a diversion to Saskatoon for some fall colours

I made a recent journey to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to present a travel writing workshop at a writer’s conference promoted by the Professional Writers Association of Canada. The fall colours along the 1870 kilometre round-trip journey were my bonus.

fall-colours-on-the-South-Saskathcewan-River

The five-acre gardens at the Delta Bess overlook the South Saskatchewan River

I’d been to Saskatoon before and remember being impressed by this lovely small city, but the trip this year gave me insight into the reason people move to Saskatoon and are soon enamoured with its history and culture, subtle beauty, quality of life, and ease of getting around.

Delta-Bessborough-in-Saskatoon

the Delta Bess is located near many restaurants and brew houses such as Hudson’s Canadian Tap House

Delta Bessborough Hotel

We had the great pleasure of staying at the Delta Bessborough Hotel, a historic property built in the early 1930’s as the last of the iconic Canadian National Railway hotels. If you’ve travelled across Canada, no doubt you’ve stayed at or visited some of the other CN hotels that include the Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise, the Chateau Frontenac, Hotel Fort Garry, and other stand alone properties that are icons in each of their respective locations across Canada.

The Delta “Bess” as it’s known by the locals is truly the number one iconic property in Saskatchewan, both in its origin as the most modern and luxurious hotel of its time, and in today’s world as the only four-star diamond property in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Stefan Deprez, director of sales and marketing, gives historic tours of the hotel to groups and dignitaries and proudly points out the extensive amount of memorabilia and historic photographs on display to preserve the past, but that $6.5 million in recent renovations boast a “transitional styling” that successfully marries the contemporary  with the traditional. You’ll see the original ceramic floors and deep enamel tubs in the guestrooms, but also have free wifi and flatscreen TV’s.

Sunday-Brunch-at-the-Bess

Sunday Brunch at the Bess is immensely popular

What I really loved about our location at the Bess is that it stands right along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River in the downtown of the city, with beautiful walking trails and the Kiwanis Memorial Park to provide comfort and diversions for joggers, dog walkers, lovers, and happy families. I saw a lot of smiling faces and was greeted at every turn by folks just enjoying the great outdoors on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Saskatoon-Saskatchewan

Saskatoon’s bridges add to the scenery and improve the flow of traffic

With seven bridges that cross the South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon is known as the City of Bridges. It also boasts having more hours of sunshine annually than any other major Canadian city. No wonder the people are smiling! Sunshine certainly makes me smile. 🙂

And so does chocolate, as you know! I found a Laura Secord store in the Midtown Plaza, a shopping centre just a short walk from the hotel. And I’m told that Harden & Huyse is an artisanal Belgian chocolatier worth checking out. Saskatoon-based Arriba makes a terrific raw chocolate bar that I had the pleasure of tasting in Winnipeg. And there are others such as Callebaut. That’s a lot of good chocolate variety for a small city.

Indeed, I was surprised to learn that at only 260,000 people, Saskatoon is Saskatchewan’s largest city. It may be small on population, but it’s big on hospitality, natural beauty, quality of life, and cultural offerings. I’m glad knowing I’ll be back in less than nine months for a conference!

Have you been to Saskatoon (or Saskatchewan?) What were your impressions? Please share them with us here.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

41 Responses

  1. Linda Strange says:

    Thanks for the refresher, Doreen. It’s been many, many years since I’ve been in lovely Saskatoon.
    LL

  2. Doreen
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Linda: Yes, it’s in a location whereby you’ve got to make a pretty deliberate effort to get there as we don’t often travel the Yellowhead Route across Canada. But it really is a pleasant city with a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of things to do. Glad I made the trip!

  3. Geek Girl says:

    Have never been there, but it looks and sounds lovely. 🙂
    Geek Girl recently posted…Are You Sci-Fi Fan?My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Cheryl: Not sure what part of the US you live in, but I do encourage you to visit the Canadian Prairies at some point in the near future.

      I live in Manitoba, the neighbouring province to SK, and must tell you, we are known for our friendly people and big smiles. I hope you’ll make the journey sometime soon, but not in Feb, when it’s too cold to smile outdoors!

  4. Gail Kesslar says:

    Hi Doreen – I never knew how wonderful Saskatoon was until I moved to Saskatchewan. With many opportunities to travel there now for my son’s sports, to visit my daughter who is going to the University of Saskatchewan there, and to visit my brother and sister-in-law who call Saskatoon home, I’ve fallen in love with the city as much for its beauty as for its vibrant arts and culture community.

    Looking forward to spending more time with you at the TMAC conference in June!

    Gail

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gail, and for visiting the blog. I think it’s your 1st visit to my travel blog!

      Yes, isn’t it amazing how small cities can have so much beauty and vibrancy that is often overlooked by people who just blast thru along the four-lane highway? So often, people are in such a hurry to get to better-known places that they overlook the lesser-known gems.

      See you again in June!

  5. Susan Cooper
    Twitter:
    says:

    I a=have not been to Saskatoon but have always wanted to go. I have heard o many wonderful things about that city. One of the many things on my bucket list is to go to Baniff and stay at the Banff Springs Hotel.

    Your story and pictures are wonderful and makes me want to visit these places all the more. OH and the chocolate sound divine. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…A Bloggers Meet-Up: StoryMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Susan: Yes, the Bessborough is part of the original group that was built by the CNR, just like the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise. They’re all definitely worth investing a night or two at. Don’t miss Lake Louise if you have plans to go to Banff. Not far from one another, but a world apart.

  6. Shamis says:

    I love Saskatchewan. People are, like you said, nicer (Canadians are nice to begin with :)) and all smiles. Definitely the sunshine 🙂 I lived there for some time and I sure felt the difference as I was in Toronto before moving there.
    Shamis recently posted…Tropical Vacation Destinations For Your PleasureMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Shamis and thanks for your comment.

      Yes, there’s sure a difference between walking the streets of Toronto and walking the streets of Saskatoon. On the Prairies, people look you in the face and smile if they meet or pass you on the street. They are not afraid or disinterested in engaging in conversation. It is definitely not like that in Canada’s largest city. This is one of the wonderful attributes of living in and visiting smaller centres.

  7. Doreen,
    Very timely post as I was just on a conference call with the folks at Tourism Saskatoon yesterday, continuing to plan the TMAC conference for June 2012. Sounds like they’ve got a lot of surprises for us!

    Oh, and did you say brewpub? Can’t wait! 🙂

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for dropping into the blog, Jantine.

      Yes, I was surprised at the number of brew pubs within Saskatoon’s downtown area. I only managed to get to one (the Hose) which was fun and lively! But there were several others right in close proximity to the Delta Bess and the Sheraton. We could definitely do a brew-pub crawl during the TMAC conference!

      Looking forward to seeing you next June.

      • Ashleigh Mattern says:

        Paddockwood makes some of the best beer in Saskatoon, and they just opened an alehouse downtown called The Woods. I haven’t been there yet, but if their food is as good as their beer, it’s going to be amazing!

  8. Shelley says:

    Doreen, I too was awed by the beautiful fall colours on the drive to Saskatoon from Manitoba. I’m a fan of road trips at any time, but the leaves, big blue sky and sunshine made the drive that much more enjoyable. I had the pleasure of picking up a bottle of rhubarb wine while in Saskatoon (made from Saskatchewan rhubarb by Living Sky Winery) – what a treat! And of course the day-long PWAC workshop was also a treat…

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for visiting the blog, Shelley, and for your comment.

      Yes, what a drive! It was 10 hours from where we live to S’toon (incl 2 meal breaks) but I really enjoyed the drive, and the roads were great. It sure helped that the weather was exceptionally good! Stay tuned to the writer’s blog for a recap of the travel writing workshop in the next week.

  9. Catarina says:

    Have never been there but the pictures and what you write makes it sound a wonderful place. Maybe it’s time to visit Canada.
    Catarina recently posted…Solving the Euro crisis: A federal Europe or parallel currencies?My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for your comment, Catarina. Somehow, I thought you were Canadian. Interesting how the web can be so confusing as to where our contacts come from or are located. Canada is so diverse. It really does have something for everybody, but I think the purpose of my post was to show people how smaller out-of-the-way cities and places can be real gems and are often passed by or overlooked.

  10. phoenix
    Twitter:
    says:

    I lived in Saskatoon from 1978 – 2002 (except for five years in Lethbridge), but I really started LIVING after my divorce in ’97.

    The summers are awesome when the heat waves hit. To me a heat wave is perfect weather. It was so hot I dipped a large overshirt in water and then wrung it out to wear on the bus in order to keep cool while getting downtown. A half an hour later, walking around the street events, the shirt was dry (laugh if you must!).

    I loved the Fringe Festival, usually held in the Broadway District, or I’d take in the sidewalk sales downtown. I never left home without a bottle of water. Even the nights were hot. I used to sleep outside on my balcony, where the air was moving. True, I had an air-conditioner, but I didn’t appreciate the roar or the blasting cold air. Besides, I could never get used to the heat if I used air-conditioning. Oh, and the thunderstorms that erupted after a heat wave were something else! I so loved the thunderstorms. What a light show!

    Winters, on the other hand, were bitterly cold, with wind chills running to minus 40 and 50 degrees below zero. The steam from the traffic froze when it left the tailpipes and literally hung in the air — ice fog. These frigid dips of temperature lasted three weeks at a stretch some winters.

    The Bessborough (“The Bezz” by locals) is one of the nicest hotels in the city, with one of the finest city views along the river. The University of Saskatchewan is across the bridge and to the Northeast. The trees are lush, with a differing panoramic view with the coming of each new season. They used to host the “Blues Festival” which I attended on several occasions.

    The U of S Dance Club held an annual dance event and sometimes it was held in the Bessborough’s grand ballroom. Our group watched a great Latin dance show one year, then spent the rest of the night dancing. The event included dinner — the food, too, was exquisite (first time I ever reveled in a dessert of Key Lime Pie). 😉

    I’ll always remember my dance adventures in Saskatoon. They were some of my happiest memories up till then. Those dancing days gave me the momentum to move ever forward in my life. Those days gave me courage to live my dreams to write and publish my book (which just got back from the editor). I have a little more writing to complete, but it’s shaping up nicely. My editor assured me it’s a great story that needs to be told.

    I celebrate Saskatoon!

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories of life in Saskatoon, Esther. I can picture you whirling around the lovely dance floor of the ballroom at “the Bezz.”

      I, too, love the Prairie heatwaves. And dislike the long and cold Prairie winters. The sunshine is what gets me thru them.

      Yes, the Bezz still hosts a music festival. They have the mainstage for the Jazz Fest in the riverside gardens at the Bess in June. I’ll just miss it, as I’m back in S’toon mid June, and the Jazz Fest is the last wkend of June. If I didn’t have 2 other conferences that same month, I’d stay longer to catch the Jazz Fest!

  11. phoenix
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen, Just looking at your “City of Bridges” photo, in which you can view the University of Saskatchewan in the background. Looks like they are under more development. I used to get off the bus at the University sometimes and walk the rest of the way (20 min.) to Research Park where I worked for several years. I did a lot of good healing during those walks, breathing in that fresh country air!

    Must go back and visit friends soon! ^__^
    phoenix recently posted…Beliefs about EqualityMy Profile

  12. Doreen — I’ve always been intrigued by the name Saskatchewan. I assume it’s an Indian name. Your pictures have brought it to life for me. Thanks for the travelogue.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Why Google+ is Essential for Your Brand’s VisibilityMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Jeannette: Yes, Saskatchewan is definitely an aboriginal word. In the Cree language, Saskatchewan means “Swift flowing river.” Interesting, in that there is actually a city in Saskatchewan called “Swift Current” so it’s a restating of the same thing in 2 languages.

  13. Cathy Smolinski says:

    I visit Saskatoon every 6 weeks for work travel and I am impressed with “S-toon”!
    If you are ever in town be sure to check out “The Cave” restaurant on 8th street. You get to indulge in Greek food, 3 course meal, for under $30… eat a light lunch!
    Most of my visits are to the hospitals and University. The U of S Campus is huge and gorgeous! It certainly puts U of M to shame. My favourite part of their campus is “the bowl”…. nice greenspace surrounded by beautiful brick buildings!

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Hi Cathy and thanks for dropping by the blog.

      Yes, we drove by the U of S campus and it looks like it has some nice green spaces. Will try and visit “the Cave” when I get back to S’toon in June. (nice rhyme!)

  14. Mary Ann says:

    Agreed – a beautiful hotel and a beautiful city.

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks so much Mary Ann for your first visit to the blog! It’s great having you join us.

      Yes, isn’t Saskatoon a lovely city. Small and friendly, with lots of cultural things to do. And staying at the Bess makes it all the better!

  15. Great post (and fabulous comments) on a topic near to my heart: Saskatoon. I’m not a native of Saskatoon, but moved here with my family from Regina, Saskatchewan. There is a long-standing discourse that centres around of which is best – Saskatoon or Regina.

    Saskatoon is unique. It is a business hub, it is a centre for culture and the arts, and it is fast becoming one of the busiest and most popular cities in Western Canada. Saskatoon began as a temperance colony in 1882, where the ills of society were forbidden. Since becoming a city in 1906, it has lived up to its press of the day, being noted as “the fastest growing city in the British Empire.” Today, Saskatoon has blossomed into a full fledged force where business, academics, and community spirit infuse nearly all we do and all we strive to become. This is where I live, work, and play.

    Saskatchewan is home to me and always have been. Saskatoon and Regina are two very separate and different communities. The friendly competition between the two major centres keeps things entertaining and exciting. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. It is a great place to raise a family, build a business, and enjoy all the world has to offer.

    Thanks, Doreen, for posting your experiences in our wonderful city. Next time, we’ll connect and I’ll show some of the best coffee spots in town.
    Bonnie Zink ( recently posted…Favourite Learning Tools of 2012My Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for your comment, Bonnie. I didn’t know you were originally from Regina!

      Yes, there seems to be quite a rivalry between the 2 cities. I was really surprised to learn that Saskatoon is now the province’s largest city! But from I felt and experienced, I can see why.

      Yes, I’ll be back in S’toon in June and hope to see you then.

  16. Trinity says:

    Is it funny, Doreen, how the destination to which we are headed can really affect the drive itself? I saw in an earlier comment that you mentioned it took 10 hours to get from where you live to Saskatoon yet you loved the drive. I suppose having a breath-taking destination acting as your finish marker can make even the longer commutes a joy! Loved this post and the beautiful imagery of that bridge 🙂

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for your comment, Trinity, and for visiting the blog. I’m glad you found us!

      Yes, the destination to where we are heading (and our imagery or expectations of it) will greatly affect our tolerance to the trials and tribulations along the way. I think that’s why doing our research and reading travel blog and guidebooks is great in preparing us for what we might encounter (and enjoy) along the way.

  17. Lee says:

    Hi Doreen
    Your posts on Canada look spectacular. I have been to the USA a couple of times now and done a road trip each time. The furthest north so far is Boston which I loved. Keep looking at Canada and Alaska for a summer road trip .it always looks so unspoilt and beautiful definatly up the top of my Bucket list.

    Another great post thanks lee
    Lee recently posted…Bucket List Ideas for TeenagersMy Profile

    • Doreen
      Twitter:
      says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying exploring the archives of my blog, Lee.

      Yes, Canada is a HUGE country. So different than what you’re used to over in the UK.

      The province that I live in (Manitoba) is so expansive that it costs just as much for me to fly to the north (Churchill) as it does for me to fly to the UK!

      Coming from the UK, I’d recommend you begin by touring Atlantic Canada (the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland.) You will find a strong connection to the UK, the scenery is beautiful, the people and music are great. Then plan a future trip to Central Canada (Ontario and Quebec). And then a trip to Western Canada, where you could fly to Winnipeg and then drive west across the Prairies and the Rockies to British Columbia. You could also take the train across Western Canada and fly back from Vancouver.

      Each of those trips is completely different, and represents a unique part of Canadian culture. And yes, you’ll find good chocolate in every region!

  18. look says:

    Howdy, I came across your web blog by way of Bing although hunting for a comparable make any difference, your web site came right up, it looks terrific.. look I have added to help my favourites features|included with book marks.

  19. Beverly says:

    I really enjoyed your post about Saskatoon, especially as I plan to there soon.

  1. September 30, 2012

    […] missed. And if you live in Canada, please consider joining TMAC. I’ll be looking for you in Saskatoon in June when we’ll converge from across the country for our 2013 national […]

  2. May 14, 2013

    […] Saskatoon last fall and really fell in love with the city. Looking forward to a repeat visit to the Delta Bessborough, one of Canada’s premier […]

  3. July 6, 2013

    … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More: diversionswithdoreen.com/a-diversion-to-saskatoon-for-some-fall-colours/ […]…

  4. July 17, 2013

    … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More here: diversionswithdoreen.com/a-diversion-to-saskatoon-for-some-fall-colours/ […]…

  5. July 17, 2013

    … [Trackback]…

    […] Find More Informations here: diversionswithdoreen.com/a-diversion-to-saskatoon-for-some-fall-colours/ […]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge