Courier October Courier - Page 26

Museums and Freemasons The bulk of the itinerary was devoted to museums and One of the most fascinating things we did was take a historical attractions, a category in which Winnipeg excels. Hermetic Code Tour at the Manitoba Legislative Building. Two of the city’s top destinations are the Canadian Museum Our knowledgeable guide regaled us with facts and stories for Human Rights and the Manitoba Museum. The former is about Frank Albo, an architectural historian and expert on a dazzling glass and stone building that opened in 2014, and Freemasonry, and the decade’s worth of research he did on the latter is a sprawling downtown attrac- the symbols, secrets and significance of Canadian Museum tion that is part history museum, part sci- the neoclassical building. for Human Rights ence museum and part planetarium. As we saw examples of numerical The world’s only museum dedicated to symbolism and learned the impor- the exploration of human rights presents tance of the angles of certain statues stories of violation, resistance, resilience and windows throughout the capitol, and tolerance from Canada and around it felt like we’d walked on to the movie the world. There are a number of inter- set of the Winnipeg version of “The Da active components throughout the 12 Vinci Code.” I came away fascinated and galleries, and groups could easily devote slightly puzzled, and mos tly feeling that far more than the two hours we spent to the Freemasons may rival the ancient ensure they have time to fully explore it. Egyptians regarding the amount of atten- The themed galleries at the Manitoba tion they pay to architectural detail. Museum provided a wide-ranging look at different aspects of the We also stopped at Lower Fort Garry National Historic province’s history—both human and natural. While our guide pro- Site, where re-enactor programs and period buildings offer a vided good snapshots of key moments in Manitoba’s development, look at what life was like for the trappers and traders of the including the major roles the Hudson Bay Company and the North Hudson’s Bay Company during the 1850s. And we toured the West Company played in making the area a trading hub, I felt Royal Canadian Mint, which has produced coins for dozens of we only scratched the surface of all that the museum offers. countries around the world. We left the city behind one morning to pay a visit to Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, which is located 30 min- utes north of Winnipeg. This bird-watching hot spot is home to more than 300 species and welcomes up to 100,000 water- fowl a day during migration months. One of Oak Hammock’s research projects is a bird tracking program. We met with the coordinator, who showed us the steps that volunteers take to evaluate the health of the birds and tag them before releasing them back into the wild—pre- suming everything checks out OK. While I’ve never had much interest in birding, getting to hold one of the tiny creatures in my hand before she flew off was cool. We also took a 30-minute paddling tour around a small wetland near the visitor center. Our guide said he’d never had anyone fall overboard and, although you’d only plummet four feet, I was happy we kept that string intact. On the final day during our breakfast at the Fort Garry Hotel, Spa and Conference Centre, I ask Sarah about getting a ride to FortWhyteAlive to do one of their bison safaris, as I had a few hours before I needed to head to the air- Bird releasing program at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre port. While we were 24 October 2017 Bison at FortWhyteAlive discussing the details, the tour operators in the group decided they had time and would like to come along. Sarah worked it out with the motorcoach company for us to keep the bus for a couple more hours and texted the attraction’s Kalyn Murdock, who said it was no problem for more people to join the tour. The main activity once we arrived was riding out to a pond, where we got an up-close look at a herd of around 20 grazing bison. The 90-minute visit at FortWhyteAlive—during which I found it hard to stop snapping pictures of the playful giants—seemed like a perfect way to close the trip. As I headed to the airport and was reflecting on that unex- pected, cherry-on-the-top stop to see the bison, I couldn’t help but wonder what other memorable Winnipeg experiences I missed. Guess I’ll find out the next time I visit the city. Who knows, I might even try and schedule in a couple of days to go to Churchill. Bison and birds and other natural things