Where in the World Is Piper?

One of the things that I place a high value on is a work-life balance. And, luckily for me, so does the amazing leadership team at Firewood. They encourage taking time off to disconnect and recharge. So, I recently took advantage of Firewood’s generous PTO program for a trip with my soccer club teamThe Olympic Club Women’s Soccer Team—to play some friendly international club matches. 

A bit about me: I played women’s Division 1 soccer at Santa Clara University in California, went on to play semipro for the Minnesota Lightning and the Sacramento Storm, and tried out to play professionally. So if you’re guessing that I’m a soccer fanatic, you’re right! In 2010, I took the trip of a lifetime to South Africa with my soccer team to watch the men’s team play in the FIFA World Cup. So, when the opportunity for another trip of a lifetime presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up. 

Can you guess where I went? I traveled across the pond to play soccer against French club teams and to witness the incredible competitive play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. Along the way, I stopped at some amazing European sights.

 

Budapest, Hungary

When in Budapest, you do as the Hungarians do. So I headed straight for the Széchenyi Spa Baths, home to some of the best—and largest—spa baths in Europe. I saw all walks of life (and swim trunks) lying about, soaking in the hot sun. It was a great day to relax, converse, and even take a catnap, especially given our arduous travels and that we were adjusting to the time difference.

Vienna, Austria

Talk about a workout to view the grounds! We must have covered over 15 miles while visiting the staterooms of Schönbrunn Palace and the imperial garden attractions: Privy Garden, Orangery Garden, the Baroque maze and the Gloriette. If I lived nearby, I would definitely take advantage of running through the park and attempting to sprint up the hills, as I witnessed others doing.

Beaujolais, France

And now, soccer! Our team had two friendly games arranged while in town and—ahem—we won both! [Insert “USA! USA!” chant here.] To celebrate, we explored the Hameau Dubœuf winery and then attended a dinner party. We literally took over the only restaurant in town, which had never closed for a private party before. Lastly, and most importantly, our team spent time bonding, connecting newbies with alums over shared stories.

Lyon, France

Next stop, the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019! My team and I went to a semifinals match, Netherlands vs. Sweden (Netherlands won 1–0 after extra time), and watched the finals (USA vs. Netherlands) together from a local pub. I was so proud to cheer on the #USWNT as they won the World Cup. Congrats, ladies! The women’s game has never enjoyed a higher profile—proof that attitudes aren’t just changing, they’ve changed. Now, female analysts are just as likely to turn up to commentate men’s soccer matches as they are women’s matches. And female officials are now taking their places in some of the world’s top male leagues. More importantly, fans don’t say they’re watching “women’s soccer” anymore. They’re just watching soccer.

Geneva, Switzerland

I wish we’d had more time to spend in Geneva. It’s a beautiful place and our view of Lake Geneva—or Lac Léman, Switzerland’s largest lake—was epic. One of my bucket-list items was to find a local fondue spot. Enter Auberge de Savièse. Mission accomplished!

Frankfurt, Germany

In Frankfurt, my last stop, I went to see a childhood friend before flying home to the good old US of A, I bid au revoir to all the amazing cities I visited—not goodbye but, until we meet again  (the next time I need to recharge my batteries!).

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