Canadian prairie road trip day three: Regina-Winnipeg

On the third and sadly final full day of our Canadian prairie road trip adventure, we wake up slowly in Regina. We race around the city before taking off for our long journey to Winnipeg, first stopping at a bakery and convenience store in the Cathedral Village neighborhood, and then dashing over to the bustling Atlantis Coffee at Hamilton and Victoria, where the espresso is good and the cashier sports stylishly thick plastic frames.

From here we set out along Provincial Highway 44. Our first planned stop is the village of Labret, a small village with the Stations of the Cross erected across its hillside. Somehow, due to my navigational distractedness, we miss the turnoff for Highway 10 in the town of Balgonie and end up on a minor road, mesmerized by the fields of wheat, mustard, rapeseed, and flax. The last of these is a bluish violet.

We keep driving. The clouds became more dramatic and we have to stop to take more photos. Here the dragonflies are thick and eager and the stillness is profound.

Once we’ve sorted out our path we end up in Fort Qu’Appelle and check in at the visitors’ center, which doubles as an art gallery. Some of the accents here are deeply Saskatchewanian, and I have trouble for the first time trying to understand a local. We are given a tour of the galleries, which showcase the work of area artists.

We pass on to the tiny village of Labret. The village is beautiful in an epic manner, completely worth the detour. SK Books & Collectibles, a vintage bookshop, is stocked with 17,000 books, including tons of first editions and rare books. The shop has an especially strong collection of Western Canadian history and culture titles. “How could you ever get tired of this terrain?” I ask the bookstore’s owner. “I never do,” he responds.Labret boasts an enormous stone church and a hillside Stations of the Cross. We walk up and check out the incredible views from up top.

Following Labret we drive through lakeside cottage country. One settlement, Sandy Beach, is so charming that I’m suddenly beset by cottage envy.

From there it’s a long, straight shot to the visitors’ center at the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, where we pick up a photocopied map of Brandon, Manitoba’s second biggest city. Later we circle downtown Brandon before stopping for a late lunch at Lady of the Lake, an enormous boutique/restaurant. My sandwich is delicious. The boutique side of the Lady features a table devoted to Manitoban body care products. We drive on for another 90 minutes to Portage La Prairie.

Our penultimate stop is here, at the very fine Horfrost Restaurant. That this restaurant is located in Portage La Prairie, a town with fewer than 15,000 residents, is a wonder. Horfost is an outstanding restaurant with a strong locavore focus, a place so exciting that it merits inclusion in another post. But here’s a teaser trio: fried pig’s ears, bison spring rolls, maple fries.

From Horfrost we speed through the night to West Gate Manor, a bed and breakfast in a leafy Winnipeg neighborhood, where we spend the final night of our road trip. Portage Avenue’s lights and traffic roll out to greet us. This is not Winnipeg at its most charming, granted, but it serves as a dramatic narrative bookend to our journey, a goodbye to the vast prairie behind us.

Read the entire road trip series here.

Some media support for this road trip was provided by Tourism Saskatchewan. All opinions belong to the author.