The University of Northern Iowa volleyball squad is headed to Europe for its foreign tour on May 12-23.
The Panthers will take part in matches as well as tour spots in France (Paris, Montpellier, Istre and Nice), Italy (Pisa, Florence, Cinque Terre and Torino) and Spain (Barcelona) over the two weeks.
FINAL BLOG ENTRY 7 (Posted May 24, 2013)
Our last stop was Barcelona, Spain! After a long bus ride with a potty break thrown in, we were rewarded with our first glimpses of Barcelona. The architecture awed and astounded us yet again as we drove through the city to get to our hotel.
BARCELONA – DAY 1
After check-in we had a little time to go out and explore. Some of us found a little market and took a stroll through the vendors. There were definitely some lighter wallets after that walk. Later we all met back at the hotel to do a little sightseeing, led by our two Spanish tour guides, and future opponents, Laura and Eleanora. The Christopher Columbus statue was our main stop and many of us took some pictures around, or even riding, the lions at the base of the statue. Next, we walked along the port to a nearby mall where even more foreign treasures were found and deemed worthy of coming back to the states. Many of us bought paintings from some of the local artists and we even got the privilege of seeing one of them at work.
After shopping, we were taken to dinner and got to sample a traditional Spanish dish, paella, in either seafood or chicken varieties. A late night gelato run capped off the evening and we went back to rest up for the next day.
BARCELONA – DAY 2 (LA SAGRADA FAMILIA)
Day two in Barcelona brought with it our first trips on the metro. Our first stop was the breathtaking work in progress, La Sagrada Familia, which was designed by the architect Gaudi. This basilica is dedicated to the holy family and features sculptures of great detail depicting the life of Jesus. Inside, the stained glass windows and light, airy feel bring in the feeling and theme of life and nature. Even the pillars and ceiling are made to resemble trees and their leaves.
Next we went to the Gaudi house to see a modern art exhibit by Chema Madoz. His art features photographs of regular objects that have been repurposed or used in unusual ways. The rest of the day was ours to use as we wished. Many of us sampled a buffet for lunch while others went to more traditional restaurants. After lunch shopping and trips to the beach took place a few of us also rode the cable cars that travel back and forth along Port Vell.
For supper we walked to a bullfighting arena that had been repurposed as a mall and ate at a restaurant inside. Haley got to practice her Spanish and amaze us all when she talked with the waiters. While we were waiting for our food, we were captivated by a practical joke show that had all of us laughing.
After dinner, we all headed back to the hotel to rest up for our last day in Barcelona.
BARCELONA – DAY 3 (OLYMPIC VILLAGE – GAMEDAY)
On our last day, we were given the morning to use however we wanted. Some of us slept in, others went to a nearby mall, and others went to a park with other works by Gaudi. In the park, there were lots of works of stained glass and beautiful scenery. The afternoon was spent resting so we would be ready for our three matches that night.
After our naps, we went to the Olympic village that was used for the 1992 Olympics. We got to see some awesome buildings and take pictures in front of one of the fountains. We even probably got in on some wedding photos by accident. Unfortunately we were not able to go inside the main arena since work was being done after it hosted the X-Games the previous week. After hopping on a bus and taking a short ride up the mountain, we got to see a panoramic view of the city from an extremely old fortress along the sea. The view was gorgeous and many defining features of the city were able to be seen, including La Sagrada Familia. After that, it was finally time for our matches! We played the best two out of three and came out on top of each one, not needing the third game to decide any of them. It was a great way to end the trip. After a quick supper, we headed back to the hotel for a few hours to pack and get ready for a very early departure (3:45 a.m., yikes!).
It's good to be home and back in Cedar Falls, but we'll always have the memories from this great trip! We’ll see all you Panther fans next fall!
Shelby Kintzel and Macy Ubben
BLOG ENTRY 6 (Posted May 20, 2013)
Bonjour! Hope everyone is doing well back home! We have been enjoying the different cultures and experiences and learning a lot as we go.
AS SEEN IN FRANCE
- Smoking is a common scene, even the players on the other teams do it before our matches!
- We hear American music everywhere. In the markets, stores and playing at our matches. Justin Timberlake, the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Rhianna and other top American hits are just a few.
- Famous American celebrities like Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, and Beyonce have been spotted in local advertisements.
- We keep getting served French fries with our meals as special sides, even as an appetizer once, because they think we Americans love them so much.
- The cars are tiny, and mo-peds and scooters fly in between lanes of traffic.
- We appreciate those that can speak enough English to help us out, because we literally know nothing - maybe a bonjour! or merci! here and there.
- To our surprise, some toilet seats are found without the seat, if you follow what we're saying.
- The beds in our hotel are twin-sized.
- The volleyball carts at the gym are actually grocery carts, which is kind of cute.
- If you want your groceries bagged in a market store, you may have to pay extra for the bag.
AIX-EN PROVENCE, FRANCE
Yesterday, Saturday, we arrived in Aix-en Provence and were able to roam the streets and shops for a few hours. The streets are narrow and curvy. They aren't straight and in blocks like we have in the states. The stores are all very small, and they line each rue (street) tucked into the buildings. Our match in Istres was against a very strong team and an experienced national team. The gym was filled with people banging on drums and loud air horns. Definitely not what we are used to, but it was neat to experience.
Today, we arrived in Montpellier, France. We walked around the center square and also a festival filled with street vendors. The vendors were selling a variety of dishes, jewelry, cheese and other handmade works. Later in the afternoon, we were led on a tour through the old city by a local guide who explained a lot about Montpellier and its history. We learned that the name Montpellier means mountain (mont) without trees/plain (pellier) as it sits high on a hill. We also got to see the different periods of architecture from early Roman to Gothic to classical. Our guide mentioned that Montpellier often reflected its design and architecture after Paris and many times tried to one-up Paris by showing the city's wealth in the fine details and design. It's neat to see how the city still reflects and shows evidence of each period that have been preserved over time. We saw the oldest monument in the city, a Jewish mikveh, which is like a bathhouse used to purify the body. They are typically found under synagogues. We learned it was discovered by accident and that the synagogue has long been dissolved. The mikveh is all that remains.
After dinner we ended tonight playing cards and relaxing for a bit. Off to Barcelona in the morning!
Amy Braun and Jenny Williams
BLOG ENTRY 5 (Posted May 18, 2013)
Bonjour from France! Yesterday, May 16th, we traveled all morning from Pisa, Italy to Torino! It was a rainy day, but we made good use of it by touring another beautiful Italian city.
Torino was a higher end more populated city with more than 500 shops! We saw a castle that used to be home to the ruling family when Torino was the seat of power in Italy. The castle was home to the world's most beautiful staircase. Along with this, the world's tallest museum, The National Cinema Museum, is found in the heart of Torino. Our favorite part of Torino (besides the gelato, of course) was the cathedral of John the Baptist. Inside we found Torino's most valued possession, The Shroud. In 1578, The Shroud, which was the burial cloth for Jesus Christ, was transferred to Torino. Today, people from all over the world travel to this cathedral to see and pray before The Shroud. Unfortunately, due to security complications, we were unable to see The Shroud up close, but it was still a moving experience. After a quick afternoon in Torino, we headed to our second match against the Lilliputs. Although we went 1-3, it was a challenging and fun match against a talented squad! We learned a lot from yesterday's match, and carried it over to our match today.
Today, May 17th, we traveled from Torino, Italy to Nice, France! Although we love the views of our flat Iowa fields, the mountains along the Mediterranean Sea were indescribably magnificent. Our eyes were weary and tired, but we couldn't help but ooh and ahh at the sights as we drove through tunnels and winding roads in the mountains. Some of the highlights of our journey were the palace of the prince in Moneco, and more important, the famous Elton John's $75 million villa. The entire road to Nice was along the coast of the deep blue water of the Med Sea. When we arrived in Nice, our bus driver got a bit turned around, and needed to take a hairpin turn with our giant charter bus in the middle of a tiny street with heavy traffic. After several tries and even a "love tap" to the car behind us, he miraculously got us to our hotel. From there, we were set loose to explore and grab a bite to eat. We chose foods from pizza to Irish stew to shrimp still in its shell.
Next, we got prepared to head to our third match of the trip against the Mougins volleyball club. This team consisted of a former professional player and Olympian from the 2004 games. They were in their mid-30's, so challenging with all of their experience. We fell to the Mougins in a hard-fought five game battle loosing 15-13 in the fifth. We took pictures and had a home cooked, traditional French meal with the team afterward. Everything was delicious, including the many different cheeses and desserts they provided.
Hope all is well and everyone is staying cool back in Iowa!
Aù revoir and GO PANTHERS!
BLOG ENTRY 4 (May 16, 2013)
Bonjurno, Panther fans! Today has been one of the highlights of our incredible trip so far!
We went to Cinque Terre in Italy, a picturesque area of five towns located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We started our journey by taking the train to Monterosso, the first of the five towns. It was a beautiful place to start, and we took photos in the Mediterranean! It was surprisingly chilly! Bobbi and a few others got a little too close and ended up getting soaked.
VERNAZZA AND MANAROLA
The next leg of our journey was a rigorous yet beautiful hour and a half hike up the mountains to get to Vernazza, the next stop of our trip. The path began as a straight up climb with steep stairs that got us sweating like we did during our match last night. Although it was strenuous and a little treacherous, the breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding towns made it more than worth it! Our hike made us hungry, and Vernazza was a great place to grab some grub. Fresh seafood and pasta of course were the dishes of choice, topped off with gelato. We also had some time to shop at some of the local vendors before catching the train to the next town, Manarola. Little did we know, there was a surprise waiting for us there... Andre!
DINNER IN LUCCA
Andrea Comini helped Jed Smith and the strength and conditioning staff during fall and spring workouts. His stretching style was particularly memorable. He is from Italy originally, and decided to make the three-hour commute from his hometown to join us! He also accompanied us to dinner in Lucca. We ate at a trateria, which is a traditional home-style restaurant in Italy. Our appetizers were interesting to say the least, and they included an assortment Tuscan style meats and bread, and toasted bread topped with liver and lard. Yum! The main course was pesto pasta with sausage that was much more popular among the hungry parents, coaches and athletes. After our meal was finished, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for our travel out of Pisa tomorrow morning as well as our second match.
We are having a blast but miss you all back home! Go Panthers!
Haley Wandrey, Leigh Pudwill, and Kayla Haneline (:
BLOG ENTRY 3 (MAY 15, 2013)
What's up, Panther fans? It was a beautiful day here in Italy today. We started off the tour by holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa then taking a long walk through Pisa to the train station. This train was taking us to Florence. We got to do a lot of vendor shopping and even see the Statue of David! We had lunch outside with a beautiful view of the Santa Maria Cathedral in the square of Florence.
We got to experience the culture a bit with a few kisses on the cheek from our waiter and learning some Italian along the way, mainly the phrases excuse me or thank you.
Moving into the end of the day, we got to play some volleyball. We had a few new rules to follow, but we came out strong and won 4 of the 5 matches. It was a different atmosphere, but we were there to compete like Panthers.
After the match, we headed to a pizzeria in Pisa and got to interact and get to know the Italian team. We were surprised at a few of the toppings on the pizza; hot dogs, French fries, and cheese. It was surprisingly good :). We chatted with the girls who knew some English and they said not to go out looking for any Italian boys, because it is a myth that they are so beautiful and perfect. It was an amazing experience getting to interact with these girls and we ended the dinner with a Nutella dessert pizza. (They love their Nutella.) Now we are back in the hotel washing up our jerseys in the sink for our next match and headed to Cinque Terre tomorrow for some more adventures.
- Eryca Hingtgen, Kinsey Caldwell, Britt Nelson
BLOG ENTRY 2 (MAY 14, 2013)
The journey began at 5:30 p.m. on a sunny, Minnesota day (May 12) with 32 gorgeous people for the trip of a lifetime. First stop: Paris, France.
THE PLANE RIDE
The first hour of the flight was filled with excitement and wonder. And then, we got bored. Three movies later, some of us got an hour of sleep. The dinner menu was exquisite, with a choice of chicken and dumplings, chicken salad or tortellini pasta, accompanied by a light salad, cheese and crackers, a soft, buttery roll, and a delectable brownie.
One hour before touchdown, we were again treated to a first-class meal of a frozen banana and a croissant breakfast sandwich. It really hit the spot after a night of restful sleep. After minor delays, we finally set foot on Parisian carpet.
First order of business: BATHROOM BREAK. After the ladies went to the bathroom and the gentlemen fixed their make up and hair, we boarded a bus to take us to the city of lights, accompanied by Kiki, our tour guide. We saw some amazing sites on the way to the heart of Paris, including a state of the art soccer stadium and a hobo camp.
Upon exiting the bus, we walked to the cathedral of Notre Dame, and Leigh was able to connect with some long-lost gargoyle relatives. We were fortunate enough to be able to see the inside of this magnificent structure in all its glory. Next we made a stop at the famous Key Bridge, where couples can put a lock on the chain link fencing of the bridge to lock their hearts forever, and throw away the key. Literally, they just throw it into the river.
Up next, the famous Louvre, where Jed solved the mystery of the Da Vinci Code -- turns out it's only a myth. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to go inside and view the wonders of the world, but we did get to meet some nice gentlemen selling the Eiffel Tower for only €1! After getting 20 whole minutes for lunch, a few of us enjoyed some banana Nutella crepes, while others did some light shopping. We took a brisk walk to the Eiffel Tower and took some classical pictures. After viewing this architectural treasure we meandered to the Arc de Triumph for another photo op. Then it was back on the bus to the airport. There wasn't an open eye to be found (except for maybe the bus driver).
EN ROUTE TO PISA, ITALY
We aroused from our slumber just long enough to board our plane, then it was back to counting sheep. Luckily, this was just a short two-hour plane ride to Pisa, Italy. Once we arrived in Pisa we were greeted with each and every piece of luggage. What luck! We hopped on another bus and arrived at our hotel, accompanied by our new tour guide, Alma. Our first authentic Italian meal consisted of "gassy" water (bubbly water) and pasta. After generously accepting second helpings, we were dismayed to find out that this was only the first course. Next came roasted potatoes and a patty of beef sausage served with ketchup and mayonnaise. Delightful! Dessert was a blackberry tart, and then it was off to bed for the weary world travelers. Most of us enjoyed a quick shower, and then lights out. Day 1, complete.
Ciao for now, Cedar Falls.
XOXO, Gossip Girls (Shelby Kintzel, Macy Ubben, and Courtney Kintzel)
BLOG ENTRY 1 (MAY 12, 2013)
Hi, Panther fans. We are on the bus headed for Minneapolis to begin The Amazing Race, aka our foreign tour. I have nicknamed the trip due to our jam-packed itinerary. The trip will offer our student-athletes the opportunity to see historical places and interact with many people from different backgrounds. In today's global society, students are more competitive in the job market if they have a study abroad-type of experience. Thank you to our athletic department for supporting the trip. I am most looking forward to Cinque Terre and some fun matches. Go Panthers!
- Lisa Jepsen, faculty athletic representative
We are flying out at 5:10 p.m. Then it will be a 7-8 hour flight directly to Paris France. Once we arrive in Paris, which will be about 8:35 a.m. Monday morning. We will have about 6 hours to tour the amazing city. Then it will be hopping back on the plane and flying to Pisa, Italy, where we will have supper and finally get to bed! Then on Tuesday morning we will board a bus and travel to the heart of Pisa and spend an hour or so sightseeing in Pisa. Then we will go by train to Florence, Italy. We will have lunch and sightseeing in Florence for a few hours before we hop back on the train to head back to Pisa to get ready for our first match!!