The city sprawl of Toronto is extensive. It takes a while to be clear of it but eventually all we see are trees, predominantly birch but lots of pine also. Now at the end of October the leaves are yellow and gold. The brilliant reds and oranges that complement the yellows in our New England foliage season are missing here.

The woods are dense, relieved often by ponds, streams and marshes. There are long stretches without roads or any sign of habitation. Occasionally we passed a village, some small houses with pick-up trucks in the drive, unpaved roads and, little sign of any prosperity. They looked more like fishing camps. After so much wilderness we arrived in Winnipeg the capital of the province of Manitoba. I am embarrassed at how little I know about Canada’s geography and history other than as it was intertwined with ours when the British, French and American’s were fighting over the northeast territory.

Winnipeg is a thriving and metropolitan city of 750,000 people, over half of the population of the entire province. There are wide streets and boulevards with few buildings over eight or ten stories high. We took advantage of a four hour layover in Winnipeg to take a short tour of the city. We visited the Capital building, an imposing building of Manitoba limestone, marble from Vermont and Italy with classical design and a majestic dome, walked in a lovely park with fall flowers in full bloom and visited the Basilica of St. Boniface, a strikingly modern church built within the facade of one that burned down many years ago.

Inside the state capital building.

Inside the state capital building.

Assiniboine Park

Assiniboine Park

The downtown area around Union Station has become a huge complex of shops and restaurants with cobbled streets, a skating rink and a skate boarding park. It is part of a renovation of the old railroad buildings. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights museum is under construction to be completed in 2014. It will be the first Canadian National Museum that is located in the national capital of Ottawa.

Like Toronto, Winnipeg has a hugely diverse population with 50 distinctly different ethnic neighborhoods. Canada with it’s vast space and stable government must be an attractive place for immigrants. Immigrants are only part of the ethnic diversity. The indigenous people of Canada are divided loosely into three groups, First Nations, Inuit and Metis. The Metis are people of mixed blood from the early days when the French and other Europeans married into the indigenous population. These groups have many sub-groups, all contributing their own customs and culture.

The altar in St. Boniface Basilica. The central figure represents Christ with open welcoming arms.

The altar in St. Boniface Basilica. The central figure represents Christ with open welcoming arms.