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If you’re not from Europe, you might be unfamiliar with the continent-wide phenomenon Eurovision, a singing competition in which a bunch of European (and pseudo-European) countries submit a singer(s) with an original song, and then award points to each other, until a winner is crowned. The winning country gets the honour of hosting the event the following year, as well as bragging rights for winning the competition.
This past weekend, Austria’s beautiful (very European) capital, Vienna, hosted the 60th Anniversary of Eurovision. With a bit of luck on our side, my boyfriend Eamonn and I got to go to the Eurovision final show as VIP guests of the Vienna Tourism Board! Not only did we get two tickets to go see the final, but also return airfare from London with flag carrier Austrian Airlines, three nights accommodation at the 25 Hours Hotel, and a city pass which included free transit and discounts at museums within the city.
VIENNA AS A HOST
The week-long event catered not only to those visitors who went to the live Eurovision shows, but to anyone who was in Vienna through its duration.
The large plaza in front of the Rathaus hosted public parties from which visitors (and locals) who did not have tickets to see Eurovision live could watch the performances on large outdoor screens. The weather unfortunately did not cooperate during one of the semi-finals, bringing a downpour which killed the party, but dry skies allowed the final to be a success.
Eamonn and I had tickets to the live final show, but headed down to the Rathaus afterwards to grab some food from one of the many stalls, and although the crowds had mostly dispersed by then, it was clear the place had been a huge party!
Vienna’s version of Eurovision had ‘Building Bridges’ as its general theme, which centred about connecting with each other, despite nationality or any other differences (which interestingly enough was Eurovision’s main goal when it was first invented a few years after WWII). As part of the ‘Building Bridges’ theme, Vienna wanted to portray itself to the rest of Europe as a gay-friendly and welcoming city, with the additional tagline adopted by the city’s tourism board for 2015: ‘Vienna, Now or Never.‘
To welcome the competition’s largely-gay spectatorship, Vienna added a number of welcoming features to its streets. A large rainbow flag hung down from the Rathaus (city hall), and small rainbow flags topped most of the city’s trams. In a more permanent addition, the city changed many of its pedestrian crossing lights to include gay and lesbian couples (as well as straight couples), instead of the traditional single figure.
Now, my moment of truth, which is likely to enrage Eurovision fans all over the world: I had seen very little Eurovision in my lifetime before this weekend.
Eurovision is truly a European phenomenon, which means it’s not as popular (or even known about) in countries outside of the continent – except for Australia, which for some reason has been a long-time fan of the competition. What I can honestly say now, after this weekend, is that I am a convert, and can now call myself a fan!
I had binge-listened to most of the entrants to the competition in the week before flying out to Vienna, but nothing compared to seeing the final show live. There were many songs I had listened to before and wasn’t crazy about, which I loved seeing live; in many cases, these under-appreciated songs surpassed some of my previously-favourite songs!
The evening, held on Saturday the 23rd of March 2015, was amazing. We had to be at the stadium at 7pm in order to get a good spot on the floor (which in case you’re wondering, is the best place to be!) and the show went on until nearly 1am, including voting and a final performance by the winner. Yet, the evening was fun from beginning to end. We ran into some friends and had a great time chatting before the show started, discussing the sets, and dancing during the intermission. The venue in the Wiener Stadthalle also had bars, so a couple of beers throughout the evening helped loosen us up to get a bit of dancing.
Aside from the music itself, what really blew my mind was the atmosphere on the floor. Not only was everyone enjoying themselves, it was also touching seeing thousands of flags from many different countries – as well as a bunch of rainbow flags – waving above the crowd. The artists also got a warm reception from the entire stadium after their sets; even non-fans like me got really into it: my hands and throat are still a little sore now from all the clapping and screaming!
The only downside of the evening was when Russia’s singer received clearly audible booing from many in the stadium at the start of the voting. This is obviously due to Russia’s blatant discrimination of LGBT rights, since the artist herself is very talented, and her song was definitely one of the best songs in the contest. Fans did not want a homophobic country hosting a usually gay-friendly event next year, but took the wrong approach, punishing an artist who has stood up for LGBT rights against her country’s laws. Thankfully, a little nudge from the hostesses reminding the crowd about ‘Building Bridges,’ and a heart to heart from Conchita Wurst (the beloved Austrian bearded drag queen, winner of last year’s Eurovision), turned the boos into a more accepting applause.
At the end of the night, once all 27 finalists had performed and the votes were counted, Sweden took top prize with the song ‘Heroes’ (we’ve been rooting for this song since the entry got announced, as it is a pretty nifty song!), while Russia came in second with ‘A Million Voices,’ and Italy third with ‘Grande Amore.’ Belgium’s catchy ‘Rhythm Inside’ ended up in fourth place, while Australia, a country invited as a one-time-only guest due to their long-standing support of Eurovision, ended up in fifth place with Guy Sebastian’s ‘Tonight Again.’
Biggest surprises of the night were Lithuania with the duet ‘This Time,’ which quickly became one of my favourite songs even though it didn’t do great in the competition, and Spain’s ‘Amanecer,’ which despite having a great song and performance, got only a few points. The live performance of France got roaring applause in the stadium, but the grandeur didn’t seem to translate into the TV, leaving the country in third-to-last place with only four points awarded. Austria and Germany surprisingly ended up in last place, without a single point awarded.
As I try to adopt the United Kingdom as my new home, I proudly waved my Union Jack flag, despite our entry ‘Still in Love With You’ only earning 5 points and ending in 24th place overall. Another guilty confession is: I actually really enjoy the song! It is a silly and playful jazzy melody, which would get me moving on the dance floor any day (after a few beers, especially).
The intermission proved to be another great treat. While the 40 voting countries around Europe gathered their votes, we were presented with an incredible half-way show filled with music, both upbeat drum & base and a classical chorus segment. Biggest highlight of the night was definitely when my group of friends and I ended up being recorded during the intermission, appearing dancing for about four seconds in front of an estimated 200 million viewers world-wide!
I am not sure if I’ll ever make it to another live Eurovision contest as visiting the show does require some serious commitment in the financial sense… however, this has been one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in Europe, and I am so happy I got the opportunity to go!
Have you ever been to Eurovision? What did you think?!
Back in January, I dragged my boyfriend Eamonn and a few friends over to a gay travel expo in London, hosted by Gay Star News Travel.
The expo was small (having worked in the travel industry for over seven years now, I’ve been to my share of travel expos and markets, so I know!) but, surprisingly, had a raffle with a grand prize that consisted of a trip to Vienna, to see the Eurovision song contest final!
For those who don’t know what Eurovision is – so basically everyone who isn’t from Europe or Australia (not sure why, but Eurovision is super big there too!) – it is a huge multi-national European singing contest, in which countries submit a singer with an original song, then award points to each other to pick a winner. The winning country usually hosts the following year’s Eurovision, and the show goes on.
Despite most people outside of Europe (and Australia) not knowing about this event, Eurovision has launched the careers of a couple famous people over the past few decades – most notably, Sweden’s ABBA, and believe it or not, Celine Dion, my fellow Canadian that for some reason sang for Switzerland, taking that year’s prize for the country.
Last year, a lovely bearded drag queen named Conchita Wurst from Austria, rose to the top of the competition with her song Rise Like a Phoenix, earning the country the chance to host the singing contest this year in its capital Vienna.
And so, as fate would have it, my boyfriend Eamonn participated on the “Pin the Beard on Conchita Wurst” game at the Gay Star Travel Expo (a funny version of the popular pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game), and his entry to the raffle won him the grand prize!
And so, this coming Friday we are off to Vienna, on the winning trip sponsored by the Vienna tourism board. Our trip includes return airfare on national flag carrier Austrian Airlines, three nights accommodation at the funky 25 Hours Hotel in Vienna’s museum ring, a city pass which offers us discounts to various attractions, and of course, tickets to see the Eurovision final!
I’m especially excited about this trip as it will be my first 2015 trip visiting a new city (and country!), after re-visiting Rome, Madrid, and Bangkok so far this year. It will also be Eamonn’s first time visiting the city, so we already have a list of things we want to do, and most importantly for our foodie selves, places where we want to eat!
So if you’re watching the Eurovision final this year, keep an eye out for me on the television… You never know, you might see me there!
Love is in the Air.
This is possibly the most romantic street sign ever, a little piece of humour I found in the streets of Brussels, Belgium, during my trip in August 2013.
Happy Valentine’s Day! And may you get as much action as this ‘no entry’ sign!
January 15th 2015 marks the 4th anniversary of my travel blog. I can hardly believe that it’s been so long since I got my domain and started blogging exclusively about travel. I have so far published 367 posts and had nearly 60,000 views over the past four years…very exciting!
I am not the avid blogger that I would like to be. Every year I try to post more than the prior year, but life gets in the way and I constantly find myself
being too lazy procrastinating making up excuses not finding the time to write. To tell the truth though, this blog has become an important part of me, and, although I don’t pay it the attention it deserves, this blog is one of my favourite hobbies!
I have not been short on travel since leaving Vancouver in August 2013 and moved to the UK. I’ve managed to visit quite a few new countries, and countless new cities, towns and sites (well, I could count them… but I won’t right now) through my time abroad, and collected a range of incredible memories.
In the last couple of months I’ve started (very slowly) catching up with my trips since leaving Vancouver. I still have a long way to go, but it is happening. I have hundreds of travel stories and photographs to share, so I can guarantee this blog will continue to grow over time, it just might take me a while.
In the last couple of months I also took a leap into making an official Clausito’s Footprints Facebook page, which is also growing slowly. Please like my page if you’d like to connect, as sometimes I add contact there not available in other social media platforms!
I am honestly extremely flattered that friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers take the time to visit my blog, read about my trips, look at my photos, and sometimes even connect though comments and likes. I enjoy sharing my travels and promise this year I will force myself to write more often, adding a total (minimum) of 100 posts in 2015!
Thank you again to my loyal fans, regular visitors, infrequent readers, and one-time viewers for checking out my blog, I hope you continue to enjoy my adventures!
Good day, and happy travels!
A couple of days late on wishing everyone a happy Day of the Dead. This is one of my favourite celebrations in the entire year, one that makes me extra proud of my Mexican heritage.
This is a photo of my first attempt to make the typical Day of the Dead Bread (Pan de Muertos)… As I brought a little taste of Mexico to London, England, at a party my flatmates and I hosted last Saturday.
Below is another craft I made (one of 36 pieces I made), a piece of traditional Papel Picado, which is also a typical decoration for Día de Los Muertos in Mexico. This form of art is regarded as part of the folklore of the country, and protected as a cultural heritage art… Of course mine is an amateur piece, but not bad for my first time since I was a child!
One of my favourite celebrations. Today, I’m even wearing my Nightmare Before Christmas belt I got during my Halloween trip to Disneyland in October 2012! Even got a photo with Jack Skellington himself!
Enjoy the celebrations!
Yesterday I wrote about the grounds of the London Wonderground and mentioned the carousel bar… yes, this is a bar built inside a carousel that actually rotates, with the bar in the centre of the carousel, and the horses serving as tables.
One of my favourite parts about this year’s Wonderground… go check it out before it’s taken down until next year!
It’s been roughly three years and a half since I got my very own website and officially started my travel blog, and what a ride it’s been. I am honestly surprised that in this time I’ve had over 50,000 individual views on my blog.
So far in my life, I’ve traveled to 23 countries… Very far from the 30 countries I had hoped to travel to before I turn 31 in September, but I have still made incredible memories traveling extensively through these places. My writing is a little behind, so there is still much more to come on travels I’ve already done, plus all the travels I plan on doing in the coming future!
I know it sounds cheesy, but I honestly want to thank each and every one of my readers, who has taken any time out of their life to visit my blog, whether it is to read about my travels, or just browse through my collection of photographs. Whether you are one of my loyal readers who visit often, or you’ve only visited my blog once or twice, you’ve inspired me to keep up with the blog, and continue to share my travel stories.
Thank you very much for visiting; I hope you’ll continue to support my blog in the future. On my part, I will try to be better at updating more often, so you have a reason to come back!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
PS. I have finally given in and created a Facebook page to go with my blog. Like my page if you want to connect on Facebook!
Last Saturday I headed down to Brighton to go to one of the UK’s most popular pride celebrations, Brighton and Hove Pride. The event, which at a 160,000 attendees surprisingly has about four times more attendees than Pride in London, surpassed my expectations, and my friend Shane and I had a great time.
This was my first visit to Brighton, which is located just south of London, a quick 1-hour train’s journey, on the coast. As we were there only for the pride celebrations, we didn’t get to walk around the city much, but from what I saw, I really want to go back and explore the city a little further. It was also nice being on the coast… I realized I hadn’t been to the sea since my trip to Tenerife in the Canary Islands this past January!
Shane and I wanted to go overnight but due to pride (and our planning last-minute!) most hotels were sold out, and the remaining ones were only available at outrageous prices; however, given the closeness to London, it was easy enough for us to go as a day trip, and still have a great time taking part in the celebrations.
The weather was mostly sunny, with a little bit of cloud cover and about five minutes of heavy rain, but it was pretty warm all throughout, even at night. The crowd was also great, a good mix of people of all ages (including many families), just having fun and enjoying the parade and celebrations.
The Brighton Pride parade itself was a spectacle to behold, and everything I have come to expect from a pride parade. If you read my post on this year’s Pride in London, you will know that I was extremely underwhelmed by the UK’s capital’s pride parade. Happy to say, Brighton more than made up for it, and it’s restored my faith in the ability of the UK to hold world-class pride events that are well worth visiting!
Brighton is a fairly small city, and is easily walkable. The parade itself started near the beach and went across the city itself, culminating at Preston Park, where the official pride fair / market / party was held. While there weren’t that many floats, there were enough to make the parade last a little over an hour, which in my opinion was a perfect length for it.
The one thing I enjoyed most about the parade, is that it felt like a street party more than anything. Unlike Pride in London, which separates the parade from its viewers by an unsightly system of fences, Brighton Pride was open, and I felt, as a viewer, part of the festivities. Brighton Pride reminded me a lot about Vancouver Pride (in the feel of the parade itself, and even a little on the sea-side setting!). I can even say there is one thing I enjoyed more than my multiple visits to Vancouver Pride over the years (a pride parade and festival that I love): in Brighton, I was able to openly have a few beers during the parade due to less-strict alcohol laws!
The floats in the parade were nicely decorated, and all participants seemed to be having a great time, dancing along and interacting with the attendees. The crowds (both in and out of the parade) were mixed, about 50/50 men and women, and included people of all ages, including multiple families (with a large number of non-LGBT families), which was great to see… and of course, Brighton’s “Oldest Gay in the Village,” a local celebrity.
While the parade was light and fun, with lots of rainbow flags, colour, bubbles, and a healthy percentage of drag queens and sexy men in booty shorts, important issues were also addressed. Some of the most shocking included a march with one participant carrying a banner for each of the countries in the world that still criminalize homosexuality: an important reminder that we sometimes forget. Closer to home even, the “End Homophobia in the Commonwealth” group, addressing the fact that, while the Commonwealth Games were being held in Glasgow, Scotland, at the same time as the Brighton Pride parade, about 80% of the Commonwealth nations still criminalize homosexuality based on antiquated British laws.
The Park (Festival at Preston Park)
The Brighton and Hove Pride parade finished at the entrance to Brighton’s Preston Park, which happens to be where the main pride festival / party was held that afternoon and into the evening.
The park was a ticketed event, and by the time Shane and I organized ourselves we ended up paying £20 each for our tickets, but if booking early (memo to self for 2015, if I can make it back) one can get tickets for £10 per person! Tickets at the door were £25.
Preston Park‘s pride celebrations had large open spaces in which attendees could relax in the sunshine. The festival also included a fun-fair area with rides (we were drinking so did not go on any because that probably wouldn’t have been a good move!) and a large expo-style market with tons of booths educating visitors about different LGBTQ organizations, advertising political parties or government bodies, or promoting other LGBT-specific activities, such as the Gay Men’s Chorus. There are also a few others that are simply advertising personal businesses for products that might be interesting to LGBT, but not exclusively for gays and lesbians.
The rest of the park was set up with multiple tents, some which were bars, and some which housed dance floors. The dancing tents were fairly fun, although we soon realized they were all playing pretty much the same music, a techno-house mix that was perhaps a little too early in the day to enjoy. Even though the tents were supposed to appeal to different groups of people (ex. the “Bears and Men’s” Tent), the lack of music variety was probably the festival’s only major downfall. Other than that it was very fun!
The bar tents were surprisingly efficient, with queues going through quite fast, so we never had to wait long before we had another beer. Also, for a festival, a £4.50 charge for a pint of beer was quite reasonable and similar to most bars out in Soho in London. Outhouses and urinals were also numerous and spread out throughout the grounds, with queues sometimes taking a little longer, but never excessively long.
The Main Stage at the festival was probably the centre point of Preston Park, and had day-long singers and performances, which were quite good, including some decently big ones like Blue, Frank Musik, and Katie B. The area in front of the main stage was a big dance floor and everyone seemed to be having a great time, so overall, the celebrations at Preston Park were well worth the admission fee.
I have been waiting until now to go to Brighton, and I can’t wait to go back now.
As mentioned above, because we were there mainly for Pride, we didn’t really get to see much of the city, although we did take a break in between the parade and the festival at Preston Park to go down to the beach and have a few beers. The beach in Brighton is rocky, but still quite scenic, and the city itself has that distinct feeling of a coastal town.
After the beach, as we slowly made our way towards Preston Park, we also stopped at a park that had a food fair going on, to grab a bite to eat, and then stopped at one of the pubs in the city (Brighton Tavern) to grab a pint. After the festival ended, before catching our train back to London, Shane and I returned to the tavern for a couple more beers, to socialize with the locals.
Brighton and Hove Pride 2014 was a great event, and I enjoyed every part of it. Definitely on my list of Pride festivals to go to next year if I am able to… in the meantime, I really need to make a day trip to Brighton happen, to explore the city a little better on a less heavy-packed day!
Happy 4th of July to all my American friends; enjoy the celebrations!
Happy Canada Day 2014!
Happy Pride from London!
Yesterday, London celebrated its annual pride parade and festival, an event I have been looking forward to for a while, as it is the first time I go to a Pride festival outside of Vancouver. After so much building it up, I’m sad to say I was actually underwhelmed by the parade itself, and I ended up leaving about half way through.
Before I sound like I’m complaining too much, let me assure you I actually had a great time in Pride in London. I honestly think that I am a little jaded, after attending Vancouver Pride multiple times over the years, Pride in London just didn’t cut it for me. The reality is that Vancouver Pride is pretty freaking awesome, a parade that is getting bigger and better, and more colourful, year after year. Vancouver Pride is amongst the top most visited prides in the world, and it’s always a really fun time, and the parade does justice to such an event. Pride in London’s parade to me seemed all over the place.
The weather did not want to cooperate; aside from a couple sunny breaks, there was a downpour for most of the afternoon. Had the weather been nicer, I would have definitely stayed for the whole parade, but water was literally seeping through my umbrella, and I just didn’t feel like being there anymore.
Why didn’t I love the parade of Pride in London?
1. The barricades. Not exactly sure why they needed to barricade spectators from the parade, behind fences. I mean, I understand it is to avoid delays from people getting in the way of the parade itself, but seriously, Vancouver Pride is SO MUCH BIGGER, with a lot more attendees, and somehow there is no need to fence out the spectators. Being fenced out really made me feel like I was merely a spectator, rather than part of the event.
2. While we’re on the subject of “being a spectator,” I felt like Pride in London lacked interaction between the parade participants (the people marching / aboard floats) and the people watching the parade. Yes, many of them waved their hands, but I often felt like the participants had great banter going on amongst them, rather than connecting with the people watching. This lack of interaction made me feel even more like I was merely watching a group of people having fun, while I wasn’t really having any. I honestly feel, that the Pride in London parade simply lacked the interaction between participants and watchers, which is what makes a Pride parade fun.
3. Whatever happened to the goodies? One of my favourite part about Vancouver Pride is collecting the bead necklaces… Yes, a little Mardi Gras-wannabe, but it is amazing how much fun it is collecting bead necklaces, or temporary tattoos, or flags, throughout the parade. I enjoy going to the bars afterward and seeing everyone who attended the parade decked out with the colourful beads, and sometimes using that as a platform to begin a conversation with perfect strangers. Pride in London gave nothing away (at least not that I saw, on the part of the parade that I watched).
4. The volunteers and event managers. Yes, this event would not be possible without the time and effort put on by the people who make it happen. These people tried to ensure things would go as smoothly as possible (which didn’t really happen… see point 5 below!), and tried to be cheerful despite the rain. HOWEVER, I honestly felt like they were in the freaking way ALL THE TIME. Bad enough that we were barricaded behind the fence, but at least we had a front row, as we got there early… that was until a group of four of the parade workers decided to stand in front of us, open up their umbrellas, and cover pretty much the entire view. Many of the people around where we were asked politely if they could move a little to avoid being in the way, but the parade workers didn’t move, and seemed more interested in watching the parade themselves with their umbrellas open, so over half of our view, in the front row, was blocked.
5. The parade did not run smoothly. Every float / group of marchers would move a few metres, then stop in a standstill. I am not exactly sure what the delays were, but the portion of the parade that I attended was painful to watch. Meanwhile, the volunteers, event managers, photographers, and others who were working for the parade, had their own over-dramatic show going on. Stewards pushing through the crowd and moving one of the fences to come in and out of the street, continuously. Volunteers and managers yelling at each other from across the street. Workers running from side to side, looking severely frazzled as if whatever was happening was a life or death situation. It was a stressful behind-the-scenes situation, happening right in the spotlight, calling more attention than the parade itself, which for long periods stood still, without music, without dancing, with very few smiling faces.
The weather, as mentioned above, did not collaborate with us, and made the event a little more painful to withstand. This is obviously out of Pride in London’s control, so not something they could have fixed. As the rain started to pour, everyone’s umbrellas got on the way (as I said, even us, being first in row, had our views blocked by the umbrellas of the volunteers). My view on the front row was so bad, I couldn’t even take photos to share with you (and believe me I tried).
And now, on to the good
Alright, so I need to end this on a high note, since after all, despite a disappointing parade, I had a fantastic time at Pride! The parade was a bust, but my friends and I went to a few gay bars throughout the afternoon and into the early hours of the morning, and the Pride atmosphere was great.
To hide from the rain after leaving the parade, we headed over to Retro Bar, which quickly filled up with parade participants and watchers after the parade ended. Afterwards, when the rain subsided, we headed over to Soho, and were able to visit a few bars. The lines were crazy, and everywhere was packed, but the atmosphere was fun and happy. My favourite part about it is that Soho closed many of its streets to traffic, and the area became a huge beer garden of sorts, with everyone enjoying their drinks in the street.
The Pride in London parade could definitely become an incredible event to attend if they change a little the way they do things. The weather couldn’t be helped, but the parade could instantly become better if the procession was more fluid (fewer breaks), the participants were more interactive, and if the crew ran the parade from behind the scenes, rather than in the spotlight, overshadowing the parade itself.
And then there are bead necklaces… is it too much to ask for a little more fun?
Today is the official beginning of Summer, as we celebrate the Summer Solstice. That (usually) means one thing: MORE SUNNY DAYS!
London is incredibly beautiful in the sunshine… here’s a photo I took I took earlier this year in a sunny day. Happy Summer, an enjoy the sun today, everyone!
The 25th of April commemorates ANZAC day, Australia and New Zealand’s most significant war remembrance. Although the day celebrates the lives of the lives of soldiers lost in all wars, its origins go back tot he battles in Gallipoli in World War I, where both nations had the most significant loss of lives.
Last September I got to go to the ANZAC Memorial site in Gallipoli, Turkey. While I have visited many ANZAC memorials in Australian and New Zealand cities, the ones in Gallipoli was especially touching.
Set on the seaside, right where thousands of Allied soldiers lost their lives, multiple remembrance sites commemorate the lives of these soldiers, along with a monument depicting an apology letter from Turkey, to the mothers of the soldiers.
I am not one much for war history, but the visit to Gallipoli is quite touching, and a definite must do for Aussies and Kiwis.