Next stop The Rockies.

We arrived in Edmonton this afternoon and felt we had made it. This is perhaps a little premature as we have about two and a half hours driving left till we get to Hinton, our first Rockies stop, but the prairies are behind us and the long haul here which everyone said would be so tedious was, in fact, hardly tedious at all. In fact it was extremely pleasant. We have watched the changing landscape with interest, and we are so glad we changed our plans to do the journey by train because we feel we wouldn’t have seen so much nor been able to stop where we wanted. Ideally we would have taken longer but having booked and paid for accommodation at each end of the trip we had to stick to the timetable we planned by train. We would have loved to sample some of the golf courses en route.

Wednesday evening in Kenora – we went out to celebrate the newest pensioner’s birthday and what a meal we had. We had asked the wee lassie in reception where was good to eat. ‘901 Westside,’ she said. What kind of food did they do? ‘Steaks, burgers, pasta and some other things. Everyone likes it.’ We turned to Trip Advisor to discover not only was it a short walk from the motel, but indeed, everyone did like it. We discovered the same fish we had eaten the night before, only under its American name of ‘walleye’. So we had it again, accompanied by a bottle of wine. Absolutely delicious and a fitting celebration of such a milestone birthday.

As we weren’t going too far on Thursday we had a more leisurely start and drove an hour or so to Steinbach just outside Winnipeg to see a historic Mennonite village. It was very interesting and we enjoyed wandering round.

We went on to Winnipeg, had a wander round The Forks area where the Red River and the Assiniboine rivers meet, a historic site important in the history of the First Nations people.

We had wanted to see round the Museum of Human Rights but it was closed for repair. It was an interesting building, the top of which echoed the grain silos dotted round the prairies.

We walked round the Exchange District which had some nice old buildings, and crossed the road at Portage and Main, the intersection which is supposed to be the crossroads of Canada.

Best of all, however, was St Boniface Cathedral. We walked across a rather spectacular pedestrian bridge into the French part of town to get there.

The Cathedral was one of those very special places which says, ‘Sit and pray a while’, so we did. The original building had been destroyed by fire, and only the facade and the walls are left. Inside the walls they have built a modern cathedral, and it is stunning. The photos don’t do it justice. It is a very special space. So simple and so profound. What a blessing the old one caught fire, we felt! We had the place to ourselves and felt very blessed by our visit there.

Friday morning brought another early rise and eight hours to Saskatoon. Saskatoon itself was nothing startling, a modest, small city, modern buildings of no architectural merit. We did, however, enjoy our time there. When we arrived we headed for the Western Development Museum, which has a 1910 street laid out in it and you can wander from shop to shop, into the church and school, up to the railway station etc. Fascinating. Then there is a bit that tells you the story of a settler’s family from that time to the present. It was all really absorbing, and we found ourselves there until the museum closed.

Then this morning we headed for Wanuskewin Heritage Park which is an ancient site where First Nations people camped for over 1000 years. Again we found it a very special place with a depth of spirituality about it. We were there early and had the place to ourselves. We walked the various trails and just enjoyed ‘being’ there. It too had an embracing and welcoming atmosphere and we had to tear ourselves away to hit the road.

Five hours later we arrived in Edmonton having made a brief stop in Vegreville to see the ‘world’s biggest’ pysanka, a Ukrainian style giant Easter Egg, built in honour of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to mark their efforts in ensuring the different cultures in the town lived in harmony.

So here we are in Edmonton in the Sheraton, where we got a really good deal for the night’s accommodation. It is all very luxurious and we are enjoying it immensely. We had a swim in the pool, which we had all to ourselves, and have enjoyed the view from our sixth floor window.

We plan to visit the West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America after the service in the Cathedral tomorrow before doing the last couple of hours to The Rockies. We are now in Mountain Time and 7 hours behind UK.

We discover now that we didn’t take any photos of the prairies, mainly because we couldn’t stop on the road. It is really odd, there are no picnic spots or rest areas, so if you need a comfort break you have to go off the road into a town. So our memories will have to do!

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