HYDERABAD: In Canada, I arrive at Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba State. As I drive down from the airport to the hotel, I think to myself, “Oh! One more North American city...” But the next day, at St Boniface my opinion takes an about turn.
The beautiful city unfolds in the morning, in all its green glory, as I set out with my guide. Thousands of elm trees were planted in the city long ago which resulted in a lovely green canopy along the pathways, roads, parks and opulent houses.
An exclusive up market area with million dollar houses, Wellington Crescent is one of Winnipeg’s premiere neighbourhoods. History, gorgeous architecture and tree-lined streets, Wellington Crescent, a posh place for the aristocrats, boasts of the five families that went down in the Titanic (imagine their wealth those days to have afforded the cost). Many wealthy people were in the Titanic, some of the survivors are still living here. Now I feel like watching Titanic once more, and this time concentrate more on the passengers, to try and recognise the Winnipeg ones among them!
Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg is home to a proud Franco-Manitoban community, with a history that was anchored in the beginnings of Maitoba, with a pride in its Metis and European ancestry.
The St. Boniface Museum, documents the history of Manitoba’s French minority. Its Curator Philip Mayo, a PhD in History explains interesting facts in his well modulated voice and impeccable English. Housed in the convent of Grey Nuns, Oak Log building, the oldest in Winnipeg, the museum talks of fur trade which played a very imp role, the Metis, the “ Humanising Of Louis Reil”, who is a huge figure in Canadian history.
Winnipeg has a rich celebrated past filled with stories of the first settlements and the fur trade. The North West Company built Fort Gibraltar which was able to tap into already existing trade networks for provisions such as pemmican, fish and locally grown produce. Food traded here was used to supply brigades of voyageurs destined for the rich fur country in the north-west.
Fur trade was big here with the aboriginals supplying the animal skins, the British and the French making the best out of the furs. My tour at the Fort Gibraltar, was stepping back in time to the year 1815 to learn about the fur trade communities that shaped Canada. The core of the fur trade, were the water proof beaver hats, using beaver fur, with the long and the short hair interwoven creating water proofing. The finest felt hats were made in England, with the beaver skins procured from here. I see some of the luxury furs, minks (the softest is that of the Arctic fox), of brown fox and weasels. Costumed guides and scenes recreated from the past make it very interesting with their musical performance during our traditional lunch at Fort Gibraltar. We visit the house of Gabrielle Roy, considered one of the most important francophone writers in Canadian history. She was born and raised in St. Boniface. Her house is now a museum.
The interesting St. Boniface Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in western Canada, founded in 1818, is regarded Manitoba’s best example of French Romanesque architecture, but it has been rebuilt on several occasions due to fire - though the modern cathedral incorporates the historic façade. It has many old gravestones of the first settlers and key figures from days long past, including the grave of Louis Riel.
Visitors to US or Canada, can think of a trip to Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba. Three to four days stop is enough to cover the city’s many attractions.
Currency: Canadian dollar
Best time: April - September
Languages spoken: English & French
For more details:
Canadian Tourism Commission-India in-keepexploring.canada.travel
(The author is a travel writer and a documentary filmmaker focusing on art, culture and history)