Landing in Winnipeg Airport from Vancouver, the starting point for the Big Five Safari in Manitoba with Frontiers North Adventures, I honestly was not expecting much from this city.
I was convinced that it was just a stop-off point before the real adventure began.
However, Winnipeg turned out to be a city full of surprises.
The real-life James Bond was from Winnipeg
With the media already going potty in hot anticipation of the new Bond film Skyfall, it is not widely known that the apparent real-life inspiration behind Fleming’s much-loved character actually hailed from Winnipeg.
Sir William Stephenson was a spy who worked for British Intelligence during the Second World War.
He was known by the codename ‘Intrepid’ and worked closely with the likes of Sir Winston Churchill.
During a walking tour of Winnipeg, we were taken to Stephenson’s memorial statue, located on the Memorial Boulevard, and every single member of the group was amazed that such a prominent character in history could have such a low profile.
In fact our tour guide commented that many Winnipeg people were not even aware of this James Bond link.
Winnie The Pooh inspiration
During the First World War, a Canadian soldier called Lt Harry Colebourn purchased a black bear for $20 in Ontario, on his way to the Western Front.
He decided to name her Winnie after his home city Winnipeg.
Winnie was placed in London Zoo after the war and ended up being a very popular exhibit.
A.A. Milne was inspired to create Winnie the Pooh when his son Christopher Robin became fond of Winnie and frequently visited the zoo to see her.
The story, along with paintings and other exhibits, can be appreciated at The Pooh Gallery in the Pavilion Gallery Museum, Assiniboine Park.
The Manitoba Legislative Building is so much more than a government meeting place.
At first sight, it looks like any old pretty, neoclassical building.
But after experiencing the Hermetic Code Tour with Cambridge architectural historian Frank Albo, it was clear that there is much more to this place than meets the eye.
Frank has dedicated a decade of his life to unravelling its mysteries and symbolism – from the sphinxes that adorn its roof to the numerical codes and Freemasonry symbols that had been ‘hidden in plain view’ for around a century until he managed to discover them.
This was a real mystery and I was completely fascinated by the idea of a building being designed as a temple and covered with symbols connected to ancient philosophies and the occult.
When it was being built in the early 20th century, the workers were happy to be paid much less than they should have been, because they believed they were contributing towards something greater than themselves.
Longest ice rink in the world
The longest skating rink in the world can be found in Winnipeg.
The Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail is 8.54 km long as is located on the Assiniboine River and the Red River.
The Rideau Canal in Ottawa holds the record for the largest skating rink in the world and used to be the longest as well, up until 1998 when Winnipeg grabbed the record.
The size of the skating rinks can actually change each year, depending on how much ice forms during the winter.
The French influence
The largest French-speaking population in Canada, outside of Quebec, can be found in Winnipeg and the French district of Saint-Boniface has some interesting sights.
This includes St Boniface Cathedral and a contemporary statue of the founder of Manitoba, Louis Riel.
Museum of Human Rights
Work is well underway on building the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, which is expected to be an internationally revered attraction.
The structure, which can be seen as a work in progress to the left in the below image, will feature some of the most innovative architecture in Canada.
Have you ever visited Winnipeg?