Saturday, August 20, 2011

Winnipeg, Manitoba

After a couple days of not riding in a moving vehicle, we were ready to get out and about today.  Winnipeg has several attractions to offer the tourists.  Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction is the area downtown at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers which is simply called “The Forks”.  Since the city probably got its start there, we might as well begin our tour there.

Winnipeg is the provincial capital of Manitoba as well as its largest city with a population of about 650,000.  This is another big city with big city traffic.  Because these two rivers are running through downtown, a true grid arrangement of streets and avenues which we found helpful in Edmonton, does not exist here.  Somehow we found our way to the Forks and I think we parked in the first parking spot we saw just to get out of the traffic.

The confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, The Forks, has been a transportation and commercial center for centuries.  The First Nations peoples used the rivers as canoe routes long before the European fur traders arrived.  More recently, the railroads occupied this area along the river banks.  In the 1980s Winnipeg, along with the help of provincial and federal governments, began to redevelop this area.  Today, The Forks is a thriving tourist destination and gathering place for locals with shops, eateries, a venue for live entertainment, and a large green space in an urban setting.

From The Forks we walked across the Red River on the Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge to St. Boniface--Winnipeg’s French Quarter.  It seemed like a likely place to find a French bakery for a midmorning treat.  We wanted something authentic and a place the locals would visit. The lady at the Information Kiosk sent us several blocks down Tach√© Ave to Le Croissant.  What a fantastic place.  We were hoping for a place to sit down with a pastry and cup of coffee, but they didn’t have tables.  So instead, we got a variety of treats to go and found a park bench to enjoy the flakey goodness that can only be found in a French bakery.

On our way back to the bridge from the bakery we stopped at Saint Boniface Cathedral.   The present cathedral is actually the sixth building built on the site.  The previous buildings were torn down for larger structures to be built or were destroyed by fire.  What we really wanted to see was the fifth church building constructed in 1905.  It was destroyed by fire in 1968, but the outside walls withstood the flames.  It’s undergoing a little restoration right now, but we were able to see most of the old walls.

Out in the front yard of the Cathedral is the St. Boniface Cemetery.  The “father of Manitoba” and former provincial president, Louis Riel, is buried here.

From the Riel Pedestrian Bridge we could see construction underway of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights scheduled to open next year.  That might be something to come back to visit.  Along the path in front of the museum is a life size bronze sculpture of Gandhi, a gift to the Friends of the Museum from the government of India.  What an honor and how appropriate.

We enjoyed our tour of The Forks and the French Quarter.  Tomorrow we’ll try something else in downtown Winnipeg.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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