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.