Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

In the year 2000 my husband’s job took us to a little known place, at least to most Americans, called Regina (Latin for queen), Saskatchewan. At the time we lived only a seven hour drive away from there, but had never heard of Regina. As the years waged on we learned it was not exactly the hotbed of Canada either. I lost count of how many times other Canadians gave us their condolences on having to live in Regina.

When we moved there, a part of our permanent residency application requested we go to the police station to be finger printed. The officer who was finger printing us asked, “Where in the states are you moving to?” When we told him that we were Americans and we were moving to Regina, not Canadians moving to the US, he laughed and said they didn’t get many people making that move.

It wasn’t until our first winter spent in Regina that we became acutely aware of the reputation Regina had earned of being a place people moved away from, not to. Winter came and it didn’t fully leave for another eight months. The local joke in southern Saskatchewan is you can see your dog run away for three days because it’s so flat. This flat terrain allows the winds to howl and blow unencumbered. The only thing to slow it down is the 100’s of trees that were hand planted by the early settlers back in the early 1900’s.

The flat frozen tundra that surrounds Regina, SK

The flat frozen tundra that surrounds Regina, SK

Temps can reach 30-40 below zero. In Canada they measure temps using celsius not fahrenheit, but at those temps celsius and fahrenheit are virtually the same. And these kinds of temps don’t stick around for a day or two but can stick around for weeks at a time. Your skin can freeze in seconds at these temps. Car tires can break and their electronic systems can freeze up.

We quickly learned how these hearty residents got through these long hard winters. They took extended winter ‘holidays’ of upwards of 3-4 weeks at a time or several long weekends to warm weather destinations to thaw out. But beyond that they are doers. Reginans don’t hide out until winter passes, they bundle up and venture out. In the ten plus years my kids attended school in Regina they never had a snow day or school called off because of cold temps.

Bundling up to work outside in the freezing temps at the Regina, SK airport.

Bundling up to work outside in the freezing temps at the Regina, SK airport.

I definitely have to say there is something to people in the northern colder climates having thicker blood than those in the southern warmer climates. My husband and I spent the last weekend in Regina to watch our son play basketball at the university. Regina was going into their second week of sub 20F degree temps. I bundled up to walk the two blocks from our hotel to meet up with a couple of girlfriends – one who waltzed in wearing a long sleeve thin shirt and a faux fur vest – and I think I was colder!

As you can imagine, hockey is king in this Canadian city – home of the WHL Regina Pats, a training ground for future NHLer’s. But this growing metropolis – pop. 195,000 in 2000 and nearing 230,000 in 2014 – is game for all games. The CFL Roughriders, the 101st and 2013 Grey Cup Champions, have some of the most ardent football fans in all of Canada. Regina is home to Olympic level curlers and snowboarders. Ice fishing, basketball, snowmobiling, ringette, Globe Theatre, science museum, IMAX theater, 5-pin bowling, Agribition, RCMP, cross-country skiing, MacKenzie Art Gallery and the casino can all keep one busy throughout the long winter months.

The sign says it all! 30,000 Roughrider fans fill the stands of the outdoor Mosaic Stadium to create a ‘sea of green’ also dubbed ‘Rider Nation’.

Wascana Lake, a man-made lake, is the main city attraction. The beautifully domed provincial legislative building sits at the southwest shore of this highly active lake. With wide paved paths skirting the edges of the lake and its far-reaching tributaries, the area is great for walking – year round. The lake draws attention from across the country and even further bringing in competitions for dragon boat racing, wake boarding, canoeing and other events. Weddings are held on the island and fireworks reflect off the lake on July 1st, Canadian Independence Day.

Looking across Wascana Lake at the Regina skyline

Looking across Wascana Lake at the Regina skyline

A statue of Queen Elizabeth riding Burmese, a horse given to her by the RCMP, stands in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature building on the shores of Wascana Lake in Regina

The Queen City (Regina), so nicknamed because of being named after Queen Victoria by her daughter Princess Louise who was Governor General of Canada during the founding of Regina. In the years since, the city has been visited by a lengthy and notable list of royalty: The Queen Mum, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew and Fergie, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret.

But it’s the people who make Regina worth the visit. Growing up in Minnesota, where ‘Minnesota nice’ is the mantra, one experiences a similar vibe in Regina. We originally had plans to stay for 3-5 years, but ended up staying for 10 years, because we had settled into a community of great friends that eventually drew our son back to go to university and draws us back to spend time with people who became lifelong friends, no matter how many miles separate us now. Over the years many locals moved away for better job opportunities or tax reprieve, but moved back for quality of life and cost of living. Long live Regina (the Queen)!

New Age Royals!

London, England: Kensington Palace - future home of a future king?

London, England: Kensington Palace – future home of a future king?

Did I have a sixth sense as to the gender and future home of the new royal? When I wrote the caption, on June 11th, 2013, I inadvertently typed in ‘king.’ When I took this picture of Kensington Palace in November of 2011 it was under construction – but for who?

Now these questions have been answered. “It’s a boy!” George Alexander Louis. The construction I witnessed was and is on the new digs for Will, Kate and George. They will be taking over the 21-room ‘apartment’ previously occupied by the late Princess Margaret. Apparently construction must not be completed, as after only one night spent in Kensington Palace, the new family headed off to spend time in Bucklebury to stay with Kate’s parents.

According to Wikipedia, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kensington_Palace), Kensington Palace is also home to several sets of royals. Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Prince Harry. I love how Will and Kate’s part of the palace is called an ‘apartment.’ In the US, when we talk about an apartment it’s usually inclusive of maybe one to four or five rooms. And I am guessing there is no sharing of common hallways for its occupants, only separate wings. No need for the sixty-somethings Duchess of Gloucester or Princess Michael of Kent to be disturbed by the late night comings and goings of twenty-something Prince Harry.

Ah, the life of the royals. England, above all other countries, has worked hard and succeeded at keeping their monarchy not only alive and well, but vibrant. Will & Kate are bringing this monarchy into the 21st century, and will make it a monarchy not only for the people, but like the people. Breaking down those old traditional royal barriers: Will changing a diaper, putting the baby in the car seat and into the car, and then actually driving his new family home to their quaint, new humble house. Okay quaint and humble it is not – and with the history of Kensington Palace and it’s past occupants it is not new. It where William and Harry grew up. But it is new for the newest Windsor family.

Will and Kate stopped at being ‘new age’ when it came to choosing a name for baby Cambridge. Here they adhered to classic royal traditional names, all with ties to a royal family. George – Queen Elizabeth‘s father’s name; Alexander – a possible tie to the Queen’s second name of Alexandra; Louis – in honor of Lord Mountbatten, uncle to Prince Philip and mentor to Prince Charles.

Most assuredly one of the first treks out into the streets of London for the new royal family will be to visit the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain. Diana would be so proud of the man Will has become, the wife he married, and the son they have produced – albeit I think she would feel way too young to be a granny.

Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain

Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain

Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain

Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fountain

In the years to come, Prince George will have no lack of tactile stimulation living in the heart of London (not to mention his trips to their country homes and a busy travel schedule.)

Watching the water fowl playing at Round Pond, which sits in front of Kensington Palace. The pond was created in 1730, by Prince George the II. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_Pond_(London))

Round Lake, Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace

Round Pond, Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace

Or become more cultured by attending one of many events at Royal Albert Hall – from concerts to plays to sporting events.

Royal, Albert Hall, London

Royal, Albert Hall, London

Or get a bird’s-eye view of his royal constituents from atop the Ferris Wheel at Hyde Park.

Ferris Wheel at Hyde Park

Ferris Wheel at Hyde Park

Or take in the sights, sounds and smells strolling down the curved and decorated Regent Street during the holidays.

Regent Street during the Christmas holidays

Regent Street decorated for the Christmas holidays

And of course, there will be plenty of visits to spend time with Great Grandma Elizabeth, Queen of England, who will be sure to give her great-grandson the traditional direction needed for the future King of England.

Great-Grandma's house, Buckingham Palace

Great-Grandma’s house, Buckingham Palace

These ‘new age’ royals may be putting the monarchy in touch with the common folk, but that only seems to enhance the intrigue of the royal family to commoners around the world. There were only two camera crews when Prince Charles and Princess Diana departed the hospital with Prince William. When Will and Kate, took then baby Cambridge home, from the same hospital, there were apparently 186 camera crews from a multitude of nations, 5 from Poland alone. (CNN)

I for one will be watching in the years to come for any royal news, as it is certainly a refreshing reprieve from all of the devastating, despicable and depressing news which generally fills the 24-hour news stations.

Where we stayed and drank:  The Dukes Hotel, http://www.dukeshotel.com, 35-36 St James’s Place  London, Greater London SW1A 1NY, United Kingdom, +44 20 7491 4840. $$$  The location can’t be beat. We stayed for 4 days and only took a taxi twice – to dinner. A block and a half from Clarence House (where Prince Charles lives), and about three blocks from Buckingham palace. Walked to Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, three blocks off Piccadilly Street. Rooms are nice, roomy, but nothing special. It is a boutique hotel, that sits off a back alley. BUT – the Dukes Bar is a must visit! Known for it’s specialty martinis mixed table side – it is an experience not to be missed. Website says no reservations, but we went for three nights in a row to this packed to standing room only bar and called ahead to reserve the coveted window table, which we were only able to acquire one of the three nights.