Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In Which I Hike Thru Downtown Toronto During a Marathon

I should have known when I heard somewhere that there was a marathon happening right outside our hotel.  Wait, marathon?  As in runners? In the street?

I'm leaving early, I thought.  Long before runners will be winding their way through downtown Toronto.  Despite being up late the night before, the idea of Starbucks was enough to draw me from the warm covers of my bed at the Hilton and wander downtown in search of coffee.

Toronto, you are crazy.  Starbucks closed, even on Sunday?  Or not open until 9pm?  This would not fly in Vancouver, I tell you.

The derth of coffee in my morning was just the beginning.  Next hurdle-getting to the airport.  The suitcase is hauled across the street to the Sheraton as I run the gauntlet of taxi drivers hungrily begging for a fare.  Can I take you? Anywhere?  Airport?  I explain that I'm taking the bus and they grudgingly show me where to stand.   One furrows his brow and says,

"The bus isn't coming this way.  There's a marathon.  You have to catch it at the Fairmount."

What? Seriously? No way.  That's four blocks.  There's no way I'll walk that far and make my bus but, is this guy telling me the truth?  A quick check with the doorman at the Sheraton confirms it.  The bus isn't coming this way because streets are blocked off.  The nearest taxi becomes my chariot to the next stop, winding it's way through blocked off streets and trying to get me as close to my destination as possible.

"Why bother with this?  I'll take you to the airport for a discount," he says.  Ah, these wily taxi drivers. The bus is already paid for, and I'm taking it so I politely decline.

The Fairmount looms in the distance as I wrestle my suitcase across the street and over the metal dips for the streetcars to it's doors.  A woman is standing out front, looking frustrated.

"Is this where we catch the bus?"  She shakes her head and motions to a kiosk near the doors with the bus company's logo.  I wander over and talk to the woman inside, who presents me with a ticket and instructions to walk another two blocks to the Intercontinental Hotel, which is where the bus is now picking people up.

I am not the most cheerful person when I haven't had coffee and I'm hauling a suitcase through the streets of downtown Toronto, I find.  Trips home from Toronto are epically long affairs, which always involve almost every type of transportation.  Buses, trains, airplanes, cars, and even ferries to get me back to the bosom of my family.  This wasn't looking good and I was beginning to fear that I'd miss my flight or something.  Fortunately, I had planned well and still had a lot of time, but began to grumble as I fought my suitcase yet another two blocks, only to seek refuge near the doors of yet another hotel.

The bus arrived and soon was loaded and settled into a comfy seat, with free wifi as the driver apologized about the wait.

Grumble grumble.

Finally checked in at the airport, I told my tale to the West Jet employee who realized that her future customers would be cranky and likely late because of snarl ups downtown.

"Do you know that there was someone here last week trying to get on a plane in a bikini? She was going to Cuba.  But a bikini?  Then she was so upset because she couldn't take liquids in her carry on, and was trying to get people to take them for her.  We finally had to tell her to give up the liquids and get on the plane or we'd have her luggage removed and her removed from the airport."

The image of some crazed bikini clad traveler made me giggle-and the long, frustrating trek to the airport was soon forgotten.  There are advantages of knowing the Pearson airport fairly well now, having been to it three times in the last year.  Besides the friendly smile from the West Jet staff and the jokes they cracked to obviously cheer me up, the most important thing was just waiting for me right on the other side of security.

An open Starbucks.


Disclosure: 

My trip to Blissdom Canada was sponsored by Paper Chef and Chicken Farmers of Canada!  Check out Chasing Tomatoes for some really great recipes that I have been putting together over the last few weeks using their products.  There's chocolate caramel brownie bites, beer and chipolte chicken tostadas, and turkey maple meatballs.  Yum!

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