Life Travel

Saskatchewan

Prince Albert a real slice of Canadiana 0

BARBARA TAYLOR, QMI Agency

The bright yellow fields of canola stretching across central Saskatchewan set the mood for a fun few days exploring the Prince Albert area.

Indeed, cheerful slices of Canadiana are served up by friendly folks at every stop from the Emma Lake camp store selling bear warning bells to Christopher Lake's historically interesting antique shop to former prime minster "Dief, the Chief's" Prince Albert house, itself home to John A. Macdonald's bed.

Seems, John Diefenbaker, Canada's 13th prime minister, was a huge fan of our country's first leader, acquiring several items. All the better for visitors to Diefenbaker House where the Macdonald bed, settee and other artefacts of the first PM are elegantly displayed in addition to numerous personal belongings of Diefenbaker, who owned the 1912 dwelling from 1947 to 1975 when he donated it to the City of Prince Albert.

The house was converted into a museum, open to the public since1983, offering a charming personal perspective on one of Canada's best known politicians. The museum is furnished as it was when Diefenbaker lived there with his second wife Olive (Palmer).

Although he was born in 1895 in southwestern Ontario's Neustadt, Diefenbaker grew up in Saskatchewan, arriving two years before it became a province (1905). Later, as a lawyer, bent on politics, he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1940 and eventually led the Progressive Conservative Party to three national victories. He served as prime minster 1957-1963 and as an MP until his death in 1979.

A man of conviction -- and a fiery speaker -- Diefenbaker was a big supporter of human rights. Among his achievements:

-- Appointed the first woman to cabinet.

-- Recommended appointments of the first North American Indian to the senate and the first French-Canadian as governor-general.

-- Enacted the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Diefenbaker House is open daily May to August. Free Admission.

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Another Diefenbaker-influenced structure is open for viewing in Ottawa. At the helm during the Cold War, Canada's 13th prime minister commissioned the aptly named "Diefenbunker," now Canada's Cold War Museum, built in secrecy to house some 535 top military and government officials in the event of an attack. The huge "nuclear" bunker is four storeys underground.

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A 30 minute-drive north of Prince Albert gets us to Emma and Christopher lakes, or vacation-central as its known to locals. Family oriented camping and cottage areas boast fishing, boating, sandy beaches and swimming.

Fern's Grocery & Events Centre at Emma Lake's Murray Point is a popular spot supplying everything from tacos to pina colada shakes at its eatery, and floating key chains, hundreds of colourful fishing lures and the all-important bear-warning bell, recommended by employee Meagan Palidwar, at the store next door.

Niece Caitlin Taylor (who reports on social media on events in the province as its "Saskatchewanderer") and I spend a cozy night "glamping'' at Murray Point tucked into a compact vintage-style trailer delivered to our site by Retro RV's Darci Schapansky. Rising in the morning unaware of a stormy night, it's easy to see why the cooking-sleeping-shower equipped RV has become a popular alternative to roughing it.

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In the village of Christopher Lake we're intrigued by Northside Antiques & Collectibles' massive stock of creatively displayed memorabilia. The 83-year-old building, once a dance hall and lumber store, seems a fitting home for Canadiana treasures from the area and beyond. Owner June Derby says she started the business as a way to help "hoarding" seniors de-clutter. It's quickly apparent Derby has a good eye for the eclectic. Well-preserved finds from Europe and the United States are also in the collection.

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More recent art treasures are on display next door at the Black Spruce Gallery including the whimsical works of popular Saskatchewan artist Denyse Klette. Based in Saskatoon, Klette is celebrated internationally for her light-hearted creations. Black Spruce, a seasonal gallery features a wide selection of original work focusing on Saskatchewan-based artists.

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Hungry for more art and just hungry, we are delighted to grab an exquisite lunch at Amy's On Second restaurant and art gallery in Prince Albert. The fine-dining eatery comes highly recommended, successful for some 19 years offering global food choices and featuring a new art show every couple months.

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