Euro Blog Day 13 & 14: Ashley Engle
June 3, 2009
Waking up to a rainy day (6/1-2) in Rome can mean only one thing, our Europe trip has finally come to a close. We had a match at 11 a.m., so we woke up to have breakfast and left our hotel around 9 a.m. No matter how much I loved croissants before this trip I don't think I'll be having another for quite awhile. We left to catch the Metro and then the train on our way to the gym. The rain made the walk to the gym a muddy one, but we made it to play our final match of the trip. Once inside the gym we all headed to our locker room to gather our shoes, kneepads, etc. to get ready for warm-ups. This took a little longer than expected since the locker room stench slapped you in the face as soon as you tried to walk inside. It had a pretty intense smell when we left our things inside, but now the smell was on a whole new level. We quickly grabbed our things and began the warm-up. Our goal for this match was to play consistently throughout and end on a positive note. That night we swept the Italian Junior National Team in three straight sets, so we felt that we accomplished that goal.
We went to eat lunch after our match. It was served in the same area as the day before right near the volleyball gym. The choices had changed, but surprisingly they were serving pasta...again. Pasta may join my list with croissants, but at least it was tortellini this time and not penne. I skipped the bread, but tried ham wrapped in swiss cheese and yes, this is as rich as it sounds but tasty nonetheless. Some spinach found its way on my plate along with a pear. I guess there are other food groups besides carbohydrates. After lunch, our tour guide Tim, gave us special chocolates from Sicily. They were made with a special type of sugar that made them rich and delicious. We shared with the Italian team, said goodbye and headed to the bus. Once we arrived at our hotel we were instructed to get ready and meet at 15:00 hours (European time) for another metro ride.
Our next adventure in Rome was to check out the Coliseum, the Forum and the Palatino. Tim gave us some freedom and allowed us to check out these places on our own time and told us to be back at the hotel around 21:00 hours for dinner. We started in the Coliseum, which is definitely bigger than our football stadium. It was amazing to see all the different architecture from that time. Sadly, time has worn away most of the seating and the area where the battles would take place, but they have rebuilt parts to show what it used to look like. Heather (Kisner), Lauren (Paolini) and I walked around the Coliseum for about 20-30 minutes before we headed to the Palatino. Once we exited Jen (Jennifer Doris), Kiley (Hall), Michelle (Kocher), Sydney (Yogi) and Rachael (Adams) joined us and we all looked at the ruins inside the old city of Rome. The details that went into the buildings and churches are amazing. We completed our walk and ended at the Forum. Huge statues and Italian flags surrounded pillars that were at least 25 feet high. I was so happy to have experienced these amazing pieces of history and I will never forget the sites that I saw today.
As soon as the site seeing was complete, everyone changed into shopping mode. During the first couple of days in Rome, we found that the purse guys that stood in alleys and on corners that sold decent looking knock-off purses. A few girls didn't have the opportunity to buy any and now we were on a mission to find those guys again. We walked and walked and weren't having any luck. Eventually, we decided to choose one of the hundred awesome cafes and grab a snack. The café we chose was outside in a secluded area near the Trevi Fountain. I decided to order a caprese pizza, which was fantastic. In my opinion, the food in Rome has been better than any of the other countries we have visited. After everyone finished their snack, we decided to walk towards the Spanish Steps and see if we could find some purse guys over there.
We struck out again at the Spanish Steps, but we did run into (special assistant) Nathan (Mendoza), (athletic trainer) DeAnn (Koehler), B-Dub (volunteer assistant Brian Wright) and Juliann (Faucette). They were also on a purse hunt and were having no luck either. Kiley, Heather, Jen and I decided to take the metro to the Vatican since that was another area in Rome where shopping seemed to be pretty popular. As soon as we got off the metro we saw a tent with 25 women around it. Obviously, we had to check out what was going on. It was jewelry and this table was madness. Women were pushing and shoving trying to grab necklaces and rings. Kiley, Heather and I each found a few things, but didn't lose focus on our main goal of finding purses. At some point I think this goal turned into a game and we were not going to lose. As we walked closer to the Vatican, our hope was dwindling, but then we saw a purse tent and decided to check it out. This tent had new purses we hadn't seen yet. Even though the man working it was being difficult in making deals, we stayed stubborn and strong. We were triumphant with our nine purses. Now we looked like we too were selling them along the streets.
Walking back I was surprised when I heard Heather yell, "Purse Men!" There they were, the three guys we had been looking for all afternoon. We ran over and started to make some deals. Heather was trying to get two purses for 20 Euros and the guy was not having it. Annoyed, we all turned and walked away. It wasn't until we were about to turn the corner that the man caught up with us and gave Heather her deal. Victory! With the purse total at 11, we knew it was time to head back to the hotel for dinner. The metro ride was quick and we were all satisfied with our purchases. I guess Heather was still in the mood for some bargaining since we made one last stop at the purse tent by our hotel as it was closing down for the night. She quickly worked her magic and added a Louis Vuitton roller bag to the bunch. I guess she did need something to carry back all the things we had bought. We looked pretty ridiculous as we rolled up to dinner and saw our teammates and coaches faces. Everyone laughed and couldn't believe how many purses we had found.
Dinner was excellent! We started with a caprese salad and bread, followed by a thin crust Italian pizza. I was in heaven. Then one of my favorite pastas, gnocchi, was served along with rotisserie chicken and spinach. I decided to truly enjoy my last meal in Rome. It was a perfect atmosphere, an accordion player came over and it started raining slightly. It was a great way to end an unbelievable trip. However, it wasn't over just yet. After dinner, we were able to find a gelato place that was open. Pistachio and Stratichello (a creamy vanilla, with chunks of chocolate and cookies) were the flavors I chose. I was very pleased to find my favorite gelato of the whole trip right there on the last night. Heather and Kiley also had gelato and Kiley and I each added another purse to our haul. I do believe that put our count at 13 purses between Heather, Kiley and I. I don't even know how many our entire team would have, but let's just say we could possibly open a store when we return.
Waking up early the next morning wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I packed quickly, grabbed my last croissant for a very long time and headed to the bus with the rest of the team. The transitioning through the airport to our gate wasn't too bad. Juliann and I went to have our last Italian style latte with a lot of espresso and checked out the duty free shops. Juliann, Heather and I had some Euros left over and decided to get a few things at the duty free shop. By the time we finished our plane had started boarding. Our first leg of the flight was a three-hour trip from Rome to London. I'm pretty sure everyone slept the entire time, I know I did. Luckily, we didn't have the same flight itinerary as on the way to Europe. Our layover was about an hour in London instead of six hours. A few of us found a Starbucks and grabbed a snack before our next section of the flight. Our flying time from London to Dallas was nine hours. I figured this wouldn't be too bad with the mixture of eating, sleeping and watching the movies the airline provides for you. However, when none of the TV's in your row work and the meals are done, the time passes very slowly. Jen, Rachael and I shared a row during our nine-hour adventure of staring at a blank screen, hoping for a movie to show up. Our meal was decent at least. Chicken with...pasta! Don't worry there was bread as well. I'm officially on carb overload. I never thought the day would come. Hopefully the laps around the plane will help out. Only a couple more hours until we arrive in Dallas, then we will make the quick jump to Austin.
With the TV's being broken and sleep being fairly difficult I have really had the chance to reflect on the last two weeks. This trip has been unbelievable. Our team got along great before, but I had the chance to get to know certain players much better and make so many great memories that I'll never forget. I have experienced new cultures, new foods (my favorite part) and now realize what a great family I have within my team. Our European tour went as well as it possibly could have and I am so thankful for that. Vienna, Maribor, Kastela, Split, Ancona and Rome are each beautiful places in their own unique way.
For now, I'm just excited to get back to Austin and enjoy some chips and queso.
Hook `Em and Ciao,