As spring slowly moves across Saskatchewan and the snow drifts turn to monstrous puddles, spring marks a whole year that we’ve been here in Saskatoon. A year! We’ve settled in, explored, built routines and found our feet. We’ve made new friends, and missed old ones. And I’ve fallen in love with this town; its people, its bridges, and its huge, living sky.
Three months into our journey, I wrote a post about all the little things I was missing from home. Now, all these months on, I want to do the opposite – to celebrate the things I love about Canada, about Saskatoon, and about the piece of life we’ve carved out here.
Small town, big skies, huge heart
1. The ease of small town living
Coming from a city like Melbourne, with all of its big city complications, I love the small city feel of Saskatoon. I love that I can live a half-hour walk from downtown and the University, an a few minutes from the beautifully hipster Broadway district, and it doesn’t cost me half of my salary in rent. I love that “traffic congestion” means that it might take you 8 minutes to drive to work instead of 5, and that a busy Saturday on Circle drive is a treat compared to hours crawling along the M1. And I love that when planning back-to-back engagements, I don’t really need to think about transit time, because I can get anywhere in town in about 15 minutes.
I love that buses run (more or less) on time, and that taxis are affordable – Saskatoon doesn’t have Uber (although there is some gossip that one may be up and running this year) but I can get a cab home from downtown for under $10 . I love that the city is so flat that I can ride my bike pretty much anywhere without any tough hills, or cruise along the pretty riverside paths – and of course, I can put my bike on the bus!
2. Great food…
I love the Saskatoon food scene; from American-style diners serving burgers and wings in every flavour, to drive-through perogies, food trucks, gourmet hand-crafted dining, and what I can affectionately describe as niche-hipster-wank. It’s no secret that I love good food, so I’ve written a whole other post about my favourite dining spots around Saskatoon – go have a peek!
For dining-in, the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market is great for fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies. Although it’s open year-round, to me it’s best in the summer and autumn, when it’s bustling with people and produce throughout the outdoor square. Keep an eye out for fresh Saskatoon berries, the town’s namesake – they grow up and down the riverside, and although they make their way into specialty jams and pies, in my (humble) opinion, they are best fresh and just as they are.
(… and hand crafted brews)
Prefer your nutrients in an amber hue? Saskatchewan surprised me with its plethora of local craft breweries – and they’re good! Black Bridge is my current favourite – I’m crazy about their milk stout, their double IPA and their new smoked Porter. But other locals like Prairie Sun, Nine Mile Legacy and Churchill Brewing Co are equally impressive. Saskatoon agrees with me, by the way – local brewers are celebrated at the annual YXE Beer Fest, and local bars like The Capitol switch up their kegs on a regular basis to keep Sask craft beers on tap.
If you fancy something stronger, book a free tour of the Lucky Bastard Distillery for an inside peek at a distiller’s life, and tastes of their delicious vodkas and gins. Oh, and a chance to meet Ginger, in her shiny brass and coppery glamour! Stay for a delicious cocktail in the lounge afterwards.
3. Live entertainment (and a festival for everyone)
I didn’t expect Saskatoon to have such a great music scene! Live music is a huge part of the culture here, from shows at small venues around town (check out the Capitol, Buds on Broadway and the Underground Cafe), to big name bands that drop in as they do their cross-Canada tours (Aussie band Boy and Bear were here last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing Jimmy Eat World at the end of the month!). Top this off with the annual Jazz Festival, with loads of awesome local and national acts, and plenty of free gigs out in the Sask summer sunshine.
Special mention here to my favourite local band, the Three Canadians, who are great musos and top blokes – and they have a terrific fan club, even if they’re mostly relatives ;-).
There’s great theatre here, too – my faves are the Persephone theatre, which is a lovely venue that puts on terrific plays year-round, and the Broadway theatre, which hosts film and live performances across a heap of genres. And of course, being the festival fanatics that we are, Saskatoon runs a fringe festival at the end of summer, with a tonne of free shows, buskers and stalls, and for paid shows, a maximum ticket price of $15 – because theatre should be for everyone (are you listening, MTC?!)
4. The weather and the big skies
Ehrm… Yes. Really, yes. Sorry. But come on, the summer is glorious – long, bright days, warm, late evenings and so so much sunshine (I have been weirdly obsessive about watching the day length expand and contract…) – and the winter is, frankly, spectacular. The frost sparkling in the bare limbs of the trees, the blank canvas of virgin snow, the icicles that gather on your eyelashes – winter here is an amazing experience.
I always loved Melbourne’s weather because I loved her distinct seasons – it provides a sense of order and organisation that suits my ISTJ personality. Saskatchewan has that same seasonality, but ten-fold greater. And I love it.
As to the rest of the natural environment, Saskatoon (and the surrounding region) really is amazing. The South Saskatchewan River wends its quiet way prettily through the city, stunning when it’s frozen and covered in snow, dazzling when it catches the light. The sky stretches out forever; Venus and Mars are brighter in the sky here than I’ve seen in a long time, and this winter we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights! Local walking tracks like Beaver Creek and Cranberry flats are full of birds and crisscrossed with animal tracks, and at Blackstrap lake in December we saw a herd of deer. I know it’s not mountains or beaches or rain forest, but it has a unique beauty and depth.
No, not the berries – this time I mean the wonderful prairie folk who make Saskatoon such a wonderful place to live and be. From the beautifully close and familial group I have the privilege to work with, to the assortment of friends I’ve gathered around the community (special shoutout to the Dropbears running and brunch club!), to people like Sherrie, who waitresses at Broadway cafe with such a genuine warmth that she cheers me up even on my homesick-est of days – Saskatoon is full of kindness, a generousness of spirit, and quaint honesty. The weather may be inhospitable (an understatement, perhaps?) – but the people certainly are not.
So to all of you who have made living here a joy, thank you for a wonderful year, and here’s to many more!