Wow, it has been a long time since my last entry. That can only mean one of two things… either that I am extremely lazy, OR that I have been very busy. I’d like to think very busy, since I have so much to tell you about. The theme of the past two months: Travel, Travel, Travel.
Almost immediately after my last blog, I took my first day trip up to the Netherlands. The closest city, Maastricht, was Marcus’s and my destination after our final regular season game before the Top 6 started. It began as a snowy day, and then cleared up as we wandered the streets of the city checking out stores, churches and parks. Our goal for the day (and for every other trip for that matter) was to find spots to take creative pictures. Though Maastricht was beautiful, we found ourselves limited on that front until we strolled through a back street and found a statue of a guy dressed in a goofy hat and carrying a sword. Though neither of us speaks Dutch, we managed to make out the “All for One, and One for All” sign below. Naturally, we posed as his fellow musketeers. We finished up in Maastricht by checking out the local University, grabbing some food, and then heading home. I can’t wait to take another trip to Holland sometime soon!
After Carnival, we had a two week break from games, which means I had free weekends to travel. I finally took advantage of the cheap flights you can get here in Europe, hopping on a plane and heading to Rome with fellow North American (she’s Canadian) Raelyn. We had two and a half days to check out the entire city, and I’d say we did a pretty good job of it. I had just finished reading Angels and Demons, and I also received an itinerary from Megan Wikler, who studied in Rome and is a friend of my sister. I also brushed up on my Roman history by going through old lecture notes from college (nerd status I know, but I guess I was still in character from Carnival). I was a “girl on a mission” to see and experience all that I could of the Eternal City.
The first day we dropped off our bags at the hostel and made a beeline for the Coliseum. I expected to be impressed… but WOW! The sheer size and surprisingly good condition of it really made my jaw drop. Especially considering how old it is. We took a guided tour around the arena and learned amazing “fun facts” about the stadium built for the spectator sport of killing. Next up was a walk through the Roman Forum where we saw great views of the city from up on a hill. After our walk through the ruins, we made our way back to a main street to wander to our next destination… the Trevi Fountain. Before we made it there, we checked out some artists doing airbrush paintings on the street, posed with a few street performers dressed in crazy costumes, and ate our first of many scoops of gelato. Finally having some real Italian gelato, I can say, my life has improved for the better. It was AMAZING!
After randomly wandering around some back streets, we finally made it to the extremely crowded Trevi Fountain. Working our way to the front, we took out our change purses and made wishes as we tossed the coins into the water. After the wishes, we checked our map and saw that we were near the Pantheon. One cool thing about Rome is that the main landmarks are not separated from the city. You find incredibly old, but well-preserved, buildings and churches right in the middle of newer construction throughout the city. The Pantheon, the oldest church in Rome, is no exception. Rising up in the middle of an old square is the massive former pagan temple. I was excited, not only to see the church, but also to experience part of the novel (Angels and Demons) that has its main characters wandering through the Pantheon looking for clues.
After a long day of walking, we decided to get some food. According to Megan, there was no better place to go than the outdoor restaurants near Piazza Navano. The Piazza has a beautiful fountain right in the middle of the open square, and we decided to sit down at a restaurant with the best view. Both Raelyn and I ordered (what we now consider) the best Italian meals of our lives. She got spaghetti carbonara and I had eggplant parmesan. We relaxed and recharged by sipping on delicious house wine and then we were on our way to our next destination, the Spanish Steps. On the way to the Steps, however, we stopped in a shop to taste test some lemoncello and to grab some more gelato from what Megan considered the best gelato shop in Rome (and that is saying something!!). We found the gelato place, Gioletti, tucked back on a random side street, and this might have been our greatest find of the trip. I clearly enjoyed my dark chocolate-nutella-pistachio gelato topped with fresh whipped cream as we walked along the streets of Rome at night. We ended day one exhausted on the Spanish Steps and wiping gelato remains from our hands and faces!
Day two began with a 7 AM wake-up call and a subway ride to Vatican City. We knew there was going to be a huge line to get into the Vatican Museum, so we wanted to get there early. Forty-five minutes of waiting in line, and it was our turn to go inside. Raelyn deemed “nerd status” official as I spotted and fawned over some of the famous sculptures, paintings and rooms in the museum. Some of the highlights for me included the “School of Athens” painting and the Sistine Chapel. I’ve seen and studied images of both, as they have been replicated numerous times, but getting to see them in person is something I will never forget! When we were finished up in the museum, we headed to St. Peter’s Square to check out the Basilica. As we arrived in the square, there were thousands of people staring up at a building we didn’t recognize. Confused, Rae and I sought out a couple that looked American and ask what was going on. To our surprise, we heard a voice coming from a loudspeaker, and when we looked up at the building… there was the Pope! He blessed and greeted the crowd in multiple languages. It was cool! Then we waited in line to enter the impressive St. Peter’s Basilica. What I now consider my favorite part of the trip to Rome, the Basilica is an incredible Cathedral filled with beautiful murals, woodwork, sculptures and more. We spent about an hour touring the massive place of worship, checking out The Pieta, before we headed to our next destination.
Outside of Vatican City, we grabbed some great pizza and some not so great beers, and were on our way to check out the Castel Sant’Angelo, another famous building that was key in Angels and Demons. From there, we wandered the streets of Rome, sampling wine and food and bargaining for scarves and fedoras from the street vendors. We made it to a major shopping area where we checked out the newest European fashions while simultaneously being entertained by street performers. We ended the second day with a great Italian meal with some locals we met through another basketball friend. What is amazing about the European culture in general, is the amount of time they spend together while doing things like eating a meal. We were in the restaurant for over 3 hours just sitting, eating, and talking. We took our good old time and, unlike the States, no one made a move to suggest we should leave the restaurant. The next morning, Raelyn and I said “Arrivederci, Roma” as we boarded our plane to return to Lux.
Another week went by and another free Monday had arrived. This time, since my day-trip buddy, Marcus, had never been to Strasbourg, I decided to take another trip back there with him so he could check it out. Another American baller and road trip buddy, Cerie, came along for the ride. We strolled through the French town, taking funny pictures, checking out the Cathedral, and debating over where we would eat (which is a big deal among us three!). We decided to try the local specialty, Flammkuchen, a super thin pizza-like dough topped with caramelized onions, salty ham and cheese. It was very tasty, and fortunately, it wasn’t very filling, leaving us with plenty of room in our stomachs for dessert! Though I had been there before, Strasbourg has a different feel in the wintertime, and I’m glad I had the chance to go back.
My next new experience didn’t involve leaving Luxembourg. In fact, it didn’t even involve leaving my town. This experience, I think, will really help me travel Europe in the future. Marcus decided to teach me how to drive a car with a manual transmission. My learning took place at 1 AM to ensure I had plenty of room on the roads. After just one night of training (Marcus is a very good teacher) it was my job to drive to Germany to do some grocery shopping. Though I am not an expert yet, I do like knowing that I can drive a stick shift and therefore do my share of the driving for any upcoming trips.
This past Monday, Marcus and I stayed in Luxembourg, rented bikes and rode along the Moselle River, the river that separates Luxembourg and Germany. It was a beautiful day for a leisurely bike ride, and it turned into a long bike ride filled with photo opp moments. If the weather stays this nice, I’m sure many more bike rides will follow. The banks of the Moselle are one of my favorite places in all of Luxembourg.
Now, on to the basketball update. To stick with the theme of traveling, I would like to inform you that I have not been called for a travel in the past nine games of the season! For a rookie from the States, that is a big deal, considering in my first five games I averaged over two travels per game.
The playoffs have not been so kind to us as the regular season. We won only one game so far out of seven, and were bumped from 4th place to 6th place. Though we haven’t been playing well as a team, if we win two out of the next three games, we MAY have a chance to make the next round of the playoffs. I believe we can pull off an upset or two, and I hope my teammates think we can as well. Wish us luck!
Here are some random ruminations from the past two months that don’t exactly fit into my “Travel” theme.
1. I am so proud of how far Princeton Women’s Basketball has come in the past 5 years. I really enjoyed keeping up with the team and cheering their success. A Top 25 ranking, highest seed in Ivy League history, and many more accomplishments really made me proud to be an alum. Many congrats to the entire team and especially to the seniors, Lo, LJ, and Devo. You guys had amazing careers.
2. It is wayyy more fun to share meals with other people when living alone. Every week, three other Americans players and I rotate who cooks a meal on Wednesday nights. We sit, eat, chill and talk until we are so tired that need to go home. Also, I swap meals with a teammate of mine on Fridays. It is always nice to eat someone else’s cooking once in a while.
3. My bracket was awful. Enough said there.
4.Only in Luxembourg is it ok to fall asleep on an outdoor bench for a long time with your iPhone, wallet and kindle out in the open. No one will steal anything, and people just leave you alone.
5. Dog shows are pretty cool. We randomly stumbled across one on a Sunday. I really want a dog (pretty pretty please can we get one Mom?!!!)
6. I can’t paint the nails on my right hand without having it look like a 3rd grader did it.
7. Go Phillies!