Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Continuation of the cross Canada saga - Wininpeg and the Prairies
Arriving at the hostel in Winnipeg was amazing, as for the first time in 5 days we all got to shower... Yes, I know, that isn't exactly a pleasant thought, but there you are. Seeing polar bears was worth 5 days of bad hair.
Winterpeg is one of those nicknames that you immediately understand upon arrival. Apparently, the weather was unseasonably cold for November... However, the worst was the wind. If you can believe it, we actually found the cold worse than in Churchill. Met some interesting folk in the hostel-two potheads from Revelstoke. They gave BC a good name though, since they offered to share with just about everyone in the hostel, including all the staff ;)
Tourist-wise, Winnipeg appears to have a lot to offer, however this doesn't apply if you visit in November (or any winter month apparently). We went to the Forks, nothing to do but see a few shops since they don't exactly do outdoor theatre at -20. The Royal Canadian Mint was quite a laugh. The displays were all set up in the 70s, and some of the staff still think they are in that particular decade, judging by the hairstyles. However, I am told that mullets are coming back-on women!!! ahhhhhh.
We went to see the Museum of Man and Nature, where I fell asleep during the Planetarium show (blame the Revelstoke crew for that one), and learned only two facts. One, Churchill was set up to be a grain port for westerners who didn't want to ship through the east (wow, westerners have always hated us easties). Two, moose means eater of twigs in the Algonquin language. I saw the replica traders ship, the Nonsuch, or maybe it was a real ship-ran out of time and the ability to read by that point in the museum.
We spent a lot of time in a diner near the hostel. Jenni had her first poutine, and Alan his first perogies.
We saw the Tom Thomson exhibit (it was bigger and better when I saw it in Toronto) at the WAG, along with some fantastic Inuit sculptures. The only other thing in the gallery was a very odd exhibit entitled "German angst". Dropped by the Ukrainian exhibit-it was classic Canadian immigrant story-come over, face hardship and adversity, eventually make good. Nice museum, cool eggs.
Then we attempted to do the walking tour of St Boniface, the French Quarter. We saw the grave of Louis Reil and promptly gave in to the cold by spending the rest of the afternoon in a coffee shop. Apparently there are some very nice houses to be seen, but not at the expense of frostbite.
Off we went to see two Imax films, and boy were they disneyfied. Everything was concentrated on the US, the only things that got eaten were fish, and to my surprise I discovered that bears reproduce through bear hugs!!! And here I thought it was a bit more involved than that ;)
Our hostel was also full of some crazy women from Thunder Bay. They kidnapped a cute Kiwi and took him shopping. We never did see him again... They both run hostels, and were interesting characters.
So, we go to the zoo for the Winnie the pooh connection. The statue wasn't great, the bear was never even kept in that zoo, and the place had far too small cages. Not good. The best bit was the lemurs. there were lots of evil birds just wandering about, and an evil tropical building that made me sneeze non stop.
Our train was FOUR HOURS LATE!!! We didn't even get free coffee out of it. Then a VIA staff member managed to completely insult us by making us wait for almost 20 minutes while an old lady with a walker was boarded. Ok, priority boarding and everything, but the attitude of this woman was that seeing as we were ECONOMY passengers, we intended to rugby tackle the poor little old lady while on our way to our seats...
VIA service is shit. With the train being late, a women we met on the trip ended up stranded at the Brandon North station, without light, electricity, heat or access to washrooms or info as to why the train was late (it was behind a derailment, always comforting to hear such tales). However, the late train meant we got to see the prairies, since otherwise we would have slept through them. I really liked the scenery, lots of small towns full of pickup trucks and grain silos. The endless sky thing is nice at sunrise.