The Charm of Churchill

As expected, we were awake bright and early – very early in fact as we were still on UK time.  So I was out of bed before 6.00am and had the coffee percolator on whilst taking a long, hot shower.

We had the morning to spend in Winnipeg as we were due to fly up to the remote little town on Churchill, on the edge of the Hudson Bay, just after lunch.

Once we were dressed we went down to the dining room and enjoyed a full Canadian breakfast; this consisted of crispy bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage and pancakes and the ubiquitous maple syrup, washed down with orange juice and coffee.

We went back to our room afterwards; we had the whole morning to kill before our flights up to Churchill.  The Hilton Suites Hotel is handy for the airport, but not much else.  There were a few shops, offices, other hotels and a Subway nearby – nothing much else in walking distance.  Nevertheless we decided to go out and stretch our legs as we’d spent all the previous day sitting around in airports and aeroplanes.

Outside it was fairly crisp and we wrapped up well.  We walked along the street a bit and went into a large discount shop.  It was similar to our Poundstretcher, selling all sorts of cheap clothing and nameless tat.  We browsed about a while and then went back into the hotel in time for the talk by our holiday rep.

We went into the hotel bar and had a drink each, watched a bit of TV and read the Winnipeg Free Press.  Then the rep arrived from the Lazy Bear Lodge, our hotel in Churchill to tell us about the sort of stuff we would be seeing and doing.

We then checked out of our room, got our luggage and boarded the mini-bus for the short ride back to Winnipeg Airport.

As I mentioned previously, it’s not a very big airport; it obviously only serves domestic destinations as there are no duty free shops and not a lot else.  It didn’t take long to check our cases in for our Calm Air flight to Churchill, then we went along to a dull little bar and had a couple of beers.

Eventually our Calm Air flight was called and we walked across the tarmac to a tiny little turbo-prop ‘plane, for the last leg of the journey, a flight lasting two and a half hours.  A very noisy flight, I might add, as our window looked out immediately onto the propellors.  🙂

It was dusk when we touched down in Churchill; the airport was not much more than a single airstrip.  Churchill is very remote and only has 900 inhabitants, and the airport was once a military air base.  The only access into and out of Churchill is by train or plane; there are no roads out of the town.

Once we collected our cases we were directed onto a rickety old bus, in fact it was a former school bus driven by the owner of the Lazy Bear Lodge, Mr Wally Daudrich.  Wally had built the lodge himself, starting off as a restaurant and then extending it over the years to the hotel it is today.  It is a proper traditional log-built dwelling.

When we arrived the lights were twinkling in the frosty early evening and the front of the hotel looked like something off a Christmas card.  As it was nearly Hallowe’en, the lodge was decorated with lanterns and a large inflatable pumpkin.  It looked warm and inviting.  We went inside into a gorgeous warmth from the wood burning stove in reception and checked in.  We were allocated Room 10 along the corridor on the ground floor.  The hotel looked so rustic and simple.

Our room was simply furnished; twin double beds, a hand-made wooden chair, bedside table and chest of drawers with an ancient TV on top.  There was no wardrobe as such, but pegs on the wall to hang a few items of clothes.  The second bed came in handy for putting the open suitcases on. 🙂

The bathroom was also plain, but warm and spotlessly clean.  We knew we were going to have three comfortable nights here.

There was not much to see out of the window (we didn’t expect there to be!) but our room looked onto the railroad tracks where a train was parked in a siding.  The landscape looked very flat, grey and featureless.

We were due to attend the welcome dinner at 7.00pm, so we had enough time to have a quick look around.  There is really only one main street in Churchill; up the road there was the Churchill Fire Department, one or two shops, a couple of cafés and hotels spread out along the road.  The weather was quite cold and a few flurries of snow drifted down.

Back in the delicious warmth of the Lazy Bear, we had a quick wash and brush up and made our way to the restaurant.  Again, this was simply furnished; a large stone-built wood burning stove in the centre, and heavy wooden tables and chairs.  Already an appetising smell of cooking was in the air and we realised we were starving.

The menu was very interesting; there was arctic char (fish similar to salmon), braised caribou and roast musk ox, as well as barbecue spare ribs and chicken pasta.  I settled for the caribou and Trevor chose the roast musk ox – a first for both of us!

The food did take quite a long time to come, but it was absolutely delicious, with generous portions, when it did arrive.  We also found out at the Lazy Bear does not serve alcohol (probably doesn’t have a liquor licence) but we decided we would try to find an off-licence the next day and sneak our own in 😉

After dinner we wrapped up warmly and asked Joel, the guy on reception, where we could find a bar.  He directed us to the Seaport Hotel along the road.  This was a restaurant with a cosy, dimly lit little bar at the back.  There was live entertainment in the shape of a bloke playing the guitar and singing.  The bar seemed full of regulars and everyone appeared to know everyone else.  It was a lively little place and it had a nice, low-key atmosphere.

We just had the one drink in there because the jet lag was starting to kick in again and we were feeling quite tired.

Back at the Lazy Bear we turned in for the night; tomorrow would see the start of our unforgettable adventure in the frozen north.  🙂

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