Canada and USA 2016: soccer in Seattle

Although I don’t understand enough about football (meaning English football or soccer) I love the atmosphere of a live game so jumped at the chance to see the Seattle Sounders play. Tickets were a steal at $30 each!

The stadium is downtown near King Street station and purpose built with wide corridors for entry and plenty of parking right beside it, an immediate plus for being much easier to get to and enter than a London ground. If you feel like it you can meet the home fans an hour before the match in Pioneer Square and walk to the stadium with them. We took a look but there weren’t many people there so we felt a bit awkward and went on alone!

Finding our seats was a little tricky as they were right up top with their own entrance, but we loved the customer service from the stewards. Soccer here seems to have a much more family focus and in stark contrast to the scary security guard types you often find at London games, the stewards seemed to be a friendly bunch of retiree soccer fans who were happy to be there and keen for us to have a great time.

On finding our seats we still had an hour to kill until kick off so spent some time admiring the great views over Seattle from the top of the stadium.

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Another couple of things we noticed at this point:
1) it’s fine to take beer into the stands (all be it you can only buy two at a time per person before half time and one after). In the uk there is strictly no alcohol allowed in the stands and the blinds of the boxes where you can drink have to be closed so as not to inflame the crowd through their being able to see the booze. It was a good indication of a much better behaved crowd.
2) there were lots of signs warning against obscenities and we didn’t hear anyone swear. It was a pretty wholesome atmosphere and seemed suitable for young children.

The hype at the start of the game was long! I enjoyed it, Ben could have done without it. There were performance of both teams national anthems, fire works, pitch based chat and presumably assume other things I’ve forgotten as it lasted a good 20 minutes! When play kicked off we saw the next big difference to the atmosphere at an English game: the crowd was largely silent until prompted by the must energetic hype guy I could imagine. Basically one area of the crowd seemed to be designated for people who wanted to chant and rather than it happening organically the hype guy would tell then when to start and sing along with them from a mic. Watching it was seriously impressive and at some points almost like watching a Zumba class as he had crowd jumping and waving their arms. It looked exhausting! The pic below shows the flags in this area but doesn’t do justice to the full spectacle!

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The game itself was fun to watch although sadly seattle lost. It was also really easy to get out. None of the hour long queues along congested London pavements not designed to cope with the volume of the crowds. We were out and in our bus a few blocks away within half an hour of leaving out seats.

All in all a great fun way to spend an evening!

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The rest of Toronto

Sunday was originally going to be CN tower day but the weather was grey and being a Sunday, queues seemed likely. Instead I decided to go to a yin/yang yoga class at the Yoga Sanctuary in the morning. This was a great class! The first half was an up tempo flow and I got into an arm balance I’ve been failing at for ages for the first time, yay! The second half was yin poses so we did one back bend, held for several minutes then a bunch of back bends which was perfect got a Sunday morning. Afterwards I headed back to the hostel to have lunch then went for a walk.

The walk led me to Queen Street East which is home to lots of high street chains. Sort of like a slightly more pleasant version of London’s Oxford Street. My eyes drew me straight to French Connection which had 40% off everything in store. My purse definitely felt it! After that I called it a day in the interests of preserving my credit card.

Monday was again going to be CN tower day but when I arrived it looked like this.

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I retreated to Starbucks and ended up staying for a couple of hours. Things didn’t improve so I headed back to the hostel picking up lunch and the latest Marie Claire on the way. It’s amazing being able to buy magazines here! I hung at the hostel for a while then headed to another yoga class. Sadly when I arrived I was told the class I wanted to go to wasn’t on because it was Monday and that class was on Tuesday (I blame all the snorers I’ve been sharing my dorm with for making me tired!). Luckily there was another class in an hour so I hung around for that. It was good!

I was determined that I was going to get a good night’s sleep in spite of the snorers last night so I stocked up on nytol, ear plugs and prepped the white noise app on my phone. Sadly the snorer was still audible over the white noise and had joined forces with some annoying other room mates who thought packing at 11pm and chatting at full volume was a good idea. Eventually it fell quiet but I’d got into such a rage with the snorer that there was no way I was going to sleep! Eventually I remembered something I read in an article about sleeping through noise – “it’s not the noise that keeps you awake, it’s your own anxiety” so I decided that rather than try to ignore the snoring I was going to embrace it and make it a kind of study (the rest of this is going to sound a bit odd, bear with me!). I relaxed as much as I could and listened to the snores, noting how the sound changed from snore to snore, when they stopped and so on. When I got extra agitated rather than giving up I brought my focus back to the snoring and tried to relax again. Kind of like a snoring meditation! Anyway, I’m not sure if it was my  new approach or the sleeping pill finally kicking in but the next time I woke up it was 6am at someone’s alarm going off. Mission semi-accomplished. 6 hours is better than none!

Today is my last day in Toronto and I started it with a sad farewell to the Planet Traveller breakfast. With 6 types of bagel, bread and 16 types of cereal plus peanut butter and jam it has been good to me. I think I might turn into a bagel before I leave Canada.

Next was another yoga class which was unexpectedly great. The teacher gave a good little talk at the start about non-violence to yourself being the start of being non-violent to others. Non-violent meaning in the sense of not bearing ill will to others, loving everyone and all that. He also asked everyone why they started practicing yoga then had us share our answers with the class. This never happens in yoga, and I mean never! I’m only to happy to remain silent from the time I walk in the studio to the time I walk out but actually I enjoyed this part. His point was that you can practice for many reasons but really we’re all there to break down our ego and learn to stop doing things because we think they impress others, to stop bearing ourselves up when we think we’ve made mistakes and generally to stop indulging the ego. When we can do that we can really learn to love ourselves and everyone else. When we find that the other stuff like flexibility and crazes comes naturally when the body and mind are ready. I love it when yoga teachers make me think! He also told me I should do Chaturanga on my knees for the next 30 days until I can get my arms fully to 90 degrees. At the moment I can’t get my arms fully to 90 and I haven’t made progress in a long time. Noone has ever picked me up on it before and I feel like this could help me make progress yay.

Afterwards I headed to St Lawrence market and the Distillery district for a walk around.  The market was a little disappointing. My lunch was a sad burrito, a cheese blintz that I threw away because it wasn’t nice and a raw and vegan nanaimo bar that was just average. The Distillery district was pretty and worth an hour or two to walk around if you have a spare afternoon.

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For the rest of the day I’m going to be killing time until my 12.30am bus to Montreal which means I’ll be in my last city and only a night away from seeing Ben. Not long to go now!