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5 Ideas For Gay London
Ideas Gay London: I have a confession. I don’t really know London very well. My trips there have always either been family-related or visa related, and I’ve never experienced gay London. Well, I went to the famous GAY bar once at about 6 pm with a friend whilst waiting for an Emiliana Torrini concert to begin.
We ended up scouting through the bins in Soho as he’d accidentally thrown out the tickets along with a load of junk mail that, for some reason, he’d brought from home with him. That was my first experience of gay London.
I’ve been wanting to feature a post about gay London for a while, but as I’ve explained, I don’t really have the expertise to write it. Rummaging through trashcans for lost tickets to the concert of an Icelandic singer isn’t really the quintessential gay London experience. So, with that in mind, I asked the fabulous David, of That Gay Backpacker, to tear himself away from crumping to Girls Aloud songs for long enough feature as this month’s 5 Ideas For guest blogger. Thankfully he agreed. Take it away, David.
London is the coolest – let’s get that straight. Yeah, the people aren’t always up for a chat on the Tube. Yeah, the sun never shines. And yeah, the city is so big it can take a couple of hours to get from one corner of the city to another. But London is a city that has cultural diversity unlike any other I’ve been to. The people who call London “home” are Jewish housewives in Hampstead, immigrants from Bangladesh in Whitechapel, Spanish gay bears, school kids of Chinese descent and just about every denomination of human being in between. It should come as no surprise that such a culturally diverse place has a thriving gay scene. Here are 5 ideas for gay tourists in England’s great capital:
Take a dip in Hampstead Ponds
The sun is not known for making much of an appearance in London, but when it does peek out, you can bet your bottom ten bob note that the gays will be whipping their tops off sooner than you can say “Shantay, you stay”. And what better way to enjoy the sunshine than an outdoor frolic with your fellow gays? There are a couple of locations in the city where you can head for a dip with the gays – London Fields Lido is deserving of a mention, but the top of my list in Hampstead Ponds. There are three ponds – one for women, one for women, and one for both. And whaddayaknow? The gays have claimed the men’s pond as their own. Head there on a summer’s day and you will find buff, bearded men with pristine bodies, as well as their admirers – another buff, bearded men with pristine bodies.
Check out the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
London is a culture lover’s dream. At the Tate Modern you can check out cutting edge exhibitions in one of the most impressive buildings in the city, at the British Museum you can explore collections of artefacts from ancient civilizations such as Mayans and the Ancient Chinese, and at the O2 Arena, you can witness incredible concerts from global music superstars. Believe it or not, London is also in its 26h year of hosting a Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, showcasing the very best in queer cinema from all over the globe. Hosted at the British Film Institute, the most prestigious cinema in all of the capital, the BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival takes queer cinema out of the shadows and plonks it right into the mainstream. And if cinema isn’t your thing, you can always check out the hot-gay-film-geeks in the BFI Café. The 27th BFI Lesbian & Gay Film Festival runs from 14-24 March 2013.
Get sweaty in a sauna
Hrnk – sound the raunch siren! Sometimes we all need to sweat a little, and London offers the gay tourist numerous opportunities for sauna visits where they can sweat it all out and then some. You should be able to find gay saunas in most districts of London, but there is one chain whose notoriety and popularity cannot be argued with – Chariots. Just don’t expect everybody there to look like a Roman God. There are three Chariots saunas dotted around town so there is no excuse to fill your boots with gay sauna action. The Chariots in London’s Shoreditch is just around the corner from East London’s thriving gay scene, and the Chariots in Vauxhall is in the same neighbourhood as all the muscle-dance clubs for all you Muscle Marys out there.
Day-time drinking in London’s Gay Pubs
Anyone that’s lived in or visited London will appreciate how much we Londoners love a right good booze-up, and while the various districts of London may vary dramatically, there is something that unites them all – the good old fashioned London Pub on the street corner. And London’s pubs aren’t places that you only head to in the evening time; they are somewhere to spend the whole day chatting with your mates over a pint of lager after a pint of lager. There are a number of gay pubs dotted around the city, but I almost always choose to frequent the local establishments in my East London neighbourhood of Hackney. I implore you to spend some time in these first-rate boozers in the East: The George and Dragon (2 Hackney Road, E2 7NS) is busy, sweaty and has an animated horse head on the wall; The Nelson’s Head (Horatio Street, E2 7SB) has cheaper beer prices than most, chintzy carpet, and the best jukebox you’ll find in town. Happy boozin’!
Volunteer with LGBT asylum seekers
For a particular group of gay people in London, the gay lifestyle is not about going to bars in Soho, dancing to Girls Aloud in the club, and going out for dinners in London’s amazing restaurants – not out of choice but out of necessity. LGBT asylum seekers are one of the most marginalised groups of people in the UK. A meagre living allowance of £35 a week plus the stigma of being an asylum seeker plus little support from other refugee groups make being a gay asylee pretty darn lonely. If you are in London for a longer visit, why not volunteer with the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group? They do amazing work helping LGBT asylum seekers with their claims, and offer much-needed support and guidance. If you have a creative talent such as playing an instrument, writing, or painting, your skills could be put to good use in creative workshops, helping these brave people feel like something more than asylum seekers.