Today was our first full day in Valencia. We went downstairs for breakfast at the hotel and there is a distinct difference between the breakfast we had here versus a continental breakfast in America. The café con leche is to die for. It blows our minds how different even something as simple as coffee can taste. The variety of fresh fruits they had displayed beats the fruit served elsewhere. Fresh oranges, strawberries, pineapple and melons were laid out and displayed so beautifully under the breakfast bar lights. They did not have pans of the typical scrambled eggs and bacon because it is just uncommon here in Espana. What they did have was a variety of different meats, although they are not labeled, it appeared to be different types of ham and chorizo. The best part of the breakfast is the tortilla they serve here. It is omelet styled with potatoes inside and everyone on the team agrees it is by far the best part of the breakfast. It is extremely satisfying and starts you off on the right note for the day.
We drove to a field a couple minutes from the hotel. The field is surrounded by apartment buildings and the atmosphere surrounding you is different than any other practice we have had. Locals stop and just sit and watch for the entire time or even watched from the balconies of their apartments. The sport of soccer, or futbol as they would call is, is so deeply loved by the community that it made us feel honored to be watched by such loving fans.
After a quick shower back at the hotel, we all departed for the greatly anticipated part of the trip, the match of FC Barcelona vs Villarreal. For those who do not know, FC Barcelona is one of the most popular European teams that the greatest players currently play for. You may or may not have heard of Lionel Messi but we were on our way to watch him play and everyone was excited. The stadium, even though it is not one of the bigger ones, is like no other. Our seats had a great view of the entire field and we felt so close to the field. The fans at the match are more dedicated and crazier than any other professional game in America in our opinion. Since soccer is like a religion to the culture, the fans get so deeply invested in the matches that the atmosphere makes the game a lot more fun to watch. The match ended in a 2-2 draw but watching these players on the field was nothing we have ever seen before.
Later in the evening, we went to a restaurant for dinner called La Trucha. Here we ate the popular Spanish dish called paella. They brought out a variety of different tapas before the main course and I know a lot of us were full before even the paella was brought out. When they did bring out the paella, they brought four dishes, and it was enough food to serve about fifty people. It was huge. Paella is made of rice, peppers, chicken and rabbit in a saffron sauce. Many people did not eat the rabbit because it is very uncommon in America but those who did try it said it was very delicious. The paella alone would be an experience in Spain just because of the popularity of the dish in the culture.
Dinner finished around 11 o’clock and we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out. The entire team headed to a salsa club called K-CHE. Unsure of what to expect, we went inside and were extremely surprised at the fast-paced dance moves. The local Spaniards loved trying to teach us how to salsa and were extremely nice—regardless of the language barrier. We are very excited to explore more of Valencia and continue learning about the amazing Spanish culture.
Today our team took a trip to the Valencia futbol stadium for a tour. You could imagine our excitement on the bus ride there, as we imagined what we would be able to see. It was an incredible experience to be able to walk through the locker room, out of the tunnel and on to the field; we even got to sit on the same bench that many professional footballers have sat on. In addition, we had the opportunity to see the conference rooms used for the interviews of the coaches and players. Probably the most interesting of all was learning about the history behind the club. We learned that the team colors, orange, black, and white, all had a meaning. The orange represented the famous Valencia Orange (which we must say have tasted amazing), the white referred to the first jersey of the club, and the black bat, which referred to a legend. In the story, our tour guide explained a battle in which the English were planning a night attack that Valencia was not prepared for. In the legend a bat flew into the tent and awoke the soldiers to the attack and helped them defeat the English.
After the tour we spent the rest of the day in the center of the city. The only thing that we were given was a map! And with no cell phone service we were very limited. With a map and with Hannah Bodner as our human GPS we were able to navigate through the city and take in the culture. We saw unique buildings, fun shops, and the city market, which was filled with vendors selling all different types of fresh meats, spices, fruits, and other types of traditional Spanish foods! Luckily the whole team was managed to find each other for a lunch, before we separated again to go shopping and head back tot the hotel. The walk back to the hotel may not have gone as smooth. We attempted to navigate our way back to the hotel in groups of 5 with out coaches or Joey (our tour guide). After getting lost a few times and walking about an average of 10 miles we eventually found our way back.
After a quick nap we were off to the lobby where coach Katie and Jackie Fede graced us with an amazing Spanish karaoke performance. On our walk there they even sang some Justin Bieber for us. After a half hour walk and almost getting locked in a park we made it to the restaurant. It was a Moroccan style restaurant which we were all a little worried about at first. However, we pushed away our skepticism and tried everything that was served to us. The food was amazing and everyone had a great time trying things we never thought we would. Many of us even thought that it was the best dinner of the trip so far.
By the end of dinner, we had once again reached the topic of our curfew. Something that a lot of the players and coaches think is a sensitive topic. As we have slowly adjusted to the Spanish clock it is clear that everything here happened a lot later than back home. We were very happy with the 1:30 a.m. curfew the night before, but even that late was very early. Therefore, the team asked coach what was the latest time that we could possibly stay out. After taking the walk back to the hotel and a short speech we were given the curfew of 3 a.m. When we first heard the news, we all smiled but understood that this was a lot of trust that coach was putting into us.
Of course with every plan to go out, we forgot to factor in that it was a Monday night and therefore the first few places we tried to go were not even open. We ended up taking taxi’s into the city. Let’s not forget the fact that about none of the taxi drivers spoke English, but between the 4 people in each taxi we managed to get there and back just fine. Downtown we had a blast! Everyone genuinely enjoyed being together and danced the night away!
We are looking forward very much to tomorrow’s adventures!