was designed by Central Park creator, Frederick Law Olmsted.  The English Gardens in Winnipeg are truly glorious and made all the more impressive with the knowledge that most of the flowering plants do not survive the winter and are planted freshly when the snows thaw.  I can picture the place in its wintry clothes as well when the duck pond freezes over and is used for skating.

We met someone from Winnipeg while we were in Vancouver.  When we quizzed her about what touristic activities are available in Winnipeg she said that we should go to The Forks but we didn’t get time to find out what exactly the forks are.  Maybe a famous place where the road deviates from dead straight, we pondered?  We really weren’t sure.  This being Canada we should have guessed that The Forks is the place where two rivers meet – the Assiniboine and Red rivers.  It has been inhabited as a trading place for over 6000 years and is where the city was first settled by Europeans.  Now it hosts an entertainment precinct like a smaller version of Circular Quay.  Generally there would be some good walks along the river but Manitoba (the province Winnipeg is located in) had recently suffered big floods which travelled down the river and washed a lot of the paths away.

Winnipeg also has a very pronounced French Quarter across the river from downtown.  A famous Metis politician called Louis Riel is buried there.  There is a very impressive looking cathedral, Basilique-Cathedrale de Saint Boniface, which partly burned down in 1968 when a workman discarded a not sufficiently snuffed cigarette while working on the roof.  There are photos and video of the cathedral burning down which attracted quite a crowd of stickybeaks.  Rather than completely restore it they have left the entrance and walls standing in memoriam and have built a new church behind this facade.  It’s unfortunate that the cathedral burned down in the 60s as this new church has characteristically bad 60s religious styling.

The other unique spot in Winnipeg is the restaurant located in the middle of a new bridge.  Apparently the locals derided this as embarrassingly tacky but we ventured in and it has a pretty decent view.  At last I can cross eating in a restaurant in the middle of a river off my list of things to do before I die.

As usual the hosting we received from Sarah’s family was fantastic.  We stayed with Sarah’s mother’s cousin Brenda and met all her family.  We also saw Sarah’s cousin Julie and Mike plus their very cute and engaging kids.  The food, as my expanding waistline will attest, was scrumptious.  We had a BBQ with Brenda and her family with deliciously authentic hotdogs (the first on our trip so far) and a smorgasbord of local beers to try.  Julie and Mike hosted us for breakfast and cooked a huge stack of crepes which we had with nutella, strawberries, maple syrup and cream (not to forget the bread, mini bagels, ham and cheeses).  Love your work guys and thanks for having us.  Winnipeg marked the last Canadian place with relatives so we’re on our own now.  A big thank you to all of Sarah’s family for hosting us, showing us around, cooking such amazing food and being so generous in every way.  The real travelling starts for us now.

View all of our Winnipeg photos here

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