Happy Halloween!

I started talking to my teammates about Halloween a few weeks ago. Halloween in Europe really isn’t. Yes, a few stores, especially candy shops will have some pumpkin type candies and decorations, but Halloween is not the holiday it is in America with the trick-or-treating, costume parties, pumpkin patches, haunted houses and such.

So my French teammates have never really celebrated Halloweenโ€ฆ and what does that mean for us? Party time ๐Ÿ™‚
Last night everybody got dressed up and we had dinner and lots of desserts at a friends house. My teammates went ALL OUT. Seriously above and beyond any costume expectations I had. I’ll try to post the pics of their costumes when I get copies ๐Ÿ™‚

Kristy and I took a semi-easy way out, dressing up as the 3 time Olympic Champion duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings but with a little twist- we were the zombie versions ๐Ÿ˜‰ It even got a us a retweet from Kerri on twitter. Yes, we were super excited about it. No, we’re not ashamed to admit it!

3x Beach VB Champions of the Underworld!

It was a really fun little evening. I made pumpkin cranberry bread with pumpkin spiced cream cheese dip (it is to die for), and brought along some baked pumpkin seeds and candy corn, which most of the girls have never seen before. Hope everyone at home has a safe, fun, and spooky Halloween!
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Paris Perspective

Good news: The season has begun!

Bad news: We’re 0-1

Good news: I finally had Starbucks!

Bad news: My iced chai latte was ice-less

Good news: I went to Paris!

Bad news: This was my view of the Eiffel Tower

I promise you, that little nub in the middle of the picture is the Eiffel tower. No, not the light post, the tiny vertical line to the right of it.

Although I may be contradicting all my good news, it was an exciting weekend and I can definitely say it showed a lot of potential.

We hit the road on Friday in a couple of vans to get to Paris, about a 4 hour drive. On the way (while stuck in traffic) we spotted the top of the Eiffel tower in the distance! It was both super exciting and so anti-climactic. It was so far away and tiny that it probably should’ve been considered a let down, BUT that’s not gonna stop my fun. We were still PUMPED to sneak a peak and try to get pictures.

That night after dinner at our hotel, being the American and former Seattlite that I am, I made a request to our coach about making a Starbucks run if one happened to be in our area. We got the green light: Starbucks was maybe 1.5 km (10-15 min walk) from our hotel. HALLELUJAH!ย ย [fyi I LOVE Starbucks and have a serious weakness for Iced Chai Lattes with soy milk] So off we set, our 9 matching players and 2 coaches for an evening jaunt to Starbucks. I spot that glorious green sign in the distance only to find out… it’s CLOSED!

It was 8:56pm the second we got to the doors and apparently it closes at 9pm. An employee was sweeping out front and our coaches and teammates asked if they’d serve us but to no avail. Then it was my turn to try some begging, “But, I’m from America!” (bad choice). In a smart ass tone, “Oh, and there’s no Starbucks in America?!” Oops. We, as a group, go on to explain there is no Starbucks in Nantes. While that’s going on I decided to step into the open door of Starbucks and shuffle up to the register where a barista is by the register and putting away some pastries. I, ever so sweetly, asked “Pleaseeeee, would you mind if I get an iced chai latte? It’s so easy, just pour the concentrate and milk together with ice and it will be perfect. Please!” She stared at me for a few seconds and asked: Ice? YES, please ๐Ÿ™‚ We don’t have ice. Okay! No ice works!

Starbucks ๐Ÿ˜€

So I got my ice-less iced chai latte, and it was still DELICIOUS ๐Ÿ™‚ And the rest of my team ends up mosey-ing into the store and getting simple drinks as well. Bonus points for Starbucks and those employees! (except the first guy who discouraged us, boo to him)

Ontoย game day. It ended up being a pretty jam packed day for us. Started off with breakfast, then some quick film, before we headed to the venue for practice. At the gym, we had to take some pictures for the league or tournament first (side note: it is so difficult when photographers say “Okay, now do whatever you like.” Deer in the headlights is always the first reaction). After a lot more waiting than planned, we had our 45 minute pre-game practice, and sped back to the hotel. We didn’t have much time to squeeze in lunch, rest, film, packing up, and a snack before departing the hotel, but we managed.

Pictures

We played our first match against a team from Mulhouse. They finished 2nd in the league the past few years and are a solid team. We came out really fired up, knowing that we have the ability to compete at their level. We took the first 2 sets, and then just ran out of gas and dropped the match in 5. It is so frustrating, and we had a match point opportunity in the 4th, but it wasn’t meant to be. Really wanted the ‘W’ but it was an exciting match, a respectable way to open our season, and its good knowing that we can and will be much better as the season progresses.

Also, I need to note how AWESOME our fans are! We had a solid following of 30+ Nantes-ians(?) who made the trek with us (not to mention family and friends from other cities) and had drums and flags and kept the neutral site rocking in our favor for the match. Can’t wait to play in front of them at home!

Afterwards, we had to go directly back to Nantes. Grabbed dinner on the road and got back to the apartment around 3:20am Like I said action packed way to start the season.

Even though things may not have gone as picture perfect (achem, literally in regards to the Eiffel Tower and photos) it’s all about perspective. It was an exciting and promising start to our season… I plan on seeing the Eiffel Tower up close next weekend, getting that Chai Latte again with Ice, and taking that win back in the rematch. I like what the future holds!

Entering the gym

Always the Bridesmaid…

Our 3rd and final tournament of preseason is over, and our third 2nd place all wrapped up. Boo. We played in Riom, France which is a 5 hour drive from Nantes.

Riom, France

The tournament was only between 3 teams- us, Albi, and Beziers- all 1st division French teams we will play this season. It was an interesting format as well: we played both teams Saturday and Sunday, each 2 out of 3. Overrall we went 3-1 (beating Albi twice, and splitting with Beziers), but we dropped one set more than Beziers so 2nd it is.
The good news is we definitely made progress compared to our performance last weekend. AND I got to see Alesha Deesing!

Me and Dees ๐Ÿ™‚

I haven’t seen Dees in maybe a year, but we played together back in 2007 when I was a freshman at UW and she was a senior. It was awesome playing with her then, and I wish I could do it again!
We are now officially less than a week away from our first real league match! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve been looking forward to this for 7 weeks, time to really get down to business!
Some highlights from the week before:
We had a *mostly* day off last Mondayโ€ฆ until that evening. The club hosted a press conference and ‘meet the team’ event for the public. Although it was tough on us because it was such a long function (4 hours… and it gets extra long when you don’t understand anything people are saying) but it’s so awesome to see the sponsors and supporters of the club, and that they’re actually invested and excited about our team.
On Tuesday night I had everybody come over to my apartment for Mexican Night ๐Ÿ™‚ We had Wednesday off, so we finally got to blow off some steam Tuesday night. I whipped up a full taco bar- shredded chicken, ground beef taco meat, black beans from scratch, fajita veggies, pineapple peach mango salsa, and all the toppings. Did I mention the margaritas? First off, more than a few girls have NEVER had a margarita before (that kind of inspired Mexican night). Second off, it was actually really difficult to find tequila and a margarita mix in the grocery store. There was only 4 types of tequila to pick from. I was walking up and down the aisles, “Here, Jose Jose Joseโ€ฆ where are chu??” No Cuervo around, just 4, not so well stocked brands to choose from. But it got the job done! It was a really fun, relaxing team night. And the margaritas were well received ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pineappe Peach Mango Salsa… to die for

On Wednesday, Kristy, Coop, and I did some shopping- our favorite past time. I bagged my first real purchase here, a cute winter jacket from H&M. Nothing extravagant, but I love it, and am sure I will put it to good use shortly with the weather changing.
Thursday night the American trio whipped up a cauliflower pizza! Kristy and I are a wee bit pinterest crazy, and LOVE all the funky/healthy/yummy recipes you can find on there. So we’ve been planning on attempting this for a little while. It’s a pizza made of cauliflower crust, so kinda healthy. It was pretty good, except it pretty much just made me crave normal pizza. I’m a bit like my mom: the crust makes the pizza!

Cauliflower Pizza

Friday we set out to Riom for the tournament. It was a 5 hour drive that we took rented vans for, but the drive went relatively quickly. First off, I watched the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy and was tearing up every 15 minutes! LOVE THAT SHOW! And then I started trying to learn how to scout matches on Data Volley. Data Volley is a program that helps you to ‘code’ and scout a volleyball match. I’m very familiar with it from college and USA, but my coaches here are just trying to learn. It’s tough for them because it’s all in English, so I’m trying to make it a little bit easier for them. I now understand how important the support staff and statisticians that are ‘fluent in data volley’ are!

Entrance to the restrooms at a gas station. Got me really ‘excited’ to use it.

Picture Day!

Wednesday was picture day for our team! We were so excited to finally get our jerseys! ๐Ÿ˜€

Yup, that’s a blue and a PINK jersey! I’ve never had a pink team color before, let along bright bubble gum pink, but I’m kinda diggin it ๐Ÿ™‚

We met in the morning at Passage Pommeraye, a small but very classic Nantes shopping center. It was so chilly at 9 am taking the pics, but I think the the shopping center in the background will look so cool. And we also managed to have some fun, taking lots of silly pics with the photographer too. I can’t wait to see them (and share them with you!)

Afterwards the team, coaches, Presidents and some of the other staff went to a cafe for a drink (of course). This place, La Cigale, is one of the oldest and most traditional in Nantes. The presidents told me that I MUST take my family there when they visit!

It was gorgeous inside! Really ornate decorating. I kept looking at the walls and noticed some insect pictures. Then I looked again at the menu… and again at the wall… CICADAS! The place was decorated not with actual cicadas, but with fancy pictures of cicadas on the wall. It’s like their mascot?! What the heck, I hate those buggers! BUT, I loved this cafe. My macchiato was delicious ๐Ÿ™‚ and pretty! A couple of girls ordered a hot chocolate, and I may have stolen a sip. So much more rich and delicious than your average swiss miss or even *gasp* Starbucks hot chocolate.

 

We finally have our full team together now, YAY, and are heading to a tournament Fri-Sun. Hoping we can finally put some quality play together!

Home Sweet Nantes

After 5 days in La Baule, I was sure happy to get back to my apartment in Nantes. Even though training camp was at ‘the beach,’ we only saw it 3 times. 2 of the 3 was during workouts, and the other time was for 15 minutes when we first arrived. It was a long trip with lots of practices and workouts but it was a great experience.

I was most excited to get out of my top bunk and back into my large, grounded, unsqueaky bed in Nantes.

Besides volleyball conditioning and practices we had 2 team activities while in La Baule. On Wednesday we went kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean! I’ve paddled around lakes and bays before, but I’ve never actually been out on an ocean. Not that we went so far out, but it was neat! And definitely a workout! We got to a certain part of the water and practiced the proper protocol if a fellow kayak-er was in trouble: gather the rest of the boats side by side and hold them tight together. The injured kayak-er would then have their boat laying across the front of all other boats. Once our position was secure, the instructor climbed out and ran across all the boats- sounds easy, right? Nope! Me, our head coach and 3 other teammates all tried without the same success. I got maybe halfway across before resorting to crawling and then jumping into the water ๐Ÿ™‚
On Friday, we had our second team activity- a high ropes course! I haven’t done a ropes course since I was 15, and I was pretty pumped for it. We got to bounce around in a fun section before the real stuff began. After listening to all the safety instructions we set out for our journey in the trees! There were some REALLY difficult obstacles to get through/across/around, and then there were a bunch of nicer ones where we basically just zip-lined our way through (my faves). It was a great activity to communicate, problem solve, and support one another.
Friday was our last evening in La Baule (still had 2 practices Saturday before we could leave), but after the evening practice our coach explained that he’s been really happy with the week, with our effort and energy in practices and the activities. He said something along the lines of: we work very hard, in every aspect, and then sometimes, it’s alright to go out and indulge. So he allowed us to take a short walk to a restaurant that makes the most INCREDIBLE waffles, to indulge in those and have some ‘off-the-court team time.’ I am still dreaming about those wafflesโ€ฆ actually it’s the ‘chantilly’ or whipped cream they put on top that sold me. My mother, a whipped cream connoisseur, would have definitely approved ๐Ÿ™‚
But now we’re so happy to be back in our little city. Today was a well deserved day off. Took a little stroll through the Nantes Jazz Fest, but that’s for another post ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย Bon Nuit!