TC-1 Trans-Canada Highway 1 Winnipeg Winnie-the-Pooh - Manitoba Museum - St Boniface Cathedral and Museum Highway 75 from Winnipeg to the US border Article Louis Riel Other pages Manitoba : overview and history | other provinces | articles
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Manitoba is executing large road works on Trans-Canada Highway 1. Just before the city of Virded, the newly constructed TC-HWY 1 has four driving lanes. nevertheless, Manitoba's speed limit is 100 kilometers per hour.
The province only has three fairly large cities, which are Brandon, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg, the capital, with 650,000 inhabitants. The rest of the province counts innumerable small villages. If the main roads are made of asphalt or concrete, almost all of the other roads are made of gravel, as are practically all driveways.
The landscape itself is completely flat, and actually shows a striking resemblance to our Low Countries (also called the Netherlands) !
Winnipeg is encircled by the TC-100, which is an extremely large loop around the city. This loop actually leaves the Trans-Canada Highway 1, which in fact is nothing else than the descendant of the Métis Yellowhead, or the Tête Jaune Trail.
In 1825, the blond Métis "Tête Jaune" (or in English Yellow head) was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company, to transport their supplies from Winnipeg in Manitoba to Prince Rupert in British Columbia, over his "secret" trail.
What few people know, is that Winnipeg actually gave its name to the almost legendary teddy bear "Winnie-the-Pooh" !
The painting of Winnipeg's bear is a national heirloom, and it has been famous for a long time. On the other hand, in American children's folklore, a bear cub is usually called a "Pooh-bear". So the combination of both and the jump to Winnie-the-Pooh was not too hard...
Another, if somewhat less charming, version of the story is that a soldier smuggled a bear cub to England, as a regimental mascot. He named the cub Winnie, after his hometown Winnipeg. Afterwards, the animal ended up in a zoo and became particularly popular.
The river Seine runs along highway 59 toward the city, and its name is a reference to the impressive French history in these parts. While the more recent and more commercial suburbs of Winnipeg are clearly shod on an American style, the older neighborhoods look more European, with low-rise buildings and criss-cross streets.
A visit to the province of Manitoba would be incomplete without a visit to the famous Manitoba Museum. Next to the museum, the building also contains a conservatory, and the museum section consists of 10 galleries.
* Earth History : This gallery displays the history and development of the earth, divided into different eras.
* Arctic / Sub-arctic Gallery : The attention is focused on Manitoba's arctic and sub-arctic climate, illustrated by the Inukshuk, the polar bear, the beluga whale and the caribou. There is also an interesting display of traditional clothing in caribou skins, which is very well adapted to this extreme climate.
* Boreal Forest : The exploration continues with a visit to the Boreal forest, the natural habitat in the prairie, and the living conditions of the original Algonquin Indians. The term "Boreal Forest" comes from the Greek god Boreas, the god of the north wind ! Which in turn teaches us where the name "Aurora Borealis" comes from...
* Nonesuch Gallery : Manitoba is part of the British Dominion, and so very patriotically, a whole gallery is devoted to the legendary journey of the Nonesuch, the English boat that made the trip from England to the Hudson Bay in 1610. There is even a perfect copy of the ship on display!
Who actually was the first European to land in Manitoba remains somewhat unclear. It is certain that in 1738, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye, explored the territory by order of the French governor of Québec. But at the same time, the British patriotically wave Kelsey's flag, who was sent to explore the area in 1690 (and thus 48 years earlier...) by the Hudson's Bay Company.
But whether he actually set foot on land is rather doubtful. It was only after the French built a series of trading posts and forts that the Hudson's Bay Company actually explored the interior in 1740.
* Hudson's Bay Company : The next hall is devoted to the Hudson's Bay Company, which for almost two hundred years (and without any oversight...) completely dominated this vast territory. This company made sure that the huge profits from the fur trade were safely (and anonymously) sluiced to England. It was only after the lucrative fur trade eventually ceased, that it liquidated all its lands and belongings, and that it mysteriously disappeared into thin air...
* Parkland Gallery : In this gallery, the natural habitats in the parks, the forests and the grasslands are covered. Under the pressure of the extreme climate, mosquitoes can grow to enormous proportions, and so-called Bite-Flies can make life utterly impossible! And don't forget that horse flies are also abundant...
* Urban Gallery : This gallery is dedicated to the urban life in the year 1910, with a series of old and restored buildings.
* Canadian Pacific Railway : Unavoidably, an entire gallery is devoted to the Canadian Pacific Railway, that contains many antique items. According to the documentation, this CPR was "unselfishly" established by the government, to open up the country's interior, and to provide a decent life for all "people of good will". You can almost hear the patriotic music in the background...
The railroad workers were paid a wage of 30 cents per hour. Unfortunately, they were required to buy their food exclusively from their employer, the CPR. Just as unfortunately, it charged them whatever price it wanted. For example, a kilo of sugar was sold at the hefty price of 10 dollars! By the time the railroad was completed, very little cash was left over to the rare surviving workers...
The entire exhibition is most comprehensive and very interesting. A few questions remain unanswered though. Information about the history of the indigenous Indian tribes appears to be very limited. The Indians briefly negotiated with the government, they immediately signed a treaty, they kindly ceded all of their lands, and then, without any objection or resistance whatsoever, they were locked up in reservations...Or at least, that is what the official Canadian history books say...
The next question concerns the French history and their vast economic and cultural influence. They are simply unmentioned. The last hardly mentioned item is the history of the Métis, and except for a description of their background and their clothing, the official silence is deafening... Which is not really surprising, because History is always written by the victor...
Only the massive front remains of the old St. Boniface cathedral, although this ancient cathedral certainly must have been impressive.
It took 25 years to complete the building, but in 1968 it completely burned in just 2 hours. The ruins of the old facade were kept as a reminder, and a new church was built behind this front.
If you take a stroll through the cemetery, you'll obviously find many French names, but also many Dutch names on the old tombstones!
The St Boniface museum is the oldest building in Winnipeg, and formerly it was a convent of les Soeurs Grises (Grey Sisters). Next to the sisters' memorabilia, it also contains a fairly extensive documentation about the life of Louis Riel, now reverently called "the Father of Manitoba". That is, only by the French-speaking Catholics, because the English Protestants hanged the man to get rid of him once and for all...
There are several other points of interest to discover in and around Winnipeg.
* A Mennonite Village in Steinbach,
* A second Louis Riel museum, in the Riel House,
* the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, with some 200 bronze sculptures,
* The Forks, ostensibly a historical site, but actually a shopping center and theme park.
Highway 75 leads from Winnipeg to the US border. This part of the city is apparently still "very French", with names like rue des Trappistes, Rivière de la Salle, Frère Norbert, and Father La Bonté... Highway 75 started out as an excellent and recent four-lane highway. However, just 6 miles later we had to move over to the other lane, because impressive road work was going on to install a new surface over a length of 20 kilometers. After we returned to the old lane, we could immediately feel the reason for this renovation. The old surface was extremely bumpy, the concrete was completely fractured, and the whole highway became one vast roller-coaster !
We crossed the city of Morris, which exuberantly announces that it is the home of the Manitoba Stampede. The speed was mercifully limited to a moderate 50 kilometers per hour, but even that was way too fast, because vehicles danced from right to left over the bumpy surface. The proud reference to the Manitoba Stampede therefore probably has more to do with the awful condition of the road than with some popular rodeo-show...
We continued through St Jean-Baptiste, which calls itself "La Capitale de Pois à Soupe", or "Capital of Soup Peas"... Highway 75 is also called the Lord Selkirk Highway, and it is named after the Scottish nobleman from the Hudson's Bay Company, who played an important role in the (British) colonization of Canada.
An hour later we reached the US border. After a passport control, all vehicles were subject to a thorough examination to see if no weapons, explosives, drugs, beef or cheese, were surreptitiously transported. If one crosses the border with a Recreational Vehicle, obviously this examination takes somewhat longer than with a car, because all compartments need to be checked ! Nevertheless, several inspectors carry out their work politely and correctly, and after 30 minutes the whole procedure is finished and the visitors can be on their way.
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