French Quarter

Bonjour. Comment ça va?

Très bien, Merci!

Are you looking for some French flavour? Well, mon ami, you’ve come to the right place because this belle neighbourhood is St. Boniface, Winnipeg’s historic French district, where the architecture is almost as inviting and attractive as the inhabitants.

To start off, let’s do as the locals do and get you a café and a pastry shall we? For the café, let’s do Café Postal, where the baristas know a thing or two about a strong cup served up foamy. From there, it’s on to La Croissant, whose owners from the Alsace region of France make the sort of flakey-come-melt-in-your-mouth croissant that will bring your taste buds to the foot of the Alps. (Word from the wise, get there before noon to make sure they still have a nice selection.)

Then, have an expert guide your way through these historical streets. Tourisme Riel’s walking tour of St. Boniface will relate the stories behind the charming houses, along with bringing you inside and around its architectural marvels, such as the impressive Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface. The Cathedral’s surviving west-facing façade (most of the original structure perished in a fire in 1968) is an impressive example of masonry, while the inside of the cathedral is quite stunning with its vaulted ceiling and a somewhat whimsical/hippy-ish depiction of Jesus and Mary. The walking tour will also bring you to the handsome L’Université de Saint-Boniface, whose grounds house an abstract statue of the Métis leader, folk hero and founder of Manitoba, Louis Riel, who started a rebellion and was subsequently tried and hung in Regina back in 1885.

More historical fun times can then be had at Fort Gibraltar, a recreation of a traditional North West Company fur trading post. In summer, the towering 18-foot fort walls serve as a prime venue for weddings and various parties that are thrown by the city’s hip set, including the oh-so-indulgent Poutine Cup where some of the city’s best restaurants battle for fry and gravy supremacy.

From there, it’s on for food at Promenade Café and Wine whose traditional French eats, like coq au vin, beef bourguignon, duck salad and mussels are always delectable, as are the views from the dining room which look out over the Red River to the sexy Esplanade Riel (that jazzy bridge), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and downtown Winnipeg’s skyline. This popular eatery serves clever and comforting French and Manitoba fusion food. From there, satisfy your sweet-tooth about two doors down at Chocolatier Constance Popp, whose confectionary creations have been featured for the stars at the Toronto International Film Festival, the 2010 Golden Globes and CenterPlace Manitoba at the 2010 Olympics.

Then, how about we burn some calories with a lovely stroll along the Seine River Trail (1.25 km) or the old St. Boniface trail (9 km), both of which will have you lapping it up in nature? Or, if you want a more educational experience, may we suggest you delve into Manitoba’s colonial history inside Le Musée de Saint-Boniface, the former home of the Grey Nuns, who arrived in the Red River Colony in 1844. This three-storey white board building is a treasure trove loaded with artifacts recalling the history of francophones and the Métis in Manitoba. The trials and tribulations of the birth of the province and the contribution of Métis hero Louis Riel are also documented inside.

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