Monarchs 2012 European Tour
Aug. 10, 2012
Day One Photo Gallery
BLOG # 5: ATHENS AND THE HOME STRETCH
Greetings from the fourth floor of the Divani Apollon Palace and Spa in Athens, Greece. The highlight of the check-in process was the metal detectors and armed guards that greeted us. What's the deal? I'll get to that in a moment.
When you're on a trip like this things can get a bit confusing. Changing hotels, time zones, languages can leave you in a daze. Walking out the front door of the hotel and seeing The Acropolis snaps you right out of it. Just to set the record straight The Acropolis isn't the name of an ancient building. It is the hill upon which the ancient buildings sit. The iconic building on top is The Parthenon.
The bus made one stop on the trip to The Acropolis. We paused at the original Olympic Stadium site. The world's only all marble stadium, this place was beautiful. The Monarchs got to hear that the stadium hosted crowds of 60-thousand for basketball back in the day.
The Acropolis was breathtaking. The sun was shining, the wind was howling and the stories of its' history from our guide Alexander were really interesting. Once the tour was over we headed down the hill to The Plaka section of the city for lunch. I couldn't help but smirk when an old lady trying to sell silk came up to us for what seemed like the 11th time and said "No touch, but look. No touch, but look". Part of me wanted to grab the silk with my gyro-soaked hands and have a look. I didn't.
Everyone had the afternoon open. I decided to head to the hotel pool to shoot some video and take a dip. The water was cool and refreshing....and deep. Chest deep at the bottom of the entry stairs. 3.5 meters in the deep end. I got out after doing the "Nestea Plunge" and then the guys started showing up. Seeing them having fun poolside showed me another of the many reasons trips like this are great. You can see a young team building chemistry.
After dinner the "explore" gene kicked in again and before the night was done I had seen the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier(a well-choreagraphed routine with 5 guards), a nighttime view of Olympic Stadium and sampled some of the best brews the country of Greece has to offer.
Today was moving day from the Royal Olympic Hotel in downtown Athens to the Divani here on the Aegean. Now, why all the security at the hotel? It seems that the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, is here for a meeting regarding the European Union. Juncker is the longest serving head of any government of any European state. The drama surrounding the Greek economy and its' affect on the EU is fascinating to watch.
As I type away several of the Old Dominion players are battling some type of bug. I'm not sure what will happen with our next game set for tonight(Wednesday) at 1pm edt. I'll keep you posted on twitter @TedAlxanderodu.
BLOG # 4-ATHENS GREECE, HELLO
The European journey for the ODU Men's Basketball team continued today with a 90-minute plane ride from Rome, Italy to Athens, Greece. A 6:30am wakeup call rousted the traveling party which met in the lobby of the Grand Hotel Plaza to board buses to catch the 11:00am flight to Greece. We were glad we left early.
Ever gone on a trip where most of the key travel is by plane? If not keep in mind the weight of the bags you're traveling with. The rules are different when traveling internationally. Translation: you can't take as much as you can in the U.S. The scene at check in was chaotic. One by one everyone put their luggage on the scale. Some(namely Athletic Trainer Jason Mitchell with all his medical supplies) were overweight. What followed was people switching items from one person's bag to another. They even weigh your carry-on items. It took a long time. Eventually the task was done. We all made the flight.
With Athens time one hour ahead of Rome(7 hours ahead of Hampton Roads) we landed at 2:25pm. The first thing you notice is the contrast in landscape and buildings. Rome, one of the most beautiful cities in the world when it comes to architecture and Athens, with its' mountains and coastal vistas. There isn't nearly as much color to the buildings in Greece with same colored houses springing up in the valleys.
Blaine Taylor decided to hold a practice. The thinking was with no game scheduled until Wednesday, he might as well get the guys on the court. For that we went to the training site of one of the best teams in all of Europe: Olympiacos B.C. Pareaus. The workout was just under two hours.
We're staying at the Royal Olympic Hotel, a beautiful facility that has some interesting quirks. The elevators are tiny. Two guys-max just like in Como, Italy. Seeing these basketball players navigate phone booth-sized spaces with all their luggage is priceless.
Another quirk is the way the hotel key system. They, like the Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome, use key cards. Now that's nothing new. What is interesting is that you can't turn on the power in your room unless a key is in the "power slot". Don't ask how long it took Mark Benson from ODAF(my roommate for this trip) took to get the power on....in the dark. Just part of the adventure.
Tonight I had dinner with Jason Mitchell and the Hall of Famer Carol Hudson. We walked about 10 minutes to a sidewalk café. To the strains of live Greek music Carol had the swordfish while Jason and I attacked lamb gyros. It was fabulous. The greek salad's tomatoes had a zing I'd never experienced.
Tomorrow we'll tour the Acropolis and the Parthenon(not to be confused with Rome's Pantheon). Then, hopefully some more exploring and a dip in the hotel pool. It's the first place we've been that has offered that feature and with temperatures topping 90 degrees each day, I can't wait.
Don't forget that you can follow our coverage of this European adventure at odusports.com. Carol's posting photo galleries and my video camera's always rolling. I'm also looking forward to tweeting from the game Wednesday, technology pending. The internet here is a bit more challenging than in Rome. Keep your fingers crossed.
BLOG #3-ODU MEN'S BASKETBALL EUROPEAN ADVENTURE
Life is about making memories. Whether it's with your family, your co-workers or just yourself, memories, both good and bad are what create the timeline of our lives. The more positive memories you can load in the better. The journey with the ODU men's basketball team has been stuffed with memories...all good.
Saturday began with a trip to The Vatican. I quickly found out that one doesn't need to be a religious zealot to be inspired once you're inside The Vatican's massive walls. Obviously a lot of people agree. They put 25-thousand people a day through the place. The gardens are unbelievable, the corridors are lined with such incredible art that your senses are overloaded from the start of the tour to the finish. The team had a tour guide named Isabella. We each had a wireless receiver to listen to her expert commentary. One incredible story of talent, belief and history after another. It was amazing. We've all heard about Michaelangelo and The Sisteen Chapel. Seeing it was mind blowing.
As we boarded the bus for the trip back to the hotel the next step on our European adventure was a basketball game....outside in the city of Orvieto.
It took about 90 minutes to get there. The city is perched on a plateau. The roads are narrow. Our bus driver was top notch. The Monarchs began warmups with the sun covering about 1/3 of the playing surface and a slight breeze blowing from the left. You could sense the excitement in every one of the Monarch faces.
My first goal upon arrival at any ODU game is to make sure my equipment is working. In the case of this trip to Europe, that means my laptop, camera and air card internet connection. Thanks to one of our guides at World Class Basketball named Andre, the aircard enables me to tweet live from the game. I've learned that Monarch nation wants to know what they're team is doing as soon as they do it. The game in Orvieto was a great example of lovers of basketball coming together for competition and fellowship. One of the organizers needed my laptop to play the national anthems. Having never done that before I said "sure". The butterflies were buzzing until opening tip but we pulled it off.
The Monarchs knew quickly that this club team from Orvieto was an upgrade from the one in Como. After a fairly even first quarter the Monarchs pulled away before winning handily. Donte Hill led the way with 19 points.
After the game the team and boosters(there in great numbers again) walked up the hill to an Italian restaurant for what turned into a 3 hour funfest feast. The food, the singing(can you say "Ice cream and cake") had everyone in stitches. It was yet another example of Monarch Nation coming together thousands of miles from home and accomplishing the mission. Memories made for everyone there.
Sunday agenda was highlighted by a guided tour of The Colosseum(I believe that's how they spell it around these parts). Talk about the original "Big House", you could once again sense the history of the games, many of them brutal, that were played there. If you can check out my story of the day at odusports.com, let me know what you think about the parasols!
From The Colosseum to The Pantheon, another remarkable achievement in architechture. I also made it to the Spanish Steps(there are 125 of them) and the Trevi Fountain, a hugely popular attraction after sunset. I think just about any fountain is really neat. The Trevi debuted at the top of the list.
Whether it be the beauty, history, the weather or the incessant locals trying to sell you everything, my time in Rome has been an incredible experience. Tomorrow the adventure continues with a morning flight to Athens, Greece.
The memory making machine is working overtime.
BLOG NUMBER 2 FROM MBB EUROPEAN ADVENTURE
The adventure continues for the Old Dominion Men's basketball team. Day 2 meant a boat cruise up and down Lake Como. The scenery was incredible. We motored from Como to Bellagio with stops at numerous coastal towns in between. It didn't take long to realize the folks here depend on this mode of transportation to live their lives. We passed the gorgeous home used in the movie "Ocean's 12". It was one of many unbelievable dwellings we saw along the lakefront.
Just after our cruise stopped in Bellagio Head Coach Blaine Taylor did what he does best: create a lasting memory. While most were congregated on the shore to execute their lunch plans, Blaine made his way to the end of a dock, blew kisses to the crowd and proceeded to do a swan dive into Lake Como. He would be the ONLY person I'd see in the lake that day. He emerged to the crowd's thunderous applause.
One thing I've learned about Blaine is he loves to swim. This was apparent during the Paradise Jam trip two years ago. With the entire team taking a snorkeling trip there was a bit of tension in the air. Not a lot of the players were very experienced in the water. I thought I'd show them the way and be the first one to jump in. It wasn't close. I jumped in and when I surfaced...I saw Blaine some 100 yards off the bow in full-snorkel mode.
Game #1 of the 4-game tour featured the Monarchs taking on Club Nestre on the outskirts of Como. The venue was the quality of a mid-level high school gym. Those working the game were very friendly. I was fortunate that our tour guide Andre could hook me up with internet access so I could tweet game tid-bits back home. It's hard to grade the team too harshly after a 92-40 win during which they held their opponent to just 13 points in the second half. Yes, there were some forced shots and a few too many turnovers, but there were also lots of positive moments. The defense was suffocating. Double-digit blocked shots. The transition offense was rolling. Let's not jump to conclusions too quickly with this team. Remember there are 7 new guys on the roster. It's going to take time for everyone to learn and master their new roles. It's going to be fun to watch.
Friday morning it was "good-bye" to Como and "hello" to the Italian fast train to Rome. I'm told a bus trip from Milan to Rome is some 5-7 hours. Thanks to a top speed of over 300 km/hour we made the journey in 3 hours and 20 minutes on the fast train. Check out the "Day 3" video on odusports.com to see what it's like to rid on the railway rocket.
So now we're in Rome. A quick walk around the neighborhood produced one incredible site after another. Buildings steeped in history, bustling streets and outrageous food. Tomorrow we'll check out some of the history and gear up for Game #2. It supposed to be a much more difficult test. I'll let you know via twitter @TedAlexanderodu.
TED ALEXANDER BLOGS FROM THE MBB EUROPEAN ADVENTURE...DAY 1
Life is an adventure. Filled with opportunities to do things you never imagined. Such is the Old Dominion men's basketball team's trip to Europe for me. I've never been to Italy or Greece. My only journey "across the pond" was a 1986 junket to London to take in The Championships at Wimbledon. Thanks to my job at ODU, this opportunity presented itself. I was given the chance to go along. My mission: document the trip for Monarch Media and write about it through this blog.
After months of preparation getaway day finally arrived. With my suitcase packed for my longest trip ever I had to concentrate on my carry-on. This included a laptop, camera, external hard drive and all the associated connectors and cords. "Don't forget to take power adaptors" was a familiar cry from all of my co-workers. Yes, the plugs over in Europe are different than in the States. Trips to numerous "plug shops" and I was all set. I hoped.
The thing about going so far away is that if you don't have all the necessary equipment, you're asking for delays, problems and stress. I was fairly confident I had everything I needed. Time would tell.
Our journey began at Norfolk International with an uneventful 1 hour 22 minute flight to Atlanta. On the bus to the airport you could see the excitement in the team's collective eye. Most kids don't ever get this kind of opportunity. Every one of the Monarchs understands and appreciates it. I've traveled with the men's team for more than four years and one of the neatest things about it is how they carry themselves in public. Be it a solid upbringing, the ODU coaching staff, the leadership of upperclassmen or a combination of all the above, these guys always conduct themselves with class and dignity. These guys are stopped all the time for pictures and questions. People will come up to me and ask where we're from and go out of their way to compliment the team on their behavior. Not all teams act this way. Monarch Nation should be proud.
After a 2-hour layover in Atlanta we boarded for the 9-hour flight to Milan, in northern Italy. I asked Coach Blaine Taylor what he tells his team about handling long trips such as this keeping in mind that being 6' 5" or more crammed into a coach seat is no bargain. He told me "First, I don't tell them how long the flight is." Classic Blaine. Once on board we were off to Europe.
I had never been on a flight this long, but the combination of movies, food, reading materials and a little sleep and before we knew it we could see the French Alps out the jet's windows. We landed Wednesday morning just after 8. Once our traveling party had boarded our two buses(one for the team, the other for some of the program's best supoorters) we were off on a 50-minute ride to Milan.
The first thing to strike me on this sunny 74 degree day was one of the signatures of any European country: the architecture. Now I'm no Art Van Delay, but the detail of the buildings is fascinating. We stopped in Milan and proceeded to tour a castle, downtown and The Duomo, arguably one of the most beautiful churches on the continent. As a holiday mass was going on we wandered through, around and on top of The Duomo. Yes, for 7 Euros, you can climb the 250 steps to the roof of this amazing building built in the 14th century. The views were incredible. The experience unforgettable.
After a lunch of pizza, bruchetta and gelato it was back on the bus for the 35-minute ride to Como. While most of the group used the short trip for napping(Iwas too wired), I gazed out the window at the Italian Alps that seemed to sprout right before my eyes. No, I'm not in Hampton Roads anymore.
Some say that taking a short nap once you reach your destination is the best way to combat jet lag. Still too wired, Athletic Trainer Jason Mitchell and I took a walk across the street to Lake Como. Wow! Mountains meet the water in a scene that reminded me of St Thomas, scene of another great ODU basketball adventure. One of the interesting sights along the way was a museum honoring physicist Allessandro Volt. I've learned he invented the battery. And you thought George Clooney was the only interesting guy who walked the streets of Como.
Next came a dinner at the hotel with the entire travel party. It was great seeing all the players stand and state how much they appreciated the support of those in the room. Each person in the travel party stood and told the story of their involvement with Old Dominion basketball. It was a great way to end our first day. I retired back to my room to edit and feed the video story that recounts what we did today. As I write this I am hoping the story will make it back to Norfolk for posting on odusports.com and ODUTV on Cox digital cable. Not being a tech wiz I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the story will make it back.
Tomorrow the team has a workout schedule for 8am. Then it's off to a boat trip north on Lake Como to the town of Bellagio. Later tomorrow night the Monarchs play the first of four exhibition games. I'm looking forward to seeing how the seven new members of the team look playing against a foreign club team. I'll be shooting video highlights and tweeting @TedAlexanderodu. Of course I'll have to make sure I find someone who can help me get internet service at the arena. Better brush up on my Italian.
The ODU Monarch Cagers each gave a presentation on their upcoming European trip to Italy and Greece, Aug. 14-24. Check out the video below on some of the presentations and team/staff thoughts on the upcoming journey in which ODU will visit Milan, and Rome in Italy and Athens, Greece.
The ODU Basketball Monarchs begin their 10-day, four game European tour of Italy and Greece, Aug. 14- 24th. Follow along on our athletic website (www.odusports.com) during the trip with daily video blogs, game reports and photos from their tour of scenic sites of Como, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican/Museum, Athens, the Acropolis and more.
ODU arrives in Milan on Aug. 15 and will play Riviera Club in Senna Comasco. The squad will then travel to Rome on Aug. 17 and play Orvieto in the medieval city of the same name on August 18th.. That contest will be played in the center of the city on an outdoor rubberized court.
ODU travels to Athens, Greece on Aug. 20 and will play a game against Doukas at 1:30 Norfolk time, followed by a contest against Filathlikos on Aug. 23 at 1:30 Norfolk time.
This is the fifth tour in school history. ODU traveled to Algeria in the summer of 1975, France in the summer of 1994, London in the Fall of 2004 and the Bahamas in the Fall of 2008.