Around Town

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's not everyday I have visitors much less ones from outside Saskatoon. So after taking my friend, Yann, and his son, Frederic, on a 4-day 2500km loop of Southwestern Saskatchewan we set out to do a few activities here in Saskatoon. At first I admit I was not sure there would be much to show, but with a 9-year old boy in particular, those fears were unfounded. We had arrived around midnight the night before and the loop had been grueling so after allowing for a well-deserved sleep-in, we set our sights on Wanuskewin. For those not from here, Wanuskewin is a collection of pre-Colombian native camps as well as cliffs for buffalo jumps and the northernmost medicine wheel anywhere. It is on the north side of Saskatoon and sits right along the riverbank and is lined with trails that pass some of the sites and offer views of teepee villages, ancient sites, cliff, and of course the river. And I'd never been there. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the area was and how well the information is presented. And in any case, it ate up a few hours and settled our collective need for a good old Saskatchewan bison burger. From there we retreated to the city but stayed on the river, driving down Spadina Crescent until we reached another Saskatoon landmark: the weir.

The weir has a special significance today amid all the anti-depression stimulus spending: it was built in 1930 as a make-work project with the intention of regulating water levels in Saskatoon for drought prevention, covering intakes of the powerplant upstream, and so on. Since then, Gardiner dam does all these same functions leaving the weir to serve as eye-candy and pelican feeding trough. There's talk of removing half of the weir to install a hydro-generation plant (at a cost that I doubt is recoverable) and a whitewater facility. I'd like to see the whitewater facility happen with a longer run than proposed but at the moment nothing is certain. In any case we watched the pelicans for awhile and then headed upstream to cross the CP Rail bridge for a look south along the river and into downtown. As a rail buff, I think Yann enjoyed the opportunity to walk along an active railroad bridge - too bad we didn't have a train on there as we crossed.

The next stop was downtown: we parked on 2nd Ave and 19th St near the River Landing where Frederic eschewed the scale replica waterpark that mimics that Saskatchewan river basin to play with stones in the water near a leaking hose. I'd hoped to walk them up the bridge to Broadway Avenue, loop around to Victoria and get some good icecream at Homestead before coming back downtown but Fred was already pretty tired so we walked along the riverbank to the Besborough and had some Saskatoon Berry frozen yogurt at the Bus Stop instead. From there, we walked along 21st St. which still has a bit of that 50s charm back to 2nd Ave and then retreated to the car. I drove them up Victoria Bridge realizing too late that narrow roads are pretty common in France but not realizing that the bridge was soon to be closed (most likely forever) a few days hence for safety reasons. Then we looped down Broadway and parked on Saskatchewan Crescent for a look at downtown from across the river. In our time together Fred had learned to say "Stop pleeeease!" when he saw something he liked and so we did while he crooned "ooh la la". It really is a nice view and Yann was as impressed with the houses - so different from each other but neighbours - as the skyline.

We were driving right past the university so I thought we had to take a detour along Campus Drive. Fred was feeling pretty tired but I remembered that our Geology Building would be of interest so we parked on campus and walked along the bowl (is there ever a summer that it ISN'T all dug up??) to the historic Thorvaldson building and back to geology from there. A full-sized T-Rex, triceratops, and stegosaurus awaited not to mention rodents, snakes, fish, and other creatures and I'm sure we spent at least half an hour as Fred ran from exhibit to exhibit. The best things in life ARE free, I guess. I didn't know if they'd be interested so I took them up 8th Street to Ruckers Mini Golf and Frederic's fatigue remained forgotten for the first 10 or 11 holes anyway. They got to meet Dimitri, a friend of mine that worked there and bought their round, and then at last it was time for dinner: and where else but Athena? I brought Yann a few pints of our local brew, and we all had dinner then Megan - who was hosting them in her spare room but had never met them - showed up and we all sat for some time visiting and so on until they went home and to sleep.

The next day, they would be leaving for Jasper by train and with it being Thursday, I was reserved for the afternoon to help John get some wedding preparation done. So we got up early and headed to the Berry Barn for breakfast: Waffles with Saskatoon Berry syrup. This is another Saskatoon tradition that I've never done. Sure, I've had waffles/pancakes with Saskatoon Berry syrup many times but I'd never been to the Berry Barn for breakfast. To be honest, it was decent but not all that special - but the setting was really nice, right on the riverbank. After breakfast I dropped Yann and Fred back at Megan's to pack and went home to meet up with John. We headed to the west side to do our final fitting and pick up our tuxes, I saw his new condo (which looks pretty nice), and then we headed up to Handyman to pick up decorations, plates, and all sorts of rental gear for the reception. We drove down to the hall where I was surprised to see that John drove pretty conservatively these days considering that we had little time left to get the truck unloaded and get back to the store before it closed. I'm not suggesting I expected him to break all sorts of traffic laws, but we sat behind a long line of traffic waiting to turn on Warman Rd while traffic moved freely in the neighbouring lane.

By the time we did get there, Kirk was already there and while John met with the facilities manager of the hall we hurriedly unloaded everything and I jumped in the truck alone to grab the rest. Most of the staff was just leaving but I caught them before they closed the gates and we loaded the rest in John's truck before I headed back to the Curling Club in record time. The plan had been to work on getting some of the set up done and then meet Yann, Fred, and Megan for a late dinner but by the time dinner rolled around John and I were on top of a three-level scaffolding with a ladder and a bunch of rolls of plastic trying to make a nice decorative radial chandelier. So I didn't really get to say farewell to them or a proper thanks to Megan but they would be back next week anyway. We were up there decorating until 1 AM or so then John drove me home and I finally had a proper sleep.

Saskatoon Photos

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