.....Birmingham - yes really. Well to the Hotel du Vin Birmingham then on to Villa Park for the Aston Villa V Manchester City match.
It all began about a week before when I got a facebook mesage from the lovely Mrs P saying that her husband and she had purchased 4 corporate tickets in the Directors box for Villa this season (they have previously had a box) and that before they took any clients she wanted to do a dummy run with some friends; and as they were playing my team (Manchester City) did I want to go? Oh my did I want to go......well first I had to break the news to The Boy that I would be going to an away game without him and that it would be in the Directors box.
So I arranged my work around it and off booked a complete bargain at the Hotel du Vin in Birmingham. I had stayed there a few years ago with Mum when we went to the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC and it was lovely so was looking forward to staying again. Last time I was there it was a rather compact room with twin beds. This time, however, on arrival the lovely lady at reception upgraded me to this (apologies for the quality of the photo's taken on my iPhone which doesn't have great picture quality - come on Apple time for at least 7 mpx surely?):
At 6pm I was collected in a chauffeur driven Audi Q7 by Mrs P and her two other guests A & P. A is a season ticket holder at Chelsea and one of Mrs P's clients who has now become a friend and P knows very little about football but a lot about wine. So off we went to Villa Park. After being dropped off we went into the main reception and were escorted by a host up to the Directors' Dining Room. On arrival we were welcomed and they took out coats and promtly handed us a glass of champagne and offered canapés (unfortunately I have no photo's from the ground as I didn't take my camera and wasn't organised enough with my phone) - here is the invite to the Directors' Dining Room:
We were then shown to our table and give a menu to chose a four course meal from. I had scallops to start, beef wellington for my main and cheese for desert (there was also a rhubard something and a chocolate covered poached pear but I wanted savoury). With each course there was a different wine and the lovely wine waiter (Alan) wasn't shy in keeping our glasses filled up. The white was a lovely clean crisp semillion, the red was very flavourful but I can't remember what it was but the best was the desert wine - it was an ice wine from Canada. P works in the industry and had visited the place where it was made so we had a great chat with Alan about the wine (more details here).
So the star spotting (well only if you're into Football really) Gary Cook and Mike Summerby were there representing City and Doug Ellis, who is the heart of the club, there for Villa. Also there were Tony Adams, Lofty from Eastenders (random I know) and England Manager Fabio Capello and his entourage.
Just before taking our seats we were given the team sheets:
A little bit tipsy we took our seats in the Directors' box:
I shan't do a match report but first half Villa came out all guns blazing and fully deserved to go in 1-0 up at the break. Shame that ex-City player Richard Dunne scored the goal but he didn't celebrate and the City fans applauded him in response - I am secretly (well not that secretly as I am not ashamed to tell anyone that will listen) in love with Richard Dunne, he played for City for 9 years and was club captain for his last few. I have had his name and number on my shirts for the last few years and was very sad to see him go, I might have mentioned this to him but more on that later. Incidentally, Richard Dunne is on my list of people that I am allowed to marry is The Boy dies - it's not a very long list to be fair but will blog about that another time.
So half time and we head back in; Alan has once again been generous with the wine and there is also coffee. I missed it but A was mistaken for being Fabio Capello's companion when she was standing very close to him. Back for the second half and Mr Ellis needed a little help getting to his seat - over the years I have seen him on television and love the way he loves his club but I didn't realise quite how old and frail he now is. I believe he is in his 80s so not bad for an old chap. In the second half City equalised with a great shot by Craig Bellamy who played his socks off.
After the match and back to the dining room and time for more cheese, coffee and Port (once again Alan did us proud). After a little warm up it was time to leave. However, whilst walking along the corridor we bumped into Richard Dunne who was on his way to the Directors to receive his Man of the Match award. When I say bumped it was a little more like a hi-jack as I turned into scary girl fan.
Me: Dunney, will you sign this for me (fumbling in my bag for a pen)
Dunney: erm...yeah (looking a bit frightened)
Dunneys minder: here use this marker pen.
Me: how could you leave us, I have all these shirts that I can't wear now
Dunney: snigger snigger (still looking a bit frightened)
Libby: Yes but now he's here and playing for us which is great.
Me: Thanks, gush gush gush, we'll miss you
Libby: Sorry she really likes you
then sense prevailed and we scurried off.......here is his autograph:
until we got outside that was when I then got Roque Santa Cruz autograph whilst on out way to the car:
Then when we got to our car turned out Craig Bellamy's car was parked next to our so I accosted him as well (he was lovely though not at all like he is on the pitch a real sweetie):
Mrs P then dropped me back at the hotel and my lovely room, I slept well until about 5am (not unusual) then lazed around until breakfast (Hotel du Vin really do a very good English Breakfast) then headed back home.
I had such a fabulous time and can't thank Mrs P enough. I sent flowers but they only touch on how grateful I am.
I have put all my memorabillia from the day into a frame to go up in the office at home, along with our signed shirt we were given when we got married, all our match tickets and gig tickets which we have in clip frames and our programs from the last game at Maine Road.
Bloomin Marvelous - as I said - didn't we have a lovely day the day we went to Birmingham.