As part of their Canadian adventure, Liz and Eddie kindly offered to mind the children so that Michael and I could go out on our own together for the first time since we arrived in Canada. We protested for about 0.0001 of a second, flung the kids and their swim gear into the hotel room and hightailed it over to Broadway Bridge. This is one of the most photographed bridges in Canada, spanning the Saskatchewan River from the Meeswasin Trail over to Broadway Avenue, a street full of eclectic stores, cafes, and galleries.
It’s so refreshing to stroll along in the sunshine without having to do the whole eye-swivelling, head-turning, kid-counting dance. We moseyed along, laughing at the kids’ horror at the concept of their parents going out together. “Is it, like, a date?”, asked Benjamin doubtfully. “Yep”, I said cheerfully from the front seat. “Like, a smoochy date?”, he added nervously. “Ohhhh, yeah”, Michael chipped in. “GROSS!” came the horrified chorus from the seats behind us. It’s so easy to freak kids out.
We decided to start on the left side of the street and come back on the right, as meticulous planning is an essential part of a date that only occurs on an annual basis. God forbid that we should miss something important through careless criss-crossing. We sauntered along, popping in and out of various shops, and found ourselves in Clans, Celts and Clover, which sells all those items that are essential to the immigrant way of life. Barry’s Tea. Curly Wurlys. Fry’s Chocolate Cream (I couldn’t resist this one – it always makes me think of my mother). There was a bottle of Heinz Salad Cream on the shelf. “Oooh,” I said, pointing it out to Michael. “Wouldn’t you like some of that with your sandwiches?” I picked it up. “But not at nine dollars a bottle”, I added hastily, putting it back. We continued on our way, and discovered a garage sale on one of the side streets. I love garage sales. You just never know what you’re going to come across. I picked up a book, a hair slide and a dvd of Fraggle Rock, and struck up a conversation with the woman running it. It turned out her mother was Irish, and they had spent some time in Ireland, so we chatted for ages before leaving with our finds. Some of the shops on Broadway are fabulous – one of them was devoted to metal designs and handmade goods – chainmail and beautiful jewellery, every kind of bead under the sun, handbags made from recycled materials (“this bag was made from Paul’s sofa, Ann’s jeans and Brian’s belt”). Another shop was full of crafts that are exclusively made in Saskatchewan. I wanted everything immediately. Some day, when I’m rich….
We stopped into the Yard and Flagon for lunch, and I decided to try my first poutine, the Canadian national dish. It sounds revolting – chips, gravy and cheese curds, but I like the first two items, and thought I could brave the third. The waitress was thrilled to be serving a poutine virgin, and so I added mushrooms and chicken to the dish and waited to be either poisoned or bowled over. It arrived with a flourish and a smile, and the gorgeous smell was enough to make me dive straight in. Well. It was sublime. I can’t believe I’ve missed out on a year of potential poutines. And it’ll be ages before I get another one (more about that anon….)
Our next stop was into a store that sells what can only be described as marijuana paraphernalia. Wall to wall bongs, pipes, hookahs – every shape, size and colour. “What do you say these are for?” I asked the owner, curious as to how he would describe their purpose to a visiting RCMP officer. “Oh, tobacco”, he said, disingenuously. There was a poster beside the till, with a photo of Barack Obama and his quote regarding his own marijuana use – “When I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.”
Michael got a coffee in a specialist cafe, which had so many flavours of beans in big containers that I almost felt like having a cup. We arrived back at the Bridge and headed back through the park to the hotel, taking in the Taste of Saskatchewan Festival on the way. There were hundreds of people sitting around in the sunshine, listening to the band and ordering food from one of the thirty-odd food vans that were taking part.
We treated ourselves to ice-cream at the Cold Stone Creamery at Tim Horton’s on Fourth Avenue, an unmissable experience. You pick the cone (I picked one that was dipped in chocolate and then in nuts), pick the ice-cream (I picked vanilla) and then the filling (I picked pecans and almonds). They mush it all together, roll it into a ball of lusciousness and pop it into the waffle cone. You can choose nuts, chocolate, smarties, sprinkles…..the list is endless. We lingered over it, relishing every spoonful, and then dragged our feet back to the hotel to rescue our child-minders and resume our parental responsibilities. It was a perfect day. The next relative to arrive on our shores has to live up to the high standard of baby-sitting provided by Liz and Eddie.