Women's Soccer Travels to Iceland, Belgium and France

The Geneseo Women's Soccer team travels to Iceland and Belgium this summer to not only compete against some elite-level club teams in exhibition matches, but to also learn about the local culture and enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Rising sophomore midfielder Hannah Sullivan '22 takes us along on the team's journey as a travel correspondent, describing all the sights and experiences of the Knights. 


DAY ONE - May 21, 2019

The Geneseo Women's Soccer team has found its way to Iceland! After a late-night flight, we arrived at our destination at 9:00 a.m. Iceland time, four hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Our overall excitement ultimately trumped any tiredness that we may have brought with us off the plane. We all knew we had a fun day, and trip, ahead of us!

Right from the airport, we headed to Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. It was safe to say we were all very excited. The spa, although a popular attraction among visitors, was not really near the city. In fact, it sat by itself in the middle of the rolling plains of lava rocks and moss. Perhaps this added to the effect though, for the pristine blue water that flowed in and out of the property was simply spectacular. The two hours spent there were probably the two most relaxing hours ever. We took in the steam, did some mud masks, and were sure to get a few pics of the surrounding landscapes.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

After Blue Lagoon, we went to check into our hotel in Reykjavik. It was located right in the city, so we weren't far from the many eateries and unique shops. After getting settled, we went on a walking tour and had some hotdogs (a supposed Iceland specialty.) We then were given some free time, in which we explored the harbor and the city itself. Once again, the landscapes we saw were remarkable. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, so we headed back a bit early to get some rest; however, I don't think anyone realized that the nights here don't get dark. They have 20 hours of sunlight a day. Still, the blackout curtains did their job. Although day one is over, we can't wait to see what is in store for the next week.

DAY TWO - May 22, 2019
Today was filled with lots of activities. After a nice breakfast in our hotel, we all headed on the Golden Circle Tour. This tour, done via bus, would allow us to see some of Iceland's most prominent features, including a national park, a massive waterfall, and geysers! Our bus driver/ tour guide was very nice and had a lot of information to give us, whether that be regarding the country's size, history, climate- you name it! It didn't take long for us to get to our first stop: the national park. Thingvellir, the park we visited, was filled with rich history and amazing views. Our tour guide explained how it actually used to be the site for Iceland's Parliament for quite a few centuries early on. She also told us that this park contained a rift caused by tectonic plates, one of which was actually the North American one. So, in a way, we weren't too far from home after all. As we walked along the paths, we were not only able to see the rift, but we saw vast lands and bodies of water. We crossed some bridges and climbed some decks to get views from all angles. The journey through the valley was definitely a hike, but it was so worth it.

 Thingfellir, Iceland

Next, we visited the Gullfoss waterfall. We all have seen Letchworth State Park and Niagara Falls, but this was truly something else. Pictures don't even do it justice. Just from hearing it, you could tell it was one powerful piece of nature. The waterfall had two major drops, which only made it two times more awesome. We were able to see the water from both above the drops and on level with them. We got wet, but a little water never hurt anybody. We walked around for a bit, exploring and taking plenty of pictures. Eventually, we headed to the bus so we could go to our last stop of the day.

 Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Finally, we headed to the Geysir site, where we had lunch and explored the hot springs. We were advised not to touch the water, due to its extreme temperatures. There were really one one active geyser, but it was constantly going off so everyone got to see it at least once. We then hiked up a big mountain, looking down at all the other tourists. From where we were, you could see everything. Even on our own hill, the nearby mountains looked huge. After climbing around a bit more, we headed back to the bus.

Women's Soccer in Iceland

The last event of our day was our game. We would be playing a very prestigious team from one of Iceland's best clubs. We travelled to the facility and got ready to play. The team we were playing, as we would soon find out on the field, was extremely skilled- both technically and tactically. Although we were competing against them, it was so interesting to witness their different playing style and form of play. It was a tough match, but I think we got a lot out of the experience. We even got to talk to some of the women afterwards. 

Tomorrow is a traveling day, as we will be flying to Belgium. Can't believe we're already two days into our trip!

DAY THREE - May 23, 2019
It was our last morning in Iceland, so people were up early to get some last minute sight-seeing in. After breakfast, a bunch of us headed towards the huge chapel that sat on a high hill in the city. The bells were chiming as we made our way across the yard. Architecturally, it was beautiful. We all had to stop numerous times in order to take in everything- both outside and inside. In the main hall, there was a giant set or organ pipes that were high on the wall. It was insane!

Reyjavik Chapel   Reyjavik Chapel Organ

After this, we left and decided to stop at a few shops on our way back. We even stopped at a bakery that had a myriad of baked goods in the windows, with decorative street art covering its exterior. Obviously, we had to go in. For me, this was one of my favorite things about the city. Many of the buildings were all different colors and had murals and paintings all over the place. It was so interesting to look at.

Reyjavik Street Bakery

Eventually, we headed for the airport to depart for Belgium. The flight wasn't took long, and within a few short hours, we were in a new country! Currently, we are staying in Brugge. Tomorrow we are going to explore the city and play a match, so it should be a good time

DAY FOUR - May 24, 2019

When we arrived in Brugge last night, the city was like a ghost town. We rolled our suitcases down the cobblestone streets, looking for people or any night life; it was all quiet. This morning, however, the city was bustling. With the streets being a bit on the narrower side, it seemed you were always looking out for people, cars, and even horses. As we took a tour in the morning, we watched as many of shops and cafes began to open. There was so much to see. Our tour guide was great when it came to telling us origin stories and historical facts about many of the city's features. She took us to many of the notable spots, including a huge gothic church, the main market square, and around the river. 

Brugge, Belgium

We were only going to be in Brugge for one day, so we tried to make the most out of it. After having lunch at a small cafe, we went back to the hotel to grab a map and explore the city on our own. We went to explore many different sections of the city, taking lots of pictures and trying to make the most of our time. Overall, I would say we did a good job at navigating our way through this busy city. Some might think traveling in a group of 15 girls is difficult, but I think we managed just fine. We all got to see the things we wanted to see, and we were sure to stop and buy some chocolate and waffles! In case anyone was wondering, authentic Belgian waffles are amazing. Much different from the ones in America, that's for sure.

Brugge, Belgium

Later, we returned to the hotel to get ready for our game. We would be playing a team from a great club in Brugge. They were nice enough to send us a bus to get to the field, too! It was beautiful weather for a game, especially being our last game of the trip. It was a great match. Just like when we played Iceland, it was interesting to see their differing style of play as the match went on. Our team really came together during this game, and we won! After the match, we exchanged jerseys and flags with the other team, and we even had burgers with them for dinner. The girls were very nice, and we had some great laughs. In time, our stay in Belgium had come to a close. Now we are gearing up to head to Paris. We have a long bus ride ahead of us.
Team Brugge
DAY FIVE - May 25, 2019
Bonjour! Geneseo Women's Soccer has made it to Paris!
After a long bus ride early this morning, we finally made it to the City of Lights! It was drizzling a bit when we first arrived, but it quickly cleared up after bringing our suitcases to the hotel. We ate lunch together at a hotel right around the corner before heading back to our hotel, gearing up for a quick tour of the block. We needed to familiarize ourselves with the city for the time being-- at least until our full tour tomorrow.
Immediately, we noticed a large police presence in the city. We noted how different this was from the two other cities we visited. Of course, this was due to the protests happening in Paris, which we learned have been going on for over eleven months! As we walked, we saw the Eiffel Tower. Now, most of us have seen it in pictures and on TV, but I can honestly say that this does not compare to seeing it in person. It is massive and amazing! As we walked through the city, we constantly saw it at a distance, framed between buildings. Sometimes we would even see it peaking over other buildings. It complimented the city' aesthetic, which makes sense seeing as it is a staple of Paris. 
Eiffel Tower Through Streets

Later, we went back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner and explore the city on our own. As we walked around, it was interesting to see a lot of the "shopping" stores close and for some of the restaurants to open up. This was a bit curious. Eventually, we found a spot for dinner. The meal was great, but the interaction was a bit of a challenge to say the least. I have to give a lot of credit to our server for dealing with fifteen English-speaking women so well. There were some miscommunications here and there, especially when it came to paying the bill (split checks are not a thing.) It was quite the experience, but an overall positive one. After dinner, we continued to walk around the city. We found a small park where you could see the Eiffel Tower even more clearly. The sun was setting and it made for a beautiful scene. We then moved on to get some gelato (delicious) before heading back for the night. It's safe to say Paris is off to a great start.  

Eiffel Tower at Sunset

DAY SIX - May 26, 2019

Today we had a bit of free time in the morning, so as a group we decided to go see Notre Adams, as well as the Luxembourg Gardens. After a light breakfast at the hotel, we were off. We had to take the metro in order to get to where we wanted to go. Having our whole team shove into an already-congested subway car was quite the challenge. Even more so, we started going the wrong way so we had to get off and do the whole thing over again. Luckily, it didn't take long for us to figure out.
First, we decided to walk the streets and head in the direction of Notre Dame. On our way, we passed by a lot of different shops and restaurants. Many of the stores weren't open, however, due to the fact it was Sunday. At one point though, we did pass through a little outdoor market which was really delightful. People were selling meats and cheeses, desserts, jewelry, handmade wood decorations- there was something for everyone to look at! After going taking our time through here, we walked along the Seine River until we saw Notre Dame. This, of course, was quite the spectacle seeing as how the fire wasn't too long ago. It was almost a bit sad to see, but regardless it was beautiful.
Notre Dame, Paris, France
We then made our way to the Luxembourg Gardens, where we spent some time walking the grounds, listening to music, and enjoying our time outside. Fortunately for us, the weather was great and the sun was out. There were a lot of people in the garden, which made sense because it was stunning!
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France
Later, we had lunch on our own before heading on a city-wide tour. Our tour guide Valerie has a lot to say about the city and she was the sweetest! She told us everything from history to information about the scooters that many Parisians ride around on. We stopped at the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower again, and of course we had to take more pictures. How could you not?
DAY SEVEN - May 27, 2019
Today was our last day in Paris. We began the day by going to the Eiffel Tower yet again, but this time we were going up it. After waiting in line for quite some time, we were able to take an elevator up to the second level of the tower. From there, we could see all of Paris. It was amazing.
Paris, France
After spending some time up there, we went back down and headed towards the Seine River, which you can see in the picture above. We would be taking a boat tour, followed by a picnic along the edge of it. Thankfully we had nice weather today, so nothing was ruined by rain, wind, or cold temperatures. 
To finish off our day of activities, we went to the Palace of Versailles. From the outside, it looked beautiful. It was also huge, and we would later find out that the palace and gardens behind sits on more than two thousand acres.
Palace of Versailles
Although we couldn't go inside, we proceeded to go through and check out the gardens. Just like the palace, they were grand in size and design. When we were originally told we would be allowed to roam the gardens for two hours, we were all confused; however, it's safe to say that we could've spent a whole day there! There are so many different elements to the gardens that you would only know from walking through. The amount of care is put into keeping the gardens pristine and intact was insane. Pictures can't truly capture the entirety of the gardens, but regardless they are beautiful anyway.
Palace of Versailles Gardens
After the gardens, we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and to see the Eiffel Tower at night. None of us knew this, but there's a little light show that happens on the tower when it gets dark. We sat and watched in awe as it lit up and buzzed with light. It was a great conclusion to our trip.
Tomorrow will be a day of travel, as we take flights from Paris to Reykjavík and then Reykjavík to New York City. The trip was fantastic, and I think I can speak for my whole team when I say this was the best way to start summer 2019. Big thanks to Coach Wiley and Coach Faro, Pat McCool, and all of the other guides and friendly faces we met along the way. This is Geneseo Women's Soccer signing off until preseason in August.