So this one was a long time coming!
As I’m sure you all know, December is one of the busiest months of most peoples’ social calendar. And to be honest, I’ve found it one of the hardest months to pin down dates. Not only is everyone busy with work dos and family stuff, but people get ill … and cold … and tired … And it’s far too easy to sit on the couch rather than venturing out into the cold to meet someone you may not even fancy …
The Third Date of Christmas almost happened several times in the last fortnight. Obviously there was my second date with Mr Mauve … but other than my speeding ticket and £100 fine, there was very little monumental to report … and that isn’t exactly something I would advise others to try on do on a date!
Plans of a trip to Windsor Castle with Guy Fawkes were postponed when he was called away with the Army. And then my first attempt at a Simplicity3 Match (remember my Matchmaking experience?) fell flat when he sent me a wishy washy man flu text less than twenty-four hours beforehand.
To be honest I wasn’t overly fussed about the Simplicity3 Match. So much so that I haven’t even bothered to give him a name! He was selected by the Matchmaker … though from the look of the site, I couldn’t help wondering if he was simply the only guy amongst her customers within the requisite location and age bracket. He wasn’t someone I would have chosen for myself on a dating site, however the whole point of the Matchmaking Experience is to date as I am told. So to be honest, it was something of a relief when he cancelled! I haven’t given up on the Matchmaking just yet … but I’m kind of hoping I at least fancy the next one a bit before I (maybe get to) meet him!
If there was one date I hadn’t expected to cancel this month, it was Mr Mauve! We’d got on well at the London Eye, and on our second date to the pub quiz (even after I got cautioned by the police!).
But when Mr Mauve came down with a mystery illness on Saturday morning (I’m assured he was genuinely ill!) I had just over twenty-four hours to find myself a replacement date for what had been the makings of an amazing date.
London Date Number Three was at Vinopolis.
You may remember, my part-time role as a ‘Dating Expert’ for Guardian Soulmates was all thanks to a wine-tasting singles event which Miss32 and I attended towards the end of the summer there. On more than one occasion that evening, Miss32 and I commented on what a great one-on-one date location the wine-tasting venue would make. And so when the guys at Vinopolis invited me back for a date, it seemed the perfect location for one of the 12 Dates of Christmas.
However when Mr Mauve cancelled on Saturday, with no time to cancel our Christmas Tasting Experience, it looked like I was set to spend my Sunday afternoon drinking alone!
I have to admit to having a rather drunken Saturday. For my sins I went to The Big Reunion Christmas Party at the O2, with two of my oldest school friends, and it was at the drunken nineties fest that I got Mauve’s text, pulling out of both wine tasting, and the Fourth Date event (which was scheduled in just a few hours later).
In between sets of 911, 5ive and B*witched, I trawled Plenty of Fish and Tinder for a last minute date (yes, I said ‘trawled’ … see I told you I was beginning to date like a guy!).
Having scared off the guys I’d been chatting to recently with my sudden uncharacteristic desire to meet the very next day, I resorted to friends of friends. The trusted source of most of my 30 Dates.
In thirty blind dates, I had just three bad ones …
What could be so bad about a friend recommended by a school friend?
Turns out he wasn’t really a friend of a school friend. He was a friend of a friend of a school friend. And a lot can go wrong with that equation … and did.
I have to admit to not asking outright during the date. However I would put money on two things being true -
1) That my Third Date of Christmas has at some point in his life trainspotted.
2) That my Third Date of Christmas was the first ever date of his life.
The entire ‘date’ aspect of the date was frankly cringeworthy, for reasons I don’t want to go into for fear of sounding like a complete and utter bitch! Sorry guys, but I REALLY didn’t fancy him …
The Trainspotter was a lovely guy. But we had zero spark. And after an hour of pleasantries, next to zero conversation. And I genuinely used to believe I could make conversation with anyone!
Thank God Vinopolis lived up to expectations.
The venue worked perfectly as a setting for a date. The tour began with an introduction to wine tasting.
Those of you who followed my 30 Dates Challenge will know I’m quite the wine connoisseur …. when it comes to rose and lemonade! (Though ironically I did manage to teach the wine expert about my summer tipple during the tour, and the lovely guy actually managed to feign interest at my sacrilegious suggestion!)
So basically I needed all the help I could get!
We were shown how to hold the glass (not as obvious as it seems, I promise!), how to observe the wine, how to appreciate the different aromas of the wine, separating them out into different categories, and finally, how to best slurp the wine in order to taste it.
We were then given credit cards loaded with tokens, and free reign of the different tasting rooms – White, Red, Spirits and Champagne. Each area was filled with machines which automatically dispensed taster sized servings of various wines. The wines varied in token price, and you could pay to load extra tokens on the card.
In the centre of both the White and Red rooms, interactive hubs allowed you to identify your ideal wines, by answering questions about different foods and tastes.
I sampled a few white wines, before moving to my favourite section – the bubbles!
I spent the majority of my tokens on champagne, and sat somewhat awkwardly chatting with The Trainspotter. I couldn’t begrudge him, as he had stepped up at short notice, however conversation was really forced. And it didn’t help that I was dating on about five hours sleep!
Vinopolis makes a great date venue, if you have chemistry with your date. In a lot of ways it’s like an extended pub, because after the initial tour, you’re left to your own devices … and your own conversation.
I soon found myself willing the tour guide back. I’d enjoyed learning about the wine, and finally understanding expressions like the ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ of a wine for the first time.
As part of the Christmas tour, we each had a complimentary minced pie and glass of mulled wine. When The Trainspotter went off in search of mulled wine, he bumped into one of the Supervisors, who knew I was reviewing the experience for the blog. However, rather amusingly, as I have a unisex first name, he assumed my date was the journalist, and whisked him off for a lengthy tour of the Spirits Room!
I breathed a sigh of relief, and began texting around, searching for an alternative partner to the Fourth Date of Christmas, later that evening. The Trainspotter had needed to pop into work for a few hours (yes, on a Sunday!), and had offered to return after he’d finished in the office, and meet me at the second part of the date. However I think we’d both acknowledged that three hours in each others’ company had been painful enough, so when one of the Experimental Daters stepped up to the plate, we both breathed a noticeable sigh of relief!
Sadly, my favourite part of the date was when my date was otherwise engaged with the Vinopolis tour guide, as it was the first time during the date that I properly relaxed. I sat, nursing my mulled wine, and wearing my favourite Christmas jumper, and took stock of my beautiful surroundings. If only I hadn’t wasted such a great date venue on a completely blind date!
At the end of our tour, we nipped into the Spirits Room, where an amazingly informative guide showed us the traditional way to prepare absynth, and teased me about downing it. While I left most of mine on the side, I watched in awe as the Trainspotter downed his absynth (probably his fifteenth drink of the afternoon as his token card had been playing up!) and proclaimed he was off to the office!
The Vinopolis staff were extremely helpful and knowledgeable (and not just the ones who knew I was ‘press’ or thought my date was press!). I didn’t become a red wine convert over night, but the tour definitely showed me how much there is to learn about wine, and Vinopolis was a beautiful peaceful place to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. The staff were approachable, and not snobby in the slightest (something you might expect when going wine-tasting), and I’m still taken aback by the guide’s enthusiasm when I made a joke about only ever drinking rose and lemonade!
Would I recommend a date there? Most definitely.
Just take someone you want to spend the afternoon leisurely drinking with! So maybe a second or third date?
As for who came on the Fourth Date of Christmas …. you’ll have to wait to find out!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx