Next time you're racing down Pembina Highway past the University of Manitoba, slam on those brakes as you enter St. Norbert.
If you don't, here's what you will be missing.
THE ST. NORBERT FARMERS MARKET: The market and museum are open Wednesdays and Saturdays --and get your toonies out. People are lined up to park close to the heavily laden stalls so they don't have to haul their treasures too far. By 8 a.m. Saturday morning, the keeners are competing for the very best spring veggies, meats, baking, flowers, crafts, jewelry, food, clothing, art, furniture and bedding plants. The smart shopper is deft at the subtle hip-knock and elbow-jab. "Whoops!"
"I've been coming here for about 13 years and almost every week," says Cheryl Sulliman. "I like that it's open-air and a connection between urban and rural communities. You buy direct from the farmer and there's no time lapse. You never know how much time lapsed before the food gets to a store. Today I bought fresh farm eggs."
Sulliman says she likes the produce, the meat and the handmade things, and it's also a great spot for unusual gifts. "I bought a cigar-box guitar here."
Louise May of Aurora Farm, which is about three kilometres from St. Norbert, is collecting curious onlookers as she sells her organic soaps and beauty products. She has a tiny newborn goat nestled in her arms. "This is tiny George," she says, cradling the two-week-old survivor, the runt of triplets. "He was rejected by his own mother! Now he's a house goat and sleeps by my bed in a dog kennel."
May hand-fed him and now he's become imprinted on her. "He thinks I'm his mother and follows me all around." Aurora Farm is open to the public every Sunday, with baby alpacas, goats and exotic fowl.
So how does the public know everybody's on the up-and-up at the totally fresh and handmade market? "We're a 'make it, bake it, grow it' market," says Marilyn Firth, community relations manager. "So we have inspectors," she says.
Has anyone ever gotten the boot? "Yes," she says quietly. "We have told people if they can't comply with our standards they can't be part of the market."
Firth said 25 Manitoba towns are represented at the market. Some vendors drive two hours to get to the market with their wares on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
THE ST. NORBERT HOTEL and THE NOB: Next door is a going concern -- the newest incarnation of the St. Norbert Hotel, where nine theme suites are being prepared for opening in July. Themes include the Marilyn Monroe suite, the Beach Room, the Hunter's Retreat, the Jets, the Ritz, the Blues Room and the Crown Royal. The Kaisaris family -- David, Jennifer and Andrea -- have owned the hotel for five years and started on major renos as they took over. Weekly events include Saturday Night Naughty Bingo at the Nob, which is bingo with sex-toy prizes. June 21 is Glow in the Dark Night, with a DJ and black lights on the outdoor patio. Be sure to wear some white.
PYRAMID LAND: In the strip mall beside the big hotel I found a strange new restaurant, Pyramid Land. This restaurant serves two crowds -- the Canadian pizza and burger-loving folks, and those who would like to venture into popular Middle Eastern foods such as kebabs, falafels, shawarmas and mannakeesh. Co-owner Ashraf Soliman, originally a physician from Egypt, shyly says the three pyramids on the cash counter represent himself and his two co-owner friends, Maged Bilatus, a former Egyptian veterinarian, and Nezar Abdulahad, a former Syrian engineer.
Soliman confesses he is already studying to become a physician again in Canada. "I passed my first exam," he smiles.
Should you have a yen for pizza, you can get all the usual Canadian favourites at Pyramid Land -- but you might try a Middle Eastern version called Mannakeesh. The chef drizzles a savoury topping --spinach, onions, garlic and olive oil --all over pizza dough, or a cheesy treat with feta, mozzarella, cheddar and olives.
And to wake you right up for a night of fun? Try a sweet, thick Turkish coffee. I'm still perking!
BAMBU TO YOU: Across the street, you will find Yaoli (pronounced Jolie) Wang. She graduated as a law student in China and then took a two-month hairdressing course "just because I loved it." Hairstyling was easier to get into than legal work when she first arrived in Canada, so she took a course at the Capelli Academy (now the Aveda Institute) in the Exchange. She went on to become a certified esthetician and reflexologist. At her spacious shop, Bambu, she has two co-workers doing massage and esthetician work. "And you should see my nail art!" she says.
In her shop the other day, Wang was doing a faux-hawk (stands up a few inches at the front, not shaved to the skin on the sides) for Caleb Kuarsingh, a 10-year-old Grade 5 student at La Barriere Crossing School, who wanted a style to match his dad, Dave, and 13-year-old brother, Joshua. They're running in the Manitoba Marathon's 4.18-kilometre Super Run this morning.
"Would you like some tattoos in it?' asks Wang, with a mischievous grin. She is adept at lines and swirl designs in shaved-down hair. "Um, no thanks!" said Dad. "This is good!"
Wang said she moved to St. Norbert because she knew there were no other hairstylist shops or spas that she could see along that stretch of Pembina Highway.
Wang says she does a lot of Caucasian hair and is also experienced with styling Chinese hair. Many U of M students from China come for cuts. "Chinese hair is very thick and coarse and you have to thin it out before you can style it or else it sticks out here and there," she says, pulling her hair up in the air.
Maureen Scurfield can't believe so much fun can be had on such a seemingly quiet little strip! You just have to know where to stomp on the brakes and look.