A BUDGET-FRIENDLY VACATION IN BEAUTIFUL BARCELONA By: Ross Christianson
Originally published in Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
Beautiful Barcelona is a European city that combines the old with the new in a stunning array of architecture, museums, parks, markets, beaches, and more. Visiting this city should be on everyone’s bucket lists who wish to see the greatest cities of the world. Whether you want to experience the art, enjoy the food and drinks, soak up the sun, or witness the majestic spirituality the city has to offer, you will leave as a satisfied traveler.
BUT WAIT? How can you afford such a trip?
This is the question that resounds in the minds of many people of various backgrounds with big dreams. The stigma is that any European excursion has to cost thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. This can be true, but it is not the rule. There are afew factors you must keep in mind when trying to save money on a fabulous world vacation.
First, you must ask yourself when you will experience your next adventure. Time of the year really makes a difference in many ways, and you must ask yourself what your budget is and what you are looking to get out of yourtrip. Finding the right-priced flight is another way to either save hundreds or break the bank, and we provide you with different venues to stretch your dollar, along with other great ideas or what to do and where to go in Barcelona!
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE – CONNEXTIONS MAGAZINE ISSUE 19: TRAVEL LITE
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Connextions Magazine, the Travel & Lifestyle Magazine for the LGBTQ Traveler, is your trusted resource for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer travel destinations, vacation ideas, fun travel videos, LGBTQ travel guides and the latest news relevant to our entire rainbow community. Connextions Magazine focuses on celebrating the LGBTQ Traveler providing information on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer travel, our LGBTQ culture, the diverse style of our rainbow community, adventures, gay romance, tips for Lesbian Moms, Gay Dads, Bisexual, Transgender Parents and families.
THE LURE OF LONDON: 5 THINGS TO DO FOR FREE OR CHEAP!
Originally published in Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
London is the capital and most populous city of England. Standing on the River Thames, London is a leading global city, and some consider it to be a cultural mecca. It is among the top of the world’s most-visited cities.
Among London’s most famous landmarks are Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and Big Ben (here pictured). Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. It is the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. The tower was completed in 1858 and has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom, often featured in films and pictures.
London can be an expensive city to visit, but, here’s a list of 5 free or very cheap things to do while on a gay London trip!
By: Sarah Stanley-Evans
Our first wedding anniversary trip was completely different to any other trip we had been on, and was something Lauren had always wanted to do - a road trip in America. With so many different destinations it also required a lot of planning, more than we’d ever done before!
We flew into Las Vegas where we stayed at the Bellagio. We explored the strip, saw Cirque Du Soleil and went to the Stratosphere Restaurant. We then rented a car and drove via Bakersfield to Yosemite, where we stayed in a lodge in Yosemite National Park. It’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. We then drove to San Francisco, where we stayed in the quirky Haight/Ashbury area, and visited Alcatraz, Fisherman's wharf, and the cable cars.
On our first wedding anniversary we stayed at the top of the Mandarin Oriental, the 3rd tallest building in San Francisco - as our wedding date is 4th July it was amazing to watch the independence day fireworks from our room!
From there we drove to Monterey, a beautiful fishing village that we both adored, we were lucky enough to go on a boat trip where we were feet away from humpback whales. We also visited Carmel by the Sea and Cambria, until driving on to Los Angeles. We stayed in Beverley Hills, near to West Hollywood, and completely fell in love with the place! We loved the relaxed, fun atmosphere, the food, the sunshine, and the people. We explored Beverley Hills, the Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Griffith Park Observatory.
Our last destination was San Diego, where we stayed in the beautiful seaside town of La Jolla. We enjoyed the trip so much we plan to return to America, and would definitely do driving tours of other destinations, we saw so many amazing sights, sometimes pulling over on the side of the road to take pictures - all you need is a GPS, snacks, music, and good company!
The amazing memories we have from traveling are one of our most prized possessions - they say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer, and it’s true. We hope we never stop exploring together - we have an enormous list of places we want to see! As we are now planning for a family, our future travel plans will have to incorporate this. We can’t wait to show this amazing world to our little ones, and we hope they inherit our desire to enjoy different places, cultures and experiences.
To follow Sarah & Lauren's story, please visit their blog.
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Story & Photos by David Duran
Originally and exclusively published in Connextions Magazine Issue 13.
Arriving to Brussels on a direct flight from NYC via Brussels Airlines was a welcomed change from the typical connection at London Heathrow. The 6.5 hour overnight flight was quick and painless, and over saturated with attentive service, something the larger domestic carriers are missing nowadays. This was my first trip to Belgium and all I knew was that I was tasked with buying lots of chocolate.
After clearing immigration, I headed to the basement where there was a clearly marked train to Antwerp. I had pre-paid for my ticket weeks in advance so I was overly prepared for the short 30-minute trip. What I didn’t know in advance was that nobody checks for train tickets in Belgium. I would validate that later in my trip when a group of locals were laughing at me as I struggled to purchase a metro ticket before the train arrived to the station. Better safe than sorry though, right? After that moment of embarrassment, I learned to just buy the cheapest ticket and play the innocent tourist card.
Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, but upon my arrival, I could have been fooled to think it was the gay capital of all of Europe. I happened to arrive during two mega events in the small city; gay pride and the World Out Games. Well, Antwerp must have found every gay pride flag around, because they were proudly displayed all over the city. In the main town square; Grote Markt, there was even a massive flag, draping the side of a building.
It was a bit of a shock for me to see so much support, in what I thought to be a small European city. Even the Vice-Mayor of Antwerp along with other high-ranking government officials are very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and ensure that their city is always welcoming to all.
Discovering the small cobblestone streets of Antwerp in the older parts was reminiscent of old world European cities. Small shops line the streets and delightful aroma’s fill the air. My friends who have visited many times before, instructed me to eat the waffles. To me, Belgium waffles were just really thick Egg-O waffles that my step-dad would make at home from time to time when I was a kid. Not being much of a carb-loader, I opted to pass on the famous waffles, until one night after hours of partying, I purchased a pre-packaged one in my hotel gift shop to cure my late night cravings. After biting into the petite preserved waffle, I discovered it was filled with grains of sugar. Now this brought Belgium waffles up to a whole new level for me. Did my step-dad just secretly leave out that main ingredient at home, or were we just clueless as to how to make a true waffle? Needless to say, the consumption of waffles for the remainder of the trip became natural.
Since I was already on a permanent sugar high from the waffles, I spent a lot of my time in Antwerp discovering the chocolatiers. Good chocolate is expensive, and expensive chocolate shops have an abundance of samples. It wasn’t before long that I learned to buy something small at the most expensive shop and proudly walk into other shops, showing off my bag. Chocolatiers are proud people, and when they see you’ve made a purchase elsewhere, they happily indulge you with their best. If you are kind enough to purchase fine chocolate as a gift, plan on spending $20-25 for a very small sampling. In addition to gaining five pounds and predisposing myself to diabetes, Antwerp opened up a whole new world to me with their fashion. Diamond and chocolate aside, fashion is written all over Antwerp, and is proved by the Antwerp 6, a group of influential avant garde fashion designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980-81. The fashion collective changed European fashion radically in the 80’s and established Antwerp as a fashion capital. Walking past small boutiques, it’s easy to spot which locations belong to or were inspired by the Antwerp 6.
I decided to have a shopping day with one fabulous new friend from Vienna. She was my guide to finding the right things, and pushing me to recklessly use my PayPower Visa travel card, a pre-paid Visa that I only use while traveling overseas. While on a city tour earlier in the trip, we passed by a massive street, jam packed with mega brands and stores. Being a huge fan of good deals on relatively good-quality clothing, I was excited to hit up the H&M’s of Antwerp, but my fashionista friend had other places in mind.
I was taken to smaller, side streets, avoiding the large tourist areas. What we discovered were many high-end boutiques, offering anything and everything, but at a price, a “high quality price.” What’s that expression? “When in Rome…” Well, it wasn’t hard for me to get into the spirit and begin to buy. It’s a good thing we avoided the diamond district!
We ended our shopping day with a stroll through the red light district where I wanted to pull out my phone and instagram all the women in the windows, but I was quickly scolded for my brilliant idea. It was rather a sad sight as all who were cruising the streets were older businessmen, and the women in the windows obviously were the day crew, as they were hardly attractive, or even sexual. What I saw was just women standing there, bored and most likely hungry, not for sex, but for waffles.
It’s possible that the bars and clubs were extra sardine-like due to pride and the Out games, but regardless, there are plenty of places to stop in for a drink when in Antwerp. The options are endless, and there are bars for everyone, even dark, dirty bars catering to the dark and dirty clientele. (Oink Oink Bar) Antwerp is just like any gay metropolis; it’s filled with an abundance of men and women with various differences and likes. If Latin drag queens are your thing, they have you covered with Que Pasa. Popi Café caters to a more silver crowd and is filled with tables; so don’t expect a dance party. For the oldest gay bar in Antwerp, visit Café Strange, but know that most who patron this establishment are also of an older generation.
Antwerp gays also party, and party hard. Some of the massive nightclubs have weekly gay parties. Some of these parties will rival any big city circuit party. Then there is Red & Blue, a mix of hard beats, androgynous sexuality on stage, massive shirtless crowds and dark rooms where anything goes. Antwerp parties go long, and usually fizzle out when the sun comes up.
I was ultimately surprised by what I found in Antwerp, as I didn’t experience such a welcoming community in neighboring Brussels. To be completely honest, Antwerp was never on my travel radar, but I am glad that the World Out Games brought us together. With all the sexy men, the sugary waffles, and the ultimate in shopping experiences; Antwerp had won me over.
If you enjoy the sweeter things in life, as I do, make sure to indulge in Viennese Vermouth. A common ingredient in the popular martini, Vermouth is a liquor made from wine, with several added herbs for flavoring.
I savored “the taste of the third millennium” during a visit to Burschik’s, the first Austrian Vermouth winery. I was intrigued to learn that Vermouth isn’t just an ingredient that becomes a mixed cocktail, it can be sipped like wine, and is offered in red or white. White being the sweeter of the two, I opted for this choice!
Experiencing Viennese Vermouth is on the list of the "10 Reasons To Put Vienna on Your Bucket List." To see the complete list, click here.
Click any photo below for a slideshow view:
Connextions Magazine was honored to be amongst the 150,000 attendants at this year’s annual Rainbow Parade in Vienna, Austria.
Just prior to Vienna Pride is an event called the “Life Ball” which is held annually in May. Being the most flamboyant and lucrative AIDS/HIV charity event in Europe, Life Ball hosts power figures such as the Austrian federal chancellor to Hollywood stars and former US President Bill Clinton, and tickets for this event are somewhat hard to obtain. Life Ball kicks off the city’s rainbow flag flying and these colorful waving symbols are flown on buildings and even on train cars and trolleys until Vienna’s Pride week comes to an end.
The Rainbow Parade is held on Vienna’s ‘Ring Road’ (Ringstrasse) – constructed in 1857, Vienna Ring Boulevard circles the city centre. This road sits where there was once brick walls, built to protect the city from invasion. I toured the Ring Road via bicycle on the bike path, which offers amazing views of monumental buildings like Hofburg, the Austrian Parliament, the State Opera House and the Museum of Fine Arts, along with first public observatory Urania and Vienna University.
More photos of this year’s pride festivities and upcoming gay events can be found on the English language facebook page:
Click any photo below for a slideshow view: