Check out our final video blog as the team makes the trip back home!
Just outside the city of Barcelona in the Catalonia region of Spain stands Montserrat, a twelve hundred foot tall mountain with unique serrated peaks. Our seventh day abroad began with the twisting road up this rocky mountain. The winding path was a little frightening with our big coach bus and such tight turns but the scenic views of the valley below were incredible! Once we made it to the small city above we visited the Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey that holds the black Virgin of Montserrat. Just like the several other cathedrals and churches we have toured, the monastery’s interior was beautifully elaborate with painted ceilings and statues and ornaments made of marble and gold. We even got to approach the black Virgin and touch the large statue which would give you a blessing and good health. Rows and rows of colored candles lined one tunnel in the abbey in which visitors could light a flame and dedicate a prayer. The church bells rang on the hour and the song echoed through the little town. After our tour we had free time to explore the amazing views, shop at the gift shop, grab a croissant at the deli or even ride a funicular (or gondola) down the mountain side.
After our scenic visit to Montserrat we headed back into the city for some free time to explore for the rest of our evening and last day in Spain. The group did some shopping and then made our way to the beach. It was quite a walk to get there but we all agreed it was well worth it! The beach was packed but we weren’t too concerned about laying out towels and sun tanning. We immediately jumped in the water and spent most of the afternoon swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. It was the saltiest body of water we had ever been in but the cool water felt great on such a sunny day. After a few hours we reluctantly dried off and ended our beach adventure. The group took the subway back to the hotel and had dinner finished off with more cake for Katie Stone’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Katie!!!
We packed a bunch into our first full day in Barcelona and besides some rain and wardrobe mishaps I’d say it was a success! If you ever get to visit this beautiful city, here are the top 5 things you should do:
1) Visit La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is an unfinished basilica built by primarily by Antoni Gaudi. Our lovely tour guide Mar explained that people either love the architecture or hate it, due to it’s intricate and “gaudi” nature. We thought it was pretty amazing, but were a little scared off when we heard it won’t be finished until 2026, when we’re 33!!
2) Go to the Olympic Stadium
The Olympics were in Barcelona in 1992, and we were able to get into the futbol stadium and see the torch! It’s cool to see that the facilities are still used even though the Olympics have come and gone.
3) Visit the Cathedral de Barcelona
Although the whole team was unable to get into the cathedral due to bare shoulders, a few got to experience it! There were numerous small chapels within, each with gold figurines and stain glass windows as well as two main alters. Again, we were impressed by the beautiful architecture of Barcelona!
4) Go $hopping
During our free time we hit the streets of Barcelona to wheel and deal for some gifts (parents get ready!) I loved the little shops in Barcelona because they were so local and different. Maggie even found some hidden treasures at the flea market even though she had to go at it solo!
5) Play a pro team
Our final game of the trip was against a pro team and ended up being tight until the fourth quarter. We had a lot of fun against great competition, which was the perfect way to close out the basketball portion of the trip. A few of us even got to trade warm-ups with some of the girls after the game! St. Thomas purple has officially left it’s mark on Spain!!
Madrid to Barcelona
This morning began with a 6AM wake up call and the start of a long bus trip. We traveled over the river and through the woods, well mainly through mountains and lots of brown, but you get the point, from Madrid to Barcelona with a stop in between in Zaragoza. During our stop, we were able to go inside of the Caterdral Basililica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the 5th biggest Cathedral in Spain. It was filled top to bottom with many intricate sculptures and detailed paintings, such a beautiful place. After viewing the cathedral, we did what we do best, EAT. Some of us had coffee, sandwiches, ice cream, and crepes, while others had churros and lots of chocolate. After an hour it was back on the bus for the final stretch.
WE MADE IT!
We arrived in Barcelona, with about 30 minutes of downtime before our game. We played A.E. Sant Andreu de Nazaret. The net had tassels, the ref was in sandals, and the toilets didn’t have seats but we had a great time. We won 78-30 and are starting to get the hang of the European game- such as a trapezoid for a lane, no talking during shots, and different subbing rules- all with Spanish speaking refs. On the way home, we stopped by the Mediterranean Sea to scope it out for Saturday. The night ended with a buffet at the hotel that included some familiar food-salad, pizza, potato wedges, and even a birthday cake in honor of Coach Silk’s birthday. In our ever so angelic voices, we sang Feliz Cumpleanos (or as our guide Elena corrected us we’ve been singing it wrong all along, it’s actually Cumpleanos Feliz).
We called it an early night in order to rest up for a full day in Barcelona tomorrow!
Museo Nacional Del Prado is the most famous museum in Spain, it includes painters such as Goya, Velazquez, Rembrandt, El Greco, and even a temporary exhibition featuring Picasso. Many of us enjoyed the war paintings and the Greek mythology scenes. There are over 3000 paintings in the museum causing us to spend over 2 hours there without even seeing half of what the museum had to offer. Some of us took a break in the café to drink café lattes and cappuccinos in order to refuel ourselves before looking at more paintings.
Botanical Gardens After the museum we split up for free time, some of us took a tour of the botanical gardens with Elaina our guide (she is 26 and a lot of fun!). The gardens were very pretty and we found a shaded bench to sit and socialize.
Shopping The rest of the group went back to Puerta del sol the center square to go shopping. There are tons of European commercial shops around the square, however as we said before, these places may not seem expensive, but after the exchange rate we all are a little surprised by how much we spent during the day. Some of the purchases included skirts, tank tops, dresses, and many of us found street vendors where we purchased jewelry.
Eating After our day at the museum and a little bit of free time, many of us sat down for food once again. Can you guess what we ate? Tapas!! We even had another round of octopus! Tapas for lunch however was just the start to a big day filled with eating.
Eating again! After our free time and just finishing our tapas around 3pm we arrived back at the hotel to enjoy a “small” dinner at 5pm. This “small” dinner consisted of bread, salad, fries, pork, and desert. This was all just a warm up for the main event…Eating dinner round 2.
Even more eating…We ate dinner again at 9pm, which is traditionally when the Spanish population eats their dinners. We all dressed up for the night and arrived via public bus to Puerta Del Sol to eat a traditional Spanish meal of, you guessed it, tapas! First, we had artisan cheese from Spain (one of everyones favorites). Next, we ate a tomato, cheese, onion, and olive salad, followed by queso croquettes (similar to cheese curds), a traditional Spanish omelet, which includes potatoes and eggs. We also had calamari and finally enjoyed a beef roast with mashed potatoes. Don’t forget dessert! Some of us tried egg and caramel pudding and others had fruit salad or yogurt with strawberry sauce. Our authentic Spanish meal was a success and we all left feeling full and satisified, ready to explore the central square of Madrid during the night.
We watched a Spanish band play and they asked some of the girls to dance with them, they obliged and so did coach. Afterwards we watched some other street performers and were harassed by local club recruiters to “come party”. Many Spanish people are not used to seeing tall American women with blonde hair. We eventually made our way back to the bus, but first we had to stop for Helado (ice cream) since we hadn’t had enough to eat already!
Today’s blog comes from Senior Forward Anna Smith and Junior Guard Katie Stone. Check out their video blog!!
Tourists: It was reassuring to see that we were not the only tourists there, the city was busy as is the most visited city in Spain. We would get a little nervous when passing other buses on the narrow, windy streets, but we made it out alive!
Old: Toledo is known as the oldest city in Spain. We learned that it was divided into three religious factions. A lot of the architecture had medieval influence, it was both intricate and beautiful.
Likes: The Toms collected a record amount of likes on instagram today, both individually and collectively on our team account (@USTtommieswbb, remember to go give us a follow). On the way up, our bus was able to stop and take beautiful panoramic pictures of the city, and throughout the rest of the day we were provided with an ample amount of opportunities to get various snap shots.)
Elegance: The city is full of unbelievable details. From the gold and steel crafts made in the factory to the stonework on the cathedral, everywhere you looked showed precision and expertise.
Dining: Of course, we all were excited about eating. There were many outdoor patios and quaint restaurants to try. Some of us stuck with the an old favorite (pizza) and some were a little more adventurous (pig ears and octopus).
Outstanding: It’s safe to say our day at Toledo was a favorite amongst the team. We learned a lot, had fun, and left wishing we had more time to spend in this culturally diverse city.
We are excited to see what Spain has in store for us.
Hola from Espana!! We finally arrived in Madrid on Sunday afternoon and spent all of yesterday taking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the beautiful city.
After only three days together, it’s safe to say we’ve already had so much fun and made so many memories; so we decided to present you our top ten favorite quotes.
10) “Was that a swordfish head?” – We have discovered that Spanish food is quite different and served in a very umm fresh form aka a head staring at you. But it’s been fun trying different different tapas which are small plates of Spanish cuisine meant for sharing.
9) “For the good of the team.” – The weather here is very hot during the day and seems very hard to find agua. Therefore if one person has water, it’s unspoken that it’s everyone’s water – you know since we are a team.
8) “Would you rather…” – After 18 hours of traveling, we were desperate for entertainment so an epic game of would you rather commenced. The other people on the plane didn’t seem to find it as funny as us. Spain version: Would you rather have to read this blog or be thrown in the bull fighting ring?
7) “Well that sucked.” – The plane ride did turn interesting when an 8 year old boy sitting in front of us got motion sick. We won’t get into details, but a sickness bag was umm filled. He bounced right back quickly though with a smile and telling the whole plane that it sucked.
6) “Let’s go to the balcony.” Our hotel has a really neat outside seating area which has quickly turned into our favorite team gathering place. It was also where a ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took place and Coach Sinn was nominated. We will keep you updated with how that turns out :).
5) “On your left.” – We started our first day in Madrid by doing a bus tour of the city. We saw a bull ring, palace, and statues. However, it seemed like everything cool was on the left side and we were on the right…
4) “It only (blank) euros.” – The currency exchange has been a bit difficult for us to figure out. We did some shopping in the City Center and many purchases were justified by saying its not that many euros… But that equals a more in US dollars. Sorry mom and dad.
3) “What are you wearing tomorrow?” – Definitely the most important decision of the day and the most discussed topic. It’s not often we aren’t in basketball shorts. And of course we all want to look cute for pictures.
2) “Is there wifi?” – We all just can’t wait to check twitter and Instagram updates from @USTtommieswbb (give them a follow). It’s a little strange being disconnected, but it’s been awesome to connect even more with each other.
1) “Let’s take another picture of what is that again?” – The architecture of buildings, sculptures, and parks is so beautiful. However, there is so much cool stuff that we don’t always know what we are taking pictures of. And both Coach Sinn and Silk really love the group shots even though we usually end up causing a scene.
We are off to Toledo tomorrow and looking forward to playing in our first game. Adios!!