After two months of travelling, we had only made it about a 1/3 of the way across Canada, but we had seen so much. Eastern and Central Canada are the most densely populated part of the country, and we only really touched the surface on our travels. Time is marching on though, it was time to head to the wild West
Western Canada is a whole new ball game. There are four provinces that are defined as being in the West – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia – and they are huge pieces of land. They are also all largely uninhabited. Most towns were settled by the fur traders setting up colonies as they conducted explorations on the rivers. Later, as the transcontinental railway was built, more towns sprang up and prospered. The landscape varies so greatly in this part of Canada, from vast flat prairies to the Rocky Mountains to the rainforests of the West Coast.
We decided to fly to Winnipeg, the capital city of the province of Manitoba. It is a city that I am familiar with – my mum was raised there and many of her family still live in the city. We had entertained the idea of travelling on the train from Toronto, but looking as the schedule it would have taken over two days. No thanks. Air Canada got us there in 2.5 hours.
Winnipeg is located on the Assiniboine and Red Rivers and is very prone to flooding. The government has put measures in place to protect the city, but even when we arrived at the end of July, they were having the 3rd flood of the summer and the river walkway was inaccessible. It is also a city that experiences extreme weather – in summer it can be 30 degrees on most days. In the winter, it is -30 degrees on most days. It is almost incomprehensible how a place can get so cold and so hot. Fortunately, I have never been in the winter.
There is quite a new development along the rivers called The Forks, a market area built on previously derelict railway lands. It’s great place to hang out in the summer, and there are nice restaurant patios by the river and little boats that tour up and down.
Another interesting new landmark is the Museum of Human Rights, worth a visit just to see this stunning piece of architecture. The museum consists of 8 floors of interactive exhibits, but also has an amazing atrium, and viewing platform of the entire city.
One of the most famous things about Winnipeg is the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which is known worldwide. Sadly there are no performances in the summer, but we chanced upon a free performance in Assiniboine Park where ballet students and principal dancers put on a small show highlighting some of their repertoire. It was quite inspiring to see people of all age groups sitting in the sun, enjoying world class ballet.
We only had a few days in Winnipeg, but could have done with more. It is a growing city and there is a real investment to create public spaces. We may have to go back soon, to visit my all my family again and at the very least to see a Royal Winnipeg Ballet performance.