Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel at low tide

Mont Saint Michel at low tide

Yesterday, on our team’s day off, my good pal Levi and I decided to go on an adventure. We drove 2.5 hours north into Normandy to see a famous French Landmark…. Mont Saint Michel. Now, Levi says it’s one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, but I couldn’t find it on any of these lists. Hmmm, Levi…..

But anyways, it is a very beautiful place nonetheless. Mont Saint Michel is a church built on a very distinct peninsula of Normandy, in the northwest of France. What makes it distinct is that at high tide, the peninsula is entirely covered up! In my picture above, you can see that Levi and I saw the Mont when the tide was low. In fact, there was almost no water around at all. But as you can see below, at high tide, the Mont really becomes an island.

Mont Saint Michel at high tide.

Mont Saint Michel at high tide.

So it’s a very beautiful place, and we figured since we had the day off and we may never get the chance to come back, why not??

Mont Saint Michel is a very old place with a long, interesting history. So long in fact, that I will let you read all about it here instead of writing it myself! Instead, I’ll just share some of my pictures.

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Ciao!

Murphy

 

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A good week

It was a nice week here in Saint Nazaire. So nice, that I figured I might write about it.

First, we had our first doses of nice weather in what seems like a long time. The benefits of living by the water here is that it never quite gets cold enough for snow or ice. The downside is that you get a heavy dose of rain and wind. And I don’t really mind the rain here, I’ve actually grown pretty accustomed to it. But being as far north as we are, the days are shorter than I’m used to, so you really appreciate the sun when you get it. Not to mention, being by the beach makes a sunny day a great day for sightseeing.

In Friday we had the morning free and the weather was perfect. Sunny, maybe 60 degrees. Not t-shirt weather just yet, but good enough to go exploring. I found a new beach path and decided to take it for a walk.

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The views were great. It was a great way to stretch the legs and see a little but of the area.

Also this week, some guys on our team got together for a pot luck style dinner. It was fun, and in typical French fashion it lasted three hours. It also made me realize something: my growing appreciation for stinky cheese. France is known for it’s cheese, and growing up, I was known for my picky appetite. My parents were lucky if they got me to eat string cheese. Now, I’ve really started to like strong, salty, and even really smelly cheeses. I don’t know what did it to me, but I find myself eating things that smell like feet, and asking for seconds.

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Finally, we had a great week of practice. They were tough, we worked hard, and got better. And as it is in the majority of my experiences, that led to a good team performance in the match yesterday. We beat Montpelier 3-1, giving us a much needed win after dropping the last few. Every week will be tough from here on out as we battle for a playoff spot. Let’s hope every week can be as good as this last one!

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Ciao!

Murphy

Visitors!

Sorry that I haven’t written in a while, but if it is possible to have an excuse, then this post will tell you all about it. My visitors!

It started with Blair. She got here about a week before Christmas, and it happened to align with my team’s free time for Christmas. So the day after she got here, we set out on a train for Paris.

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Paris was awesome. It was my second time being there, but I still wanted to see all the main tourist sites again. The views were amazing, the food was amazing, and it was just great getting to spend some time with Blair again. Paris is a really tough city to beat.

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After a couple days in Paris, we took off for Strasbourg. Strasbourg is in the East of France, on the border of Germany, and is known for having the largest Christmas markets in France. It was basically like a Christmas-themed Disneyland for grown-ups. We had a lot of fun, ate a lot of German food, and drank a lot of hot, mulled wine. It’s cool being in a place so Christmas-y for the holidays, it really gets you in the holiday spirit!

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So we were in Strasbourg for 2 days, then it was BACK to Paris! This time we weren’t alone. First we met up with some friends….

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And then on Christmas Eve, Blair’s family arrived to really get the Holidays going!

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Christmas in Paris was really fun. We ate some really good food, but mostly it was nice spending Christmas with Blair and her family. Last year my family came out to Italy, and this was my first Christmas without seeing any of them. So I’m glad that the Tarnutzers (and Oliver) made it feel like a big, family Christmas.

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After Christmas, it was back to Saint Nazaire and volleyball practice once again. But, we did get to fit in one sweet New Year’s Eve party before the Tarnutzers left.

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After that, Blair and I had a little more time before she went back to school. I showed her around town to my favorite places. Here’s one of them, the beach (it was windy)!

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But alas, law school beckoned and Blair had to go back. But luckily I had another visitor… my sister!

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We had a lot of fun hanging out, eating crepes and drinking wine, and getting to see some nearby towns (that are very old).

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With all my traveling with the National team last summer, I haven’t seen Sadie since Christmas 2012! So it was great having her here, and she even got to see me play in 2 matches. I introduced her to a lot of French food, and here was one of my favorites…. Mussels with bacon and french fries!

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And now, here I am, all alone again. But things are good, I still have my teammates to hang out with. Last week we went to a movie (Dallas Buyer’s Club). It was in English with French subtitles, which I guess isn’t the popular method of seeing movies here.

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So here’s to movies in English and volleyball for the next few months! (Next post about volleyball, I promise)

Ciao!

Murphy

 

Off to Japan!

I’m leaving France! Well, for a couple weeks anyway. It’s time to go join the U.S. National Team in Japan for the Grand Champions Cup. It’s a tournament that we qualified for in September in Canada, and now there’s a week-long tournament in Japan. The timing is a little strange, to take a break during the middle of the season for a National Team tournament. But, it keeps things exciting! 

So right now I’m in Montpelier, in the south of France. We played last night (an ugly 3-0 loss… not too much to report), and we’re leaving here in a few hours. I’ll travel with the team back to Nantes (which is near St. Nazaire), then catch a flight to Paris, and from there, a 12-hour flight to Tokyo. So it’s going to be a long day. I’ll end up spending about 23 hours in airports and planes. 

It’s kind of exciting to have a break in the middle of the season like this. I’ll get to see some of my American friends, see a new country, and play against some really high-level competition — the best in the world. The teams that will be there: U.S., Russia, Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Iran. It’s a round-robin style tournament with the winner crowned at the end. I’m excited for some great matches, to see Tokyo for the first time, and to eat some good sushi! 

Let’s do this!

How to Follow the Action

Alright volleyball fans, here’s the good stuff for following my team in French League A this year.

Here is the league website. It’s a very good place to start. It has league rankings, schedules, game results, stats, and articles (albeit in French) summarizing the top matches and stories of the week.

After that, you’re best best is our team facebook page. We have a great team photographer that takes photos at all home games (and some away games) and will usually post them right after the match. There are also some videos, newspaper clippings, and fan comments which are fun to try and understand.

Some of our games will be webcast this year. I am not sure which ones and when, but usually when they are, you can find them here. I will try to stay up-to-date on this stuff, and if anything changes I’ll make an update.

I think that should cover you pretty well. There’s always my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for you social media kids. That being said, both my parents have an Instagram. I don’t know what happened.

Until next time. Ciao!

Great Start Here in France

Hey everyone, I’m BACK! For almost a month, I’ve been in Saint-Nazaire, France, where I’ll be playing my 3rd professional season. Things are a lot different here than they were in Italy, but so far I’m loving it. I have an apartment only a couple blocks from the beach, the town is very nice and the people are very friendly. Man, so many things to talk about where should I start…

How about with volleyball? I’m in a new league this year, the French Pro A League. There are fourteen teams from all over France, my city being located in the Northwest. Here is a map. Right now, we’re 3 weeks into the season, and it’s been a busy start. I’ll give the short version.

We started the season with 4 matches in two weeks. 3 of those teams finished in the top 5 of the league last year. My team, Saint Nazaire, was in the second divison, League B. They won the league and thus earned the right to come up to the first division. By most people’s estimations, S.N. wasn’t expected to do too well this year, but I think we’ve put together a pretty good team. As for those first four matches, we went 3-1. After losing the first match of the season, we won 3 in a row, all against top 5 teams from last season – Chaumont, Nantes, and Sete.

Last weekend we  played in Paris, and the game was…. interesting. Let me fill you in on another fact about our team this year: We’ve had a lot of injuries. We started the year down 2 players, both outside hitters. One of them broke his ankle during a preseason match, and the other pulled an abdominal. So when I got here, I knew that we were going to be missing those two guys for at least 6 weeks. Yikes.

Fast forward to the week before the Paris match. Another one of our outside hitters (Levi Cabral, who was our team’s leading point scorer in 2 of the first 4 matches), has a strained abdominal, and the doctors told him he has to sit for 10 days. So he’s out for the Paris match. This means that we’re down 3 out of our 4 outside hitters. So we travel to Paris with 9 guys, with the plan that one of our middle blockers is going to play outside (keep in mind, we have 12 guys on the team. With 4 outsides, 3 middles, 2 setters, 2 liberos, and 1 opposite… me!). However, during the warm-up for the match, our middle-turned-outside hitter has some severe back pain. He missed over a month last year with a pretty bad back injury. All of a sudden we’re back to 1 outside hitter, and so we have our backup setter, Jean, play outside for the match. Jean played well considering the circumstances, but it wasn’t meant to be. We lost 3-0, 25-22 in all 3 sets.

Which brings us up to present day. This Saturday we play Tour at home, the reigning champion of the league (also featuring a couple U.S. buddies, David Smith and Jayson Jablonsky). We should have 10 healthy guys for the match, so I’m looking forward to another fun game.

I know it was short, but that’s all the update for now. Now that I’m a little settled in here, I’ll try to make these things more regular. A lot’s happened in month.

Anyways, Happy Halloween everybody! Ciao!

Playoffs!

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So, here we are. The season has been long and trying, with its share of ups and downs, and we find ourselves in the most exciting time of the year: playoffs.

Now, seeing as how I have not updated this blog as much as I should, there are probably a lot of you out there wondering exactly how this season went. So I’ll give a recap.

2-part Season

So as you may know, this year we played in what’s called the CEV Cup. It’s a season-competition with teams from all over Europe. Every European league sends their top teams into 3 intra-continental cups every year: CEV Champions League, The CEV Cup, and The CEV Challenge Cup. Champions League is the most prestigious, with the top or top 2 teams from every league in Europe. Our cup, the CEV Cup, is next. We qualified for it by making it to the Italian League Final Four last season. So it was a pretty big honor for us, especially seeing how no team has ever been invited to any cup in the previous history of our club. It was fun for me to be both a part of the team that qualified last year, and got to play in it this year.

Now, the CEV Cup operates outside the Italian League, so it’s really like I am playing in 2 leagues this year. As you may have read in a previous post, we did very well this year in the Cup. It works like bracket play, so you have to keep winning to keep playing. We beat teams from Bulgaria, Finland, Austria, Germany, and Turkey to make it to the Finals, before we lost to another team from Turkey. It was a lot of fun travelling and playing in all of these places, and I’d have to say that we’re pretty happy with our performance in the cup, even though we came up just short at the end.

For the Italian League, it has been quite the roller coaster ride. We started the season off great and were in the top 4 for the first couple months of the year. Then, we seemed to hit a rough patch with a couple of losing streaks. This year we have beaten the #1 team and also lost to the last place team (at home, it wasn’t pretty). But overall, it’s been good and we ended up the regular season in 7th of 12 teams. Bringing us to our first round playoff matchup…..

San Giustino

Most of you probably know my good friend, Riley McKibbin. He was my setter at USC. We came in together, graduated together, and had a lot of good times in between. Well, this year, we are facing off in a best of 3 playoff series, with the winner advancing into the quarterfinals. Last Wednesday, we played them at home, and had a pretty un-exciting 3-0 victory (meaning that we pretty much smashed ’em). Last night, however, in game 2 at S.G., was a different story. They came out ready to play and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. We battled back and won sets 3 and 4, pushing it to a 5th. San Giustino is a pretty fun place to play, because they have a small gym with a lot of fans (rowdy ones). So the atmosphere was pretty cool. After battling back and forth, we took a 14-13 lead. They however, came back and won 3 straight points to take the W, 16-14 in the 5th.

Now we have a winner-take-all this coming Sunday, at home for us. It should be exciting, especially with the season on the line. So one week from today, either me or Riley will be done for the year… who will it be???

 

Ciao!

 

Murphy