VU Women's Basketball to Valencia

Valencia, Spain - August 15, 2007. The Vanderbilt women's basketball team left Barcelona Wednesday, heading south to the city of Valencia. Whitney D continues her on-going photo log of the journey.

Whitney D's Photo Journal from Spain

After two-and-a-half days in Barcelona, it was time to continue on to Valencia, the second city on the team's tour of Spain.

Late in the morning, the tour group loaded up the buses. After the hotel bills were straightened out and settled, the bus pulled out and headed south towards Valencia.

The seating on the bus followed the team's usual pattern -- the players sit in the back of the bus, so they can do the things that players do together. Don't ask me what that is, however. All I can tell you is that it involves some laughing, some murmuring, some stretches of quiet time, an occasional shout of "Arriba!!!", and one trip down the aisle of the bus to ask the administrative assistant a question, to which the answer was, "John Boy Walton!"

The coaching staff sits in the front of the bus, so they can do the things that coaches do together. Don't ask me what that is, either. Everybody else sits in the middle of the bus and reads, sleeps, talks, looks at the window at the passing scenery or watches the movie on the TV.

The closer you get to Valencia, the more agricultural that you see – vineyards, groves of olive and citrus trees, and row crops.

If you've been to Valencia before, the famous "eyeball" of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias tells you that you've arrived. Before tomorrow night's game, the team will visit there, so more about that tomorrow, if all goes according to plan.

The hotel in Valencia is in the new business district, closer to the waterfront and the beach than to the old city, which is further inland. In Barcelona the hotel's primary clientele appeared to be tourists; in Valencia, the very modern hotel appears to be more oriented towards business travelers.

After everybody's checked into their rooms, the group begins to gather in the lobby for an afternoon excursion. In this photo: Lauren Lueders and Jessica Mooney.

Caroline Williams and Lori Alexander head out to the bus.

The plan for the afternoon is that everybody will board the bus, but then there are two choices. The first stop will be the beach to drop off anyone who wants to go to the beach. Everybody else will go to the old part of the city of Valencia, which dates back hundreds of years. Merideth Marsh, Caroline Williams, Jessica Mooney, Jen Risper, and Tina Wirth look like they're planning to go to the beach.

Caroline Williams is responsible for doing a head count every time the bus is loaded to make sure that nobody is left behind.

During the ride to the beach, the tour guide talked about the America's Cup races, the most prestigious competitive sailing event in the world, which were held in Valencia in June. The event had the same kind of rejuvenating effect on the waterfront in Valencia that the 1992 Olympics had in Barcelona.

The team didn't tour the facilities because of time constraints, so they didn't get to see the slogan of the America's Cup: No hay Segundo -- There is no second.

The beach group – a hot sunny day, palm trees, sand, the Mediterranean sea, and some of your favorite people in the world. Sounds pretty good, huh?

If you did a scientific tally of the ages of the people in both the "old city" group and the "beach" group, you'd learn that the ages of the two groups aren't divided perfectly. However, it didn't take long for "old city" group to acquire the nickname "old people's group."

Liz Sherwood is one of the people who deviates from the age distinction between the two groups. She opted for the old city group because she really enjoys seeing the historical sites and, even more, enjoys hearing the stories about them.

On this trip there were some logistical problems because Wednesday is an official holiday in Spain, and many businesses are closed. It's Assumption Day, the day that the Catholics around the world celebrate the end of the Virgin Mary's life on her and her assumption into heaven. Encountering an Assumption Procession was a reminder that Catholism is, by far, the predominant religion in Spain.

It was possible to see the beautiful cathedral in Valencia from the outside, but inside a mass was in progress, so the interior, which is usually open to visitors, wasn't open on Wednesday.

At first glance, this looks perhaps like a swimming pool, but if you peer into the water, you'll see the recently discovered ruins of a Roman bath. Work continues in the building of a museum around the ruins, but the striking display of water will be a permanent feature of the museum.

Early in the evening the two groups re-convened at the beach for the best paella in Valencia, where the famous rice dish originated. Besides superb food, the restaurant also offered dining on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, making an irresistible opportunity for photos.

The fork will give you an idea of how big the paella pans were. One had chicken only, another had seafood that was already shelled and ready to eat -- unlike some paellas which feature whole shellfish of different varieties.

Anna Montanana is now one of the rising stars of professional basketball in Spain, but from 2001-2005 she played basketball at George Washington University, which was during the years that current Vanderbilt Assistant Coach Lisa Cermignano was an assistant there. Ana was born and grew up in Valencia and helped organize the dinner. After dinner, there was a little time before curfew for her to show the players some of the city. Before they left, she posed for a photo with the sophomore class.

Thursday will be a very busy day, starting with a sight-seeing tour and ending with a bus ride to Madrid. As for what happens between the two, including the first basketball game of the tour, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

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Photos copyright 2007 by Whitney D for

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