If lashings of culture and delicious food are what you’re after, then Vienna is certainly the place for you. Located in Austria – and not Australia as some befuddled tourists may be wont to think – it was once the capital of a formidable empire that stretched far across the lands. Today, the city remains steeped in history with museums, churches and castles as far as the eye can see.
The city itself is most pleasant to walk around, although it does tend to have a somewhat equine smell due to all the horse-drawn carriages for tourists whizzing about the place. That aside, I highly recommend strolling about Vienna to soak up the sights and burn off some of the food you’ll no doubt be consuming. We did our very best to combat all the calorie-laden goodies on offer, but still I fear the strudel may have won.
Speaking of the food it was interesting to see the extensive labelling of everything edible, with every restaurant menu proclaiming what was for suitable for those with allergies, vegans, the gluten intolerant and the like. It was almost as if the whole city had become hipster. That being said, this practice is also found in the supermarkets, so one imagines it is a legal requirement rather than everyone just being extra annoying about their dietary needs.
If bronzed, half-naked men with a penchant for tattoos are your cup of tea then I heartily recommend a trip to Mackay to quench your thirst. I recently had the pleasure of visiting this Northern Australian city, during my down under tour, and found it to be all rather heavenly – the combination of balmy weather and equally as hot men undoubtedly contributed to my very pleasant stay.
Admittedly, I was quite spoiled by my hosts – dear friends from my former Sydney life – whose generous hospitality gave me the impression of staying in a wonderfully relaxing resort. The beach view from my balcony, coupled with the soft sounds of the waves lapping against the shore, only added to the tropical getaway vibe. Not to mention the apparently endless, daily cocktails – Jimipolitons – a lovely mix of sparkling raspberry and Beluga Vodka. Indeed, it was just like a mini-holiday within my holiday, as I wasn’t in a great rush trying to see a whole host of different friends and family and was able to spend my time doing nothing but writing and sunbaking – predictably I was far more successful with the latter but it’s best not to dwell on such things.
If I were to live anywhere else in my beloved Europe it would have to be in beautiful, balmy Barcelona. For me, it blends the best of European living – the culture and easy travel to nearby countries – with what I miss from my home town, Sydney – namely the great weather, beaches and party atmosphere. Indeed, I’ve spent many a daydream wondering how exactly I could possibly spend a summer sojourn there soaking up all the tropical goodness it has to offer.
There are so many great things about the place I barely know where to start. The heat, the beaches, the food, the wacky Gaudi architecture, the easy-going lifestyle, the ridiculously slutty hot men…honestly I could just go on and on. No doubt it helps that I mainly tend to visit during the summertime when nobody wears much of anything and the Circuit Festival is on – or as I like to call it ‘European Gayapalooza’.
I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find anywhere gayer than summertime in Sitges. A heavenly oasis, situated on the Spanish coast, it’s just a quick train ride north of bustling Barcelona. Honestly, there are gays for days and so much pride you can practically feel Kylie in the warm summer breeze. Everywhere you look – on the beach, in the street, in my hotel room – there are stunning examples of manhood. It’s enough to make you want to be a better man I tell you.
It is almost a little disconcerting at first, as you think that perhaps one has stumbled into some sort of gay wonderland. I don’t mind admitting that I felt like the poor, fat, white country cousin on my first foray to the main gay beach in town. This was quickly remedied, however, with daily mammoth gym sessions and an obscene amount of beach time.
What can I say about this wonderful Gay Mecca? Apart from the fact that it is absolutely awesome! The men, the food, the weather…did I mention the MEN?!? Honestly, my eyes were practically diabetic after being exposed to so much eye-candy. Not to mention the stunning views to be had as the sun set – by which I mean the skimpily clad and rather buff men huffing and puffing away, in all their glistening glory, as they jogged along the boulevard…
Now I had heard rumours about this steamy beachside gem for many a year, with tales of hot friendly locals and a general sense of gay abandon. It’s reputation for being the most relaxed and welcoming of the Israeli cities is well deserved. Notably their customer service is far more hospitable than the passive / aggressive style of nearby Jerusalem.
Berlin is one of those mythic cities whose grand reputations precede them, keeping good company with the likes of London, New York and Paris. I’m ever so happy to report that it was everything I had been warned about. A delightfully harsh mistress, I am somewhat enamoured – or enlusted – with this charming city and all the decadence and debauchery that it contains Truly a place where one can be oneself without fear of shame and recriminations, unless that’s what you’re into of course, all the while giving a brand new interpretation to East meets West.
Don’t get me wrong, there are more than enough cultural pursuits on offer to balance out the less seemly ones. Not to mention exploring the difference of the formerly separated city halves. The first thing that I saw when crossing over to the east was a Starbucks, nothing says forward momentum quite like American capitalism. In general, the east seeming to be funkier and more progressive, although I tend to think that it is all meshing rather nicely.
I can’t tell you how convenient it is to have a handy little spot in the mountains, when you feel the need for a little getaway. If your family isn’t that way inclined, then I find the best method is to marry into a family that is – in a completely unrelated note it happens to be the location of my nuptials later this year.
Indeed, I am ever so grateful to my future husband for all of the wonderful changes he has brought about in my life, with one of the most magnificent of these being his introducing me to marvellous Megève in the French Alps. In fact, I oft refer to it as Santa’s village for rich people. A loving nickname brought about by my first Christmas spent there, where I encountered a towering tree laden with thousands of Euros of Swarovski crystal, glittering away unguarded in the village square. Not to mention the heated footpaths around the boutiques, so that the shoppers were in no danger of soiling their expensive footwear in the hunt for designer purchases. Plus it’s quite refreshing to be in a place so totally devoid of poor people – apart from the ‘help’ that is, but they hardly count.
I must admit I wasn’t exactly captivated by New York on my first visit, well certainly not in the same way as Paris had me enthralled. It could have been that the expectation -built up so high from friends and acquaintances over the years all professing their grand love of the place and demanding that I simply go and fall similarly under its spell – just wasn’t able to possibly be met by reality. Although I dare say the fact that I had been run down by a motorbike in the street outside my apartment two days before jetting over, and subsequently being in quite a deal of pain and constantly popping pain medication, may have contributed to my lack of amazement.
It would be highly remiss of me to not include my hometown in my travel section at some point. Truth be told I tend to think of it as one of those places that doesn’t need a lot of promotion. In fact it’s rare that I met a European who isn’t filled with a mixture of envy, longing and bitterness when I divulge my origins. Certainly I’m still ever so happy when I make the pilgrimage home every second year for Christmas, despite the arduous daylong journey to get there. Possibly something to do with the fact I get to escape the harsh and frigid wasteland that is the European winter for a much more pleasant Australian summer.
Honestly, with an average of 200 days of sunshine a year, an easygoing beach vibe of a day and vibrant party energy of a night time, what’s not to love? It also doesn’t hurt that the locals are friendly, hot and wandering around half naked for a good nine months of the year. The beaches are beautiful and packed with stunning specimens of manhood – I heartily recommend Bronte Beach for the almost sickening eye-candy level.
I’ve made no secret of my passion for all things Spanish – weather, food, men… To this end I do try and pop over there at least a few times per year to get my fix. Now while Barcleona and Sitges do hold a special place in my heart – not to mention groin – I do find myself far fonder of Madrid. Indeed the only thing missing from this charming city is a beach – well one can’t have everything after all.
Madrid would have to be, without doubt, one of the most gay-friendly cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Even on a regular weekend one can regard numerous boys strolling about hand in hand with nary a care in the world and not a concerned onlooker to be seen.
Then there is the madness that is Gay Pride – so welcoming it borders on ridiculous. There are gays for days and an overwhelming feeling of love, support and pride to be found everywhere. It reminds me of what Sydney used to be like for Mardi Gras, with the place practically drowning in rainbow flags and a palpable excitement all over the city in the days leading up to the grand event. Fabulous, simply fabulous!