Lucky for me, there are two new ultra low-cost carriers operating domestic routes out of Toronto and nearby city Hamilton – Flair Air and Swoop – which means that there’s going to be a whole lot of local travelling going on around my new home and native land.
One of the first places ended up being Winnipeg – often jokingly referred to as ‘Winterpeg’ by those who live there – and though it isn’t a place I exactly dreamed of going (ever heard someone say ‘I’m just dying to go to Winnipeg!’), it was an interesting quick jaunt and a very decent city!
We spent the three days in the city itself, and unfortunately didn’t have enough time to venture out into the wide open spaces of Winnipeg’s prairies, but maybe one day in the future we’ll get to see the polar bears and bison that are in the northern part of this flat, central province.
In the city you can see that Winnipeg has a long history, with many preserved old buildings with classic architecture, including the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Bank of Montreal.
We also visited The Forks, a historic site in downtown Winnipeg along the Red River which has a 6,000 year old history, dating back from early aboriginal settlements to the arrival of European fur traders, buffalo hunters, the building of a railway, and thousands of immigrants. Today it has cultural activities, a riverwalk, a big playground, and lots of restaurants and museums. You could spend the whole day at the Forks exploring its sights.
The incredible Manitoba Museum is another place you can spend an entire day, but after a few hours you do get ‘museumed out’, so we left, and walked over to the nearby Chinatown to have some awesome and authentic dim sum, which just goes to prove you can take the girl out of Hong Kong, but you can’t take the Hong Kong out of the girl.
What was surprising was that downtown Winnipeg had a ‘sketchy’ feel about it. I hate to be critical, but while taking the public bus you can see a lot of people who are clearly on drugs. And there are many rehab clinics, and signs on the light posts saying things like ‘USE METH? COME GET CLEAN NEEDLES, FREE!’. This was especially noticeable with the Indigenous people, and it came as a surprise. Living in Southern Ontario, you don’t ever really see Indigenous people as I suppose they were ‘priced out’ or ‘moved’ to reserves a long, long time ago. And living in a quiet, peaceful suburb like Pleasantville, you don’t get a lot of exposure to drugs (not that it doesn’t exist). But in Winnipeg it was visibly obvious that Winnipeg has somewhat of a drug crisis on its hands. I remember seeing a lot of druggies in Vancouver too. But at least in Vancouver, it isn’t freezing cold.
Nonetheless, Winnipeg was an interesting trip, just wish I had had a bit more time to get out of the city to see other areas of Manitoba, but Canada is just such an insanely massive and mostly empty place, you need a LOT of time to travel around.
In the meantime, these little domestic trips will have to do.