The Heart of Regina

When our son accepted a transfer to Regina to help open a new store we were flummoxed. Sure it was a good career move, but why would anyone want to live in Regina? Nevertheless, I joined him to share the driving a few months ago as we embarked on the two day and a half journey from Vancouver.

His company put him up in a hotel until he could find permanent digs. We quickly discovered one of the benefits of Regina. Within a week he had sold his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver and bought a two bedroom townhouse with finished basement and detached garage in Regina.  The price differential was enough for him to knock $15,000 off his mortgage, pay off his car, buy new furniture and still have money left over.

Housing is much cheaper in Regina than Vancouver, one of its advantages. My son bought this two bedroom townhouse (third unit from the left) for about 80% of what he got for his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver.

Regina is a small town compared to Greater Vancouver with a population of 236,481 for the metropolitan area. Our son’s house is in a development in the farthest western area of the city, just a 25 minute drive to his work in the farthest eastern part of the city.

While the downtown is usually considered the heart of most cities, that is not the case in Regina.

My wife and I drove out to visit in June. We spent one afternoon while our son was working checking out the real heart of Regina – the magnificent Wascana Centre  and the neighbouring legislature building. Regina is the capital of the province and the legislature is its most impressive building, the vision of the first premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (not the author!)

The Saskatchewan Legislature Buildings seen from across Wascana Lake

The city had already served as the capital of the Northwest Territories before Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. The lieutenant-governor of the territory rejected other more favorable locations for a piece of scrub land actually known as Pile-of-Bones (Wascana in Cree) “distinguished only by collections of bison bones near a small spring run-off creek”.  The LG, a fellow named Dewdney, had bought property there adjacent to where the planned CP Railway line was to go. The obvious graft caused a scandal, but there was no legislature. Dewdney was a virtual dictator and could do what he liked.

But despite its barrenness – nothing but flat prairie as far a the eye can see, visionary planners dammed Wascana Creek with a weir (it’s adjacent to the current Albert Street Bridge) resulting in the formation of Wascana Lake.

The weir that forms Wascana Lake is just beside the Albert Street Bridge

The first premier of the new province, Walter Scott, had a vision of a legislature building on the shore of Wascana Lake, then a wilderness a few kilometers from the downtown area.  A design competition was launched and the winning design by Montreal architects, the Maxwell Brothers, was chosen.

Statue of Premier Walter Scott envisioning a legislature building on the shores of Wascana Lake

Construction began in 1908 and was completed in 1912 at a cost of $1.75 million. That’s about $800 million today. It remains the largest of the provincial legislatures in Canada.

Old sepia photo of the construction of the central dome of the legislature

My wife and I took a walk around the shore of the lake across the bridge to the other side and back before touring the legislature itself. Tours are free. Immediately upon entering the building one is impressed by the richness of the entrance.

The entrance to the legislature

Our guide took us up the steps to the rotunda which features marble from around the world. The rotunda also features two murals high above. And it features the busts of three Saskatchewan political icons – each from a different political party.

Only Prime Minister from Saskatchewan, John Diefenbaker (Conservative)

Longtime Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas (New Democrat)

First premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (Liberal)

From there we were given a look into the legislative chamber. Scott and his fellow politicians had a much bolder vision for Saskatchewan than eventually transpired and the legislature was built to accommodate 125 members. In fact, the population has not grown as expected and the number of representatives currently stands at 58.

This photo of the legislature is a composite of four other photos merged in Photo Shop

From the floor of the legislature we went down a flight of stairs to the legislature’s library. There was someone using it at the time so I couldn’t take a picture, but I did get a photo of an historic Canadian artifact housed there – the conference table used at the Quebec Conference in 1864 when the Fathers of Confederation were negotiating Canada’s independence.

Painting of the Quebec Conference

Whether this is the actual Confederation Table is speculative.  What is known is that it was used by the Privy Council in Ottawa in 1865 after being moved with other furnishings from Quebec. And it was the right size to have been the original table.

Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney brought the table to Regina sometime between 1883 and 1892. The sixteen foot table wouldn’t fit in the room assigned for it and six feet were lopped off in the middle. That part of the table was discarded. Eventually the shortened table was brought to the legislature library where it now resides.

The truncated Confederation Table

Continuing our tour we visited two galleries. Saskatchewan has had a long history of cordial relations with indigenous peoples and in 1909, the government commissioned noted portrait painter Edmund Morris to do portraits of fifteen native chiefs. Those pictures hang in the Assiniboine Gallery.

The Assiniboine Gallery

Morris was the son of Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba who was responsible for negotiating many treaties with indigenous peoples. He had previously been commissioned by the Government of Ontario to do portraits of the Ojibway in the north of that province. He also did similar work for the Government of Alberta. His paintings are considered historically significant records of native history in Canada.

Chief Pie-a-Pot was an Algonkin-Cree leader

The other gallery featured portraits of the premiers of Saskatchewan.

Portraits of the Premiers of Saskatchewan

We ended our tour at another gallery, the Cumberland Gallery. Displays vary but when we were there it featured some works from the Saskatchewan Arts Board which has been promoting art in Saskatchewan since 1948. They have over 3000 works in their permanent collection.

The Cumberland Gallery

There were some striking works on display. One of the more intriguing was by Zhong-Yang Huang called Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well. It was striking because it seemed almost out of place among the more traditional works on display.

Inside the Cumberland Gallery

There is a story behind the painting, of course. Huang was born in China and showed an aptitude for art from age four. This talent was stifled by the Cultural Revolution which discouraged individual creativity. The fifteen year old Huang was forced to work as a laborer.

After the Cultural Revolution, Huang continued his studies, earning a Masters Degree in art. In 1984 he traveled to Canada and earned a second Masters at the University of Regina.

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well was part of a solo exhibition in 2011 called The Shadow of Mao. It shows Chairman Mao having a smoke while Liu Shaoqui, Chairman of State and the second most powerful man in China at the time, looks down the Zhen Fei Well.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Dowager Empress had Zhen Fei, one of her husband’s concubines, thrown down the well. The information sheet beside the painting adds “Mao later had Liu removed from office and executed. A seemingly peaceful night scene taking on a more ominous tone  within the historical context.”

A gnarled tree on the banks of Wescana Lake

Let’s return briefly to Wescana Centre. The hub of the city revolves around Wescana Lake. In 1962, the University of Regina needed to expand. It needed a site for that expansion and decided on an area south-east of the lake. In conjunction with the province and the city, the Wescana Centre Authority was formed to create a multi-use oasis in the centre of the city. The result was a 930 hectare (2300 acre) area surrounding the 120 hectare (300 acre) lake. This green space includes the legislature as well as the university, and also includes two art galleries, a performing arts centre, a science centre, a museum and lots of parkland.

Wescana Lake is also a wildlife preserve and has an abundance of wildlife including Canada geese and a critter that is as common as raccoons – the jackrabbit.

By the late 1990s, however, silt had built up enough in the lake that it started to turn into a swamp. A major project dubbed The Big Dig was undertaken in 2003. A large part of the lake was dredged to a depth of five and a half metres, a depth at which weeds cannot root. One area was dredged to seven and a half metres so that northern pike and perch could survive Regina’s cold winter. Boardwalks and other amenities were added.

Today Wescana Centre is the rejuvenated heart of the city. An oasis in a flat  prairie of wheat fields.

You’ll find more pictures on the following photo gallery.

Photo Gallery: Les Jardins de Versailles




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Here are some additional photos of the magnificent gardens at Versailles.

Looking past the west wing of the Château towards the Grand Canal in the distance.
The North Parterre seen from the Apollo Salon in the Château
The Pyramid Fountain sits about a third of the way down the path towards the Neptune Garden.
Flower bed near the Latone Fountain. The gardens here have been completely redesigned since our visit.
One of the many fine marble statues in the gardens.
The Apollo Fountain during one of its periodic shows.
The Grand Canal is a popular spot for leisurely rowboat rides.
The King’s Garden, one of the groves flanking the Allée Royale.
A flower bed in the King’s Garden.
The Mirror Ornamental Lake with its fountains.
The Château with one of the man-made ponds in the Water Parterre in the foreground.
The South Parterre
The Orangerie Parterre
The Neptune Fountain
The Dragon Fountain

That concludes our visit to the Gardens of Versailles!




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Perth’s Kings Park




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Kings Park is a fabulous urban park sitting on the western edge of the Central Business District of Perth, Australia on Mount Eliza. It’s just a short walk from downtown but there is also lots of parking.

It’s a large park comprising 4.06 square kilometres or 1003 acres. Like Vancouver’s Stanley Park which is about the same size, it is a multiple use park with much of it wilderness. The lower area features a large children’s park which includes many replicas of Australian dinosaurs. We entered the park near here which borders on the university district.

The Synergy Parkland is a children's park in the lower area of Kings Park.
The Synergy Parkland is a children’s park in the lower area of Kings Park.

This area has a lake and a children’s playground as well as the dinosaurs. It is a popular destination for school outings as well as for families. Large signs describe these giant beasts.

This big fellow is a
This big fellow is a muttaburrasaurus,a plant eating dinosaur indigenous to Australia. It measured 26 feet long and weighed around three tons.

A network of roadways connects the various parts of the park and along the roads are eucalyptus trees planted to commemorate Australia’s fallen warriors. A plaque marks each tree with the name and details of one of these soldiers. Over 1600 of these plaques honor the war dead.

Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.

The upper part of the park stands on cliffs overlooking the Swan River and command a panoramic view of the city. There are restaurants and a convention center as well as spacious lawns and a war memorial.

The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.
The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.

The upper part of the park also is the entrance to the Western Australian Botanic Garden. This is an 18 hectare area within the park which features over 2000 species of Western Australian plant life as well as species from the rest of Australia.

A path through the botanic garden.
A path through the botanic garden.

Signs throughout the garden explain the flora on display as well as some of the history of Western Australia. Along the trail you pass under a high footbridge. On the return route you can take this bridge to get another excellent view of the Swan Valley.

The footbridge.
The footbridge.

Australian brushland is subject to periodic brush fires. There was a severe brush fire that affected a huge swath between Perth and Margaret River in January of 2016. It wiped out one small ton completely. And we encountered another brush fire when we visited Lancelin.  Kings Park has also had brush fires over the years and many of the trees and shrubs in the botanic garden showed the effects of fire and the resilience of the plant life.

Burnt tree in the botanic garden.
Burnt tree in the botanic garden. These dead specimens are kept as part of the exhibit as new vegetation grows around them.

When we reached the end of the trail, we took an unpaved path back. It was narrow and a more adventurous as well as pristine route.

The dirt path we took back.
The dirt path we took back.

This led us back eventually to the footbridge, formally known as the Lotterywest Federation Walkway.

The Lotterywest Federation Walkway - a footbridge that takes you high above the bottanical garden.
The Lotterywest Federation Walkway – a footbridge that takes you high above the botanical garden.

From the footbridge you get a superb view of the Swan Valley in all directions as well as a great view of the old historic Swan Brewery building below the cliffs. Originally built in 1838 as a sawmill, it was acquired by the brewery in 1877. It was redeveloped in the 1990s and reopened in 2001 as a multi-use facility that preserved the historic character of the building while housing restaurants and office space as well as 28 luxury apartments.

The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.
The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.

Among the plants on display is a magnificent old boab tree. This tree is noted for its very wide trunk.

A magnificent specimen of a boab tree.
A magnificent specimen of a boab tree note for its wide trunk.

Kings Park is a jewel in Perth’s landscape, one of the great urban parks in the world. Below are links to two additional photo galleries and other links of interest. If you are on the front page, just scroll on through for the photo galleries.

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Photo Gallery: Kings Park 2




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The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The path leading to the botanic garden.
The path leading to the botanic garden.
Map of the Botanic Grdens
Map of the Botanic Gardens
Magnificent tree
Magnificent trees
Beautiful flower
Beautiful flower
Some burnt trees
Some burnt trees
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Along the dusty trail
At the footbridge
At the footbridge
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
The Boab Tree
The boab tree showing some of the damage that happened when it was transplanted here.  Arborists have the plant on the mend. 
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Truly one of the world’s great parks.

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Photo Gallery: Downtown Perth 2




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Here is the second part of my downtown Perth photo gallery. This one covers the Stirling Gardens to the waterfront.

Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
My friend the kangaroo and I. He's a big fella. Slightly larger than life size.
My friend the kangaroo and I. He’s a big fella. Somewhat larger than life size though a large male kangaroo in a fighting stance can stand six feet or more.
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A path through Stirling Gardens
A path through Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens. Looks like a palm but it’s not.
Palm tree growing into another tree
Palm tree growing into another tree
A very large palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
A very tall palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street.
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay.
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay. West Perth is in the distance across the Swan River.
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay. Construction continues on hotel, residential and commercial complexes.
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue on Elizabeth Quay
The BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline
The distinctive BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline. Nearby is the Rio Tinto Building. Mining is big in Western Australia.
The Perth skyline from Elizabeth Quay
The Perth skyline from the Barrack Street Jetty




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