Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Boniface

I was on my way to the St. Boniface Hospital this week, preparing to give yet more blood before my annual visit with my oncologist, and decided to take a break and play tourist again.

Known as Winnipeg's French Quarter, St. Boniface is the largest francophone community in Western Canada. Winnipeg actually has the largest speaking French population of any Canadian city outside of Quebec.

The parish of St. Boniface was established in 1818, became a town in 1883 and was declared a city in 1908. St. Boniface remained an independent city until 1970, when it was attached to the City of Winnipeg. The parish opened doors for settlement in Western Canada, attracting primarily French-Canadians and workers from the North West Company with mixed European and native backgrounds.

St. Boniface has made an effort to preserve its heritage and French is seen on street signs and is heard in shops and businesses. Over half of the population in St. Boniface is bilingual and some claim to speak French exclusively. I guess that would work, as long as they didn't leave St. B.!

It is ironic, considering the area's French roots, that the original parish was named "St. Boniface" in honour of an eighth-century English-born missionary who became the patron saint of Germanic people.

This dramatic facade is all that is left of the original St. Boniface Cathedral. The St. Boniface Basilica was built in 1908, and ravaged by a devastating fire in 1968. Five cathedrals have stood on the site, the first being built in 1832. The present cathedral was completed and blessed in 1972 and incorporates the sacristy, facade and walls of the former Basilica.

The cemetary, which is the the oldest Catholic cemetary in Western Canada, includes the graves of many important Manitoba figures, including Metis Leader and founder of Manitoba, Louis Riel.

Louis Riel's gravesite has undoubtedly been photographed hundreds of times, so I decided instead to focus my attention elsewhere. One of the oldest headstones I found was dated 1848.

And then I noticed this one. It does look odd, cars parked on the street and head stones so old the dates are illegible.

All right, I admit it! Cemetaries fascinate me!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Memory Lane

Just a few things I rediscovered on my visit to Clyde Forks .... and couldn't resist capturing on the camera!

The outhouse my Grandpa built

the fence

and the woodshed - still in use, unlike the outhouse!

Someone Grandma and Grandpa knew would have referred to this as the Root Cellar, but since the 'renovations' it has been rechristened The Hobbit House, aka the Hippie Hotel!

And then there was was the School Bus, parked down the hill from the Cemetary ... just imagine the stories that bus could tell!!!!

Autumn is my favourite colour

I was a bit disappointed when I visted my Mum last week, as I was just a bit too early for the beautiful fall colours in the Ottawa Valley. They had an amazing summer and it just hasn't been cold enough yet for the leaves to really start changing.

I did, however, manage to find the start of some stunning fall foliage on my wanders through the country side.

I was amazed to discover colours at home in Winnipeg as well. It's been plenty cold enough here!!

We don`t usually see this amount of variation in leaf colour in Manitoba in the autumn and so, of course, the camera and I went for a walk.

Abi came along, but apparently the smells on the ground were far more interesting than the leaves on the trees!

The Ottawa Valley

Last week I flew to Ontario to spend a few days with my Mum. I visited with her shortly after we arrived home in the spring, but wanted to spend a bit more time with her before we headed south again, to our other home, in Mazatlan. This visit was special for Mum, as my brother, who lives in Banff, Alberta, was able to join us.

My parents were both born and raised in the Ottawa Valley. My father, however, had a lifelong career in the Canadian Air Force and after their marriage they travelled far and wide (including four wonderful years in Germany) and it was not until his final posting to DND Headquarters in Ottawa that they found themselves close to 'home base' again.

I really don't think they expected it, after all their travels, but after Dad's retirement, they bought a home in Almonte, a lovely little town in the Ottawa Valley. I seem to remember some talk about the Annapolis Valley, in Nova Scotia, which was our posting after Germany, but there was one final move for them, to Ottawa, and I guess the Valley just felt like home.

Mum was raised on a farm just outside of Almonte, an hour outside Ottawa, and attended High School in town. My Dad was born and raised in a very tiny village, Clyde Forks, about an hour from Almonte. Mum and Dad didn't meet until after the War, in Ottawa. We've heard stories about how our grandfathers met at one point. Sure wish I knew the details of that visit as their lives were worlds apart it the '30s!

Almonte and Clyde Forks were where we went for summer holidays. We would spend 2 weeks at the "Farm" and then another 2 weeks at the "Forks". I guess the Valley felt like, and still does, a little bit like 'home base' for us as well. I refuse to use the term Air Force Brats, but I guess we were. Home was where our family was from, even if we had never lived there. Actually, in retrospect, home was where Mum and Dad lived, even after I grew up, moved to another Province and got married!

My brother and I decided to play 'tourist' one day and headed out with our cameras. My Mum's parents sold the homestead where she was born and raised and moved into Almonte in the 70's and although I would have loved to make the trek out to see the farm, Mum said that it has changed so much we wouldn't recognise it. Next visit, I'm heading out the Golden Line anyway to see if I can find it! As we weren't sure exactly how to get back out to the farm, we explored Almonte and made the drive out into the country to visit Clyde Forks once again.

Almonte was established in 1819 and is a perfect example of an Ottawa Valley town. The architecture and homes are outstanding. The Falls are an integral part of the town and have provided a source of power since it's inception.

Many of the homes in Almonte are truly lovely. These are a few of my favourites.

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was born in Ramsay Township, just outside of Almonte, in 1891.

Almonte was a booming metropolis compared to Clyde Forks. When Dad called the Forks home the population might have totalled 100. The road into town was almost impassable in the winter and the hardy Scottish folks who settled there in the mid 1880s supported themselves by working at the lumber mill, or hunting, fishing and trapping. The village is surrounded on three sides by water (the Clyde River) and although it was originally accesible by railway, the line has line been removed, or covered to form a road, of sorts.

The last time I visited Clyde Forks, with my Dad, there were perhaps 2 occupied houses. My brother and I were shocked, and so pleased, to find on our visit this year that people are returning to the village. I think Dad would be happy as well.

Clyde Forks is one of the most isolated and beautiful places I have ever been to. I could never live there, but I also can't wait to go back.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Winnipeg gets it's fair share of bad press and we over the years we have learned to develop a sense of humour. To be honest, the jokes about the wind, the nasty cold snowy winters, and, of course, the mosquitos are actually based on true facts, and some of of the jokes really are funny. However, if you don't live in Winnipeg, you are not allowed to laugh! Ever!!

We have also learned to deal with the comments about the fact that we spray regularly to keep those pesky "m-critters' under control. I'm as conscious as anyone about pesticides etc. but to be honest, I dare anyone to survive a summer evening in the 'Peg without the regular visits from the midnight 'spraying troups'. (I have a few friends who would disagree, but I don't think they like to sit outside as much as we do. I also hope they don't don't read this part of the post!!). Right now, to be honest, we are more concerned about the wasps. They are everywhere and they are mean and nasty.

Although Winnipeg is not my 'home town' I have lived here for many years and this summer I am finally discovering some new things about my adopted home. I think perhaps my eyes have been opened after the months spent in Mexico (and maybe perhaps by my on-going quest to find things to do that are 'free'!!)

I have come realize that every city has it's art and the walls of Winnipeg are overflowing with an endless amount of Canadian talent. I would like to say that I managed to capture all of these images myself, but that would just not be true. Winnipeg is a large city and filling the gas tank on the car would have truly messed up the quest to find interesting things, without spending money.

These are just a few samples of what is happening on the 'Walls of Winnipeg". Some are mine, and some I 'borrowed' from a wonderful site

Please, feel free to browse.

Of course, I will put gas in the car tomorrow. We need groceries and that is a totally different issue!