Going with the FLOW
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.