The Canadian Prairies span three provinces in Canada. We will be travelling through two of them: Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Details.
This trip to the Canadian Prairies was organized and booked since November 2020. In my profile, it states that I am a Celine Dion fan. I have to admit that the only reason for this trip was to see my idol again.
So I bought tickets for her Courage Tour shows in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. These shows were rescheduled from April 2020 to August 2021.
I took advantage of the last days of the old Aeroplan program and booked multi-city tickets for 25,000 points per person, with free seat selection for all ticket categories.
Between November 2020 and the date of the trip, made in August 2021, the flights suffered several changes.
Here are the flights we took:
- Quebec City (YQB)-Toronto (YYZ)-Winnipeg (YWG);
- Winnipeg (YWG)-Calgary (YYC)-Saskatoon (YXE);
- Saskatoon (YXE)-Toronto (YYZ)-Quebec City (YQB).
We had the choice to cancel everything (flights, hotels and car rental), in case of cancellation or postponement of the shows. As we imagined, the whole tour was postponed to 2022 and 2023.
Between the options of cancelling the trip and staying home, cancelling the flights and spending more points to find another destination or keeping our strategy, we chose the latter, even though it wasn’t our dream destination.
We stayed at the Delta Winnipeg, which is centrally located near the Canada Life Centre (formerly the Bell MTS Centre), as well as office towers and government buildings.
All rooms are quite spacious, with heated floors in the bathrooms, and each has a balcony (which was not furnished), half with a view of the outdoor pool and the other half with a view of the street.
We received a dessert plate and a nice card as a welcome gift.
There is a large outdoor pool on the 4th floor and an indoor pool and whirlpool on the 3rd floor. We found the water in the outdoor pool a little cold, but the atmosphere was more pleasant, unlike the indoor pool where it was always very crowded, it was very noisy.
About 5 or 6 lifts are available and we never waited more than a few seconds to get on one.
We don’t know if masks were made optional in Manitoba, because there were guests walking around with or without masks inside the hotel and the staff didn’t say anything.
We have seen the same thing in Saskatoon and Regina. Regardless of government guidelines, we always wore our masks when we were inside.
I would like to thank all the employees of this hotel, who are very courteous. Some are of Filipino origin, who are a super nice people. It made me think of my beautiful trip to the Philippines. You can find my article about this trip here:
This 3 night stay was paid for with the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card.
Tour of Winnipeg and surrounding area
We stayed in Winnipeg for 3 days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and about the “dynamic side” of the city… we’ll have to go back, because we didn’t see anything dynamic about it. It was completely lifeless during the weekend.
Visiting the downtown area was a strange, if not sad and almost scary activity. The only people we saw on the streets were homeless people and it broke our hearts to see all those people on the sidewalk, left to fend for themselves.
One man yelled at us when he passed us on Portage Avenue and another followed us for a few minutes before changing his path and disappearing.
We took a quick tour of the old stock exchange district, but did not linger. I guess it must be more interesting to go during the week, when there is more movement in the streets. There are still some beautiful historic buildings to see.
We bought bus tickets at the Portage Centre pharmacy, which is as sad a shopping center as downtown. We took a bus on Route 11 to Assiniboine Park, which is a popular place for people in the city.
It is huge and has a small lake, a café, a zoo, an art gallery and an English garden, with beautiful flowers and monuments. People can use the trails, bike, take a train, or rent buggies.
The same Route 11 bus took us back downtown, and after a short walk we arrived at the Forks Park National Historic Site.
The Forks is where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet and is also the historic heart of Winnipeg. This is where the Assiniboine, Cree and Sioux Amerindians used to meet and trade.
The meetings between French-Canadian explorers and Amerindian tribes gave rise to the Métis Nation, the origin of the province of Manitoba, before the arrival of other peoples, such as the Anglo-Saxons, Germans, Slavs and Asians.
The Forks is linked to the francophone district of St. Boniface by the Esplanade Riel Bridge, in honour of the father of Manitoba, Louis Riel. You can walk between the two places in a few minutes.
At the Forks, we saw:
- the famous Marché de la Fourche, with its dozens of gastronomic options,
- the magnificent Canadian Museum for Human Rights (unfortunately it was closed),
- the Children’s Museum (which was also closed),
- the tourist information office,
- the WINNIPEG poster,
- skateboard tracks,
- an amphitheatre,
- a hotel and the historic port, from which boat excursions leave.
On the way back to our accommodation, we walked through Union Station (there is a railway museum, but surprise, it was closed) and saw the famous Fort Garry Hotel on Broadway Avenue, which is part of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Manitoba Legislative Building
We usually visit the parliament of each province, to learn a little more about its history. Unfortunately, tours inside the building are suspended, but we were able to book a tour of the gardens with students from the francophone university of Saint-Boniface.
We found the building and gardens to be very beautiful and well maintained, although too opulent for such a small population. They said that at the time they expected a large increase in population, which was not necessarily the case.
In the gardens, there were orange flags symbolizing each Aboriginal child found dead on the grounds of the residential schools. The pedestal where the statue of Queen Victoria used to stand has been covered with handprints, with red paint, symbolizing the blood of children.
On the dome of the building is the Golden Boy. This statue was inspired by the Roman god of commerce Mercury (Hermes, in Greek) and is meant to represent Manitoba’s prosperity and entrepreneurial spirit. The building has Greek, Roman and Egyptian influences.
We cannot ignore the presence of the statue of General Wolf on the right side of the building. At the back, with a view of the Assiniboine River, we find a fountain and a statue of Louis Riel. On the left is the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor.
We ordered an Uber car to go to St. Boniface, but if you’re at the Forks, walking across the Esplanade Riel, there’s the tourist information kiosk with information in English and French, which is very convenient and pleasant, whether you’re bilingual or not.
The young man who provided us with information on places to visit in St. Boniface was very kind. At the little restaurant he recommended, there wasn’t a soul who spoke French, but at least the food was good and affordable.
We walked along Provencher Boulevard, and saw the old St. Boniface City Hall, the fire station, the post office and the Centre culturel Franco-Manitobain.
We took the Gabrielle Roy trail, only to abandon it a few minutes later because we didn’t find it interesting. Not far from the trail, we saw the house where this writer lived, but like the museum at the Forks, it was also closed.
We passed by St. Boniface University, before arriving at the cathedral, to admire the ruins of the old building, as well as the tomb of Louis Riel.
Afterwards, we visited the St. Boniface Museum, which is just a few meters away, across the Taché Parkway, which runs along the Assiniboine River. We walked back to the hotel, along the Esplanade Riel, to see the Forks one last time.
Our new flight to Saskatoon, with a connection in Calgary, arrived in the evening instead of the afternoon, so we lost the first day.
This town has always made me laugh and smile, because of its name, which reminds me of cartoons. Seriously, the name comes from the Cree phrase misâskwatômina (“saskatoon berries”).
With eight bridges spanning the South Saskatchewan River, the city has earned the nickname “Paris of the Prairies”.
We enjoyed our short stay in Saskatchewan’s largest city, which is very interesting. Why Saskatoon? Ask Celine! It was her fault we went there. 😊
We stayed at the famous Delta Bessborough, which was built between 1930 and 1932 by the Canadian National Railways in the Chateau style of architecture.
Since its grand opening in 1935, the Bessborough has remained a vital part of downtown Saskatoon. The rooms are spacious, with a decoration that may not please everyone, and the bathrooms are small and offer few storage possibilities.
A beautiful plate of macaroons and tarts was waiting for us upon our arrival.
The elevators are a bit slow and ring loudly every time the doors open, just like in the old days. The long corridors reminded me of a famous movie with Jack Nicholson, but I didn’t see the twins in blue dresses. The indoor pool and whirlpool are very nice and pleasant.
The gym is right next door. There are doors that lead into the courtyard, but because of a scheduled event, they were closed.
The first night we had to ask for a change of room, because of an unbearable noise coming from the upper floor, as if an elephant was walking with Dutch hooves in his room. Before I went to talk to the front desk about the situation, I went upstairs, but I didn’t see or hear anything. Maybe it was the hotel ghost…
At the reception, they offered me to change my room, on another floor. I agreed, but on the condition that we would only transfer our luggage the next day, as there was no way we were going to move all our luggage at 1am.
Back at the room, the elephant (or ghost) had calmed down and we finally fell asleep. The move was still made the next day, to avoid a second night of broken sleep. Our first night was disappointing, especially since we were looking forward to staying there.
The front desk staff took notes, but we never heard back and nothing was offered to compensate for this inconvenience.
Despite this episode, the hotel is beautiful and well located and I could not recommend another place to stay in Saskatoon. For this 2 night stay, I paid 24,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, thanks to a promotion. Shortly thereafter, this stay was up to 36,000 points.
Saskatoon on foot
When we travel, most of our visits are done on foot, and this was no different in Saskatoon. To start our stay, we went to have lunch with some friends from Quebec, who travelled across the country in RVs and who, by coincidence, were in the area at the same time as us.
After this reunion, they went back on the road towards the West and we went to discover the surroundings. From the hotel, we walked through the Kiwanis Linear Park along the South Saskatchewan River to the River Landing area where there are several recreational options.
This area between the Traffic Bridge and Victoria Park is very new and already growing. Among the existing attractions are the Remai Modern art gallery, residential complexes, office buildings, a waterfront promenade, a public square with children’s playground, a snack bar, an amphitheatre, and several hotels.
Beyond the Senator Sidney L. Buckwold Bridge is Victoria Park, where there are tennis and badminton courts, a swimming pool, outdoor gym facilities, skateboarding trails and a canoeing club, among other activities.
These trails are dozens of kilometres long and there are many opportunities on both sides of the South Saskatchewan River. We walked to Victoria Park and then retraced our steps, to try the snack bar that runs on a red double-decker bus, parked just outside theDelta Bessborough Hotel.
We didn’t really like the experience, so we walked quietly back to the University Bridge. This trail is very pleasant, under the trees and in the company of geese, squirrels and hares.
The Prairie Lily
Still on the Meewasin Trail, we arrived at the dock, to await the time of our cruise of just over an hour, aboard the Prairie Lily. The boat has two floors: the lower floor has tables and a bar, but does not offer a view.
The upper floor is equipped to protect passengers from sun and rain and offers a beautiful view. On the outbound trip, we pass under the University, Broadway, Traffic and Senator Sid Buckwold bridges and the captain always gives explanations (in English), which can be heard on both floors of the boat. On the way back, we have to change floors, so that everyone has the opportunity to admire the view.
The Weir and CPR Bridge
After the cruise, we continued walking on the trail towards the Weir, the spillway of the South Saskatchewan River.
The weir is a tourist attraction and bird watching destination in the Meewasin Valley on the South Saskatchewan River. We saw white pelicans and ducks, which were fishing.
After enjoying the view of the weir, we continued to the CPR Bridge, a railroad bridge. There is a large metal staircase leading to the top of the bridge to a platform and a pedestrian walkway. From the top of the platform, there are great views of The Weir, the University of Saskatchewan and the South Saskatchewan River.
As in Morant’s Curve, in the Rockies, Alberta, we were lucky enough to have arrived at the same time as the train. We ended our day at a happy hour at a bar near the hotel, where we enjoyed raspberry beers.
The Berry Barn
Before heading to Regina, we went to the Berry Barn for lunch, which is well known in the area. It is a farm with a red main building where we can eat Saskatoon berry in all forms, such as pie, scone, perogies and even chicken wing sauce.
To get there, we drove about 20 kilometers, while feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere. But don’t worry, because the place exists and is worth a visit, even if it’s not the 8th wonder of the world.
On the road between Saskatoon and Regina, we enjoyed the typical Saskatchewan landscapes, with golden fields, mills, silos and farm machinery… and at all time, the infamous Cowboys Fringants song was stuck in our heads.
This time we stayed at the Four Points, which is a bit far from the city centre, but as the city is not large, this was not a problem.
We enjoyed the bottle of wine waiting for us in the room, which was large, but not exceptional.
The hotel has a pool and a gym on the ground floor, but we didn’t have time to try them out. There are 2 elevators and they are very slow.
Breakfast was included in our rate and it was excellent. As in Winnipeg, one of the girls at the front desk was of Filipino descent 😉
We paid for the stay in Regina with the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card to earn 5 points per dollar.
Unlike Saskatoon, visiting Regina is best done by car, as the points of interest are a bit far apart.
This stadium is the home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a team that plays in the Western Division of the Canadian Football League.
Since it was raining, we stopped at the Cornwall center before continuing our tour of downtown.
Once we got outside, we saw some interesting places:
- The Globe Theatre,
- Hotel Saskatchewan Autograph Collection,
- Victoria Park and the space used for the farmers’ market,
- Scarth Street and its pedestrian walkway as well as the town hall.
We also saw some of the University of Regina buildings when we were looking for a place to park.
Holy Rosaire Cathedral, First Baptist Church, Knox Metropolitan United Church, Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and Casino de Regina: these three types of places don’t interest me much, so we just took pictures of their facades.
Saskatchewan Legislative Building
This huge building is one of Saskatchewan’s proudest achievements because it represents the spirit of the province and its people. More than stone on stone, it marked the construction of a dream.
Today, the Legislative Building continues to reflect the spirit of a new province and its people, and their hope for a bright future. It was built between 1908 and 1912.
Information from the Parks Canada website:
The Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Grounds was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004 because: the building and its grounds embody the ambition and drive of the Saskatchewan people and are a highly visible, well-known symbol of the province of Saskatchewan, its government, its people, and its membership in Canada…
This time we were able to book a short guided tour, in French, of the interior of the building. Our guide started the tour by apologizing for the quality of her French and we told her that it was excellent and that even if it wasn’t, she had nothing to be ashamed of.
We saw the legislative chamber, the hallway of portraits of former prime ministers and former first nations chiefs.
In the library is the Table of the Quebec Conference of 1864, where the Fathers of Confederation drafted the British North America Act, creating Canada as a country.
Historians have tried to trace the table from Quebec City to Regina in the 1800s, but they have never been able to prove with absolute certainty that it is definitely the Confederation table.
It is known that a table from Quebec City was shipped to Ottawa just before 1867 and placed in the federal cabinet meeting room. In 1892, the table was sent to Regina, the capital of the North West Territory, and was moved to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building when it opened in 1912.
After visiting the building, we visited the gardens of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The statue of the Queen on her horse was unveiled by herself in 2005 during a royal visit.
Wascana Lake and Park
The Legislative Building and Gardens face Lake Wascana.
Wascana Park is a favourite place for Regina residents to enjoy outdoor activities. A picnic or a walk of about 4 km around the lake can be very pleasant. We didn’t do it because it was raining.
Saskatchewan Royal Museum
Another interesting place on the shores of Lake Wascana is this museum which offers exhibits on the way of life of the indigenous communities, the animals of the region and paleontology.
In fact, it is Scotty, the biggest T-Rex in the world, who welcomes us when we arrive at the first room of the museum.
To visit this museum, all you have to do is make a donation. You then don’t need to purchase a ticket. You must book a time slot before going there.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre
This museum is located next to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Academy. There are exhibits about expeditions carried out, such as those in the Arctic region, information about forensic work, a police car driving simulator, among other things.
Tickets can be purchased on site. Visitors aged 60 and over receive a discount. My ticket cost less because I took advantage of the Small Shop promotion from American Express.
This small town of less than 30,000 people was once the largest city in the province. There are stories that it was the main support center for Al Capone’s activities in the early 20th century.
Apparently there were tunnels built by Chinese immigrants, which were used to hide them from the authorities and anti-Chinese hatred, but also to hide goods (at the time of the ban) that would be shipped illegally to Chicago. The town was known as Little Chicago.
The town’s main attraction is the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. This is a guided tour through fake tunnels, with a bit of theatre, under the streets of downtown Moose Jaw for a unique (and imagined) look at the history of the area.
There are two tours available:
- Passage to Fortune is a 50-minute journey about early Chinese immigrants to Canada and their triumph over adversity.
- The Chicago Connection is a 50-minute tour of the prohibition era focusing on the connection between Al Capone, Chicago and Moose Jaw.
At the time of our visit, only the Chicago one was available. It is recommended to book your ticket on their website.
Other attractions in town
- Moose Jaw murals. Moose Jaw is the mural capital of North America, with 47 giant outdoor murals. This collection of murals on the walls of downtown buildings illustrates the development of the city over the years.
- Crescent Park and Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery. This beautiful park is an option to rest or to hide from the sun and heat of downtown. You can also admire the wooden sculptures or visit the museum.
- Mac the Moose and Snowbird plane. Next to the tourist information office is a Snowbird aircraft, the official Canadian aerobatic patrol and Mac, the world’s largest moose.
- Déjà Vu Cafe. It’s not a tourist attraction, but a snack bar that offers several dozen flavours of milkshake is surely worth a visit. There are always queues. I gave my phone number at the entrance and they called me when our turn came.
- Lumsden. We visited this little village for its old houses and shops, but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see. We saw deer running free in the street, and for us, that was the best part of the visit.
Return to Saskatoon
After our stay in Regina, we returned to Saskatoon, to spend a night at theCourtyard by Marriott Saskatoon Airport Hotel.
This hotel is located very close to the airport, very convenient to return the rental car and take an early morning flight. When the difference is worth it, we always book cars by choosing the airport for the return trip. This saves us time, stress and expense with a taxi.
The building seems recent, the room is quite large and well equipped, the bathroom has a very spacious shower, but without a door, which can make a bit of a mess if we are not careful.
There is a swimming pool and a gym on the ground floor. The lifts are very quick.
We loved the mini bottles of wine and the desserts!
Breakfast was included in our rate but as our flight was leaving too early, we could not try it.
This room was paid for with the Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card to earn 5 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar.
We enjoyed the typical prairie scenery, with fields, hay rolls and agricultural infrastructure.
We still enjoyed this trip, which was almost cancelled. It wasn’t a destination on our priority list, but we’re glad we did it.
About the concerts, they were postponed to March 2022, but we won’t be there. We are not looking forward to the harsh winter in this region. We will use the money from the ticket refund on another trip.
We did the same thing in 2019. She had to postpone a few shows in Montreal and we went south with the ticket money… We’re sorry, Celine! 😊