May 11, 2009
Editor's note: During the Notre Dame women's basketball team's 10-day foreign tour of Europe, sophomore forward Kellie Watson is filing a daily diary with Michael Rothstein of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Following are Watson's thoughts on the trip with a link to her entry also available on the Journal-Gazette's web site.
PARIS, France - We finally finished practice on Saturday and change the foreign tour countdown on our board from one to zero. Panicking about the weight of our luggage, we were all weighing them on a small scale (coordinator of basketball operations) Stephanie (Menio) brought in. We eventually got all of our bags under the 50-pound limit and packed up our bus. We tried not to fall asleep on the ride to Chicago to ensure that we can all get some sleep on the flight to Paris, we watched "Gladiator" and ate our Subway lunch. Just about two hours later we got to Chicago's O'Hare Airport and were as anxious as we had ever been. After sitting around for what felt like forever, our flight finally began to board! Paris, here we come! At this point it finally hit us that the trip we have been counting down for months is finally here! We all cheered as the plane took off, and began to mentally prepare for an eight-hour flight. After our dinners of chicken and pasta or Beef Burgundy and a movie, we settled down and tried to get some sleep to account for the six-hour time difference.
We woke up on the plane after about four or five hours of sleep to finally be able to see some French countryside out of the plane windows. We were finally here! We made it, just barely, through customs and got our little France stamps on our passports. Now it's time for a three-hour bus tour of Paris. Our English tour guide, Leo, took us through some of the sights. We drove around and saw the Arc de Triomphe - which also contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier -- the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and a huge number of political buildings related to Napoleon I and Napoleon III. The intricacy of the outer walls of the buildings is truly amazing, especially when you consider the fact that it was all done by hand. We took a little break to get some walking in and headed to look at Notre Dame Cathedral. With Sunday mass about to begin, the courtyard in front of the Cathedral was swarming with people of all different races and languages. We met a boys' soccer team from the Republic of Moldova, and took it as a photo opportunity and talked with the kids and their coach about our sports. One of the boys translated the conversation between us. They were all very friendly and we shook hands and wished each other good luck when we parted.
The food and ATM search was intense. We were all starving, but had not had an opportunity to convert any of our money into Euros or even withdraw any. After about a 15-minute search down random streets branching from the Cathedral square, we finally came across an ATM and were able to eat some sandwiches on French baguettes and some absolutely amazing Nutella crepes. We met back at our designated area a little later and headed to our hotel for the first time to check in and get cleaned up before dinner and a boat tour of the River Seine.
As 5:30 p.m. Paris time rolled around, we all met, still tired, in the hotel lobby to bus to our restaurant and get some authentic French cuisine. We started out with some baguettes and butter, and some lemonade that was clear, carbonated and tasted curiously of Gummy Bears; it was way better than American lemonade! A salad was our next course. It came with some interesting dressing... which not many of us ate. Then we were served our bowls of French onion soup, which was delicious. Our main entrée was a leg of chicken and the best mashed potatoes I have ever tasted. They were so fluffy and had the perfect amount of butter. Yum! Even with overly full stomachs, we couldn't turn down the opportunity to eat some real French crème brulee. It was torched and caramelized to perfection, and tasted amazing! We left the restaurant full and very tired. This was a great opportunity to sit on a boat and learn some more interesting, historical facts about the buildings in Paris. At the tail end of our tour of the view from the River Seine, the Eiffel Tower, in plain sight, lit up and began to sparkle. It was by far the most beautiful thing any of us saw today. After the tour we got back to the bus and headed back to our hotel in the modern part of Paris.
Today was full of touring and learning interesting facts about Paris. We snapped an unreal amount of pictures and took our share of videos. It was an amazing way to start off our foreign tour! Tomorrow we head to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre Museum to look at some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in history, and to eat our first pre-game meal before we play our first game against the French Junior National Team.
Talk to you tomorrow ... GO IRISH!
Kellie Watson #10