Winnipeg is proud to host the Canada Summer Games, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and giving local neighbourhoods an opportunity to showcase their unique charm and popular attractions.
Many visitors may not realize the depth and breadth of Manitoba’s French heritage and the numerous districts that reflect this culture.
At this summer’s Canada Games, baseball will be played in both Whittier Park and Koskie Field – baseball diamonds located in St Boniface, the heart of Winnipeg’s francophone district and Canada’s largest French-speaking community west of Montreal.
Fort Gibraltor, the primary location for Festival du Voyageur activities, is located within Whittier Park. Festival du Voyageur is Winnipeg’s premier winter festival. Hé Ho! In summer, the Fort transforms into a cool (or should I say hot) wedding venue.
The French quarter is also the birthplace of French Canadian author Gabrielle Roy (1909-1983). Take a tour of Roy’s natal home, converted into a museum in 1997 – Maison Gabrielle Roy.
Prior to becoming one of Canada’s most famous authors, Roy was an active member with Canada’s oldest permanent theatre company, Le Cercle Molière.
Founded in 1925, Le Cercle Molière is currently housed within the CCFM (Centre Culturel Franco Manitobain) located on Provencher, St Boniface’s main boulevard. The esteemed theatre company still provides a good evening of quality French theatre. For those who are not bilingual, subtitles are available on Opening Night, Wednesday and Saturday evening performances.
For a more unique theatre experience, tread if you dare to the St Boniface Cathedral’s cemetery where monuments of pioneer men and women who make up part of the Franco Manitoban history reside, including Louis Riel’s monument.
Theatre in the Cemetery’s Riel’s footsteps, a play re-enacted in the cemetery, gives an entertaining history lesson on the French-Canadian and Métis heritage.
Cool cafés and delectable dining await you in the French quarter. For starters, an old CN station building built in 1913 was converted into what is now Le Resto Gare Bisto and Train Bar.
The bistro menu includes traditional French dishes, using fresh, local produce whenever possible. Pair your food with wines selected from new wineries or classical and traditional wines.
Other savoury spots include Beaujena’s French Table where a seven-course surprise dinner which, at $55, is a standard offering on the menu.
Also the unique Dwarf No Cachette and Gift, located on Provencher Blvd, offers Japanese fusion dining and carries “high-quality merchandise that gives you a distinctive kawaii look” is the description you find on their website.
If sweet is more your thing, La Belle Baguette, one of Winnipeg’s foremost bakeries located on Rue de la Cathédrale, sells baguettes and much more. Alix Loiselle, the young owner and chef is fast becoming known both in and outside the city for his culinary skills.
The ‘pain du jour’, depending on the day of the week, might be cheese sourdough or cinnamon raisin as well as many other sweet concoctions which are sure to please the palate.
Chocolatier Constance Popp’s bean to bars chocolate products will appeal to chocolate lovers. Assorted bonbons, chocolate creations of varying shapes, sizes and tastes – it is surely one spot you will want to linger.
If you care to wander outside St-Boniface, the National Historic Site Riel House may be of interest. Located in St Vital where Métis Leader, Louis Riel, the founding father of Manitoba lived, the house was inhabited by the Riel family until 1969. It was then bought by Parks Canada and restored to its 1886 appearance – a time when the inhabitants were in grief following Riel’s execution. The appearance of a black cross on the roof is one sign of a family in mourning.
Further afield is St. Norbert, now the southernmost suburb of Winnipeg. Peoples of French and Metis descent first occupied the area. The founding of the Roman Catholic parish in 1857 is what cemented the community.
While in the area, you’ll want to visit Manitoba’s largest open air market, the St Norbert Farmer’s Market.
St Boniface is much more than a couple of baseball diamonds. To all our visitors this summer, bon voyage and bon appétit!
Franco Manitoban Destinations:
- Beaujena’s French Table
- Le Resto Gare Bisto and Train Bar
- Dwarf No Cachette and Gift
- La Belle Baguette