Apr. 23rd, 2014

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Lots to write about again this time! We got to Winnipeg very late at night because the train was several hours late, but once we'd stumbled to our B&B and found the secret letting-us-into-the-house code everything worked out fine. The first thing we did the next day was head to River Heights, which is where the Jews of Winnipeg hang out, and visit the Jewish shop for matzah and a kosher-for-Pesach dessert for our seder that evening. I was a bit worried they'd have run out of matzah, but actually we had our choice of about eight different kinds, and a chocolate Pesach cake which apparently had come all the way from Montreal. The shop was full of slightly panicked-looking middle-aged ladies with their arms full of Pesach stuff, and the cashier seemed to know them all by name, and it felt like home to be surrounded by people who were celebrating our holiday.

With matzah and cake successfully acquired, we headed back downtown to the Forks, which is like Winnipeg's Camden Town but smaller and less grubby (and indoors), and then to the MTS Centre to see where the Jets play. I bought a massive Winnipeg Jets hoodie, which I love, and which turned out very useful in Winnipeg because I could wear it over all my other clothes. Spring had still not come to Manitoba when we were there - it was between -8 and -10 in the mornings, which is nothing for Manitobans, but pretty brutal when you're not used to it. On the bright side (lol) it was beautifully sunny all the time we were there, and the snowbanks sparkled in the light, and everything looked very nice in a wintry sort of way.

The seder was lovely - us and a couple of other Pesach orphans from the area, and our two kind hostesses who made delicious food and Jewish wisecracks all evening, and generally made us feel really welcome. The ritual portion was nicely low-key (my complete ideal seder would have slghtly more discussion in it, but sometimes you are not in the mood for theology especially with strangers), and we talked about Canada and Winnipeg a lot and got some useful advice (and also a lot of commentary on the weather. Winnipeggers like to talk about weather).

It's a bit of a strange place, Winnipeg. I didn't like it much when we first arrived - it felt so spread-out, so car-dependent, and the bus schedules were hard to figure out and there was no real focus to the city, no river or lake or sea or hill or other natural feature for the Stuff to cluster around. But after a couple of days, we figured out some of the buses and the main roads and everything started to make a bit more sense. It's a nice, easygoing place to be - the main sights are mostly just bits of the city that are nice to wander around, and they have a good museum and a varied restaurant scene, and even downtown there's a lot of wide open space and blue prairie sky. We went to McNally Robinson (Canada's biggest independent bookshop), and spent a chilly half-day at the zoo looking at interesting arctic animals, and we went to the historical Exchange District and the Manitoba Museum, which is surprisingly big, and packed with information and old-fashioned dioramas (I love dioramas, so this suited me just fine). There's a certain poignancy to the older parts of Winnipeg - the city was basically built by the railway, and in the late 19th century was one of the fastest-growing settlements in North America (along with Chicago, I think). And then the Panama Canal was opened, and Canadian roads and the vehicles on them gradually improved, and Winnipeg's importance for freight and passenger travel gradually declined. Now the station sees two trains per week, and the city doesn't quite seem to know what it is now that it isn't a railway city any more. It makes it an interesting place to be, I think.

And then it was the train again, all the way to Toronto. I miss the train. It's not like you get many opportunities to do that kind of thing. This was definitely the most expensive long-distance train journey I've ever taken, but it was also by far the most luxurious. The food was great, the viewing car was never full and I just loved that the sleeping berths were wide enough for two. I've always loved the feeling of waking up in the night and feeling the train clattering along the tracks, of lifting the blind in the morning and seeing somewhere else rushing past your window, and experiencing that as a shared...experience was just the best. We got into Toronto at midday, in bright sunshine and warmish weather, and after being temporarily stunned by the number of people at Union Station and the availability of more than one public transport option, we got on the metro and made our way to our little basement flat in Little Italy.

That was on Saturday, and now it is Wednesday. We have a lot of important things to do, and there never seem to be enough hours in the day to do them, and even going grocery shopping leaves us both feeling completely overstimulated because SO MUCH NEW STUFF. But we are getting there. I think in a week or so, this place will begin to feel at least a little bit like home.


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December 2014

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