There are many opportunities that blogging has given me, and travelling to Toronto two weeks ago to experience the first couple days of the 2015 Pan Am Games certainly ranks as one of the most amazing.
I’ve known for months that I would be going, but like any trip, it almost seems too good to be true until it’s actually happening. Even as I sat in the airport waiting to board my plane to Toronto, it was hard to believe I was on my way to such a cool event!
I had an early flight in so I arrived in Toronto well before lunch. Because I flew into Billy Bishop Airport, I was able to walk the couple kilometres to my hotel instead of grabbing the shuttle or a taxi. Let me tell you, after spending all morning in a plane my legs were happy for the stretch! When I arrived at Le Germain Hotel at Maple Leaf Square I was able to check in early and go unpack and rest a little bit after my early wake-up. The hotel was pretty posh, in order to go to the floor of your hotel room you had to swipe your room key in the elevator, and inside your room you had to put your key card into a card slot for the lights to work. I thought for a minute I was going to need a lesson on how to use the elevator, haha. It required a certain combination of swiping and button pressing to make it work.
My room was pretty much fabulous.
I’m not sure how I lucked out there. I asked everyone else but I was the only one in our group with this view. I’m not complaining!
After I got settled in I decided it was time to find some lunch. When you start the day at 5am and then travel back in time an hour it’s easy to get your meal times all messed up. I hit the street to see what I could find (knowing full well Chipotle was nearby) and got a burrito bowl. <3
It had been three long years since my last trip to Chipotle, and it was every bit as good as I remembered. #happybelly
I ate (or attempted to eat) my lunch outside over by the CN Tower, but was attacked (sorta) by birds so gobbled most of it down while walking, then went back to my hotel room to shower and change before meeting up with the group. Once together we headed to a Cocktail Party hosted by McKesson Canada that was taking place right in our hotel, and from there walked to the Opening Ceremonies.
Getting in the stadium was pandemonium. The crowd was bottlenecked at every entrance. Virginie and I ended up entering at the wrong gate and had to get instructions from a few different people in order to find our way to our section but we figured it out after a while and I was pretty excited for things to get underway!
I’d never seen a live Cirque du Soleil performance so I was especially excited for that, and of course seeing and cheering for all the athletes!
The opening ceremony was pretty long, somewhere in the 3 hour range, but it really was magical. Some of the Cirque du Soleil acts were a bit too abstract for me to understand what the message they were trying to convey was, but over all it was a fantastic performance. And of course it was fun and exciting to watch all the athletes (especially Canada!) enter the stadium!
I purposely didn’t take many pictures during the opening ceremony because I wanted to experience it, and sometimes when you get caught up in taking photos it’s hard to miss what is really happening. However, I did record some of it so you can still see some behind the scenes stuff (like Pachii the Pan Am Mascot dancing to Danza Kuduro at the 3:15 mark!) and at the very end (starting at 10:50) there is a clip of my favourite performance of the night – the BMX’ers! One of those guys did a forward flip which blew my mind!!!
P.S. I believe the mystery of all the cops cars and the procession starting around the 2:30 mark was Stephen Harper heading to greet the athletes.
At the end of the ceremony, Steve Nash ran the final leg of the torch run out to light up the flame outside, which lead to an amazing fireworks show from the CN Tower. I was still inside so I only saw it on the monitors inside, but I found a YouTube video from someone who was outside and captured the fireworks.
As a girl who loves a fireworks show, my only regret about my trip is that I didn’t go outside to see this live. I believe it was the first time they have ever held a fireworks show from the Tower and it would have been incredible to watch.
I was so glad our hotel was within walking distance when it came time to leave, the streets were filled with people and it would have been nearly impossible to drive anywhere!
After a good night’s sleep I was up and ready to go Saturday morning. I met up with our group in the lobby and we grabbed a taxi to the Aquatics Centre for Synchronized Swimming Duets. None of us really had any idea what to expect as far at the competition went.
We had all seen synchronized swimming on TV but didn’t know how Canada measured up to the competition so imagine our delight when Canada WON! Our very first event and not only did we get to see a Canadian team compete, but we got to watch them win gold!!
I recorded their entire performance and the medal ceremony, so you’ll be able to watch it below.
As a general sport enthusiast I’ve never paid much attention to synchronized swimming or just how strong the athlete that compete in it, until seeing it live. These girls were fantastic! Watching it on TV or in video really doesn’t do it justice. I can’t fathom how some of the things they do are even possible. Simply amazing.
After the medal ceremony we headed back to downtown Toronto for lunch. Pizza the size of Pluto, and the best Iced Tea (and ICE) I’ve ever had? Don’t mind if I do!
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that the entire time I was in Toronto it was sunny, but on this day it was also super hot (hence my excitement over the ice). After lunch (and multiple iced teas) we travelled to the CIBC Pan Am Park for our afternoon event which was Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.
I guess I had never considered it while watching gymnastics on TV, but in the qualifying round(s) on the apparatus, there is a team at each station, meaning there are always multiple athletes competing on different apparatus all at the same time. It keeps the event interesting for sure, but it is a bit overwhelming as a spectator because you don’t know where to watch for fear of missing something.
We arrived a bit late for this competition, but had really good seats close to the parallel bars with a good view of the vault and uneven bars. We somehow lucked out that Team Canada was on the vault when we got there, then came to the parallel bars next and then the horizontal bar. It was really fun to be so close to the action watching your own country compete!
After the event was over, we explored Pan Am Park. There are so many free acts and concerts going on each day, even if you didn’t have tickets to an event there was still lots of things to see and do – including a big screen showing one of the live events and the big concert stage with mats laid out for people to sit and relax.
By then we were so hot and tired from the heat and sun that we were all ready to head back to the hotel and take a nice air conditioned rest before supper.
I’m not going to dwell on the next part because I cover it pretty well in my vlog below, but the service at Brassaii (which is where we went for dinner), was sub-par at best. We arrived at 7pm, and didn’t leave until 10pm – and not because we were taking our time and being intentionally slow. The serve was that slow! We waited a full hour for our entrees, and the best part of another hour for our desserts. The real kicker is we ordered everything within 15 minutes of arriving, and the place was pretty quiet. The food was good (but not amazing), fortunately we had nothing planned that evening so it wasn’t a big deal that it took so long, except for nearly starving in between courses. It did look like a great place to go for a few drinks, but if you plan to go there for a meal, give yourselves lots of time.
After dinner we strolled back to our hotel, making a stop at the CN Tower and Pan Am Flame.
As neat as it is to see in the daylight, it’s even more magical at night.
Then before I knew it, it was my last day in Toronto. My flight wasn’t leaving until the early evening so I had another day of fun planned before I headed back to the airport. It started off back at CIBC Pan Am Park watching Rugby 7’s.
The women were playing in the qualifying rounds, and the men were in their quarterfinals.
Which basically means, the women’s games we watched were all blow outs with one team destroying the other (I’m talking total destruction, like scores of 70-0. Oye.). But the men’s games were pretty exciting, especially the Men’s Canadian Team game (check it out in my vlog a little further down the page).
It was a nail bitter at the end for sure! If you watch the video below, be sure to look for the guy in the stands in front of us, he gets pretty excited! Haha.
We didn’t stay until the end of the event which was going until 2pm, as we had reservations at Luckee for Dim Sum.
We ordered a lot of items to share, and everything I had was delicious!
As I sit here writing, I’m trying to think of what my favourite item was, but I’m really not sure. Everything was so good!
They did warn me that there was trace amounts of MSG in most of the dishes so I treaded lightly (I have a serious intolerance for MSG) and drank probably 2 litres of water which did the trick as I didn’t get sick.
When we finished with lunch I said goodbye to the atoma Pan Am group and went to meet up with Morgan!!
We went to Fresh on Spadina and I had a second lunch. 😉 Really I just had a green smoothie and some sweet potato fries (I figured the carbs would be helpful if there was some MSG rolling around in me). Then we walked and talked and had nice visit IRL as we walked back to my hotel. Once we parted ways, I popped into one of the shops to pick up a little something for my niece and nephew (I couldn’t come home without getting my basketball loving nephew a little something from the Raptor’s shop!), then strolled back to the airport, said goodbye to Toronto and flew home.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it really was a wonderful and action packed three days. I’ve never had the chance to attend such a huge sporting event, and it was so, so, fun.
Thank you again to McKesson Canada, and the entire atoma Pan Am team, this is definitely a trip I will never forget!
Disclosure: McKesson Canada covered my airfare and travel expenses as part of our partnership for the Pan Am Games 2015. All thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.