MADRID- The Stanford men's basketball team finally arrived in Madrid at 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, kicking off an 11-day foreign tour that includes six games to be played against world-class competition in cities such as Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid.
The Cardinal survived a 4 a.m. wake-up call on Saturday and flew from San Francisco to New York three hours later before catching a connecting flight to Madrid. Originally scheduled to arrive in Madrid at 6:50 a.m., the travel party withstood a four-hour delay at John F. Kennedy Airport due to a technical issue with the aircraft.
The extra waiting time at the airport allowed players a chance to bank some sleep or find something to eat. Others used the extended time to monitor the football team, which was rapidly piling up points in a 57-3 rout of San Jose State.
After checking into their hotel, coaches and players milled around downtown looking to grab a quick lunch. Shortly thereafter, the travel party embarked on a guided bus tour that showcased notable city landmarks, including the Plaza de Toros, site of the city's popular bullfights.
Later that evening, the group was treated to a welcome dinner by Anthony Travel, the sports-based travel and event management company responsible for coordinating this year's foreign trip.
International travel is a new experience for several members of the men's basketball team. Fortunately, any questions about exploring a new country could have been answered long before leaving The Farm. A 50-foot walk down the hallway to the women's volleyball locker room inside Maples Pavilion would have been a great start. Two months after visiting China for their foreign tour, junior Karissa Cook and sophomore Rachel Williams offered up the following savvy travel tips for our guys.
Always be aware of lurking paparazzi Cook: "We had quite a following. I even got some of that attention, and I'm only 5-11 compared to some of the taller girls on our team. So they had quite a following and it was really funny. The guys will have a blast." Williams: "The tallest girl on our team (Hayley Spellman at 6-6) took a ton of photos. People would just come up and take pictures with her. And she was like `what just happened?'. So be prepared for a lot of stares. Be prepared to have a lot of pictures taken."
The Stanford women's volleyball team visited China in June.
Hope a natural "tour guide" emerges Cook: "We relied on Lydia (Bai) quite a bit. Personally, I was totally lost. But there were pictures on the signs and we would have Lydia decode them. Next to roadways, they would have a picture of a horn, to say don't honk your horn. You could figure it out, but sometimes it was a little confusing." Williams: "We got lucky with Lydia. We had a senior last year (Cassidy Lichtman) who took three years of Chinese, but she didn't come with us on the trip. But she helped Lydia teach us Chinese, although Lydia was our main speaker if we needed something. For the most part, there wasn't a situation where we were absolutely lost. Either they could speak enough English or Lydia was there to do a full translation."
No social media = not a bad thing Cook: "I didn't necessarily feel disconnected from Facebook or Twitter because I was still able to email. But it was a little weird to not have it there all the time, since you are always into a habit of checking it. I was able to go out of my way and find a blog, one of the few blogs that weren't blocked in China. So I was able to at least write stuff up so my family could check it. That was kind of how I told everyone what we were doing." Williams: "It was actually nice. You were completely cut off. We still had email working and if you wanted to turn international on your phone, you could. But I don't think many people did that. So email was our one source of finding out information from the outside world. We all found a few internet sites that we liked, but not the ones we normally use. But definitely the first half of the trip, it was like, `I don't need to check my Facebook or post something on Twitter."
Some final travel tips Cook: "I would definitely bring a computer. Actually the Wi-Fi was better in the smaller town than Beijing. On the flight back, within the first half hour of sitting on the plane, they told us the entire entertainment system was down so there was no in-flight music or movie. So we got a bunch of "we're sorry" bonus miles out it. But I was definitely looking at the girl next to me on her computer and watching her movies." Williams: "Make a good play list in your iPhone. Find a couple TV shows to watch. Get ready for different types of food. Expect to get taken advantage of, especially because you're a tourist and with how tall you are. Get the best deals that you can, we definitely had to be able to walk away and they would drop the price. They really want your money, so as long as you're relatively ruthless, they'll go with it."