Manitoba’s capital city is celebrating an unusual centennial this year. It’s 100 years since the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 brought life to a standstill for six weeks. It was the largest strike in Canadian history and while it ended soon after the Bloody Saturday deaths of two protestors, it revolved around collective bargaining, living wages and eight-hour work days and ultimately helped strengthen our labour movement.I dashed through the city this spring on my way to the Narcisse snake dens, and took a look at it through the lens of the strike while dropping by some favourite places. Here’s what I would do with just one day in Winnipeg — but by all means stay longer.Have a fabulous breakfast
These Turkish eggs came with hummus, zhoug (cilantro sauce) and chili butter.
Coming from wildly expensive Toronto, I once jokingly told a server at Clementine that they should double their prices. I partly meant that their breakfasts were a steal with dishes in the $7 to $13 range. I also meant that their sensational food could command higher prices. Anyway, I’m happy to report that Clementine is still affordable and still in business. You’ve got to try their signature braised bacon benedict once, but then move on to things like tomato and ricotta toast and Turkish eggs on a bed of hummus with chili butter and zhoug (a spicy cilantro sauce).See the new replica streetcar sculpture
The city has just unveiled this new strike monument, called Bloody Saturday.
On June 21, 1919, a protest outside city hall escalated when the striking workers partially tipped over a streetcar run by replacement workers and lit it on fire. Two people died in a clash with police on the pivotal day that became known as Bloody Saturday. On June 21, 2019, a steel replica of the iconic streetcar was unveiled with fireworks in the plaza outside Pantages Playhouse Theatre. Called Bloody Saturday, the installation by local artist/filmmaker Noam Gonick and the late sculptor Bernie Miller is just steps from where the actual event happened and hastened the end of the strike. (I saw the construction site but the unveiling happened after I left.)Take a strike-themed walking tour
Kristjanna Pensato leads a strike-themed tour for the Exchange District BIZ.
The Exchange District Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) puts on inexpensive historic walking and reasonably priced food tours from May 1 to Aug. 31. The district, a National Historic Site, is filled with heritage buildings built between 1880 and 1920 when Winnipeg was booming and nicknamed the “Chicago of the North.”On the $10 Strike: The Extended Walking Tour, Kristjanna Pensato regaled me with details about life in Winnipeg just before, during and after 30,000 people walked off the job for six weeks, bringing to life key characters while pointing out important buildings. I loved the 1919 Marquee, a weathered steel monument erected in an area that was known as “Hell’s Alley” during the strike.After we parted ways, I walked over to the Manitoba Museum to see Strike 1919: Divided City, a multimedia exhibit that runs until Jan. 5, 2020 with digital architectural projections, photographs, artifacts even historic audio.Drink strike-themed beer
Little Brown Jug founder Kevin Selch shows off a can of 1919, named for the strike.
Whether you’re on the strike tour or solo, stop into Little Brown Jug Brewing Co. on the edge of the Exchange District for a taste of its single offering — a Belgian pale ale called 1919. Made using a traditional German double-fermentation technique, 1919 pays homage to the Winnipeg General Strike and the box for its eight-pack shows the famous streetcar scene.The beer is also made with a heirloom hop called Brewers Gold that was developed in 1919 by crossing a wild Manitoban hop with an unknown English hop. The microbrewery and taproom is in a century-old livery stables. I’ve asked Selch, an economist-turned-brewer, to consider making his second beer about the Narcisse snake dens, where tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes come out to mate every spring.Have a fabulous lunch
The last meal I had at Feast was this pickerel slider with a side of wild rice blend.
I do love Christa Bruneau-Guenther’s Feast Café Bistro — a celebrated Indigenous restaurant that serves “modern dishes rooted in First Nations foods.” She’s a member of the Peguis First Nation who was born and raised here before opening Feast in 2016. Try a Manitoba grass-fed bison sausage or bison banny (eggs benedict on bannock) for breakfast, or one of the bannock pizzas for lunch or dinner. I’m partial to the Manitoba Pickerel Sliders, also served on bannock.Pay homage to our currency
My husband has a deep love of coins and is always buying limited-edition coins.
It’s a bit of a drive from the downtown core to the Royal Canadian Mint on the outskirts of town, but it’s worth it for the 45-minute tours to discover how our circulation coins are made. (Collector and commemorative coins are made in Ottawa.) Outside the building — a striking piece of architecture with mirrored glass and a “triangle up-thrust” — a “parade of flags” honour the Mint’s international customers. Be sure to stick your head through a giant silver coin or pose with the giant gold loon of loonie fame.Go see Louis
This Louis Riel monument stirred up quite the controversy when it was unveiled.
I worshipped Métis martyr Louis Riel back in elementary school so recommend a pilgrimmage to his grave at St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery. The founder of Manitoba was unfairly executed for high treason for fighting Canadian encroachment on Métis lands.The grave is fine, but an exiled and abstract nude sculpture that portrays Riel “as a man in bondage and in anguish who sacrificed himself for his principles and his country” speaks to me. It was first erected on the Legislative grounds but is now outside the Université de Saint-Boniface in the Franco-Manitoban part of Winnipeg — enclosed in a privacy shield of sorts.Go see Winnie
My daughter Hazel and the Winnie statue in the Assiniboine Park Zoo playground.
I keep saying that Winnipeg should hype its Winnie-the-Pooh connection, but I guess that Disney controls all Pooh-inspired merchandising. Anyway, there’s one modest statue of the real Winnie in the Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park Zoo. If you don’t know the story, Lt. Harry Colebourn bought a black bear cub on his way to the First World War and dubbed her Winnie after Winnipeg. Winnie hung out with the regiment for a bit before the London Zoo agreed to give her a safe home. That’s where writer A.A. Milne spotted her with his young son Christopher and the rest is literary history. Geek out on the story at the Pooh Gallery, a permanent collection of memorabilia, art and artifacts at the park’s pavilion.Fight the mid-afternoon slump with ice cream
A flight of artisan ice cream at Chaeban Ice Cream.
Abir Al Sham is a stunning ice cream. It’s one of the signature flavours at Chaeban Ice Cream, the shop that Joseph Chaeban and Zainab Ali opened to thank the Osborne community for sponsoring 13 family members to move here from Syria as refugees. The traditional Syrian flavour combines rose and orange blossom water, toasted pistachios and cashews, ricotta and orchid root powder. The Louis (Riel) Lavender is also pretty cool. All the ice cream is made in-house from local milk. I like the flight of four small scoops for $9 — and the fact that tips always go to a designated charity.Take a mystical tour
Try to take the Hermetic Code Tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building.
The Manitoba Legislative Building is actually a temple in disguise. That’s something you’ll find out on the Hermetic Code Tour offered by Heartland International Travel and Tours between April and October. Most tours are led by Frank Albo, who wrote The Hermetic Code: Unlocking One of Manitoba’s Greatest Secrets about discovering the building’s occult clues. Expect to see Freemasonic symbols, hieroglyphic inscriptions and numerological codes.Check into a unionized hotel
A view of my serene and lovely room in the Fairmont Winnipeg.
I’ve spent the night in many of Winnipeg’s hotels, but this time it seemed important to stay at one of its unionized properties in honour of the 1919 anniversary. The Fairmont Winnipeg overlooks the historic Portage and Main corner and it’s home to VG Restaurant, where Winnpeg-born chef Tim Palmer wowed me with his truffles and toast, harvest beet salad and bison tartare.Go to the human rights museum
There are so many great angles to shoot the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
The game-changing Canadian Museum for Human Rights turns five in September. As the world’s only museum dedicated solely to human rights, it stands downtown “as a beacon for the struggle to achieve equal human rights for all.” Explore on your own, but then consider a guided tour — like the ones that focus on labour rights, women’s right, the building itself or the Indigenous perspective. It’s also close to the Forks Market, where I always buy wild rice bannock slathered with Saskatoon berry jam.Have a fabulous dinner
Not only do I love the steak dinners at Rae and Jerry’s, I adore the retro sign.
It’s honestly my favourite Canadian steakhouse. Rae and Jerry’s has been here on Portage Avenue with a restaurant and cocktail lounge since 1957 in all its red leather glory. I either get the charcoal-broiled rib steak or the prime rib that always comes with a starter soup or glass of chilled Heinz tomato juice along with the usual starch and veg. Did I mention there’s coconut cream pie for dessert?Don’t miss the iconic sign out by the road, or the restaurant sign that glows neon pink and green at night. Someone please add this place to the Canadian Register of Historic Places.Have a wild night — at the outdoor spa
You can’t take pictures at Thermëa, so this handout will have to do.
Handout photo/Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature
I am that strange and unusual person that doesn’t love spas — or any form of relaxation. But last time I was in Winnipeg in winter, I checked out Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature. At night. When it was minus 26C.If you’re new to Nordic-style spas, it’s a three-step process. First you heat up for five to 15 minutes in a sauna. Then you cool down for 10 to 15 seconds with a plunge in the water (I picked the temperate pool over the cold pool or icy waterfalls). Then you lounge for 20 minutes in an indoor or outdoor relaxation area. Then you do multiple “thermal cycles,” preferably accompanied by dinner in your borrowed robe at the spa.While I raced through my Thermëa experience, here it is a couple of years later and I’m still talking about it.Related