So I hate crossing the border. More specifically, I hate customs. I always feel violated by all the questions and random searching. I know that they are keeping our borders secure, but whether it's the international terminal at Charlotte-Douglas Airport, a big one like El Paso, Texas or Blaine, Washington or a simple outpost near Lancaster, Minnesota, the customs experience is always a hassle.
Stayed at the Hostelling International in Winnipeg. Okay place. Nice people. Decent location. I like Winnipeg for it's location on the "Forks" (where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet), the cool French neighborhood of Boniface (where I had a terrific Tunisian meal-- eggplant tajine), the murals all over the buildings downtown, the Fringe Arts Festival that was going on and the diversity of the city that includes Aboriginal, Middle Eastern, Asian, and East African.
I did not 'connect' with Winnipeg the way I did with other Canadian cities such as Calgary, Victoria and Vancouver. Winnipeg felt more like an American city than a Canadian city in some ways. A fellow hosteller described it best: "Winnipeg is edgy." Not that Winnipeg is a bad city, it really has some things to offer and it tries hard. While other cities are able to hide some of their rough edges, Winnipeg does that less well and has fewer shining spots. There's no Stephen Ave or Saddledome like Calgary, or Pacific Ocean and funkiness of Victoria or Stanley Park, Whistler and trendiness of Vancouver.
Also visited Riding Mountain National Park. Spent the night at the campground in Wasagaming. I wish I had more time at Riding Mountain. There are some nice trails that I didn't have time to explore. I also regret not playing golf on the golf course inside the park. But the town, though touristy, is nice and quaint with it's spectacular location on Clear Lake. It's a lot like the lake communities in upstate New York or Michigan, except that it's in a National Park.
I'm in Saskatoon. My first introduction to Saskatoon was in a magazine that said this town was thriving amidst the recession with jobs and growth. It's a cool town on the Sasketchewan River. Clean, lots of greenspace and a nice respite from the prairie. Plus, I got to experience "Taste of Saskatoon".
1) Why we are not on metric, I don't know. It only makes sense. How many feet are in a mile? A stupid number. How many meters are in a kilometer? 1000! I attribute this fact to the reason why we are lagging behind other countries in math and science.
2) It was 4 degrees this morning. That's about 40 Farenheit. Cold. The high in Winnipeg was close to 55. Apparently, the summer has been cold and wet. Bad for two reasons: farmers are not able to plant and the tourism industry (Winnipeg is located close to two massive lakes) is suffering.
3) Central Canada has a large Ukrainian influence. From Dauphin, Manitoba all the way to Saskatoon, every little town, no matter how small, seemed to have an Orthodox church.
4) In the tiny town of Wynyard, I had lunch at a bakery/cafe. The ladies asked about my trip and I told them. They told me to be safe and responsible and that they would ask a prayer for me. When I saw them before I left, they told me I was safe now. I consider them to be angels.
5) Gas is killing me. I am paying 99 cents (CAD) per liter for gas. There are 3.8 liters in a gallon, meaning that I am paying about $3.80 (CAD) per gallon. The Canadian dollar is trading at .89 to the US dollar, so if I figure it right, I am paying about $4.40 USD/gallon for gas.
6) I must look French. Three times I stopped and the person helping me started speaking to me in French. Then I talked and they immediately switched to English. This was in Manitoba. Even the locals were surprised that conversations were initiated in French.
7) Why I love Canada: Manitoba has an area 649,947 square miles (twice the size of the United Kingdom). Population is 1.2 million. North Carolina 48,843 square miles and a population of 9.2 million. It's not just the vastness, it's the density too. Sure, we have our Wyomings, Montanas and Dakotas (and Alaska!!!), but Canada is an entire nation of this.
8) Why I love Canada II: "First Nations". Not "Indians". Not "Native Americans". The various aboriginal peoples of Canada are referred to as "First Nations", a term I find not only much more respectful to the people, but also more in tuned to history and the European influence on North America.
0) I wish I would/could have: gone to Churchill. See map above, it's one of Manitoba's northernmost towns. It's terribly expensive to get there, the mosquitoes are torrential and the ground is all boggy in summer. But you see the famous Hudson Bay, polar bears and close-up the effects of climate change. Another trip.