As a lifelong Wolseley resident, I can list off any number of things I love about my neighbourhood. But my favourite part is Westminster Avenue, with its charming shops, majestic trees, and enchanting history.
I often walk home from work or school downtown, and although it's indirect, I'll usually cut through Vimy Ridge Park. Portage Avenue is generally loud and busy, and the difference is palpable as soon as you turn into the park. It's as if someone's turned down the volume -- the noise of the traffic begins to fade, replaced by the whoosh of wind through the bare elm branches, a striking sight against the darkening Winnipeg sky.
In daytime, I'll treat myself to the full Wolseley experience. Starting my walk at the eastern end of Westminster, I'll admire the historic Westminster United Church, built between 1910 and 1912 in an English Gothic style. If I'm lucky, I'll hear the chiming of the organ, which will follow me all the way home when the wind is right.
I'll step into Tall Grass Prairie, welcomed by the friendly staff and the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread, cookies, and cakes. After buying a cinnamon bun (or two, or six), I'll continue down Westminster to Prairie Sky Books. The sweet incense that fills the quaint, book-lined shop captivates my sense of smell once again. After perusing the aisles of books, jewellery, and trinkets (and greeting the ever-present shop cat), I continue on my way.
As I stroll down Westminster, I'll check out the colourful posters that crowd the hydro poles, and always learn something new about what's going on in our city.
The full Westminster experience includes stops at the Neighbourhood Bookstore & Café for a coffee or tea, a visit to the Shoe Doctor for some mandatory Wolseley footwear (Blundstones for winter, Birkenstocks for summer), browsing the rows of bright skeins at Wolseley Wool, and indulging in some handmade soaps and bubble bath from Heartsease Inc. Finding some second-hand gems at the Wolseley Wardrobe is another Westminster treat.
I love Westminster not only for the great shops and friendly faces, but also the history that's steeped in the neighbourhood. Take a detour down Chestnut and pass by the one-time home of Nellie McClung, the famous women's rights activist. Glance at the side of Grasslands Woodcraft and see the old painted-on sign of a former tenant -- the Imperial Bank of Canada. Admire the centenarian fire hall on Lipton Street, and try to picture firefighters feeding the horses in the driveway, as they did well into the '30s.
Westminster Avenue represents what I love most about my neighbourhood -- everything I could ever need, all within walking distance. Though you may need to pull a small trailer to bring all your purchases home.
Laina Hughes is a student and writer, whose book Wolseley Stories launches on Thursday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. at McNally Robinson.
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