"Vic Hatherly on a European footie tour" vichatherly's Profile
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
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.
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!
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
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
We went to Dortmund for a lovely long weekend in June 2011. The plan was to use Dortmund as a base for a four day tour of the famous Ruhr reservoir dams attacked by RAF 617 squadron in May 1943. The squadron of Lancaster bombers, led by Guy Gibson, had the new bouncing bomb. The daring WWII raid was named as “Operation Chastise” but afterwards it became better known as “The Dambusters Raid”.
Our first day was spent visiting the EDER dam around the small town of Waldeck. Then for our second day we spent time exploring Dortmund and sampling some of its excellent local beers and tasty sausages, not too mention the white asparagus.
On day three we drove to the other two dams in our Dambuster tour and went to the MOHNE dam, just south of Soest and the SORPE dam at Langscheid.
For our final day we spent time relaxing in Dortmund, and more specifically at the splendid Westfalenpark before heading back home.
For the full breakdown of the trip, just take a look at the "Operation Chastise June 2011" travelogue.
I spent one night in Dusseldorf in April 2010.
I was there as a stopover on the way to Gelsenkirchen for the UEFA Champions League Semi Final 1st Leg match, Schalke 04 v Manchester United.
Getting to Dusseldorf
Leaving my house at 05:45, I picked up some friends at Dartford at 06:30 and then met the other lads, who were going on the trip, at Cheriton at 07:30. We then headed off, in our trusty minibus, for the 08:50 Eurotunnel train crossing.
From Calais, we went through Belgium, Netherlands and finally crossed the border into Germany at about 14:00, local time. The SatNav held up well, only getting itself confused once, around Nijmegen, Holland.
We had match tickets to pick up, and so we headed past Dusseldorf and onto to the Veltins Arena, at nearby Gelsenkirchen.
After getting the tickets we headed back to Dusseldorf and checked in late afternoon at the InterCity Hotel in the city centre.
Out on the Town
It was then a quick shower in the hotel before heading out for the evening to see what delights Dusseldorf had in store for us. We started off with a quick drink across the road from the hotel at a friendly Italian restaurant...beers only at this stage though.
We then headed off to walk to the Old Town district and started off at the huge bar called Im Goldenen Ring. We had arrived on a Bank Holiday Monday and so it was quite busy. It was nice to sit outside, enjoy the April sunshine, and watch the locals in and around the Rheinuferpromenade. We tried a taste of the local Frankenheim Alt Beer, which is a dark beer; to be honest it was not really to my cup of tea although, come to think of it, it did taste rather like cold tea.
We were now getting hungry and so took a recommendation to head down to a local restaurant called Ham Ham. I was looking forward to a huge pork knuckle with mash potato and I was not disappointed. All for around 15 euro.
It was then back to the Im Goldenen Ring and then the night became a decent bar crawl up the street, with a taxi back to my hotel at around 02:30.
Match Day - off to Gelsenkirchen
I was up bright eyed at about 10:30. Breakfast was not included in the hotel room, and I would have missed it anyway. I checked out and waited, over coffee and a toasted sandwich in the cafe next door, for the others to do the same.
Everybody made it down eventually and so after a couple of beers, it was afternoon by then, we headed off to Gelsenkirchen at around 15:00, for the match against Schalke 04.
Dusseldorf is a fun place with plenty of nightlife and so is well worth a visit.
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