Winnipeg just might be my most favourite city to explore, after spending 4 days there visiting my sister.
It’s got this history that it isn’t ashamed to show off a little! Like the Forks for instance. We hit them up almost immediately after I got off the plane last Thursday evening. The Forks lie right across the river from downtown Winnipeg, definitely prime real estate. But instead of building looming highrises and state of the art condos, Winnipeg has the Forks. It’s a huge historic site and public park combined, nestled on the grounds of the first Red River settlements, and where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers fork, or come together, depending on how you look at it.
There’s a little something for everyone at the Forks. This is where high end accommodation, the IMAX, skateboard parks, walking trails, museums, statues and historic monuments, river and land, and local and international whares and cuisines all converge. Oh, and there’s also buskers. At any given time plenty of local musicians and artists try to make some cash doing everything from drawing caricatures, to playing the tuba for willing passerby.
We walked around the Forks a bit, and one of the prime views, and definitely a testimony to Winnipeg’s flood-proned plain, was the swollen Forks, rising above the safety line and drowning trees, stray chairs and tables, and even some of the steps at the Forks that normally lead down to the water’s edge.
St. Boniface, as the name gives away, is the old French quarter of the city. It used to be its own separate community when pioneers first settled the Red River basin; now, it’s nestled right across the river from downtown Winnipeg.
The St. Boniface Cathedral
dominates the landscape. It’s huge and mighty with gorgeous stone architecture that brings me right back to France. This cathedral was used until the late 1960’s when fire destroyed much of the original building. Thank goodness Winnipegger’s appreciate their history! What was salvageable of the old building was kept and even used to build the new cathedral just behind the large, stone facade (not seen in the picutre).
We looked around the cemetary for a bit as well – yes, it sounds creepy, but checking out some of the old gravestones is really pretty interesting. Louis Riel, one of Canada’s most notorious characters, is buried there. He led the Metis of Manitoba and Saskatchewan in several rebellions, including one in Batoche, quite close to Saskatoon. The RCMP eventually caught up with him and he was hanged in Regina, his body later sent to Winnipeg to be buried. To the RCMP he was a rebel with a pretty poor cause. To Manitobans, however, he’s a hero, and there are plenty of streets and buildings named after him.
The Exchange District was by far one of the highlights of exploring Winnipeg. Old meets new in one of Canada’s Heritage sights (there are 150 heritage buildings in the district). Old cobblestone streets (none of which make sense or are in a grid pattern due to Winnipeg’s abundance of rivers) give way to enormous, limestone and brick buildings. The whole district really brings you back to a bygone era of steam trains, the press, and the development of Canada’s West.
Around every corner there are boutique shops, consignment stores, coffee shops, and anarchist bookstores. It’s worth strolling down the streets, lingering in the parks, and spending time simply enjoying the fabulous atmosphere that engulfs the Exchange.
This decidedly funky, retro, modern and bohemian area of the city is the self-described lifeblood of shopping, fashion and dining in Winnipeg. It’s just a hop skip and a jump from the Parliament buildings across the Assiniboia River. Check out the local fashion scene, eat the cheapest pizza by the slice in the city, and just soak in the energetic atmosphere.