Aug. 21, 2006
The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team wound up its three-country, four-city European tour over the weekend, flying home from Dublin, Ireland, on Sunday. Senior Irackli Akhvlediani files the final entry in the diaries chronicling the adventures, telling of the group’s final day in the capital of Ireland and of traveling back to the United States to begin classes on Tuesday. For complete coverage of the team’s trip, check out the European tour button on the men’s tennis page of und.com.
Men’s Tennis European Tour Diary #9 – August 19-20, Dublin, Ireland to Notre Dame, Indiana; Irackli Akhvlediani
We all met downstairs at 10 a.m. on Saturday for breakfast to figure out a schedule for the day. There was no particular plan laid out for us in the morning. Hence, we were left to our own devices until 1 p.m. So Brett Helgeson and I decided to go get souvenirs for our family and friends. Walking along the St. Stephen’s Green, we bumped into a large four-story mall. It was full with souvenir shops and had a lively atmosphere. Hence, we decided to stay. In every corner, one could come across an Irish souvenir shop selling t-shirts, magnets, key chains – everything an Irish fan desires. After spending a good hour and a lot of money in there we decided to go back to our hotel to meet up with the other guys. Coming back we found a lot of the guys asleep since the previous day took a lot out of them. The two rounds of matches and the dinner were both physically and mentally very strenuous.
Shortly after, we met in the lobby of the hotel with the rest of the team to head for the Guinness factory. When we got there, it was a 30-minute wait just to get into the building, and the majority of the people in line were tourists. It gave me a better understanding of how tourist-based this factory was. Upon entering the factory, we received an oval, glass-looking souvenir that had a plastic piece attached to it that was equivalent to a free Guinness or soft drink on the last floor of the factory. We started the tour by exploring the basic ingredients of a beer and worked ourselves up to the seventh floor, where we were able to see the final product. On the way to the top we participated in quizzes and other actives that tested our knowledge about the brewery process so that we wouldn’t forget immediately. Eric Langenkamp, Stephen Bass, and I even got a chance to stop on the fifth floor to sample some of the food the restaurant offered at touristy prices. After an adventurous two and half hours at the factory we headed back to the hotel. It was a great experience, and I am glad I was able to go on this tour since it gave me a more in-depth understanding of the Irish culture.
We arrived at the hotel at 5 p.m., and it was once again up to us what to do. This time some of the players decided to go to mass with Mr. And Mrs. Bayliss while others wandered off in search of an internet cafÃƒÂ©. Personally, I preferred to stay back in the hotel room, so that I could pack for Sunday’s flight. Later on that evening, Barry King took us out for dinner at Grafton Street, which is one of the most central streets in Dublin. After the meal, we walked around the city centre one last time before we headed back to the hotel. We went to sleep early since we had long day of travel ahead of us.
We woke up on Sunday knowing that this day would be our last in Europe. However, we also realized that this would be the last day with alumnus Eric “Milos” Langenkamp, since he departs to New York today, so we wanted to make sure we sent him off on a grand note. It was a sad moment knowing that we would lose a key member of this trip to the real world. However, that thought didn’t last long, since Coach was trying to make sure we were all attentive and efficient when getting our bags into the cab that would take us to the airport. The ride was smooth and got us to the airport three hours prior to our flight.
The check-in process went smooth apart from my running around trying to get a copy of my I-20 form from the Aer Lingus fax machine – so that I could get through passport control successfully. After passing security, we had two hours to get breakfast and spend our last Euros before we departed from Dublin. The flight was seven and a half hours and went pretty smooth, arriving in Chicago at 5 p.m. We picked up our luggage and went on to board our bus that was standing outside the terminal. The ride was two hours long, and we got into Notre Dame at 9:30 p.m.
I believe this trip has been a success for the Notre Dame men’s tennis team. It brought the team closer by our facing different travel obstacles together. It also allowed us to see Europe through the eyes of different cultures. At the same time, it gave us an opportunity to compare ourselves with tennis players in Europe as well as allowing us to experience the different surfaces such as clay and artificial grass. No matter where we went, though, it seemed that there was one thing in common and that was that everyone was very supportive of Notre Dame tennis. We are all very glad that we could experience this and are thankful to the donors of this trip that made this dream a reality.