Women's basketball team in Spain

After a final day of practice on Thursday, the Vanderbilt women's basketball team left Nashville on Saturday and arrived in Barcelona, Spain, early on Sunday morning. Whitney D continues her on-going photo log of the trip.

Whitney D's Photo Journal from Spain

NASHVILLE, TN - August 9, 2007. The Vanderbilt women's basketball team wrapped up their pre-tour practice sessions Thursday afternoon on the practice court in Memorial Gym. With workouts in the morning, summer school classes during the day, and pickup games in the evening, it's been a busy week for the players, so Friday will be an off-day to give them a chance to get ready to leave for Spain on Saturday morning.

One of the players won't be on the bus when it leaves for the airport on Saturday, however. Sophomore point guard Merideth Marsh will be a bridesmaid at her sister's wedding in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday. She'll join the team in Barcelona.

Photos from Thursday's practice:

Nashville, TN - August 11, 2007. The Vanderbilt women's basketball team left Nashville on Saturday morning for an 8-day tour to Spain. Whitney D continues her on-going photo log of the trip.

The trip to Spain was originally planned for the summer of 2006, but when injuries and off-season rehab and surgery reduced the number of healthy players, the trip was postponed until this summer. So after more than a year of anticipation, on Saturday morning, at last it was time to load the bus.

Ashlee Bridge stopped for a photo before loading her luggage into the cargo hold. Besides the usual clothing that any college girl might take to Europe, the players on the team also had to bring basketball shoes, running shoes, basketball uniforms, and workout clothes.

First stop was waiting in line to get the baggage checked and to make sure that all the passports were in order. Lauren Lueders

It's Tina Wirth's camera, but if she always takes the photos, then she's never in them. Sometimes you need a little help from your friends.

By coincidence, former Vanderbilt star and graduate assistant Hillary Hager happened to be on the same flight on her way to Switzerland. Hillary says that she's back in graduate school at Vanderbilt.

So what do you do when you've got to wait two hours for your flight? Jen Risper brought a PSP. Jen and Tina are pretty sure that the "PS" stands for "Play Station", but aren't sure what the "P" stands for. No matter—whatever it's actual name is, you can watch movies, such as "Hitch" on it.

Back in the olden days, we called it "I Doubt It." The younger generation calls is "B.S.". But whatever you call it, it's a fun way to pass the time. If that looks like Caroline Williams on the left – that's because it IS Caroline Williams. The recant Vanderbilt graduate is part of the tour group.

Finally, the flight to Newark. Then there's a three-hour wait before the overnight flight to Barcelona.

It's a different airport, with different things to do. Many of the travelers got food or drink, then went to the currency exchange to turn dollars into euros. Tina ponders the exchange rate.

Jessica Mooney and Jen decided that the exchange rates showed that a trip to Africa would be the best idea.

Amber Norton, Amy Malo, and Ashlee Bridge

Many of the travelers (including Liz Sherwood) used the downtime to use their personal electronic devices.

Note: Merideth Marsh didn't depart with the team. She's at home in Louisville for her sister's wedding. She'll fly to Barcelona separately on Sunday to meet the team there.

Barcelona, Spain - August 12, 2007. When the story left off yesterday, the team was in the airport in Newark, Jersey. The story picks up again as the team is about to leave for Spain.

After a 3-hour layover in Newark, NJ, it was time to board the plane for the trip across the Atlantic. Tina Wirth and Caroline Williams show their passports at the counter.

The flight departed shortly before sunset on Sunday, providing a view of New York City at dusk before the plane banked and headed east.

Some flights to Europe use the gigantic Air Bus, but this plane was very similar to planes that fly within the United States, six seats across with a single aisle down the middle.

After flying across the Atlantic Ocean and six more time zones, team arrived in Barcelona at 9:15 a.m. local time on Sunday. If you do the math, you find that six hours of sleep disappeared somewhere. Tina and Jen were about to pose for a photo when Coach Balcomb walked by and got pulled into the photo.

After everybody cleared customs, it was time to load the chartered bus and meet the tour guides. One of the tour guides is from Basketball Travelers and will be with the team through the entire tour of Spain. In the cities, local tour guides will conduct the tours of the local sites.

The hotel rooms wouldn't be available until later in the day, so the sight-seeing started immediately. First stop was Mont Juic, a hill overlooking the city near the harbor. This was the heart of the 1992 Olympics site. Remember that moment in the opening ceremony, when the flaming arrow soared through the night to light to Olympic torch? That was here. In this photo, Clare Droesch, the new video coordinator for the team, Jen Risper, Liz Sherwood, Tina Wirth, and Ashlee Bridge are posing with the statue honoring the sardana, the national dance of Catalonia.

A team picture – minus Merideth Marsh, who will arrive on Monday morning.

After lunch, it was a short walk to the hotel, but there was plenty to see and to photograph along the way.

But, it was a busy weekend in Barcelona, and the hotel rooms still were not available, so the tour continued to the Gothic Quarter, the heart of the old city of Barcelona.

From the Gothic Quarter, Caroline Williams, Liz, and the rest of the tour group continued on foot towards one of the most famous promenades in Europe, Las Ramblas.

Amy Malo, Ashlee Bridge, Amber Norton, and Liz Sherwood pose before beginning their stroll down Las Ramblas.

Watching street performers along the way is part of the fun of Las Ramblas. When a performance begins and the crowd forms, it's an advantage to be a post player, which gives you a good view over the people in front of you. What were Coach Vicky Picott, Amy, and the others watching so intently?

As it turned out. Jessica Mooney and Clare had been enlisted by the performers to join in their dance. Finally, after the group reconvened at the Plaza de Colon, the hotel rooms were finally available – and everyone headed upstairs for showers, sleep – or, in the case of at least one person, to finish up her blog.

Addendum, Sunday night Barcelona, Spain – August 12, 4:55 p.m. CT -- Call this an epilog to the day. It begins on a personal note. Dinner tonight was "on your own", so after finishing up the photos I posted earlier, I wandered over to the university area for some supper.

On the way back, first lightning started, then thunder, then sprinkles, then a downpour. I was only a block away from the hotel, but decided to duck for cover under an eave. It turned out that I was catty-cornered to Casa Batlló, one of the works of Antoni Gaudi, the renowned architect who was the mastermind behind the Sagrada Familia. (Tomorrow's agenda includes visits to the Sagrada Familia as well as Park Guell, another famous work of Gaudi's -- if you want to know more about it, google it.) This wasn't a bad place to wait out a rain storm. The view was great!

When the rain began to subside, I inched along the street, scooting from the shelter of the eaves under one shop to the next, until the hotel came into sight. I thought it looked beautiful in the rain, too.

I'm telling this story not because it matters that I got caught in the rain, but I thought it was a good a way as any of showing you the team's hotel during their visit to Barcelona.

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Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D for VandyMania.com

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