Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Forks

Mike and I celebrated our Anniversary last weekend (lots and lots of years) and couldn't really decide what to do. I wanted to go out for dinner, Mike suggested ordering in Chinese. I really like Chinese, we haven't had any since we arrived home in the spring, it was eating at home but I didn't have to cook anything, or do dishes - Chinese it was.

However, it was a truly lovely summer day, far too nice to stay at home (waiting til it was time to order dinner) so off we went to see what else we could do for free in Winnipeg.

We ended up at the Forks. (Here comes the history lesson ...)

The Forks, named because of its position where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River, is an expanse of riverside property in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. Archaeological digs carried out at the site have unearthed a 6,000 year old hearth, catfish bones and stone flake tools. These discoveries prove that Aboriginal groups were active at the Forks thousands of years ago and have provided evidence that Akoda(Assiniboins), Cree, Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) and Dakota were all visitors to the site. The Forks was the hub of the fur trade until the 1880s, when grain production took over as western Canada's principal industry. Beginning in 1886, the Forks became one of the key sites of early railroad development on the Prairies. The Forks has been meeting place for thousands of years and it is the city's most popular gathering place, attracting nearly four million visitors each year. It is by far Winnipeg's number one tourist attraction.

One of our favourite places at The Forks is the Oodena Celebration Circle, which commemorates Manitoba's First Nations people. It is a shallow, bowl-like platform surrounded by a set of astronomically arranged metal structures that look like fanciful sci-fi creatures! Years ago we sat on the grass and watched a couple being married in the middle of the circle. Very cool!

There is so much to see and do. We spent ages exploring the market and I had to stop to say hi to one of my favourite bears. He just makes me smile (some of the tshirts in this shop made me laugh out loud!)

We also climbed the stairs to the observation tower. There is an elevator, but we're tough, we live on Ice Box Hill in Mazatlan, we can handle stairs. Well, that's what I kept telling myself as we climbed and climbed and climbed. The view, however, is worth it!!

Some of the other Forks attractions include the Festival Park Stage, the site of many summer concerts (the Queen was there for one earlier in the summer), The Manitoba Children's Museum (where we spent endless hours when our son was young) and the new Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

In summer, you can stroll on the river walks along the Red and Assiniboine rivers, picnic by the riverside, and catch water buses to other parts of the city.

In winter, there's free public skating on outdoor artificial ice or along groomed river trails. Winnipeg, by the way, has the longest outdoor skating rink in the world. In January 2008, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized The Forks as the home of the longest skating rink in the world (8.54-kilometres) beating out the 7.8-kilometre long rink on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. We admit The Rideau Canal still holds the world record for the world's largest outdoor rink (as measured by total area) by we're the longest!

The river floods regularly - if you look closely you can see the blue line on the wall which marks the height of the river after one of the worst.

Canada's newest national museum, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is next door to the Forks and is still under construction but there are guided tours around the perimeter of the Museum construction site. It's huge, could be interesting, I wonder if they're free?

Free Downtown Spirit buses connect The Forks to the rest of downtown Winnipeg from beside Forks Market but we drove and parked free for 3 hours. I'll be honest here, it was for more than 3 hours! We didn't mean to be there for so long, but after wandering around for several hours, we stopped for a drink and appetizer at one of the restaurants overlooking the river and ran into a friend of Mike's from his working days. It was a beautiful day, it was fun to catch up with old acquaintances, one thing led to another, and we we sat there for hours.

So, the parking was free, but we did have to pay for the pitcher of mojitos and several cervazas!!

Oh, and the Dragon Palace Chinese dinner was as good as it always is, and when it arrived we realized, as usual, we had ordered enough for dinner on Saturday night and Sunday night as well!

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