Nothing like a prairie sunset
Growing up in Winnipeg, I always knew that one day I would leave, just because of the type of work that I do. Of course, everyone who grows up in Winnipeg feels that way, and yet a surprising amount of people stay. I think it’s all part of the love/hate complex that Winnipeggers have with their hometown.
Winnipeg, you’re a city that’s easy to hate. You really are that cold in the winter and that mosquito-y in the summer. You’re a city that often doesn’t seem to know what it’s priorities should be or what identity to cling to. You often look like you could use a good deep cleaning.
Winnipeg white out: Overlooking the French quarter and the Esplanade bridge
Under all the grime, crime, and profound confusion over why anyone stays, you really are a gem. For one thing, you really are quite beautiful. Sure, the Red River is muddy, but it still stuns in sunset, and it makes one of the best skating rinks in the world come winter. And you finally came around to the idea that all of those old buildings from the Winnipeg boom in the early 1900s were worth preserving, so you’ve definitely got the architecture thing in your favour. I never tired of walking through the Exchange, finding ghost signs and seeing what new shop opened up in buildings that had been there for a century or more. Oh, and good call, planting all of those elms so long ago. One of my favourite things was walking down my street in Osborne Village, looking at the sun dappling through the canopy.
University of Winnipeg, a classic landmark
Believe it or not, Winnipeg, you compete with some great cities when it comes to your music scene. Obviously you’ve got claims to the Guess Who and Neil Young, but I’m also a huge fan of your newer material, like The Bros Landreth, the New Lightweights, Royal Canoe, Imaginary Cities, Red Moon Road, the Dirty Catfish Brass Band, Chic Gamine, Attica Riots, Mariachi Ghost, the Crooked Brothers, and on and on and on (readers, if you don’t know who these artists are, be sure to check them out). Of course, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for The Solutions, but I’m a little biased, having married their trombone player. I looked forward to the venues nearly as much as the shows they put on, from the West End Cultural Centre, to the Park Theatre, and of course, to the Burt (the Burton Cummings Theatre, or, as I still recall it, the Walker).
The Park Theatre, a great little venue for local music
And man, you know how to put on a show. I never get tired of all of your festivals. Winnipeg summers are short, but you make the most of them, kicking it off with the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, moving straight into the Folk Festival, switching gears to the Fringe Festival, and capping it off with Folklorama. And those are just the big ones! Even in the depths of winter, the Festival du Voyageur knew just how to get me outside playing in the snow or drinking Caribou in the warmth of the tents. These are the times you really made me proud. Each festival showed off a little piece of what Winnipeg is made of.
I would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the food. I don’t know what it is, but Winnipeg has a crazy high density of fantastic restaurants given it’s size. Some quick picks. Fave coffee shop: Little Sister Coffee Maker. Fave brunch place: Stella’s. Fave sushi: Naru. Fave Indian food: Charisma. Fave ice cream: BDI (bonus points for the bridge). Fave cocktails: Blind Tiger. Fave restaurant overall: Segovia.
A recent addition to the beer scene in Winnipeg: The Common, found at The Forks
Fellow Winnipeggers will likely notice that I seem to favour spots in Osborne Village. I admit it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Exchange, the Forks, strolling down Corydon Ave, cycling down to Assiniboine Park or Fort Whyte (NB: all very easy to get to from the Village). But the truth is, nowhere felt like home quite like Osborne. I think, for me, it was all the things I love and hate about Winnipeg, all in the space of about 4 blocks. Is it the best neighbourhood in Canada? Maybe, maybe not, but I feel like I left a bit of myself back in my tiny character apartment.
I’m going to miss a lot of things about you, Winnipeg. Most of all I miss the people. The hangouts. My family.
For now, on to the next adventure.
The Manitoba Legislative Building, with our Golden Boy presiding over the city