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Amazing Winter Romance – Part Deux

Picking up from Part 1 of my venture to the World’s Largest Snowmaze

If you haven’t read my first post about this trip, it’s purpose was to see the Guiness Book of World Records snow maze in Winnipeg, Canada, after I had seen it in a Hallmark winter movie, feeding my addiction for all that is the Hallmark Christmas movie. My stopping point along the way north to the maze was Northfield, Minnesota. I hadn’t left on the trip until after work on a Thursday, so Northfield gave me a five hour start toward Canada

A Hallmark Surprise

After checking into my hotel in Northfield, I ventured out to see what “establishments” the community might have to offer a thirsty traveler. As you might imagine, there wasn’t much for nightlife on a Thursday with temperatures hovering at or below zero degrees.

I did however find the Tanzenwald Brewing Company, a small brewery with great beers, within eyesight of my hotel. Fun fact, tanzenwald is German for a dancing forest. While it would have been fun to see some bartop dancing that evening I sadly report none was to be found.

Among my favorite things is hoisting a couple of beers and meeting new people, hearing the stories they have to tell. Everyone has a story to tell and I can’t begin to remember all the great ones I’ve heard over the years. No surprise then that I struck up a conversation with the couple sitting near me at the bar.

They asked what I was doing in Northfield and I, sheepishly, admitted to my Hallmark Christmas movie addiction and how it was drawing me to Canada. Upon which they said, “You know there was a Hallmark Christmas movie shot here?”

What? Really? Are you kidding me? Shut the front door!

Hideaway coffee shop in Nortfield, MN, used in the Hallmark Christmas movie, Love Always, Santa
Hideaway in Nortfield, MN, used in the Hallmark Christmas movie, Love Always, Santa

Turns out the movie Love Always, Santa was filmed in Northfield and the coffee house in the movie was right downtown.

I shared with them the movie’s full storyline where, at the climactic ending, we see the male lead borrowing/stealing a one horse open sleigh and, wearing a Santa outfit, chasing out to the countryside to meet the female lead and her daughter, as they stand by the well that they always visited when her late husband was alive.

Told you, I’m a Hallmark Christmas movie geek.

The female lead owns a coffee shop and those scenes were shot at the Hideway in Northfield and, yes, I made sure to check it out before leaving the next day.

By the way, downtown Northfield is beautiful. It’s like something out of a movie. I wish I’d had time to spend a day there this trip and it’s definitely on my list of places I will visit again someday soon. Maybe for their re-enactment of the great Northfield Minnesota Raid this fall or the Winter Walk Christmas Festival that was also featured in the Hallmark movie.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

If you are ever near Winnipeg you have to, have to, see the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I feel myself tingling even now, remembering my visit there, it’s that moving. The building’s architecture alone is well worth the trip. That says nothing of the powerful displays featured within.

Display area inside Human Rights Museum
Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg

It is the only Canadian national museum not located in the area of Ottawa, the nation’s capitol. Very similar to the Smithsonian Institute’s museums in Washington D.C. There’s a story about how it came to be located in Winnipeg involving a wealth donor, shared with me by a museum guide, but I will leave that for another day.

I knew nothing about the museum before arriving in Winnipeg and only chose to visit it by chance. Searching for something to do in the morning, before heading over to Festival du Voyageur, I stumbled upon it looking through the “things to do in Winnipeg” information online. It looked interesting so I took a chance and headed on over.

Before you even enter the museum you know you’re in for something special. Walking to the outside entrance you pass through high concrete walls echoing your footsteps back to you.

The displays inside are highly interactive and immersive. Visitors pass from one floor to the next along ramps lined with beautiful slabs of alabaster and at the very top, the Tower of Hope provides a 360 degree view of the entire city.

An overview of the architecture can be found on the museum’s website and ….

The stories and displays it contains are just as moving, especially the history of the indigenous people who lived in that territory of Canada. While the museum features displays of all people who have experienced human rights violations, I found the story of Canada’s indigenous people the most interesting, perhaps because it seems to have so many parallels to how we have treated Native Americans in our own country.

A good intro is the story of the Cranmer Potlatch on the museum website.

Festival du Voyageur

My trip coincided with Winnipeg’s annual winter festival, Festival du Voyageur, created to celebrate the area’s Francophonie. I’d tell you to look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls but I’ll save you the effort and tell you that it refers to an area where the French language plays a significant role.

Making maple syrup taffy at Festival du Voyageur
Making maple syrup taffy at Festival du Voyageur

There is little doubt that is the case for Winnipeg. No matter where you go you see signs in both English and French, and hear people speaking in French or with a detectable French accent. It’s one of the wonderful things about visiting in much of Canada.

Festival du Voyageur is truly a fun event with live music on various stages throughout the grounds, an international snow sculpting demonstration and great food.

It’s held on the grounds of Fort Gibraltar, built in the early 1800s. The fort comes to life during Festival du Voyageur with reenactors throughout the fort demonstrating blacksmithing, woodwork, fur trading and much more.

One of my favorite activities of the festival, surprise, involved food. More specifically, maple syrup taffy.

Yes, it’s a thing.

They build a trough roughly two feet wide and at least 15 feet long, maybe 20. They pack it tight with snow, come along with hot syrup and pour it onto the snow in small pools, in front of people lined up along the way. Each person takes a popsicle stick and quickly rolls the syrup up onto the stick as it cools. You then eat it straight off the stick. You gotta see it for yourself:

Final Notes

Nonsuch Brewery in Winnipeg, Canada
Nonsuch Brewery in Winnipeg, Canada

Those are the highlights of my brief Winnipeg stay. I also managed to go to a hockey game, walked around downtown as much as I could deal with in the sub-zero weather, spent shopping time at The Forks, a converted railyard area, and checked out a few breweries including Nonsuch that has a beautiful interior, almost more cocktail lounge than brewery.

Oh, and by the way, my entry through customs into Canada involved little more than showing my passport and I was on my way. My re-entry into the United States was a different story. I’m sure the long line of people behind me were wondering what kind of drug smuggler I was.

The border guard asked me the same questions multiple times, obviously trying to see if I was changing my story, and then proceeded to search my vehicle, not something he did for any of the half dozen vehicles who passed through in front of me.

All I can figure is that my face matched a wanted poster pinned to his wall. Maybe not. Actually, I suspect he wasn’t buying the story that someone would only be visiting Canada for two nights in the dead of winter and really was questioning whether or not I was a drug smuggler.


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