Travel Blog – Northwest Territories Part 4 – Fort Providence back to Yellowknife

This is part 4 of my travel blog from my trip to the Northwest Territories. Part 3 is here, and this is the final entry (though I will post one about my subsequent trip to Nunavut shortly).  These were written en route and are being posted on a few week delay.

Friday I hopped in the car, grabbed some gas and some food in Fort Providence, and headed back to Yellowknife (which, incidentally, is a remarkably boring drive).  I got to Yellowknife in the early afternoon, checked into the hotel, and went for a walk downtown to pick up a couple of things. I also stopped in the two indoor shopping centres, which both had some basic essentials but were otherwise kind of sad… they reminded me of Jackson Square in Hamilton, Ontario, from about ten years ago – a number of empty stores, and interiors that haven’t been updated in decades.  But I had a really delicious coffee in the lower level of the YK Centre, which totally brightened my day.

After wandering back to the hotel, I took a walk through Old Town and Latham Island which both have a bunch of older buildings with notable histories.  Old Town is also home to Pilots Monument, at the top of a big hill aptly named “The Rock.”  This has an amazing view of both the city and the lake – and is easily accessible with a set of wooden stairs.  After taking way too many photos I went hunting for Wildcat Café, which is cited in every guide as the place that you must go to eat, just for the experience… the wooden building is eighty years old.  Unfortunately, it was closed – it closed two years ago for restoration (it was, apparently, in very poor condition) and is slated for re-opening sometime this summer.

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I had one other restaurant destination, though, so I ended up at Bullock Bistro.  This is another place not to be missed… The service is very personal but also very nonchalant – it’s part of the charm.  There are bumper stickers all over the walls and signatures and business cards on the ceiling.  I noted quite a few Australian stickers, as well as queer-friendly slogans, so felt pretty comfortable.  I was told to grab a seat at the bar and the menu was told to me rather than provided on paper – they have a menu that depends on whatever meat is available at the time, and today it was three different types of fish… I chose the Arctic char which was an excellent choice.  One of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had – it came with a side of fries and salad.  Of course, since there was no menu, I had no idea how much the bill would be (though I feared the worst)… it ended up being about $50 including a drink – but totally worth it!

By Saturday, I realised I had remarkably little to do, so I divided things up between the remaining two days.  Saturday morning I went to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (basically the NWT Museum), which I once again discovered I had completely to myself.  There were a bunch of interesting exhibits about the territory’s history, as well as some of its animal inhabitants, and a history of transportation in the territory.

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After some souvenir shopping and exploring the small handful of shopping malls in the downtown, I set out for a walk along the hiking trail around Frame Lake, which lies between the legislature building and the airport (it’s a small city, and the airport is theoretically walkable from downtown).  It took a couple of hours to get all the way around, and despite the unexpected heat, and the expected but still annoying clouds of mosquitoes, there were a number of great views along the way.

I stopped into my hotel for a bit to shower and cool off, and then grabbed dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant (though the food was mostly Chinese) near the hotel.  Having not much else to do, and being tired, I rested in the hotel for a bit, but did head back out to Frame Lake to get a view of the sunset.

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Sunday, I had only one thing left to do in Yellowknife: the legislature.  The website was unclear – one page (not linked anywhere on the homepage) suggested Sunday tours took place at 10:30 am in the summer (defined as starting on June 1 – I was there on June 2), another (linked from the homepage) said tours only take place Monday-Friday.  Since nowhere said tours took place on Saturday I had planned to go on Sunday – all sources said that self-guided tours were allowed any time the building was open anyway.  I had asked on Saturday at the information centre and they knew nothing more than what the website said.

So I went at 10:15 anyway, just in case – and arrived to signs on the door explaining that from June-August Sunday tours take place at 1:30 pm.  The only person in the NWT legislature on the weekends (other than, I think, one or two MLAs working in back offices somewhere – there were a few cars parked out front) is a security guard, so I went in and asked and he confirmed the time.  Great!  I grabbed lunch at the only place I could find open on a Sunday (Boston Pizza), and then came back to the legislature for 1:15 or so.

The tour guide had grown up in Yellowknife and was home for the summer from school in Ottawa.  She was so friendly and chatty and had so much information! Not surprisingly, I was the only one there and a got a personal tour of the building!  I learned about the history of the legislature and its location (it was originally based in Ottawa, then for a number of years it would meet in community centres and hotels around the territory, until the legislative building was built in 1993).  The tour also included information about the territorial mace (the original was made in part from a narwhal tusk!), the coat of arms, and other territorial symbols as well as a bunch of the artwork on display in the building.  It ends in the legislative chamber itself, which has a complete polar bear fur right in the middle of it along with numerous pieces of culturally and historically significant furniture.  I learned a little bit about the consensus government model (there are no parties in the NWT, and the premier and speaker are elected by the MLAs in a secret ballot), and some of the logistics of the legislature of a territory with 11 official languages.  The whole tour lasted less than an hour but was so interesting and informative! If you ever visit Yellowknife, it’s worth going!

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For some reason it had gotten really cold out so I headed back to the hotel to throw on an extra layer of clothes.  Having not much else to do, I hung out in the hotel a bit and then went for a walk – after less than an hour I was much too cold so stopped for dinner and called it a night.  I had plenty of re-packing to do for the next part of the trip, in Iqaluit, anyway!

For photos, check out my Northwest Territories set on Flickr.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] « Travel Blog – Northwest Territories Part 4 – Fort Providence back to Yellowknife […]

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