Gaycation Baltimore

Why John Waters’ zany Baltimore is an overlooked East Coast LGBTI gem

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Ahead of Baltimore Pride this weekend (Saturday 16 – Sunday 17 June 2018) I spoke to some prominent LGBTI figures from the East Coast city to find out why the Maryland seaport needs to be next on your gaycation bucket list.

Often overlooked as a tourist destination, the city that gave the world John Waters – and ‘Hairspray’! – is certainly making up for lost time in the welcoming stakes.  Recently dubbed the ‘Coolest City on the East Coast’ and one of the most exciting food cities by ‘Zagat’, Baltimore has experienced one of the largest millennial booms in the nation. Charm City has certainly been doing just that with the ‘New York Times’ too, having been placed 15 on its ‘52 Places to Go in 2018’ list. So long Rust Belt!

Baltimore Skyline
Baltimore Skyline

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My first Mardi Gras

How an Australian adventure helped me get my groove back

To say I wasn’t looking forward to attending Mardi Gras was somewhat of an understatement.

It was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime; my fiancé and I had spent a year saving to visit Sydney, Adelaide, the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne. Everything was booked and paid for and then, just two days after Christmas last year, he told me he didn’t love me anymore – and that he’d cheated on me.

Understandably, I was crushed and my whole world crumbled around me, with a bright future suddenly seeming very bleak. We’d been together for five years, have a house – even a dog – together and with everything to sort out as a result, both physically and emotionally, a holiday Down Under was the last thing on my mind.

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Top 10 Toulouse

Get ready for take-off on an eclectic city break in France’s aviation powerhouse

While ‘la Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) may not enjoy the same international status as Paris or evoke the glamour of the French Riviera, Toulouse actually gives both a run for their money in the bucket load. Plus, when we spotted flights from London Stansted on Ryanair for less than a meal out, it seemed rude not to give France’s fourth-largest city a whirl.

Toulouse really does have something for everyone, which made narrowing down a ‘top 10’ list really difficult. However, after careful deliberation, below are my favourite places, attractions and places to eat and drink in Toulouse.

1. Place du Capitole

Instantly recognisable from its pink brickwork, the grandiose Place du Capitole makes for an obvious location to start exploring Toulouse. With its eight rosy marble columns, the square is dominated by the Capitole, named after the 12th century administration of the city and remains as the home of its local government.  From just one glimpse of its impressive 135 metre-long neoclassical façade, it is easy to see how Toulouse became the official capital of France’s Languedoc region in the 16th century and has maintained that status under today’s newly-formed Occitanie super region.

Capitole, Place du Capitole
Capitole, Place du Capitole

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The ‘gayest’ city in the world?

Skopje’s classical makeover may be both controversial and kitsch, but we couldn’t get enough of it!

Imagine if Mariah Carey decided to rebuild Ancient Rome… Thankfully, one doesn’t have to conjure up depictions of glitzy statues and wedding-cake style buildings, as such a place exists and it is called Skopje.

From faux neoclassical façades to willow trees plonked in the middle of the river, every nook and cranny of the city centre is an Instagramable dream.

For us gay travellers, it was Warrior on a Horse that did it.

Warrior on a Horse
Warrior on a Horse

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Pristina, Prishtina, Priština

Exploring Europe’s youngest capital city

Pristina in Kosovo is a moderately-sized capital city that makes for a great base to explore the wider country. Having said that, it’s worth spending a day or two here to soak up a number of important sites that really help you better understand the unique culture and recent history of Europe’s youngest capital city.

Known as ‘Pristina’ (English), ‘Prishtina’ (from the Albanian ‘Prishtinë’) or ‘Priština’/‘Приштина’ (Serbian); the very fact it goes by several names clearly alludes to it being the largest city in a disputed territory. However, we felt nothing but safe here and were met by warm locals eager to put the past behind them and leave us with fond memories of a city with a bright future.

Staying in the basic-but-fine-for-the-price Hotel Kika, we started our tour of Pristina proper by passing alongside the Brotherhood and Unity monument. A memorial for all fallen fighters and victims of the Second World War, this gigantic concrete clothes peg was inaugurated in 1961 under the authority of Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, with Kosovo being one of the communist country’s two Socialist Autonomous Provinces.

Brotherhood and Unity monument
Brotherhood and Unity monument

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt in Pristina

Unmissable attraction and wildlife sanctuary for all of Kosovo’s privately kept brown bears

“We’re lost, aren’t we?”

“Err… no…” I replied nervously to my boyfriend.

Clearly, we were lost, but I’d brought us out here and I didn’t want him to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so I frogmarched us deeper in to the Kosovan countryside.

Delfina petrol station
Delfina petrol station

The bus had dropped us off hastily in front of an abandoned petrol station that appeared to have not served a car in the best part of a decade. Passing peeling yellow paint and creaky metal, I noticed a vague sign pointing to our intended destination – Bear Sanctuary Prishtina.

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The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World

It’s a bit of an Icelandic mouthful, but that’s fine by me

I love a bit of karaoke. My go-to song is Shirley Bassey’s ‘Big Spender’, but anything by the Spice Girls or Roxette will do. Clearly, I’m no singer, but I like to think I can give a good performance.  If truth be told, I think most people are happy to grab the microphone for a sing-a-long after a tipple or two.

Regardless, it was music to my ears (see what I did there) when I heard that Inspired By Iceland have combined two of my favourite things – travel and karaoke – to create what is being billed as ‘The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World’ (I also love a challenge).

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