After we arrived at Winnipeg's railway station smack in the centre of town, a $6 cab ride whisked Carol and me to the centrally located Delta hotel, which was hosting our stay. It has two swimming pools, a sauna and a large workout centre–I feel fitter already.
There's nothing like seeing somewhere new to you in the company of someone who knows it well and loves it dearly. On the first day of our visit, Dorothy Dobbie, president of Pegasus Publications, Inc., was that person for us in Winnipeg, and she is passionate about her hometown and lots of fun to boot. I'd never met Dorothy before (though Carol had) and although her magazines are competition for ours, in the small and (mostly) friendly gardening world that matters less than you might think. We took to each other immediately.
Much of my previous, vague knowledge of Winnipeg had centred around three words: “brutal winters” and “mosquitoes.” But my first impression was of a gracious, prosperous city with leafy streets, some lovely old buildings and a well-kept infrastructure (what a joy to ride along roads without potholes). There's plenty of new development, as well, particularly around the forks where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet. Cross the bridge and you're in St. Boniface, the French side of Winnipeg with a vibe all its own. Along that bridge, granite plaques tell the story of the historic Forks in English, French and Cree.
Being plant nuts, we spent a considerable amount of our day with Dorothy in Assiniboine Park, designed some 100 years ago by Frederic Law Olmsted, who also laid out Central Park in New York. It's home to a zoo and a conservatory, the gorgeous English Garden (which was thick with plants in bloom–I especially liked the tall, fantastic-looking golden spikes of a mullein called Verbascum Nigra) and the renowned Leo Mol sculpture garden. Fortified by a delicious lunch (Dorothy's treat), we also took in some interesting art exhibitions, supported the local economy (code phrase for shopping) then wrapped things up with a big East Indian buffet dinner (my treat). Along the way we toured some of the pretty and interesting residential neighbourhoods, with their varied mix of housing, while Dorothy filled us in with a running commentary about Winnipeg's lively cultural scene (which includes the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Theatre Company, among others. Good naturedly, she informed us that her city was the centre of the universe for almost everything! You go, Dorothy.
Photos from left: Verbascum nigrum in the English Garden; Dorothy Dobbie and Carol Cowan; a sculpture in the Leo Mol sculpture garden.