March 16, 2018
There should not be any doubt about the Rice Soccer team's time in Valencia during the program's tour of Spain this week.
The Owls are fired-up!
Rice began Day 5, Friday (March 16), with a nine-mile bicycle sightseeing tour. Recall the Owls did the same thing in Barcelona on Day 1 and the activity was such a hit the tour organizers did some rearranging so the squad could do the same in Valencia. The team was a able to get up close to a host of different historic and modern sights, and it seemed at times the group of veteran cycling tourists also got up close with the city's motor traffic/cyclists/pedestrians (of which there are many of each) during Festival Time.
It's easy to build up an appetite cycling a fair distance for the better portion of the afternoon. The Owls had another perfect activity waiting.
The team drove just outside the city to Huerta, Spain, to eat at the famed Barraca Restaurant - a field-to-table farm known throughout the nation for its ‘Original Spanish Paella.' The owner and proprietor, Toni Montoliu, is a charismatic 85-year old tour de force. If you can keep up with him Montoliu can be seen cooking over a massive open flame at an outdoor pit one moment, singing Spanish Opera (perfectly) the next, interviewing his beloved guests (the Owl players) on his cell phone, and demonstrating his ability to ride a bicycle… while he faced backward!
The meal and the experience was an overwhelming success. On the farm the Rice players took a horse-drawn wagon ride to an orange grove on his expansive property, where Senior Montoliu allowed the Owls to pick Valencia oranges directly from his trees. The team also enjoyed the usual array for farm animals. At the end of the meal, the players had an impromptu karaoke/dance party – then evolved into a ‘feats of strength' segment as the players tried to recreate the famous lift-scene from the hit movie Dirty Dancing. Before leaving the team got a photo with Senior Montoliu, and got him to make the Owl wings. Maybe he'll select today's shot to be on the restaurant's wall of fame, which is peppered with autographed photos from who's-who of international soccer and F1 race car drivers dating back 40 years!
The night, particularly nights in Spain, are always young. The team still had the opportunity to back into the historic section of Valencia where the Festival of Fire, which the tour guides say is recognized internationally as a ‘world heritage event,' is in full swing. As previously mentioned in this space, a host of professional fireworks companies, and amateurs (including small children) with any and all brands of personal firecrackers, have equal opportunity to get the tourists and locals fired up.
Saturday, day six on the tour, sees the team making a run to the shopping district before heading back north to Barcelona.
Check out the latest photo gallery and follow each leg of the program's historic tour.