Winnipeg’s French quarter has it all
By Jason van Rooy
Minutes from downtown Winnipeg lays a paradise and haven for food lovers and culture buffs alike. St Boniface offers beautiful tree-lined streets surrounding picturesque parks and cultural landmarks, the likes of which many urban centres in Canada have long since lost. As neighbourhoods go, St. Boniface offers everything you need in a picturesque, serene and walkable environment brimming with history, culture and charm.
Provencher Boulevard is home to many of the city’s most unique culinary gems. Cafés like Café Postal and Cocoa Beans offer up fresh coffee and baked goods for your daily commute, or on a sunny Saturday stroll. Fantastic restaurants such as Le Garage Café and Chaise Café and Lounge offer some of Winnipeg’s best dining and most appetizing local foods. Chaise Café and Lounge offers an ever changing menu filled with one of a kind taste combinations sure to delight any palate. Also dotted throughout the neighbourhood are little known establishments that most Winnipeggers might never even know were there. La Bell Baguette, just a half block away from Provencher Park, on Avenue de la Cathédrale, is one of Winnipeg’s newest bakery cafés offering fresh baked breads and pastries daily. Just a short walk away on Taché, near Marion, sits Mrs. Mike’s. This quaint little burger stand serves arguably some of the best burgers on the prairies. For the food lover in all of us, there is truly no better place to live than in the heart of this food rich neighbourhood in the heart of our fair city.
But St. Boniface is so much more than just a food lover’s paradise. Travelling over the Promenade Riel from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, one enters a distinctive and clearly historical part of our beautiful city. Immediately to the right on Taché lies the historic façade of the St. Boniface Cathedral, preserved after the bulk of the structure, built in 1905, was ravaged by fire. A short distance away sits the Université de St-Boniface, home to a rather famous statue of Manitoba legend Louis Riel. The St. Boniface Museum, just west of the cathedral on Taché, is home to a stunning array of artifacts chronicling the history of our province and its founders. One can spend hours here learning about the history of not only St-Boniface, but our province’s struggle to become recognized and the people who fought and died to build the home we all share today.
St. Boniface is also home to Fort Gibraltar, a reproduction of a fur trading post originally built by the North West Company in the early 1800s. The fort offers a glimpse into the lives of the voyageurs, traders and their families who established their homes here and contributed to the growth and prosperity of what eventually became the city we call home. With guided tours all summer, featuring live actors portraying the lives of the ordinary people who would have lived and worked here, Fort Gibraltar is a great place to spend the day with family or out of town guests.
Fort Gibraltar also plays host each year to one of our fine city’s most famous and popular events, the Festival du Voyageur. This coming February the fort and surrounding park will come alive with celebration as the Festival du Voyageur brings music, traditional spirits, maple candy and even beard growing competitions to the French quarter. A week-long celebration of the history and culture of St. Boniface, Winnipeg and Manitoba, Festival events take place throughout the neighbourhood. From the fort to the Franco-Manitoban Cultural centre to the giant snow sculptures throughout the city as far as St. Vital Centre, the Festival’s presence is found throughout Winnipeg.
St. Boniface is also home to a very artistically focused community. St. Boniface’s old City Hall on Provencher Boulevard is home to the Maison des Artistes. This local gallery not only plays host to various events and openings throughout the year, but also works to help foster art in the community through public art projects and community based initiatives. Adjacent to the gallery in the park space next to City Hall is a serene sculpture garden and public stage. This stage is home to many free performances throughout the summer and is a gathering place for community and visitors throughout the year.
St. Boniface is a truly unique neighbourhood of which our city can be extremely proud. This neighbourhood is a lasting testament to our city’s dedication to the preservation of our shared history, to its artists and to its cultural heritage. To live in St. Boniface is to come home to a little piece of paradise in the heart of an ever growing and changing city.