Days 7 & 8
Regina to Winnipeg to Lake of the Woods Kenora to Rossport
Sumptuous “Jeeves and Wooster” breakfast in the dining room. The only thing missing was the man-servant. Into Winnipeg to explore “the Forks” – the confluence of the Assiniboine and the Red River. Wondered around the market area – Picked up a little story book on the origins of Winnie the Pooh – duh didn’t connect that A.A. Milne “Winnie the Pooh” stories were inspired by the story of a soldier from the Winnipeg area and his “pet” bear.
Drive over the bridge into the French quarter and visit St Boniface museum (metis culture); the cemetery (final resting place of Louis Riel the social activist), and the skeleton of what is left of the Cathedral which burnt down in 1968 – all that’s left is the stone frontage. Visit Fort Gibraltar, then stock up on food for the really long isolated leg of the journey in Northern Ontario
Arrive in Kenora (Ontario) in the Lake of the Woods Area. This small town is in an absolutely gorgeous location surrounded by water. A tadge tatty looking and closed for business despite being “holiday” season. Speaking with a couple of business owners it became apparent that getting staff in this isolated neck of the woods is tricky. Originating as Rats Portage (would you stay in a place with a name like that?) and first settled in the 1800’s it developed (and changed its name) following the discovery of gold and the arrival of the Canadian Pacific railway. Just across from the US border (Minnesota), many of the cottage owners are either from Winnipeg or the US. Travelling 12 km (seemed like 50km) on a dreadful unpaved road and fearing for our tyres we stay at Lake of the Woods bed & breakfast, deep in the forest and almost in the Lake itself. Somewhat isolated but stunning, idyllic and well worth the off -the -beaten- track journey across Anishnawbe Reservation land.
Drive through the visually barren areas of Dryden and English River, the most exciting part of our journey proved to be the “spot the other car” game, We were so lacking in visual stimulation that to avoid having to stick pins in our eyes, we started counting the railway carriages of the myriad mile long trains that slowly trundled alongside the highway for much of our journey. We counted 89 carriages of one passing CNR train………………
Things started to look up upon approaching Thunder Bay with the land having considerable relief to the extent that we actually looked down on the town of Thunder Bay, Isle Royal and “the Sleeping Giant” spit. Stopped at the huge memorial to Terry Fox. For those not in the know Terry Fox was the 23-year-old one-legged runner (lost his leg to rampant cancer) who attempted to run from St John’sNewfoundland right across Canada for charity. His challenge ended here in Thunder Bay upon finding that the cancer had spread to his lungs. He died shortly after this discovery in 1981 and his legacy lives on in the hearts and mind of Canadians in particular and the world in general.It still makes the hair on my arms prickly just thinking about his enormous achievement and selflessness.
At the memorial a flick through various local interest leaflets turned up a striking brochure for a place called “Serendipity” café in Rossport (café and accommodation overlooking the Lake) . Our hosts from the night before had suggested we at least stop off in this picturesque fishing village so we left the highway to take a peek. The café itself was absolutely charming; pine-clad walls covered in prints of the Lake Superior area by the resident local artist; chintzy tablecloths and mood lighting bouncing off strategically placed crystal drops slung from foliage around the massive picture window. After a drink here, we decide to change our plans and stay here instead of trekking the extra 2 hours east to Marathon– we are knackered having already travelled 9 hours with various stops just to get to Rossport.
Get settled in one of the pine-clad vaulted ceiling “pods” – warm,and cozy – great choice. Have a wonderful meal in the restaurant with live celtic music courtesy of a Thunder based French Canadian fiddler and musician – Pierre Shryer and his young and talented keyboard and acoustic guitar accompanist – Jake who were literally squished into the corner of the room. http://www.pierreschryer.com/artist.cfm
Pierre Shryer will be playing at Goderich Celtic Roots festival in August. http://www.celticfestival.ca/ We have weekend passes for this event – Can’t wait.