Ciao from Italy! I’m Damian Dodge and I’m happy to have the opportunity to blog for ice-dance.com again. Julia and I are thrilled to compete in our first senior Challenger Series event, Lombardia Trophy, this week.

Travel Day

jbiechlerddodge-blg1Our travel day happened to be Julia’s 18th birthday. I felt bad that her whole day was spent training and flying, but she never complained once. We started with a normal training day then headed to the airport. Our flights were from Philly to Toronto and then into Milan. The trip was fairly easy until we left the airport. Someone, from the local organizing committee (LOC), was waiting to get us and drive us to the hotel, an hour away.

He was only told he needed to pick up 3-4 people but there were 5 of us. He walked us out to his small minivan and told us there was no way all 5 of us, with at least 2 suitcases each, would fit into the car. We insisted that we could make it happen and proceeded to shove our bags wherever we could fit them. He was extremely hesitant but we persisted and then climbed into his car around all of our stuff. The car ride was fine but he was clearly uncomfortable with how much we crammed into his car.

We got to the hotel and found out who our roommates were. I’m rooming with Jason Brown. I always forget how different hotels are in Europe versus America and it’s funny to see how small certain things are. When we first arrived, Julia and I had to take separate elevators because one person and their bags barely fit in one. The beds are also only inches apart from each other. Overall, the hotel is really nice and has cool keys!

We had a few hours to rest and then it was off to the rink for our first practice. It’s been interesting to see the differences between Challenger Series and Junior Grand Prix events. Julia and I are not used to everything being so relaxed and it’s somewhat amusing. For example, a lot of times are in “ish” terms. When asking what time a practice is, they’ll say “oh, it’s at 4-ish.” At Junior Grand Prix events we were used to having a strict schedule that was extremely unlikely to change. Our schedule here has changed 3 or 4 times already. Another thing, I found hilarious, was one of the LOC members asking us if we wanted to listen to music during our practice. We told her we would like to and she handed us the aux cord to play what we wanted to. The rink is super nice and we had a great first practice.

Sightseeing Day

Today started with a Team USA meeting and then we all traveled into old city for lunch and some sightseeing. Bergamo is beautiful and exactly what I think of when I hear Italy. There’s small cobblestone roads, huge beautiful churches, and an abundance of bakeries. It’s usually extremely hard to get the whole team together to do anything, but luckily all of our practices aren’t until later tonight. It was nice to get to explore the city with our fellow team members. Julia and I are excited to attend our first “draw party” later. A draw party is when the men, ladies, dance, and pairs all draw their skating orders at the same time, which apparently is pretty common at Challenger Series events. After that we have another practice at 9:30-ish. In the meantime, I’m going to take a nap and get ready for tonight. I’ll update tomorrow after our official practice.