When I was a carefree bachelor and living in my adopted city of Calgary, I chose to go a' sparkin' with my new girlfriend.
My grassroots courtship philosophy wasn't to go to an upscale resort in Banff. Instead, I pragmatically took my Winnipeg-born date to camp in my unpretentious home province, Saskatchewan.
"The sunsets are like Tuscany," I boasted. We read the Saturday papers while hanging in a hammock, biked, swam and hiked in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park ( www.cypresshills.com), the highest point of land in southern Canada between the Rockies and Labrador. In the evening, we nestled high above the surrounding plains while witnessing a gigantic summer sun slide like an egg yolk off the horizon.
After living near Calgary's crowded Red Mile, Patricia was seduced by the sunsets, the lush, wide-open spaces and the sweet, ripe clusters of saskatoon berries that spill forth when Saskatchewan is fat with summer. She discovered what so many Canadians don't: Saskatchewan, that straitlaced and straight-bordered province, can be a sexy stop. Instead of flying over, how about a layover?
The profusion of wild berries are a big part of what makes Saskatchewan luscious and sexy. As a bottler of berry aphrodisiacs, the Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery ( cypresshillswinery.com) is renowned for tasty fruit wines. Saskatchewan's first - and only - commercial vineyard and winery is tucked into the hot, arid northern edge of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The Winery Bistro serves artisan cheese platters on the patio and a choice of saskatoon berry, chokecherry, sour cherry, rhubarb blend, blackcurrant and honey wine or a mead dessert wine. Dine nearby at Maple Creek's Star Café and Grill (thestarcafe.ca), a funky heritage restaurant that features a menu tailored to the seasons. And settle, or not, in a full-service cabin set among the jack pine forest at the Cypress Park Resort Inn ( cpri.sasktelwebhosting.com).
WHAT HAPPENS IN MOOSE JAW STAYS IN MOOSE JAW
If you're travelling along Canada's main artery, and you've never thought of Moose Jaw (80 kilometres west of Regina) as sexy, don't let the Victorian architecture deceive you: "Moose Spa" has a relaxed vibe perfect for married couples in need of a break from demanding kids or for those sneaking away for weekend trysts initiated by a Facebook hook-up.
Once you arrive in town, head to the Sahara Spa (saharaspa.ca), book a private couple's room and savour the three-hour Ultimate Indulgence treatment in this authentic Balinese spa. Relax side by side while therapists apply seductive fruit oil blends in Canada's only Jamu spa.
Two romantic love shacks in Moose Jaw are Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Resort ( templegardens.sk.ca), which boasts a rooftop pool, and the historic Wakamow Heights Bed and Breakfast ( www.wakamowheights.com), where you'll want the penthouse suite for the view of Wakamow Valley. If the airline loses your luggage, seek out Patricia McKibben's Pillow Talk Lingerie (306-692-8890, 220 Main St. N.) for lingerie, Kama Sutra oil and Wild Prairie soaps.
Really adventurous sorts in Moose Jaw over the August long weekend may want to "swing" by the third annual Miss Kitty's Roundup, a rally that rolls into a local campground with enthusiastic swappers from as far away as South Dakota. For couples who prefer romantic crooners to a Swingtown weekend, Regina hosts Canada's oldest folk festival in downtown Victoria Park, Aug. 6 to 8, with the sensual Sarah Harmer headlining on Friday evening ( reginafolkfestival.com). Stay right across Victoria Avenue at the romantic Hotel Saskatchewan ( hotelsask.com), a former railway hotel and beautifully appointed downtown icon.
STEAK AND CHERRIES
Culinary romance in Saskatchewan can also take the old-school approach via a quality steak and imported wine list. Ensconced in the modern Sheraton Cavalier Hotel ( sheraton.com/saskatoon), Carver's Steakhouse is an award-winning Saskatoon hot spot. Sample the Sterling Silver beef, free-range chicken, elk, wild boar or the Saskatchewan steelhead trout.
For a lazy summer day trip this weekend, couples can drive one hour east of Saskatoon on Highway 5 for some sumptuous country cherries. Since 2004, the village of Bruno has hosted the Bruno Cherry Festival ( cherryfestival.ca). Attendees experience a few days of stained red teeth, full stomachs and a new-found appreciation for the hardy dwarf sour cherry that flourishes here on the Prairies. On July 24 and 25, the festival serves up a cherry pancake breakfast, cherry pie, orchard tours, poetry, vintage car and motorcycle show 'n' shines, a licensed lounge and live music.
A PRIVATE CABIN
If you prefer canoodling in a canoe to cherry pie, head north to Prince Albert National Park and take a canoe trip to Grey Owl's cabin. This National Heritage Site stands discreetly in Saskatchewan's forested half, just a few hours north of Saskatoon on the edge of Ajawaan Lake. In good condition, two can canoe and portage to Grey Owl's cabin within five hours from the parking lot. But definitely stay overnight. Right in the heart of romantic Saskatchewan, Kingsmere Lake's shoreline campgrounds feature primitive sites where couples can enjoy peaceful silence and the colourful aurora borealis streaking across a summer night sky.
D. Grant Black is the author of Saskatchewan Book of Musts: The 101 Places Every Saskatchewanian Must See.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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