The good news is that I'm blogging again and the even better news is I've moved. The guys over at www.illiniboard.com have been kind enough to offer me a platform at their site, so I will be blogging on there from now on. Topics will pretty much include my experiences in an Illini uniform, my adventures of playing basketball professionally overseas and everything else in-between. My first post is already up on IlliniBoard, so make sure you go over there and read it. And subscribe. And comment.
I look forward to writing and interacting with my fellow Illini fans from halfway across the globe!
Okay, so let's pick up right where we left off; at the airport. Straight from the there, we jammed packed into our tour bus without delay, and immediately took off down the highway. We hadn't driven for five minutes before eyes started to droop and heads started to sway, but for as tired and dirty as we were from traveling, it wasn't hard to notice the sudden level of stirring as soon as we pulled up next to the majestic Rome Colosseum.
To actually be inside the 2,000 year-old monumental building was an incredible experience none of us will soon forget. My mind has yet to comprehend that this structure was built close to 1,700 years before the United States officially became a country. Once inside, images of bloody gladiatorial contests and intense chariot races flickered through my mind and stories of public executions, gruesome beheadings, and exotic animal fights by our tour guide only fueled my crazy imagination more. I have always been intrigued by the Roman empire, so much that I solely passed my AP European History class based on my such high grades on that unit.
On the following day, we took a walking tour of the Vatican City where we went through St. Peter's Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, and the Sistine Chapel along with the various museums throughout each. The coolest part to me was seeing the masterpiece work of art Michelangelo painted onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide was explicit in telling us no pictures were to be taken inside the chapel, but temptation soon got the best of us and before you knew it everyone was covertly snapping away. Coach Jay Price was the only one who abided by these rules, because I think I even saw coach Weber sneak a picture or two.
With three days and three nights in Rome behind us, we all packed into the same bus from the airport on Sunday morning and managed a 3 hour bus ride to Florence (which I have been told I've been spelling wrong in all of my tweets). In the city of Florence, we were able to take in another masterpiece by Michelangelo, the famous Statue of David. Only one word came to mind when I surveyed this work of art, and that word was "BIG". Our tour guide mentioned the sculpture had three flaws that did not fit into the proportional scale of a real human body which were the right hand, the head, and the left shoulder. They all were either slightly bigger or smaller than what a real human's would look like. It was noticed, however, that she made no mention of another part of the male anatomy that looked a bit unproportional as well.
Our latest tour that we took was a 1 hour bus ride to the city of Pisa, where as you might have heard, lies a famous slightly slanted bell tower. The whole team ascended all 294 stairs to the top, leading to spectacular views of the surrounding town and countryside. While we were there, I vowed not to let any member of our party take the cliché photograph of posing and pretending to "hold up" the leaning tower and prevent it from falling. As soon as I told this to Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head, they ignored my advice and immediately struck up the pose.
As of right now, we are getting ready to leave for the city of Venice, where as Mitch Hedberg said, they don't have street smarts, they have canal smarts. Remember to follow me on twitter at @tylergriffey and check out www.fightingillini.com for more updates!
Meyers and I on top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Notice the camera was tilted when this picture was taken.
Meyers and I on top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa again
With my experience of overseas traveling, (This is my 6th trip to Europe) I pretty much know what to expect, what to pack, etc. But no matter how long my trip is or where it is I'm going, packing for an overseas trip is a little more difficult when you're 6'8" and wear a size 16 shoe. There's not much room left in my duffel bag after I pack two pairs of basketball shoes, two pairs of tennis shoes, and one pair of dress shoes, but somehow I made it all fit.
We arrived in Rome at 2:00pm (Rome time, 7am CST) after two plane rides (totaling about 9 hours) and a 4 hour layover in Dusseldorf, Germany. That's a long day spent traveling, especially if it's next to impossible to sleep in anywhere but a bed like it is for me. I don't even sleep that well in general and almost consider myself a borderline insomniac (My diagnosis, not a professional's), so I had to pack a lot of entertainment options as well to keep from getting bored. Instead of watching movies that would be relative to our trip like "Gladiators", "Angels and Demons", and everybody's favorite Rom Com "When In Rome", I chose to watch things that have absolutely nothing to do with our trip, such as "African Cats", "Fast Five", and my most ironic choice, HBOs "How To Make It In America". In addition to these movies, I was able to cram my laptop bag with these other entertainment options:
My Dell laptop, my passport, Iphone/iPod, "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell, 1TB portable hard drive, Amazon Kindle, and an European electrical converter. Whenever the picture of that guy comes up on my Kindle, it scares the beejeezes out of me.
As you can see in my picture above, what made these movies so enjoyable were my travel essential, Bose noise cancelling headphones. Given to me at Christmas last year, I never travel without them. If I were to ever forget them though, the overwhelming amount of Beats by Dre my team owns has me covered. I don't even need a pair of headphones at all, I can just enjoy whatever music DJ is listening too, if I'm within a 10 foot radius.
So we arrived in Rome safely, and are here until Sunday morning at which we then travel to Florence. We have a lot of stuff planned while were here including tours of the Coliseum and Vatican city, as well as a game or two. I will keep you updated as much as I can throughout our travels, but for more updates, follow me on twitter at @tylergriffey or go to www.fightingillini.com