Go­ing with the FLOW

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - THIS CITY - River­walk lets me con­nect with the world around me By Ni­cole Alexan­der

ILOVE, love, LOVE my river walk. For those of you un­fa­mil­iar with the Assini­boine River­walk, it starts at the Louis Riel statue near the leg­isla­tive build­ing, winds its way seam­lessly along the Assini­boine River past The Forks, where it meets the Red, me­an­ders un­der the Provencher Bridge ( where the for­mer Sals is, now Chez Sophia) un­til it reaches the north end of Wa­ter­front Drive ( or as I tell those un­fa­mil­iar with the Ex­change Dis­trict east of Main Street, the Dis­raeli Bridge). From my place to and fro, it’s an hour and a half of bliss at a per­fect pace.

I’ve lived down­town for many years and have walked the walk and talked the talk for just as long. And I’m here to tell you it’s not just a river walk. It’s a river fish, a river jog and a river bike. It’s even a river bus for any­one cu­ri­ous enough about the his­tory of the area to take a comfy ferry ride and lis­ten to the lo­cal cap­tain talk shop about water­ways, floods, and in­ter­est­ing folks like Duff Roblin to whom this city owes more than it could ever re­pay.

I could sit here and talk about the won­der­ful mark­ers along the way with in­for­ma­tion about the Red River Set­tle­ment, the Scots, or the lo­cal fauna, but you can do that for your­self. Nope. I’m here to give you a Nike rec­om­men­da­tion — just do it.

What’s re­ally cool about walk­ing the path­way is the feel­ing it gives you. What sur­prises me is how un­der­used it is given how many peo­ple visit The Forks ev­ery day, live down­town, com­mute or come from the ‘ burbs to shop but never think to take ad­van­tage of this gem. I’ve even heard the rea­son “it isn’t a safe place.” Pshaw, I say! Take a chance, peo­ple! Live a lit­tle! It’ll do your body good. It does mine.

I walk for health rea­sons — phys­i­cal, men­tal, and spir­i­tual. I go to the gym ( mostly in win­ter), but I’m more of a “French Women Don’t Get Fat” kinda gal. I don’t run, I don’t pump weights and I don’t do hard­core any­thing. The Assini­boine River­walk re­ju­ve­nates my body, lifts my some­times- lilt­ing mood and soothes my soul. There is some­thing ut­terly mag­i­cal about wa­ter... bathing in it, star­ing at it or watch­ing it twin­kle in the sun­light. Wa­ter makes me stop and smell the roses in a va­ri­ety of ways one would never imag­ine pos­si­ble in the mid­dle of down­town.

Take the geese, for in­stance. Two win­ters ago when we had our mild win­ter ( did I just say that?) there were two geese who never left the river walk area. I called them Marvin and Gaye. They were my con­stant com­pan­ions along the river walk, find­ing open wa­ter wher­ever they could and tak­ing char­ity from the lo­cals for food. I’m sure they’re still around here some­where.

But the real key to un­lock­ing your river walk ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing so sim­ple it de­fies the ob­vi­ous. Smile. At any­one open enough to re­ceive it. Or nod that ef­fer­ves­cent know­ing nod of some­one who con­nects with an­other hu­man be­ing at the sub­con­scious level — like you each get how awe­some you both think this walk and the river is — like it’s a se­cret you share.

Be­fore you know it, you might have a short, but mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion full of sage ad­vice for new Win­nipeg im­mi­grants — like the value of in­vest­ing in warm gear for the win­ter. Or some­one will ask for di­rec­tions and, be­ing a lo­cal, you’ll feel a sud­den surge of pride. Or you’ll take a vis­it­ing fam­ily’s photo and the hand­some older brother might in­vite you to be part of it. All of th­ese things might hap­pen to you on the river walk. They’ve all hap­pened to me.

Last week, I walked by a wed­ding shoot just un­der the bridge. Farther down, I ran into a woman who was des­per­ately try­ing to find the rest of her quar­tet be­cause she was due to play for a wed­ding party — I pointed her in what I hoped was the right di­rec­tion.

How you choose to view and ex­pe­ri­ence down­town Win­nipeg and the river walk is up to you. I’m not say­ing you should go out and in­vite strangers to your house for Sun­day din­ner, but my ex­pe­ri­ence has been that life mir­rors your in­tent — dis­dain begets dis­dain and a smile begets the same. I guar­an­tee you will be blessed with the same in re­turn, and then some, on your river walk.

And if not, there’s al­ways an­other Marvin and Gaye ea­ger to make your ac­quain­tance — pro­vid­ing, of course, there’s a meal in it for them. They might even come to your house for Sun­day din­ner.

Cyber Love Muse — How I met my per­fect match on­line.

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