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Regina Spanish Flu Memorial Fund

While the newspapers screamed of war overseas, the real war was just beginning back home.

After four long years of grueling trench warfare, thousands of Canadian soldiers left Europe in 1918 to return home. As they disembarked from trains across the country, they unknowingly helped spread the Spanish Flu, the deadliest flu to ever occur in human history.

From 1918 to 1920, the Spanish Flu reached every corner of the globe. In the north it wiped out complete Inuit communities, and in the South Pacific whole countries were infected. Worldwide, the Spanish Flu killed between 20 and 100 million people. Canada was fortunate, but we still lost between 30,000 and 50,000 people, a number only slightly lower than that of the war.

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Why Doesn’t Regina Have A “Main Street”?

More often than not, a city or town has a "Main Street" somewhere in it. Moose Jaw has one, Saskatoon has one, Calgary has one and Disneyland has one, but Regina doesn't. Many people probably have never thought about it, or just accept that Albert Street is our version of a main street, but still the question remains.

The answer lies back to the earliest days of Regina's history. Prior to the railway arriving in Regina in 1882, Regina was a splatter of houses north of the then much-less developed Wascana Creek.  The Canadian Pacific Railway laid the groundwork for their railway system, and marked their new station to be near Wascana Creek, which was far from the current capital of the Northwest Territories, Battleford. Since the train wouldn't be travelling that far north, Sir John A. MacDonald instructed the CPR to pick the location for the new capital. They chose the area that is now Regina.

Lieutenant-Governor Edgar Dewdney owned land near the proposed railway station and grew a community around it. Rapidly, the area around his property grew and had several stores, saloons and stables. This increased the wealth of the property and made it much more attractive for the CPR to use for their new station.

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One Year After Visiting Auschwitz

This week marks one year since I visited Auschwitz. Since then, I have told scores of people what I saw and how it impacted me. I found that the more people I shared my story with, the more people I meet who have had similar experiences. While we all saw different things, we all agreed that it was a trip that changed our lives.

The passage of time has a way of turning fact into fiction. Time seems to erode the legitimacy of history, either by inflating it to incomprehensible sizes or by dumbing it down so that it is impossible to relate to. This can be said for any part of our world's history, from minor political squabbles to major world changing events. As the years pass, people rely more and more on these stories to piece together the world that once was. Auschwitz, and the legitimacy of what happened here, is one of these victims.

My flight to Europe last year had been delayed. There was an issue on the plane coming from Warsaw to Toronto and the plane had to turn around. While I was trying to get my flights figured out, I started chatting with an older woman beside me. She was heading home to see her family in Ukraine for Orthodox Easter. As we talked about our upcoming trips, I told her my plans to visit Auschwitz. When I mentioned it, the lady waved her hand at me and told me not to expect too much. Over the years, she said, they had cleaned it up so much that it isn't even worth visiting. She told me that when she went there in the 1960s, the smell of burnt flesh clung to the walls of the buildings. But now, many years later, it has become so desensitised that there was nothing there worth seeing.

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Meet Your 2017 Saskatchewanderer

It's probably a little baised to say, but Saskatchewan is my favourite province. The people, the culture, the atmosphere and the weather help make this province unlike any other place in Canada. But, being as Saskatchewan is so big and so beautiful, it can be a challenge to know what to go see and do.

Enter the 2017 Saskatchewanderer.

Since I started my blog, I've tried to interview the Saskatchewanderer every year. I couldn't last year due to the provincial election putting a temporary freeze on the program, but this year I could. Last March I called up Andrew Hiltz, the 2017 Saskatchewanderer, and learned about him, his thoughts of the program and his experiences so far.

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Regina's Glockenspiel and the Loss of Our Heritage

Progress is often considered a good thing. Progression is good for personal growth, for relationships and for society. Even the smallest bit of progress – another two minutes at the gym or a few hundred words on an essay – is better than no progress at all.

(Editor's Note: WOW! I didn't expect to get so much feedback for this article. I was featured in both the Regina Leader-Post and on CJTR's Queen City Improvement Bureau! Thank you for all the support, everybody!)

(Editor's Note #2: Looks like the city is going to reevaluate the cost and find a more reasonable alternative. What awesome news!)

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What to Expect at a Mexican Wedding

I had a wonderful trip to Mexico, and I saw and learned more than I expected. While most of my trip was full of creepy, strange and downright bizarre locations, the trip's actual purpose was for a much more normal, although still very magical, reason: the wedding of my two friends, Mari and Luis.

I met the bride, Mari, in Japan several years ago. Since I've met many people in my travels I've never seen again, I assumed the Facebook wedding invitation I received must have been by accident. A quick email later and I realised it was in fact deliberate. Since it's not every day one gets invited to a wedding in a different country, especially a tropical country in the dead of winter, I said yes.

I also learned that another friend I had met in Japan, Katarina, would be coming to the wedding too. Katarina is from Australia, so she did a trip through the United States before the wedding. It was great to catch up over the years and swap stories about our travels since Japan.

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Puebla Mexico: A Photo Essay

My past few articles have covered some pretty heavy subjects, ranging from eating dog tacos, to an island full of haunted dolls and to the ruins of one of Mesoamerica's greatest cities. To lighten the mood a little, I decided to put together a photo essay of the beautiful city of Puebla.

Puebla is much smaller than Mexico City so it isn't as noisy, it isn't as rushed and it's much more walkable. While there are still 1.4 million people living here, it doesn't feel that way. To be honest, if I was to choose between Mexico City or Pubela to revisit, I would probably choose Puebla.

Puebla is known worldwide for its colourful buildings, narrow streets and hundreds upon hundreds of churches. I was told by one gentlemen that there are 365 churches in the city – one for each day of the year – but when I told another gentlemen that, he looked at me surprised and asked "Is that all?"

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Teotihuacan: Where Men Become Gods

Forty kilometers northwest of Mexico City is Teotihuacan, one of the most important locations in Mesoamerican history. The existence of Teotihuacan was so influential that its rise and fall even has its own name: The Classical Period.

Teotihuacan began in the 1st Century BCE as a small hamlet. As the population within the nearby Valley of Mexico grew, so did that of Teotihuacan. With a growing workforce, the city could take control of the nearby mines and natural resources. This lead to the city being the birthplace of an economy never before achieved in this region of the world. Soon, its influence expanded far beyond the Valley of Mexico and reached the Mayan regions (current Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, and Guatemala) and the Gulf of Mexico. Within a century and a half, Teotihuacan transformed from a small hamlet to a city of over 125,000 people. These people were called the Teotihuacano.

Prior to Teotihuacan's existence, Mesoamerica was like Central Europe before the Roman Empire. It existed, but it existed independently. The Greeks referred to non-Greek Europeans as "barbarians", and the Romans referred to the Britons as "rude, scattered and warlike people". The same can somewhat be said for the people of Mesoamerica before the rise of Teotihuacan. Once Teotihuacan rose to power, their influence transformed language, religion, culture and economics throughout the subcontinent which can still be seen today.

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Xochimilco and The Island of the Dolls

The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.

Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.

Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.

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Did I Really Eat Dog in Mexico?

They say "When in Rome do as the Romans do", so the same logic should also apply to Mexico, right?

That was what I was thinking when I sat down in a classy Mexican restaurant a few weeks ago. The following morning would be the wedding -- the main reason I went to Mexico -- so this meal was to get acquainted with traditional Mexican drinks and dishes. As I was pouring over the menu trying to decipher it, the man beside me pointed out the "Tacos" section. I knew what a taco was, so it seemed like a safe place to order from. He then ran through the types of tacos on the menu. One was beef, one was shrimp and the other was dog.

I had to stop him. "Dog? Really?" Yes. It was three dog tacos. I decided then that if dog was what was commonly served in Mexico, then it's something I should try. When in Rome, right?

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Birmingham's Vodka and Ale House Food Review

Although Regina celebrated its annual "Restaurant Week" last week, I missed it while I was travelling through the jungles and deserts of Mexico. Luckily for me, the wonderful culinary dishes of Regina's finest restaurants don't stop getting served just because "Restaurant Week" was over, so I didn't miss out on some quality local food. Only a few hours after landing back in Canada, I visited one of these local restaurants and had an excellent meal.

Or should I say, it visited me.

The day after arriving back home, I opened up my fridge only to discover it was empty, as were my cupboards. I could have made something quick like a Pizza Pop, but after a week of tortillas, burritos, guacamole and tequila, I wanted something a little richer and a little less microwaveable. I then asked Twitter what I should order for lunch, and immediately my brother-in-law tweeted me back and recommended Birmingham's Vodka and Ale House.

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Curious Klondike

This is the fifth of five articles about trips to take across Canada. I was inspired to do this series after I was disappointed by what Canadian tours G Adventures offered on their website.

Earlier this year I put out a survey to hear from my readers and learn what they wanted to read more about in 2017. "More Canada!" was one thing my readers said, "More in-depth articles!" was another, and "More great pictures!" was a third. One comment stuck with me, however, and that was to stop writing about places I haven't been to. I confess, I have done that upon occasion, such as when I write about Christmas traditions around the world or spooky places in Canada. I took this piece of advice to heart so I've tried to talk more about places I've been, and only touch on places I've read about.

This article goes against all that.

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Saskatchewan Highlights

This is the fourth of five articles about trips to take across Canada. I was inspired to do this series after I was disappointed by what Canadian tours G Adventures offered on their website.

Since I am Saskatchewan born and raised, it always bothered me when people said there's nothing to do in my home province. If you're looking for culture, history, food, beer, sporting events, community or a touch of quirkiness, Saskatchewan is the best place to visit!  

If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you'll know I could write a whole article about places to visit in Saskatchewan (actually, I have written it). For sake of brevity, I handpicked some of my favourite places, but there are many that I left out. Are there any places you'd add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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There's No Canada Like French Canada

This is the third of five articles about trips to take across Canada. I was inspired to do this series after I was disappointed by what Canadian tours G Adventures offered on their website.

Love poutine, Justin Trudeau and just about everything Québécois? G Adventures had the right idea including Montréal in two of their Canadian tours, but Montréal isn't the only noteworthy place to visit in Québec. Now, this tour doesn't give Québec the justice it deserves either, but hopefully it inspires you to take your time to explore the wonders it has to offer. Québec is a beautiful province with a long history, stretching back over four centuries, so this tour is dedicated to the incredible history and culture of French Canada.

Our fictional tour starts in Montréal. If you've read my Five Historic Canadian Cities article last week, you already know Montréal is one of Canada's most lively cities. Packed with some of Canada's most impressive scientific museums, Montréal is also home to an archeological and historical museum, Pointe-à-Callière. Inside one of the most unique buildings in Old Montréal, this museum ventures deep into the history of the city and explores its foundation, its struggles and its changes. With 375 years of history, to uncover this museum starts off with the discovery of Hochelaga and showcases various sections of the original sewer system. The museum also has several illustrations showing the plagues and fires that once decimated the early city. The museum also has an interactive section about the pirates that once terrorized the St. Lawrence River. This museum is one of my absolute favorites, so if you love museums as much as I, you'll want to check it out.

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Five Historic Canadian Cities

This is the second of five articles about trips to take across Canada. I was inspired to do this series after I was disappointed by what Canadian tours G Adventures offered on their website.

Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.

Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!

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A Canadian Atlantic Adventure

This is the first of five articles about trips to take across Canada. I was inspired to do this series after I was disappointed by what Canadian tours G Adventures offered on their website.

Last week I put together a list of five Canadian adventures to take in 2017. Since I haven't been out to Atlantic Canada for nearly a decade, I thought it would be a great trip down memory lane to write about it first. While this tour covers several destinations in Canada's most eastern provinces, it doesn't even scratch the surface of places worth visiting. Please use this guide as a reference, but remember to book your own side trips as well!

A cultural mix of French and English, Atlantic Canada embraces a more modest approach to Canada that replaces roaring highways with roaring oceans and light pollution with lighthouses. Known for its seafood, friendliness and small town vibe, Atlantic Canada is one of our country's most hidden gems.

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Five Canadian Adventures to Take in 2017

150 years ago, Canada became a country, albeit a much smaller one. Since then, Canada has grown much in size, reputation and as a favorite for travellers from around the world. Lonely Planet recognized these accomplishments last year and ranked Canada as the #1 travel destination in 2017. With the addition of free National Parks all year long, 2017 is the perfect time to visit the Great White North!

I am always interested in Canadian adventures, so I thought I'd check out G Adventure's website to see what tours they have planned this year. Since G Adventures is a Canadian based travel company, I figured they would have something going on this year to celebrate our sesquicentennial. Instead, all I saw were the same eight tours as last year, and the year before. Thinking maybe there was some big announcement coming for 2017, I emailed G Adventures asking about it, hoping, praying, that maybe there was something, something, anything at all… but I received no response.

Now, don't get me wrong. G Adventures has eight great Canadian tours, and they all look really awesome, but they only show off a small sliver of what Canada has to offer. In fact, four of the tours are almost exactly the same:

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Eight Christmas Traditions From Around The World

Christmas is approaching, but not everybody celebrates it the same way. Over the years, people have made a wide variety of different Christmas traditions, involving prayer, food or celebrations. As there are so many traditions out there, I decided to put together a short list of some of the ones I found the most interesting. Let me know in the comments if you have heard of any others.

During the Victorian Era, Great Britain had a fascination with the macabre. During this time, people enjoyed finding unique and terrifying ways to bring the paranormal into everyday lives. Although many of these traditions were common during Halloween, Christmas was no exception and ghost story telling became a popular pastime. One of the most well-known instances of this can be seen in the novel "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. To many, this terrifying story about a rich businessman being haunted by three spirits seems out of place in modern Christmas traditions. However, this spooky story is only one of the many that came out of the Victorian Era.

While this tradition in Great Britain passed on with Queen Victoria, it has caught on stateside with Christmasy-horror films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Gremlins and several Krampus adaptations. These also include slasher flicks such as Black Christmas, Santa Claws and Silent Night, Bloody Night. For some people, Christmas-based horror movies are just as appealing as the ghost stories of Christmas past.

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My 2016 Adventures in Review

Unless something major happens within the next two weeks, it's probably safe to assume my travels for the year are over. At the beginning of the year the only adventure I had planned was a trip to Eastern Europe, but as the year went on I ended up going on several more adventures too.

Because so much has happened this year, I thought it would be a good idea to write it all down. I'm hoping 2017 will take me on even more adventures, as it will be Canada's 150th anniversary, but before we talk about 2017, let's go over what happened in 2016.

Although I arrived in Krakow first, my only full day in Poland was put aside for Auschwitz. It was pouring rain the whole way to the death camp, and the tour was packed full of students, teachers and tourists. While it was great that so many people still visiting the camp, there were almost too many people and it seemed to lessen the experience.

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Behind the Scenes of Big Dog 92.7

Ninety percent of people listen to the radio every day, either at home, on their way to work, at work, or at a restaurant. Radio has become such a common part of our everyday life you may listen to it without even knowing it. Some people even use the radio as white noise to block out other noise. Although radio is all around us, and the technology has been around for over a century, I have absolutely no idea how it works. To unravel this mystery, I asked Lindsay May of Big Dog 92.7 if I could drop by their station to learn about it.

The first thing I learned at the station was how companies advertise on the radio. One form of radio advertising is called a "hot call". Hot calls are when clients come into the station with things they want to talk about - and the station arranges an announcer to chat with them about their product while recording. This form of advertising sounds more natural, like they're having a conversation. Other ads are recorded in studio with clients or announcers, and edited with sound effects or music overtop. Another form of advertising I learned about was pre-recorded advertisements, which is when the radio station gets a recording from the company and plays that instead.

While advertisements aren't everybody's most favorite part of listening to the radio, they are the only way stations can stay up and running. Other countries pay their stations via a "radio tax" to keep the station advertisement free, but this is a trend that never caught on in North America.

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Kids Christmas Shopping in Regina

December has finally arrived, and with it is the season of gift giving. Personally, I always find Christmas shopping – or shopping for any reason – very difficult and very frustrating. Maybe it's because I'm a guy, but there just seems to be so many stores and so many sales that I always get pretty overwhelmed, especially when it comes to shopping for children. In an attempt to ease the pain of holiday shopping, I have reached out to three local businesses around Regina to tell me a little about who they are and what they have going on this holiday season. Have you ever visited these locations? Let me know about it in the comments below!  

Located in the south end of Regina, Kids Trading Company has been a part of the Regina community for the past 15 years. Here you can find a mixture of new and gently used children's clothing, shoes, toys and accessories.

Enjoy shopping in a local store where the friendly staff knows the products and can help you find what you need, like warm winter boots from Kamik or waterproof mittens and fleecy hats. Brands like Desigual, Hatley, Yogini, Billabong and Mexx will give you lots of options for great quality clothes in the latest styles. Need a baby gift? Shop their baby section for the cutest sleepers and practical accessories like Amber teething necklaces and muslin blankets.

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