I took a cab to my hotel - Crown Plaza hotel downtown - and then got out and took a walk, heading generally in the direction of Lund's, a very nice grocery store about 10 blocks away. Some bananas, a bottle of sparkling water, a 1/2 lb container of tortellini salad for dinner, and some M&M cookies.
Before heading to my room to eat my goodies, I stopped in the hotel lounge and treated myself to a glass of wine. The bar was completely empty except for me and the bartender and we struck up a conversation, he first asking me what brought me to St. Paul and then talking about the upcoming race, things to do in town, and being intrigued about the race and knowing I might want to carbo-load, he made a couple of recommendations for places to eat nearby. I was pretty tired from a hectic week leading up to this trip, and crashed pretty early Thursday night.
6:00 AM Friday morning and I was awake, though still groggy and feeling a bit headache-y. I lolled in bed for a couple of hours, trying to fall back asleep but that wasn't happening. Cheerios and a banana for breakfast, then I got showered and dressed and left the hotel to walk along the river on my way to Union Depot where packet pickup for the race was being held. I took my time, stopping at the Starbucks counter in the hotel lobby and picking up a cappuccino to sip on as I walked through the downtown.
The city sits up on a bluff giving a great view down to the river. The skies are milky with weak sunshine warming up the day. Fires many miles away in Canada have created a smoky haze about the hills surrounding the city, similar to how the fires in Washington and Oregon states made the skies smoky over Missoula when I was there a few weeks ago.
I walked a couple of blocks through a park area that overlooks the river until the park ended and I was diverted to the sidewalk again. A few blocks later I arrived at Union Depot. It's an unusual place to hold packet pickup but a little research revealed that it's a totally restored old train depot, as its name implies, and that the great hall is used for private parties and events, Its domed ceiling with skylights and marble expanse of floor create a beautiful airy and open space. I can imagine how delightful it would be to hold a reception in this space.
There were just a few people waiting in line to get their packets and I didn't have a very long wait. Bib in hand, then over to the t-shirt pick-up table to get my shirt and I paused long enough to take a few photos before I headed back out to explore the city a bit more.
I love the event shirt...it fits really well and the slogan on the back can't be beat! I also love how there isn't a long list of race sponsors on the back of the shirt.
The downtown area of St. Paul is small and compact and easy to navigate, with short blocks and streets numbered from the river outward. As I left Union Depot, I walked toward Mears Park, just to see what it looked like. It dates back to the beginnings of this town, when it was originally referred to as Baptist Hill for the small chapel that was built near this location in the early days of settlement. The hill has since been flattened and this park developed at the location.
I got to the park and began walking through it, admiring the gorgeous landscaping and care taken to ensure beautiful seating areas and plentiful shade. It was then that I noticed the food trucks parked along the curb on the far side of the park. And it's lunchtime. Perfect!
I browsed the truck menus and settled on the melting pot cuisine of the Asian food truck: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese dishes on the menu all sounded great! I chose the sesame chicken with rice, waited for my food to be prepared, then found a shady spot in the park to enjoy my lunch.
As I wandered about after lunch I came upon a small little pocket park, a children's playground really, and paused to admire its design. It was very clever, with trains and other structures for the kids to play on. A boat sat in an area painted blue to resemble water, and on the wall behind it, a large "waterfall" flowed out of a window making a very clever illusion. As I walked a little further I realized that this playground was right next to the PBS station for the Twin Cities. I was very impressed with their creative use of this little space!
A bit more wandering about the downtown area, and then I walked back to the hotel to get a cold drink and regroup.
When it was close to dinner time, I took that bartender's advice and walked the one block to Sakura for some sushi to go. Excellent! Had a glass of wine while I waited for them to prepare my meal, then brought it back to my room to enjoy.
Tomorrow morning: Minnesota Half Marathon.