“I wish I lived here!” I blurted out to my new friends on my third day in Saskatoon. We had just spent the morning exploring the Farmers Market in Riversdale and I couldn’t get enough. I had tasted refreshing sea buckthorn berry gelato, wandered the stalls selling local fruits and vegetables, and chatted up the owner of Chatty’s Indian Spices, who suggested the perfect spice blends for me to take home. Outside, dozens of vendors displayed seasonal plants and flowers and I wished I lived nearby so I could fill up the car with Saskatchewan goods. Alas, I was only on a brief, but memorable visit that planted the seed for moving to this charming city one day.
Perhaps it was the endless sunshine in the sunniest province in Canada, the friendly people, the beautiful riverfront setting, or the little red hearts on street signs that made me instantly fall in with Saskatoon. It was my first overnight stay in the country and I was eager to experience its fastest growing city. The “Paris of the Prairies,” as it’s lovingly called, far exceeded my expectations with its top cultural, historical, and culinary offerings. As a New Yorker, I cherish visiting world-class museums, and Saskatoon’s brand new Remai Modern Museum was up there at the top, showcasing the brilliant work of local artists as well as the largest Picasso linocut collection in the world. The glass and wood stacked building, built in Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style, is a delightful addition to a skyline that already features “The Castle on the River” of the historic Delta Bessborough, a grand railway hotel topped with turrets and gargoyles. The city’s skyline, brass-colored bridges and winding river-front Meewasin Valley trail make for a medieval-meets-modern dream come true for a nature and history lover like me.
A short distance from Downtown, I found myself in the serene, sacred grounds of the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site, dedicated to providing a better understanding of the First Nations people that called the Northern Great Plains home for thousands of years. I learned that Wanuskewin is a Cree term for “living together in harmony.” The educational exhibits and galleries at the center gave me a sense of life on the prairies and the connection the people had with the land and its animals. I can still hear the vibrant drum music to which Lawrence Roy Jr. performed the healing hoop dance, creating shapes with hoops of the various animals him and his ancestors revered. Standing on the edge of valley, I was grateful for the commitment to preserving the grounds, and sharing and respecting indigenous cultures, something I rarely witnessed in the States.
On my last evening, sitting on the lawn of the Delta Bessborough watching the Flaming Lips perform a psychedelic show at the annual Saskatoon Jazz Festival, I was thrilled to be with my new Canadian compatriots. One of them introduced me to her friends who had moved to Saskatoon to start their family, with their baby due in the winter. During our brief encounter, it became clear how having universal healthcare eases the pressure families feel during times of change. Seeing their smiling, optimistic faces made me reflect and reinforced my desire to make a move someday. I can picture myself walking my dogs along the river, taking a romantic cruise down the South Saskatchewan River with my husband on the Prairie Lily, dining at fine restaurants with my friends, and stocking up on fresh vegetables at the Farmers Market. A long-weekend in Saskatoon and the meaning of Saskatooning soon became clear: a carefree lifestyle one can only experience in Canada’s adorable prairie city.