Sunday, August 16, 2015

Storming TORONTO & the Pan-Am Games (Jul 24-28)

During the week at home, I had squeezed in runs while I could, since I was going to Toronto that weekend.  I flew in Friday night and checked in just before 1pm, at a hostel-like place that I got in Chinatown.  I hadn’t been able to find my GPS with the Canadian maps the previous night, but fortunately, the rental car that I had, had a built-in one.  The place was a city dwelling, where each room (in my case, walk-in closet-like) was converted into a place for someone to stay, with shared bathrooms.  All I needed was a bed and a bathroom.

I didn’t sleep until 2 or 3pm, but I woke up at 5am, to get ready for a big day of taking in Toronto.  It happened to be the closing weekend of the Pan-Am games, which I didn’t realize until I was at the airport on the way there.  I had been furiously researching opportunities to see events, and the mens’ marathon happened to be Saturday morning.  I took the subway to the park, looked around a bit, then waited on course.  The men (a small field) came by 8x (in pairs of close viewings, since I was close to the turnaround), with about 30 minutes in between each pair.  Great setup.  

 It was cool to see them.  In between the viewings, I ran down to a nice zoo, with animals that I don’t see often/ever, like mountain goats, a peacock with its feathers all out, buffalo, and moose.  Great zoo!

Next, I went up to Yorkville, the University of Toronto, took a nicely led tour of Parliament (which gave me lots of hope in government and politics, the way they described the ideals that should guide leaders).  Went down to the Distillery district for a Mill Street brewery tour and big flight.  A weeks-long cultural festival coincided with the Pan-Am games, so there were performance pavilions all over the city, with different art/music related events.  I grabbed/attempted some geocaches along the way.  I was on a 31-day streak attempt, so I had to keep it going.  I had scouted out the caches at home.  Without LTE data, I’d have to rely on a combination of the notes I had taken, plus googlemaps saved points, and the phone’s internal GPS.  It worked out ok.  I stopped by a market to get day-end discount baguette, plus a specialty cheese.  This would cover several meals.  I took it over to City Hall, where there would be fireworks later that night, for a picnic and music.

The next morning, I headed towards the Toronto Islands, which offer the best view of the city skyline.  I grabbed some geocaches while there, and found particularly cool one close to a lighthouse, so I chose that spot to leave my first personal Travel Bug, along with the first Travel bug that I had ever found.

I visited another pavilion after that.   The Harborfront pavillion had sports-related things to try, like wheelchair racing, and a photo op with this guy.

Next, , I started making my way towards the Closing Ceremony area.  I had booked tickets online in the US, after debating whether or not to put down the dough for it.  In the end, I went with it, since I was already going to be there, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, if I don’t ever get to see an Olympics one.  While waiting for opening time, I walked around an old rail yard that was not in the tour book, which was a nice surprise.

While waiting some more, I came across the main news channel's broadcasting stations, where I saw live broadcasts (with separate ones for English and French, of course) and ran across 2 Canadian boxing medal-winners.

The Pan-Am games are associated with the Olympics, so it was like a mini-version.   It was fun to see the athletes come in.  There were nice folk dance performances and light effects.  The Canadian fans and athletes have all been very enthusiastic and fun to interact with.  Pitbull and Kanye also performed, although Kanye, the closing act, either intentionally or unintentionally (it was debated in the news) encountered mic difficulties at the very end and stormed off stage, throwing the mic way into the air, causing the organizers to start the finale abruptly.  It was weird, but a memorable story.

Foot traffic getting out was kind of crazy as everyone got let out at once, but the metro system was efficient, and I made it back to my car, and made the 2-hr drive to the city where I was working for the first part of that week, stopping for a nap somewhere along the way.  Crazy weekend.
I didn’t end up running for the rest of the trip, since all that walking action in minimalist shoes left my feet pretty used.  I was able to continue keeping up my geocaching streak.

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