A Visit to Wintry Winnipeg
Last weekend John and I paid a visit to wintry Winnipeg – a city famous for its bitterly cold winters and summers filled with mosquitoes described by locals as so big they should be declared Manitoba’s provincial bird.
Fortunately our weekend in Winnipeg turned out to be great fun despite temperatures in the -21 C (-6 F) range.
We’d booked into the Fairmont Hotel located just meters from Winnipeg’s most famous intersection – Portage and Main. The place was a deal at $120 per night. The photo below is the view from our room. Interestingly you cannot walk across the intersection at Portage and Main. Instead you must use a subterranean walkway.
The view of Winnipeg’s most famous intersection – Portage and Main – at dawn
We didn’t actually spend any time in the city on the Saturday. Instead we headed for Whiteshell Provincial Park for a day of cross country skiing. Despite a gnarly, high stress start to the day on very wintry roads, we ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves on two different cross country ski trails. And we saw a wolf – my first wild one. (John had seen wolves before and in fact had been followed by a pack of them for hours in the Northwest Territories.)
By Saturday night we were so tired we didn’t leave the hotel room. Room service it was – and another first for me.
But come Sunday morning we were ready to explore. I’d been told by a former Winnipeg resident to try Stella’s Cafe and Bakery so we did. There are a number of them in town, including one that was just a fifteen minute walk from the hotel. The restaurant – named for a cat that’s since passed on – makes delicious coffee and sumptuous breakfasts. Definitely try them out.
The morning rush at Stella’s
We took our time over breakfast hoping for the sun to warm things up a bit – which it did to a point – so off we went to explore on foot and via skates the area between Portage and Main and The Forks.
Here’s a look at some of the sights in the vicinity of The Forks – a historical area at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Giant baseballs used to mark the parking at the Shaw Park baseball field
A pedestrian walkway – Esplanade Riel takes you over the Red River
A wintry view in Festival Park
Looking across the Red River to Saint Boniface Cathedral
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights – to be inaugurated in 2014
Next up was a skating adventure on the world’s longest natural outdoor rink. We spent 1½ hours skating from one end to the other and then back to the start – a total of 14 kilometers for John – and about 12 kilometers for me. After 90 minutes we were frozen as the temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up to make it a frosty -31 C with windchill. My ear lobes are still recovering; I stupidly wore earrings with metal backs so I think they got frostbitten. If they turn black and fall off I’ll let you know.
Me trying to catch my balance on figure skates
Skaters on the frozen Assiniboine River
A view of the handsome Manitoba Legislative Building from the Assiniboine River
A small rink option outside The Forks Market if skating on the river isn’t what you want
Inside The Forks Market
A warm-up inside The Forks Market was the next item on the agenda. We sniffed out a bakery -the Tallgrass Prairie Bread Company - and they just happen to be the makers of an amazing Saskatoon berry-rhubarb pie. That and a latte made us both very happy.
It was a dash to the airport after our skating and late lunch. But in Winnipeg the airport is only 20 minutes from downtown – a treat when time is an issue.
Despite Winnipeg’s bad reputation for cold winters, John and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and in fact we’d return again in winter.
How about you – have you ever paid a visit to Winnipeg in the winter?
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