Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, June 10-12, 2008

7 07 2008
Delta Bessborough Hotel

Delta Bessborough Hotel

Under University Bridge

Under University Bridge

The next day we made it to Saskatoon during business hours(!). Saskatoon is a Prairie Oasis. The River Valley that runs through the middle is beautiful and overgrown. No one is allowed to build on the banks so there’s wilderness with bike trails and paths on both sides. The East side is the Chi-Chi Side and the West Side is the Wrong Side. Gordon Howe Campsite is on the Wrong Side but it’s a meticulously planned and serviced tight ship kind of place that was densely attended, AND it has WiFi. So does downtown Saskatoon—free WiFi for everybody! You can easily ride your bike anywhere in Saskatoon, because small and mostly flat. (The Chi-Chi side is higher than the wrong side, so there is one big hill either on the bridge or bank)

Oh, the Beautiful Bridges of Saskatoon; so exotic! I didn’t count but there are 7 or 8 of them and they are all different. My favourite was Victoria Bridge, also known as Traffic Bridge, which is an older bridge that has a maximum load of only 5 tonnes and has wooden pedestrian sidewalks. At night the sides of the bridge are lit up with different coloured lights which I was unable to get an adequate picture of due to weather. Although Saskatoon is known as Sunny Saskatoon with the city catch phrase of “Saskatoon Shines” it was cloudy or raining the whole time we were there, which was certainly ironic because the sun had been following us all over Western Canada, but also it was fine because we still really enjoyed our stay there.
Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge

There’s not a lot of bad things you could say about this city, except it’s the City of Bad Information. I hadn’t yet given up on enquiring for Hippie restaurants serving brown rice and vegetables, and the woman at the visitor centre directed us to a place which turned out to be vegetarian Chinese and also closed. Furthermore, we got an up-to-date brochure for the very popular Farmer’s Market which claimed the market was open on Wednesdays which turned out to be not true. There were other instances of misinformation I won’t detail here. You would think in a place so small there would be more clarity about what goes on.

Bulk Cheese Warehouse

Bulk Cheese Warehouse

As confused as it is, Saskatoon has much to recommend it; Broadway is the funky area with Local Appeal. This 4 blocks is virtually stuffed with world class food and entertainment. 3 of Saskatoon’s 4 live music venues are here (when we went out to Lydia’s, a music venue, Step enjoyed the local custom of ordering “a bottle of pils” at the bar), as well as a movie theatre which was screening, among other things, The Garbage King. The first time we visited Broadway it was after 9pm and all the restaurants were weirdly closed, which seems freakishly early to me, all but a pizza joint called Nino’s which we went to in desperation and left in wonder and satisfaction. It turned out Nino’s is the love restaurant of the man who founded Boston Pizza and so it has some Kick-Ass pizza.

Chef Daniel Walker of Weczeria

Chef Daniel Walker of Weczeria

Yes, Nino’s was the precursor to 3 days of amazing food. Saskatoon has it going on in the culinary department. Weczeria is a restaurant where everything possible is absolutely local, with beautiful black and white photographs of all the suppliers decorating the walls. I could have eaten 2 or 3 of the Cobb Salad, and the portions are not chintzy. We asked the lady at the Organic Food Co-op (unpasteurised sauerkraut and other esoteric food items are cheap and abundant here) where to get some spicy noodles and she sent us to a Vietnamese diner in Cumberland strip mall called Spicy Garden that was worth flying back to Saskatoon for (travel tip: if you want to find a restaurant serving delicious, healthy meals ask the clerk at the hippie food store). But I think I can safely say our favourite food vendor was Bulk Cheese Warehouse. Bulk Cheese Warehouse not only has an impressive array of cheese for sale in quantities from single portion to whole wheels, it also has a butcher section with caveman size cuts of meat, house smoked sausages, and wild boar bacons. Pestos, olives, and cupcakes—in flavours such as Crème Brule—are also offered, with slices of oversized pies that are ¼ of a pie for $5! We went several times and enjoyed every single item we purchased there, including a Bestever Cheese Ball which Step couldn’t understand why I purchased (cheese balls are always terrible, but this was the Best Ever) and later lamented we hadn’t bought 5 of them.

Bulk Cheese Warehouse

Public Art

Saskatoon likes art, too. Downtown is liberally sprinkled with public art ranging from conservative bronze casts to crazy Modern Art sculptures. The Saskatoon art gallery and plant conservatory, named the Mendel Art Gallery, is free (but you are encouraged to donate) and in the past they’ve had great shows by people like Joni Mitchell, and they have quite a few heavy weights in their permanent collection. When we visited the main gallery was closed for installation, and there was just a “members” show downstairs, which was amateur art by gallery members! I love stuff like that, so it was fine with me. There was the usual range from amazing to awkwardly painted nude women with great attention paid to the breasts and hands that kind of trail off into a blur.

Prairie Socialism

Prairie Socialism

But the best part of the Mendel Art Gallery was the gift shop, especially for it’s unabashed socialist art by D. Geary. This image of the “Red Winged Gopher of Prairie Socialism” appears on their official T-Shirts, none of which fit me or Step, but we bought a pile of the cards of the image to spread the Socialist love to friends. It’s refreshing to be in a society of people who are proud of the idea that we could all work together for better living conditions rather than being embarrassed or enraged by such an idea. (In fact, “Co-op” is pretty big in the prairies and all the Co-op stores are different and kept in proud cleanliness and repair).

One night it rained so hard we decided to stay in camp and BBQ some meat we got at Bulk Cheese Warehouse. Step met a guy named Andy in the laundry room who only had a pup tent and some dehydrated soup for the evening so we invited him over for dinner. Andy was from Red Deer and traveling across Canada with his guitar via bus and hitchhiking. He sang us some of his songs. One was about traveling across Canada! How apropos!

 Yes, Saskatoon, I love you. But why, oh why, are you located about a kazillion miles from anywhere else of culture and interest?

Night at Gordie Howe Campsite




3 responses

7 07 2008

I’ve been saying it for years – Saskatoon is magical! And now it’s even rich.
When we shot there, Paul kept asking “what’s in the water? Everybody is so damn happy!”

Sounds like you’ve discovered the big sky.



16 07 2008
Matt MacLean

The Tooner in all its mad glory! Never been but now I see I’m missing something.

Great laughs and love the bit about the Xcelerator dryer. The blog is a great idea and I love the pics too.

Have a great time you crazy kids



17 08 2008

I stumbled upon your blog quiet randomly, but I’m glad you enjoyed Saskatoon.

If you’re ever in the area again drop by and say hi!


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