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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Brighton Pride

I forgot to mention Brighton Pride, where I spent a fantastic few days experiencing gays from all over the UK and elsewhere flock to this quaint seaside town. It was a huge celebration and it truly took me the entire weekend to realize that not every place is homophobic as the majority of the United States. Walking down the ocean front very late at night, holding hands with a sexy and unique man, we passed gaggles of ridiculously intoxicated teenagers. (Note: Brits drink a fuckload more than Americans do, and that's saying a lot from someone who attends West Virginia University). The whole time we walked by them I was tense, half poised for a baseball bat to the back of the head. Rather, everyone was very friendly and stuck with saying nothing or a nice "How's it going?" Why every place can't tolerate homosexuality like this is astounding to me - not that it's something that should be tolerated, rather welcomed with open arms.

Pride aside, the town of Brighton is adorable - the small row houses are painted in pastel shades and the beach is filled with pebbles rather than sand. This sounds unpleasant, but I'd take that any day over washing mini-crystals out of my ass crack and other unmentionables. To top it off, there's a naked beach - the only one I've ever been to and I love it. While nearly everyone there is someone you'd picture to *lose* your erection, it's a very comfortable setting where no one is judged (says the man who just equated his surrounding beach-goers to erectile dysfunction). Fatties and Fitties alike bask in the glow of the sun on their bums and balls. And you occasionally get the surprise of a skinny dorky cute boy with an elephant sized member sliding up to have a chat and share a drink with you.

Next year, I hope to return to Brighton but if it's the same as this year and competing with Amsterdam Pride, I'll have to return on a weekend that's not coupled with a gay parade... as I think I need to experience Amsterdam's pride in 2011.

Utopian Amsterdam

I'll give an update on my visit to BedZED later - the only visit I made to any place having to do with my "sustainable building design research" excuse for a Euro trip. But first I'll continue to share my journeys and perceptions of the amazing places I'm falling in love with.

Amsterdam seems near Utopia to me. Despite the fact that it rained a significant percentage of the time I visited, the one full day I did have was beautiful and perfect. Even during the rainy drab weather it's such a charming place - the small row houses lining the canals are one of the most picturesque images I've ever encountered. Looking inside their windows, the Dutch clearly have the concept of beautiful simplicity down pat. Few living spaces are over the top or cluttered; rather they are clean, cozy, crisp and inviting. I hate to compare them to an IKEA catalog, but it's the easiest connection for me to make. They helped me do away with my dreams of living in an oversized mansion with six guest rooms, an infinity pool, and a flying unicorn landing pad. Okay, maybe that wouldn't kill me but I would be very satisfied with a modern and simple living space.

Infamously known for the legal use of marijuana - something I have no problem partaking in locations where it's not legal - Greg and I sat down to have a joint at Stone's Cafe (how long did it take them to come up with that clever title?), a strain known as "New York Diesel." Fun stuff followed by more fun stuff.... followed by copious amounts of imbibing copious amounts of booze (surprise!)... followed by being lost with no map, helplessly wandering the soaking wet streets of Amsterdam (which all look the same to add to the confusion).

The following morning hurt, but our hostel's free breakfast and a spacious shower helped. I rate all the hostels I stay at on hostelworld.com, but to let you know - Durty Nelly's Inn is fun, clean, and has a friendly staff who second as bar and restaurant help downstairs. Aside from the fat men farts serving as my alarm clark each morning and the ridiculously narrow death trap of a staircase, the place was great.

My first visit to Vondel Park was stunning. Mushrooms are no longer legal in Amsterdam, but "truffles" are. Honestly, I don't think there's a difference aside from legal terminology loopholes. Without truffles the park is what helped me decide to label this city as utopian - everything seems to go here, everyone's enjoying themselves and minding their own business, and the scenery is stellar. Although the truffles may have had something to do with the clouds spelling out words to me (in Dutch, of course) and what seemed to be a rainbow that refused to disappear, despite the weather being flawlessly beautiful. I also wouldn't normally want to shit my pants and jump in a pond to swim away at the sight of a man simply trying to sell us beer, but... hey. In the end it was an experience I wouldn't want to forget.

Trying to keep this G-rated is relatively impossible. If you're reading this, chances are you know me and know that nothing that comes out of (or goes into) my mouth is G-rated. So I'll try to PG-13 it down: some of the gay bars/clubs in this city are very... straight to the point. There are dark rooms where anything goes and Dutch men are not shy or ashamed to reveal the gifts that nature bestowed upon them. So if you're a size queen or like to get down and dirty then Amsterdam is the place for you. And if you're gay and say you're neither of those, you're probably a liar and need to come out of your slut closet in addition to the gay closet you once hid in :)

This has dragged on but I hope you share my joy and love for Amsterdam whether or not you've been. I suppose ending on a note about gay sex isn't appropriate, but hey... it's my blog and "I do what I want!"

Oh, I can end by saying I visited a floating cat hostel. Quite literally a boat where homeless and injured cats go to be rescued, looked after, and hopefully adopted. They have a capacity of 50 kitties and it was a really fun treat to visit. Although I've decided the pheromone I seen to give off to makes American cats go into heat (yes, I'm serious - I do)... does the opposite in Holland, as they all ran in fear when I tried to touch them.

Monday, 2 August 2010

London Calling

After six hours of desperately wanting to fall asleep but to no avail, my plane touched ground at Heathrow the morning of July 31st. Despite vowing to myself that I would immediately check into my hostel and catch up on the sleep I lost the previous night panicking about what to pack, I’m flooded with too much excitement and familiarity to follow through with that. The concept that I’m traveling doesn’t typically hit me until I’m very near my destination. The first realization was on the plane when my stewardess came by with a bag asking “Rubbish?” then followed by her American counterpart clarifying “Trash?” Buying coffee after deplaning was another reminder – was my order dine in or “take away,” rather than the “To-Go” that I normally receive.

The 36-minute underground ride on the Piccadilly Line brought back memories as I looked through text messages over a year old from my last days spent studying abroad here. Surrounded by various British accents on my shaky underground ride lit by flickering fluorescent bulbs, my anxiety about the trip washed away, replaced by the beginning of what I expect to be a three-week Europe Euphoria.

I've ended up at a great hostel - Astor Hyde Park. Just a few hundred feet away from Hyde Park and nestled in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of London, it's well suited with amenities that most hostels don't boast: free breakfast, Wifi, laundry, a full kitchen, a lush lounge with leather sofas and a flat screen TV (or tellie!). For six nights I'm paying a mere £140 - of course I'm in a room with five strangers who keep rotating, but one night in an average hotel would have cost this much and it's a great way to meet other people.

The wealth of this area can instantly be noticed with a short walk. I've seen more Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Aston Martins, and Ferraris in one day than probably my entire life. This evening's stroll to the local Whole Foods took about twenty minutes and I found myself spotting at least twelve Rolls Royces, on top of the other makes I mentioned.

Men here are significantly more attractive and well dressed than Americans, including the majority of major cities I've visited. This is without having visited the gayborhood - these are, I presume, heterosexual men. They majority of which are well fit and pay close attention to their grooming and personal style. Of course the accents kick everything up a notch or two as well. Speaking of accents, of all the cities I've visited across the world London by far has the most diverse population. In any given area spending five minutes walking around you hear a minimum of five languages.

My activities thus far have been a bit limited due to jet lag and one night of excessive debauchery. I met up with a couple of South African friends, went running through Hyde Park, toured the Natural History Museum (to remind myself that children are demonic evil creatures that should be locked up at home), and the Science Museum. Before I leave, I have a couple of "green" sites to visit which I'll be blogging about in the days to come.

A special thanks to my friend, "Dolce," without whom this trip would have likely been impossible. Itinerary for the following days: Wales (Centre for Alternative Technology), Brighton Gay Pride, Amsterdam, Berlin, and tentatively Clermont-Ferrand France.