05.09.2014 - 07.09.2014 24 °C
My previous entry had me at the Provincial Legislature, which was very open to the public. This idea of being accessible was also reflected in something else I encountered on my walk: in the shadows of the Legislature (and the Manitoba Supreme Court), there was a war going on, the kind of war I like - a Foodtruck war! It was part of Manyfest - Broadway was closed off for several blocks, there were three or so stages pumping out music, multiple stalls selling crap (way too many selling mini donuts), and the Foodtruck war. This had 20 or so foodtrucks lined up, seeing who could have the most customers. I visited twice, and pigged out on pulled pork (sorry), tacos, sausages, burgers and all sorts of goodies. Off to the side there was a fenced off area where I could take my food and enjoy a quiet ale or two. Off to the other side, there was something completely different - a demonstration of an antique threshing machine.
I had another phase of the walking tour - this saw me start on main street, take in the Exchange District, which is a 20 block area where all the original commercial buildings of Winnipeg are located. The town has moved away a bit, but there are still 150 or so buildings still standing - a couple of hotels in original condition, but mostly the buildings have been done up quite nicely, with several condominium conversions and ground floors being used as restaurants. I was a bit pressed for time so didn't really spend long there - it would have been ideal to actually stay in the area and get a good look.
Towards the end of the 18th century, things were pretty awful in Scotland - rich landowners were a bit tired of all the people living on their land with their small enclosures and wanted to switch to the more profitable sheep-farming, so had a bit of a pogrom, burnt their houses, sold some into slavery, sent others off in so-called (for obvious reasons) coffin ships. This was "The Highland Clearances": one Lord Selkirk decided to do something about it and arranged for a group of 23 to be settled in what is now Winnipeg - back then, it was probably nothing. These Selkirk settlers brought wheat with them and turned the land into farmland.
The Manitoba Museum is in this area. The plan had originally been to see the Railway Museum which occupies a couple of platforms of the railway station, but they had some sort of power outage which saw them close for the weekend, so I swapped in the Manitoba Museum. I was not planning to see it because Tara, who is on her way to being a museum designer, was a bit down on it, but it turned out to have so much going on that it was a bit much to take in in one visit. It has some pretty good exhibits
One area is set up as a port town, in which there is a replica of a small ship called the Nonsuch, which made the very first trading journey into the area for the Hudson Bay Company - which now seems to exist as large, glamourous department stores (although not so much in Winnipeg).
The last one amused me, because this is apparently how the Hudson Bay store first looked - a far cry from the department stores. In another area, there is a replica small town, complete with a wee cinema where I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes watching Buster Keaton's The Blacksmith. There is also a miner's cottage and the sort of cabin the early settlers to Red River lived in.
Outside again, I crossed the Red River to the French Quarter, which was a bit disappointing - there were some nice looking cafes but they were all closed, and a bookshop in which all the books were in French, so no use to me. I quite enjoyed the small Garden of Sculptures (I have since discovered there is a much larger one near the zoo). There is a small Catholic University (St Boniface) and Cathedral. The students showed a bit of pluck - the local citizenry were a bit disturbed by a statue of Louis Riel. He is credited with founding Manitoba, and was a staunch advocate for the rights of the local Métis people - he led a couple of rebellions against the Canadian government, established himself at the head of a provisional government of Manitoba and was ultimately hanged for treason. The artist wanted to reflect this difficult life in the statue, and did have it established in the grounds of the Legislature, but people thought he looked a bit too anguished and wanted it gone. The St Boniface students decided it should feature at the University, and it stands immediately outside.
Crossing back over the Red River, it was hard to miss a weirdly shaped building - some have said it is grotesque - this is the so-new-it-was-not-open Canadian History of Human Rights. My journey finished at the Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. It is apparently a place of great historic significance for the Métis people, but the main reasons people go there are the play area, the shops and the cafes. It is immediately behind the rail station and Main Street.