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Winnipeg’s French Connection

Published: 04/09/2011

Can't make it to Paris this spring?

Well a stroll through St. Boniface, Winnipeg's own French Quarter, exudes a distinctive Gallic flavour in its architecture, culture and cuisine that offers its own unique brand of joie de vivre.

Saunter east along the stunning, cabled Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge to be greeted by bistros and boutiques that spill from Provencher Boulevard, the grand tree-lined street that runs through the heart of the city's "Quartier Français."

From the Romanesque façade of St. Boniface Cathedral-Basilica that stands as the grand dame of the Red River, to the quaint, red brick Hotel de Ville (City Hall) the areas' architectural accents are less dramatic and more rustic than Montreal's, and its roots more rebellious than royal. But its street-side, bilingual cafés, buttery croissants and haute cuisine are equally fresh.

Last year, the largest francophone community in Western Canada celebrated its centennial, and in its own mini-renaissance finds upscale condos, rose-coloured restaurants and revitalized storefronts popping up everywhere among century-old buildings.

"Bon appetit" is heard a lot in this neighborhood, as St. Boniface, appropriately, revolves around food. For everything from lobster bisque to foie gras, the Promenade Bistro offers breakfast, lunch and french-inspired dinners with spectacular views from its location at the foot of the Esplanade Riel Bridge.

If you'd rather sip fine wine en terrasse, step in to Step'N Out, where the entrees look like works of art, even next to the owner's delightful ornamental shoe collection.

For a casual cocktail, check out Le Garage Café, a favourite local haunt with its cozy brick-lined space, subdued lighting and windows open to the street.

You can feast on a parisienne dip sandwich, alsatian pizza (with red grapes!) or coquilles St. Jacques in a fiery-red rail car, or quaff a beer with the locals on the patio at Le Resto Gare, a lively bar and bistro set in a 100-year-old railway station.

Just down the street, In Ferno's Bistro serves up six varieties of "moules et frites" (mussels and fries) and other classic brasserie fare in an intimate restaurant and patio worthy of Provençe.

Appreciate French art and culture at the Maison des Artistes, a small gallery located in St. Boniface City Hall or discover the local art scene at the Wayne Arthur Gallery, which sells handcrafted jewelry, paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and pottery. Or pluck your gem from the glorious, one-of-a-kind jewelry designs at Bijou Treasures.

Stroll through early Manitoba history on Taché Avenue, including Winnipeg's oldest building and the largest oak log structure in North America, St. Boniface Museum, Visit mythical rebel and Manitoba founder Louis Riel's tombstone, and marvel at the elegant façade of St. Boniface Cathedral. Cross the street to the Promenade Taché and meander along the Red River for sweeping views of Winnipeg's skyline.

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TRAVEL MANITOBA

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Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3H8
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