Games in the Liga Femenina, the highest division of women's basketball in Spain, take place on the weekends. In the middle of the winter, an island in the southern part of the Mediterranean sounded like a good place to spend time between games.
Eivissa, also known as "Ibiza Town" is the most famous city on the island. During the tourist season, its legendary night clubs attract the young beautiful people of Europe and the United States. Santa Eulalia, less than 10 miles down the road, is known more as a family-centered vacation destination.
Tourist season ends on October 31. Visiting in January, I saw empty beaches, little traffic, and clear, blue skies, even though the locals told me that the perfect weather wasn't typical. During the late afternoons, the promenade along the city beach in Santa Eulalia was almost deserted.
The bigger towns on the island don't shut down completely during the off-season. There are still plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars that stay open year-round.
The old town high on a hill in Eivissa offers a look back into centuries of history as well as breath-taking views of land and sea.
All across Spain, futbol is #1, and Barcelona and Madrid are home to two of the legendary teams of the sport, Real Madrid and UC Barcelona. In those cities, where women's basketball is over-shadowed by those titans of the Spanish sports scene, it's sometimes hard for a visitor to find any information on the women's basketball teams.
In Ibiza, however, PDV is the only professional sports franchise on the island. The team receives excellent coverage in the local newspaper; some of the games are televised; and posters appear around town promoting upcoming games.
The promotion of the women's pro basketball team is part of Ibiza's effort to use sports to extend the tourist season by hosting a variety of sporting events in the off-season. The basketball arena is just one part of the Santa Eulalia multi-sport complex.
There are differences in basketball around the world, but everywhere coaches have last minute instructions for their teams.
The game between PDV and Extrugasa featured three of Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb's former players. Reetta Piipari was the point guard for the 2000-01 Xavier team that defeated both Vanderbilt and Tennessee in 2000-2001.
Taru Tuukkanen was a post player on the same Xavier team.
Jenni Benningfield played her first game at Vanderbilt against that Xavier team. Two years later, Balcomb became the head coach at Vanderbilt and was Jenni's coach for her junior and senior years at Vanderbilt.
Jenni finished the game with a team-high 21 points, as PDV won a close one, 72-71 to move into a tie for third place in the hotly-contested league.
In the Santa Eulalia arena, the fans are all on one side of the gym. That meakes it easy for the team, from trainer to mascot, to show their appreciation to the fans in the stands.
The win was even better for Jenni because her brother Scott (right) and a friend were in town for the game.
On my last day in Ibiza, I rented a car so I could see more of the island, including some of the dozens and dozens of beaches. Among them are family beaches, beaches for nudists, beaches that are packed with tourists in the summer, beaches that you'd never find unless a local showed you how to get there, beaches with soft sand and gentle waves, beaches with waves crashing onto the rocks.
If I had to pick one word to describe Ibiza, "blue" would be one of the possibilities. Between the myriad of beaches and the sky, the variety of different shades of blue is endless.
When I first looked at photos I'd taken of beaches, I was disappointed in the results. Photos, I thought, just don't do justice to the overwhelming beauty of the island.
I realized that it's a limitation of the camera, which can only capture a small portion of what the eye can see. When you look at these photos, imagine you're looking through a little cardboard box that only lets you see part of the scene. Then, in your imagination, extend the sea and sky beyond that little box as far as you can see. Or, better yet, go there yourself and take a look.
A sunset over the Mediterranean, looking west towards mainland Spain, was a perfect way to end an unforgettable week.
With the first half of the trip in Valencia and Barcelona and the second half in Ibiza behind me, there was just a little time left over for an overtime period in Madrid. (To be continued . . . )
Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com.