Thursday, June 25, 2015

Winnipeg? Winnipeg!

When the ethically-challenged governing body of soccer in the world announced that the United States team would play its first two games of the Women's World Cup in Winnipeg, my first reaction was that I would stay home and watch it on television. After all, I mean... Winnipeg? Jeez!

Then, of course, after a couple of seconds and only the whisper of a breath of a hint of serious reconsideration, I thought, Oh, well, Winnipeg. Okay. A week or so there can't be any worse than three days in Waco, which I have done, and survived (and did so without a car; at least in Winnipeg I'd have a car).

Polar bears all
over the place
Turns out, Winnipeg is a pretty good place to spend about a week. Probably could manage a second week there if there was a reason. It's actually a nice, clean, thriving city, with hints of culture both high and popular, and reasonably friendly people. If I had to live somewhere outside of Texas, Winnipeg wouldn't be too bad a choice. Plus, having booked the week through ProActive Soccer Tours, the same outfit that we used for the 2011 cup trip to Germany, ensured that we'd be in the hands of people who had actually researched the town and picked out interesting things to see & do. Kudos to them.

Of course it suffers from chronic vague post-modern guilt, and points too resolutely and too desperately at its glitzy new-age museum and purportedly francophone area as a result, but underneath it's a collection of some 800,000 souls going about their business. Like Austin, without the internalized stress.

Anyway, been there, done that, and the pictures are up on the Picasa web site. Take a look if you're interested. You can click on the bear, or here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Licked the Bowl.

Le Garage Café
166 Boulevard Provencher
St-Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Looking for une aventure française in St-Boniface, the French-speaking area of Winnipeg, this is the place we ended up when it turned out our first choice closes early, our second choice turned out to be Japanese, and our third (considered only briefly, and only because It Was There) was Chinese. In all honesty, there was nothing particularly French about this place, beyond some distracted obeisances on the menu, and the definite article introducing the name of the place.

Inside is a counter, and an aisle lined with a few tables leading to a larger, darker room that doubles as an intriguing live-music venue and giant-screen TV auditorium. Our server delivered three menus each, one being a drinks list. He ran down an enticing list of daily specials, brought our drinks, and took our order: the pasta of the day, and a pulled pork mac-&-cheese.

I can't exagerrate this: these were both truly delicious dishes. The pasta was penne in a wine sauce with chicken that was OHHH so good. Seasoned with basil and cooked with tomatoes and, I would say, a little cream, the chunks and shreds of chicken distributed throughout were relegated to providing texture, in a departure from meat's normal starring role. Yet the chicken performed admirably in a supporting role where the sauce is the breakout star.

And the mac and cheese. If there is a better way to prepare macaroni and cheese than to put it in a crock with cream and pulled pork with a slightly-sweet barbecue sauce, and to cover it with a slab of cheddar cheese, and heat it until the cheese infuses the dish, I can't begin to imagine it. I would not have thought a humble collection of ingredients like this could produce such awesome flavour. I confess that the headline of this post is almost literally true. I didn't actually lick the bowl; I did, though, run my finger along the inside, and then lick that. Many times. And I would do it again, since I'm in a town where nobody knows me, and I don't have to behave like a mature adult, as I do when at home.

The service was excellent, from both servers on duty.
The place is done in a simple, unaffected way, going (successfully) for a cool-place-to-hang vibe; the atmosphere was marred only by a giant television playing an NBA Championship game. (Had it been the Women's World Cup I'd be willing to overlook it.) And the prices were about what you'd expect in town, and very reasonable for what you get.
Click to add a blog post for Le Garage Café on Zomato 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

An Unexpected Bonus

So we've been a few days in Colorado, visiting our peoples along the Front Range, and our daily plan goes like this: What are we going to do today? And then like this:    .

So, feeling a little restive, I decided I would strike out toward the east and visit a few of the less interesting counties in the country; specifically, two of the five counties in Colorado that I haven't already been to. And then, since I'll be out that way and already bored, I'll go up into Nebraska and travel through three of the remaining counties in the western part of that state, before stopping off in Cheyenne to visit the grave of someone who was, in life, very important to me.

My wife decided to come along. So we drive over to Yuma county and up to Sedgwick county, and into Nebraska, to Garden county. Then we turn left along the North Platte River, planning to head west to the next two counties, then to Cheyenne.

So there's a "police emergency" on the road, and we have to detour along a couple of mud roads (they've had way more rain than usual out this way lately), then up a paved road, across the railroad tracks, back to the road we were on.

What we hadn't realized was, the paved road we took at the end of that detour was the road we'd planned to turn onto going the other way. Of course, there was no sign at the mud road's end, so we didn't realize that until we came to a sign that said "Chimney Rock, 12 miles."

At that point we checked the map and learned that we were off course. But (1) travelling in this casual fashion means every intersection is an opportunity to change plans; and (B) the general rule of thumb, only recently articulated but long in effect, is that if you are close enough to see a sign like that, you're close enough to go see it. So we went to see Chimney Rock.

I've known for decades that Chimney Rock is a locally important landmark, and that it had something to do with the Pioneers. That's about it. Now I've seen it, and understand why it's an important place in our National story. Out there on the treeless plains of this continent, there are very, very few reference points; and very few Conestoga wagons were equipped with GPS. And this was all before cellphones, you know. So having a distinctive and easily visible landmark would have been very important to those folks trudging the plains alongside their oxen. And this is, certainly, distinctive.

There's nothing else out there that it might be confused with.

So that brought a little interest to this county-counting drive that I'd expected to be barely a distraction.

Then, in order to get back on course for that last county in western Nebraska, we had to go up the road a piece --- not very far --- to Gering. And there, on the far side of Gering, was Scotts Bluff. Not the town of Scott's Bluff, which I'd been to 30 years before (by accident), but the National Monument. Well. Who, in their right mind (a classification which, I like to kid myself, includes me), would pass within three miles of even the most meaningless National Monument and not at least get a stamp for the ol' National Parks Passport?

Scott's Bluff, it turns out, is big and beautiful and interesting, and all of you should go. It's actually two bluffs, separated by Mitchell Pass. There's a nice road that takes you up to the summit on the northeastern side, where you can walk the easy paved trails and soak up an appreciation of what travelling was like for those people who settled this country. Well worth the $5 car permit fee.

Mitchell Pass, between Sentinel Rock and Eagle (?) Rock