Mini-Break in Winnipeg

Back in December we decided to do a weekend away to celebrate our birthdays (they’re only 5 days apart…..or 360 days apart consider Husband is nearly a year older). Our requirements seemed simple on the surface – 1) a location we hadn’t been to, 2) not very expensive, and 3) a direct flight out of Ottawa.

Problem is that 1 and 3 are almost mutually exclusive at this point. But we did find a destination – Winnipeg.

Now I’m sure some of you (the Canadian readers at any rate) and thinking “You know it’s called Winterpeg for a reason, eh”? And yes – we knew it wasn’t a typical destination for a vacation in winter, but we thought the lack of crowds and lower hotel/flight costs worth it.

We flew out of Ottawa early Saturday morning, and returned on Sunday night, giving us essentially 2 full days in Winnipeg. We stayed the Fort Garry Hotel – one of the old grand railway hotels, in the same style as the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. It’s well located – across from the train station, and close to The Museum of Human Rights, and the Forks.

We arrived rather ridiculously early on the Saturday – around 8:30 in the morning – so naturally our room wasn’t ready yet. But we could still leave our bags at the hotel, and wander down to The Forks  where we carefully explored – there’s a skating trail set up in the winter that we gingerly navigated, as we didn’t have any skates.

Afterwards, we headed into the Forks Market to warm up – filled with local artists, bakeries and food outlets, it’s a wonderful (warm!) place to explore, and purchase a few souvenirs (and in my case, Christmas gifts!)

The next day, we headed to the Museum of Human Rights. Despite being such a heavy subject, the museum is a delicate balance between acknowledging past atrocities, progress we’ve made, and progress we still need to make. The building has a wonderful flow, with rounded edges, making it seem more airy and light than a more traditional building might. Towards the top is a contemplation garden, where you can rest and take in everything that you’ve just seen. (Additionally you can up to the top of the spire to look out over the city.)


After our visit we popped by the train station where the local market was set up (more gifts!), and then took a taxi to the Assiniboine Zoo. Given the frosty temperature (it was a blustery -21C) there weren’t many people visiting the zoo, so we got some long face time with napping polar bears, restless tigers, and energetic deer. The zoo is well set up with ‘warming stations’ every so often, so it’s easy to pop in every half hour or so to warm up cold fingers, noses and toes.

While I would have liked to have gotten across the river to St Boniface and Louis Riel’s tombstone, it was still a wonderful visit, and a great destination for a weekend break.



Mini-Break Boston

Last year, Ross and I won a trip to Toronto, and we ended up with a $300 gift card on Porter. (The gift card came after we had already bought our tickets.) With time running out to use it, we decided to hit up Boston for a mini-break weekend.

Because I work a compressed schedule, I get Friday afternoons off (I work longer hours Monday to Thursday to make up for this time) which is great for heading out on a weekend trip. We arrived in Boston around 6 pm, and took a cab to the hotel. (It was close to $30 when you add in tip and tolls.) We could have Ubered, but I was ready to just get to where we were going, so cab it was.

We had booked our hotel through, and were pleasantly surprised. We ended up with a reservation at Omni Parker House, the oldest continuously operated hotel in the US. (The oldest continuously operated hotel in North America is in Montreal, in case you were wondering.)

Omni Parker House still encompasses the ornate decor of the 1850s – the high ceilings in the lobby have decorative woodwork trim, and large chandeliers hang over heavy tables decorated with fresh flowers. Even the elevator doors have patterned overlay (perhaps tin?) It was a little disconcerting to walk in in jeans and sweaters. But we were given a warm welcome, checked in quickly, and shown to our room.


Are you there Boston?

The next day dawned…..overcast and grey, not bright and clear, but while it threatened to rain, it didn’t. We headed out on a wander, our go-to destination activity. We briefly followed the Freedom Trail, accidentally in the wrong direction, ending up at the starting point in Boston Common. Rather than turn around, we continued on through the park, and across the street to the Boston Public Gardens.

From there, we headed into the Beacon Hill neighbourhood, back into Boston Common, and then over to the Financial District, at which point we thought ‘we should probably settle on a destination.’

So we picked Faneuil Hall. Which is probably better visited on a warmer, sunnier day. While there were loads of people popping in and out of the buildings, it wasn’t a great day for people watching. The indoor markets were crammed with people, and the outside saw people hurrying to get back inside. But the food smelt amazing (we didn’t stay to eat, as there was no where to sit and our feeties were hurting) and I could see this being a great spot to sit and relax on better days.


The best part was the dinosaur

After a brief stop at a pub, and then back to our hotel room for our City Pass vouchers, we headed back west to the Museum of Science.

Side note: If you’re trying to decide if the City Pass is it worth, the answer is yes and no. We enjoyed not having to stand in line to buy tickets to the Aquarium, but for the amount of time we spent at any one attraction….it was more that we felt since we had bought them, we might as well visit them.

Back to the trip. We headed to the Museum of Science, arriving an hour before it closed. We traded in our vouchers for City Passes, and headed into the museum, which is…a little dated. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, when it was open here in Ottawa, but this one was a little flat. The optical illusions were a little dated (and the lighting needs to be fixed) but we still enjoyed an hour of looking at things and playing with things, and watching the chicks hustle in their incubator.

On Sunday, we woke to partly sunny clouds, and we thought we might be in luck. We headed to the Skywalk, another attraction that came with our City Pass. If you’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building in NYC, or Chicago 360 (formally the John Hancock Observatory) than you’ll have an idea of what this is. If you enjoyed those, you’ll enjoy this (and vice versa, if you’re tired of panoramic city views, this is a miss.)


The only time I’ll cross this line is walking along the road trying to get somewhere else

While we were on top of the world (or at least of Boston) it started to drizzle, and it stayed that way for most of the day. We walked back to Boston Common, coming across Duckling Day (which I’m still not entirely too sure what that is, but it involved a school band and face painting) and then back to the hotel to rest in the lobby (and use their wifi).

Once we were rested (or our feet were) we walked (do you see a theme  here?) to the New England Aquarium. Which probably wasn’t the best of ideas, seeing as it was Mother’s Day, and a rainy one at that. But we went in anyway, as it was the final attraction that we wanted to visit on our City Pass. Inside was the usual hubbub of tiny humans and penguins. We meandered around the exhibits, staring at fish (including some that we had seen while snorkelling in Hawaii), slowly making our way to the top of the central aquarium. Then it was back down, over to the octopus tank, and out.

No trip to Boston would be complete without some local flavour (Ross had eaten chowder for dinner the night before, but I’m not a fan of seafood), so we went back to the hotel and ordered some Boston cream pie at the restaurant. (In the hotel history, they say that the dessert was invented by their chef, or possibly his assistant, in 1867. Although Wikipedia states that it was actually 1856.)

A whirl-wind visit, but a fun one, the weather notwithstanding. It would be fun to go back in a summer month, and follow the Freedom Trail to the end, as well as visit the North End, and The Paul Revere House.


This is a cat I found in a bookstore in Boston. It is now my favourite place.