"Vic Hatherly on a European footie tour" vichatherly's Profile

October 2013 - Shakthar Donetsk, Donetsk

I spent two nights in Donetsk in October 2013.

The Ukrainian city has an industrial history. It grew up through its association with coal, hard mining work and metallurgy. Not quite your obvious holiday destination then.

I was here to watch football. Manchester United were playing Shakthar Donetsk in the Champions League. The game was to be played in one of the finest stadiums in Eastern Europe, the Donbass Arena. The stadium didn't disappoint, and nor did the city itself.

We started off with decent weather and ended up with snow. It got cold. Thank goodness for in stadium heating.

I took in trips to two football stadiums as well as visits to a WWII POW cemetery. Also taking a walk up Artema Street gave me plenty of sights to see.

For a run through of my trip just head to my Shakthar Donetsk travelogue.

Following Man Utd around Europe and the World

Watching United around Europe and the world has become rather an obsession.

Too much time devoted to watching overpaid men kicking a ball about is obviously a stupid obsession. But you have to have a hobby. And so I have taken planes, trains and automobiles all over Europe.

At last count I had made it to 25 countries to see games varying from pre-season friendly games to UEFA Champions League finals. The places visited have all had their charms and sometimes the ninety minutes football is the worst thing about the trip.

In an ideal world the trips are spread over three days.

Day One - Get there and check out the nightlife
Day Two – A spot of sightseeing and then head off to the match
Day Three – If lucky, a spot more sightseeing and then the journey home

Everything is crammed in and no time is wasted in sleeping lounging by the pool, although lounging in the bar is maybe a prerequisite.

The "Euro away" is a great experience but not for the faint hearted. Its non stop enjoyment and you'll need a holiday to recover when you get back, not to mention the detoxify in the steam room and sauna.

Over the years the accommodation has been varied. In the early years rooms in Amsterdam were over coffee houses, and were bunk beds.

Now, thankfully, trips are normally booked up via expedia.co.uk and three and four star hotels are the norm, with a five star thrown in every now and again. Ryanair and EasyJet are also favourite budget airlines when time schedules are tight.

May 2013 - Spring Airshow Duxford

For me going to Duxford is a real treat. The former RAF base, now part of the Imperial War Museum and the Air Shows are brilliant.

We spend all day there if we can.

My recent visit to 2013 Spring Air Show was a bit of a spur of the moment decision. In fact, we only decided to go the night before, when we realised that once that we had nothing planned for the Sunday. The in-laws were coming down for a few days and so after they had enjoyed their previous visit to the RAF museum at Hendon, we decided that they might like a trip to Duxford.

The theme for the spring air show was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the US Army Air Forces arriving at Duxford in 1943.

There was a great display by the newly formed group Eagle Squadron, which a comprised of a Hawker Hurricane X , Supermarine SpitfireMk I, Republic P-47G Thunderbolt and the North American P-51C Mustang Princess Elizabeth.

There were wing walkers and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight did a great fly past ... all this was topped off with a brilliant display from the Red Arrows.

February 2013 - Real Madrid, Madrid

A two night stay in Madrid over Valentine ’s Day sounds very romantic. I was in Madrid for love, the love of Manchester United. The Mrs was back at home in England. However, I was doing better than some in my party, who were also missing their wedding anniversary!

I was there for the UEFA Champions League last 16KO round 1st Leg, Real Madrid v Manchester United played on 13th February 2013. A great match between two good attacking teams played in one of the best stadiums in Europe, the Estadio Del Bernabau. All the goals came in the first half, with Wellbeck opening the scoring for United and then Manchester old boy, Ronaldo, equalising for Real Madrid. 1-1 it finished, with the second leg to be played in a few weeks at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Check out my full travelogue Valentine’s Day in Madrid

Summer 2012 - Lost In France

Summer 2012 was spent in France, nearby to Charroux. No huge holiday this year, as we were still getting used to our new arrival Alex.

It was off to France for a few days. We took him to see, and hear, his first French Horn at Persac and then he got to see monkeys at Vallee Des Singes and crocodiles at La Planète des Crocodiles.

France is a very child friendly place. We found that even the more upmarket restaurants were more than happy to welcome Alex, and catered for his needs with the minimum of fuss. The Le Cheval Blanc in Luxe, couldn’t have been more helpful, which meant that we all had a splendid feast of a time.

Castles were explored at Chauvigny.

We were lucky enough to stay with a retired English couple who treated us like family during our stay in their rustic cottage. The swimming pool was used as well as the barbeque.

Books were read and card games were played ... no tv or internet here.

It was a delightful, relaxing, few days away.

Alex particularly liked the ride-on lawnmower .. or was that the Mrs who liked it most ... va va vroom!

March 2012 - Club Athletic Bilbao

I had a two night stay in Bilbao in March 2012.

Bilbao is situated in the north-central part of Spain and is a great destination for a city break to watch some European football. The Basque people are really friendly.

The Guggenheim museum is the major symbol of the city, along the bridges, both modern and historic, spanning the estuary and the tall and narrow streets of the Old Town.

The city has plenty of parks and open spaces, and so with frequent sunny weather it makes an ideal city for a weekend away.

The bars ranged from the small, café type, local bars to the lager more English pub bars.

I’ll have to investigate the restaurants a bit more on my next visit.

Check out my full travelogue Athletic Club

February 2012 - AFC Ajax, Amsterdam

It was off to Amsterdam, in February 2012, for a one night stay to watch the Europa League KO32 1st Leg match, Ajax v Manchester United.

My wife had taken the baby off for a holiday with her parents and so I set two alarms, one of which I failed to hear, to be up at an unearthly 03:30. Breakfast was skipped, although the shower and razor blade were both used.

04:15 left for Luton airport and parked up at the always welcoming Central Car Storage.

Unlike some other MUFC travellers, who were sinking pints at the airport bar, it was a Pret A Manger breakfast for me, followed by a short wait for the 06:45 Easyjet flight. I slept through the whole of the hour long flight, so it was over in a flash.

Getting form Schipol to Amsterdam Central was a breeze on the twenty minute train ride. I arrived in the centre of one of the most cosmopolitan of European cities at 09:40 local time. It was cold in the ‘dam and the canals were still frozen over. Bicycles were everywhere to be seen and so you had to have your wits about you to keep out of the cycle lanes … and then there were the trams … and the cars!

Read more of my Amsterdam travelogue here

  • Intro Updated Oct 11, 2013
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vichatherly

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Vic Hatherly
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