London: exciting, regal and friendly
By Sebastián Sáenz
Not as rainy as people tend to think it is, mighty old London has a lot to offer to its visitors. Yes, we all know about the bridge, the abbey, the tower, the river, the eye, the park, the square, the palace and the clock; but as a gay tourist myself I also tried more than a few “alternative lifestyle” options that satisfy the LGBT community.
Obviously we are talking about one of the most progressive cities in one of the most progressive countries in the world, so we have a wide range of activities from sunrise to sun… rise. During the day there are so many places in which, even though it might not be an official LGBT convention, it just looks like everybody got a memo. The Fashion and Textile Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art and Design, or ANY West End musical are a few examples in which Grindr just keeps buzzing, a great chance for cruising while actually doing something productive and cultural.
And speaking of fashion, needless to say this is a major fashion capital of the world. Just walking down the city center or by taking the Tube is enough to appreciate all sorts of ensembles: hipster, trendy, extravagant, posh, punk… you name it, locals are not afraid since they have seen it all. This is a city that inspires any wardrobe, a great chance to get a nice trench, flashy mocs, or comfy chinos.
Londoners are not afraid of tattoos, prints and bright colors, they are daringly classy. If you don’t have enough to buy more than cookies at Harrods or Selfridges, Primark has a good (and accessible) supply if you want anything different than the “I<3GB” T, but by far my strongest recommendation is Topshop/Topman.
You might want to buy your clothes one size bigger, since the food in this town is to die for (contrary to its old reputation). Jamie Oliver, the chef du jour, has restaurants all over the island, but there are so many places to go. Covent Garden has amazing little independent bakeries, Bo Dean’s BBQ will make you lick your fingers, The Breakfast Club is THE PLACE TO GO for the weekend brunch, and even Wahaca offers exquisite Mexican food (who would have thought?!). So, you may want to get the must meat pie, fish and chips and kebabs, but just once, don’t stick to those.
And now, the cocktail menu. Bank, the financial district, is the best area to go to after six if you want to grab a pint and start getting a glimpse of the attractive 9-5 workers in tight shirts and dress pants. However, our community gathers in Soho: central, hip and fun. Just try to stay close to Old Compton St. and Rupert St., everything you need can be found there, from bars, restaurants and clubs to hostels, boutiques and sex shops. For a memorable night of drinking and dancing, Ku and G-A-Y are mandatory, a bit further is Heaven, and at Vauxhall (on the other side of the river) there is Eagle and XXL if you feel a bit more kinky.
If you can, try to visit during Pride Weekend, St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween; the party is insane. Londoners love their rugby and their soccer, so even if you don’t know much about the rules, the names of the teams or the players; the atmosphere at any bar (even gay bars) is guaranteed fun. And if you want some ice breakers, an issue of Gay Times Magazine or Attitude Magazine will give you plenty of material to talk about what everybody is talking about (usually Britain’s Got Talent/Eurovision, 1D or Tom Daley).
Elton John, George Michael, Sir Ian McKellen, you and me… as we can see, London embraces many queens besides the one on Spur Rd. Museums, history, tours and hot men with sexy accents (who also happen to love foreign accents, by the way) are waiting for all of us, so let’s pack our bags. Cheers mates!