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As I noted in my post about Brussels, one of the little surprises that I really enjoyed about Brussels were the murals depicting some of Belgium’s Beloved Comic Strips.

Comic Strip Mural: The Adventures of Tintin

Comic Strip Mural: The Adventures of Tintin

Comic Strip Mural: Passe-moi l’ciel (Oh, Sweet Heaven!)

Comic Strip Mural: Passe-moi l’ciel (Oh, Sweet Heaven!)

Comic Strip Mural: Blondin et Cirage

Comic Strip Mural: Blondin et Cirage

Comic Strip Mural: Le Scorpion

Comic Strip Mural: Le Scorpion

I have learned since my visit that there is an official Comic Book Route which includes 42 pieces in the centre of Brussels alone, plus a bunch of others in some of the city’s suburbs… and I am almost tempted to go back to Brussels just to check it out!

One last day-trip my friend Timothy and I took during my visit to Belgium in August 2013, was to go see the country’s impressive capital city: Brussels.

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels is grand, like many other European capital cities, but somehow it gets overlooked during many people’s Euro trips, when compared to other capitals like Paris, or London, or Amsterdam.

We visited as a day trip, walking around the city before stopping for a big lunch. We mostly walked through the different areas, admiring the external architecture, the monuments, and the street art, rather than going to any museums or attractions.

The Brussels Town Hall

The Brussels Town Hall

Grand Place
The most impressive part of Brussels is hands down the Grand Place, the city’s beautiful main square, located right in the heart of the city.

The medieval square is surrounded by the stunning gothic-style Town Hall, the Museum of the City of Brussels, and an array of restaurants, cafés and bars, and hotels, all housed in impressively ornate former Guildhalls.

Grand Place is often home to events and festivals, and even on a weekday at the end of the high season, the square was quite busy with locals and visitors alike.

Due to the concentration of beautiful historic buildings surrounding the square, the entire Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Manneken Pis
One of the very few things I knew about Belgium before my visit, was that somewhere hidden in its capital, was the fountain of a little boy peeing, a bit of a weird piece of knowledge I gathered from my semesters studying Art History in university.

Manneken Pis Statue

Manneken Pis Statue

The statue, sculpted by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy in the 1600s, is based on a local legend about a little boy in the 14th Century, whose peeing on a track of gunpowder prevented a spark from reaching a bunch of dynamite which would have destroyed the city walls, allowing the invaders to access the city.

As one does, while looking for a famous landmark in a city when first visiting, Timothy and I went on a hunt in search of the little peeing boy, walking in circles for a few minutes without success. Finally, we came upon a sign that undoubtedly meant we had found our goal: a large crowd of tourists gathered around a wall, taking photos of an invisible icon we couldn’t see from the distance, due to the human barrier of tourists.

We approached the crowd and made our way through everyone to the front of the crowd, and there he was, in all his inglorious splendor, a life-size bronze statue of a baby, peeing into the fountain. A tiny little landmark that is more famous based on its fame alone, rather than its actual merit (although I controversially feel exactly this way about the Mona Lisa in Paris… And actually think the peeing boy is more interesting to see!).

Parc de Bruxelles

Parc de Bruxelles

Parc de Bruxelles
The Parc de Bruxelles is a beautiful park right in the city’s core. Once the private garden of a palace, the park is now the largest public green area inside the city limits, and a cherished jewel to Brussels’ citizens.

Large, beautiful landscaped gardens and grass areas provide a place to relax, while pathways, which cover the entire perimeter of the park and cut across it in various areas, allow people to go for leisure walks or jog around the park. The park also has a number of monuments, as well as scenic ponds and fountains.

The Royal Palace of Brussels is located at the South entrance to the park, while the Belgian Senate Building is located at the Northern end.

Royal Palace of Brussels
In the centre of Brussels, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, lies the Royal Palace of Brussels, a mansion constructed over a period of 200 years, which is the official Palace of the King and Queen of Belgium.

Me outside the Royal Palace

Me outside the Royal Palace

While the King and Queen of Belgium do not live at this palace, it is here that they perform all of their official duties. The Royal Palace of Brussels is also the place where international dignitaries will stay while visiting Brussels.

Certain rooms within the Palace are open to the public (free of charge), but only for a short period in the summer months. During our visit the palace wasn’t open, so we didn’t get to look at the inside!

Other Landmarks
Crossing right across Parc de Bruxelles from the Royal Palace of Brussels, by the North entrance to the Park, is the stately Palace of the Nation, a neoclassical building that houses the Belgian Parliament. This is also where the Prime Minister of Belgium performs his duties.

Palace of the Nation Brussels

Palace of the Nation Building, Brussels

Further down south from Parc de Bruxelles is the Palace of Justicethe supreme court of Belgium, which is housed in an imposing Neoclassical building. The Palace of Justice is gigantic, built atop a hill which accentuates its size when seen from below. The building is topped with a shiny copper dome which can be seen towering above other structures, from various points around the city.

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, is a Gothic-style cathedral reminiscent of Notre Dame in Paris. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is the official church of Belgium, so it is the host for all the Monarchy’s baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Just outside the central station, heading down the hill towards Grand Place stands a set of statues depicting the fictional Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, characters of the Spanish Novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Surprised at first to see this, I have learned since that Brussels was the first place to publish the novel outside of the Iberian peninsula, and this set of statues is perhaps a tribute to that!

The Congress Column was put up to commemorate the Independence of Belgium. The monumental column has a statue of King Leopold I standing at the top, while the pedestal is occupied by the personified versions of four major liberties in the constitution: Liberty of Union, Worship, Press and Education. There are also two huge statues of lions, in front of the column. The Congress Column also serves as the Monument to the Unknown Soldier, with the monument serving as the resting place to five unknown soldiers, plaques in the memories of those who died at war, and an eternal flame.

***

Brussels might not have as many famous landmarks as other capitals in Europe, but it is a city that offers a lot more. The architecture throughout the city is stunning, and there are a number of open spaces and squares for visitors and locals to enjoy and explore.

With Belgium’s strong history in the creation of internationally known comics – Asterix, The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin, to name a few – Brussels had a number of murals painted on walls up to four stories high, depicting some of them, which I felt was a nice touch!

I know I’ve said this before, but Belgium as a while really surprised me, and I am glad I got to visit. I am definitely considering going back at some point, and checking out some cities I didn’t get a chance to go to, and I strongly recommend travellers make a point of visiting during their European trips!

During my stay in Belgium in August 2013, I went on a day trip with my friend Timothy to Bruges, a beautiful medieval city on the Northwestern side of the country, about two hours by train from either Brussels or Antwerp.

Canal in Bruges

Canal in Bruges

Before I set out on my trip to Europe, multiple people recommended I visit Bruges, and I am glad I took the time to go visit, as it is a beautiful city. Bruges is quite small, so it is easy to cover on foot on a single day; all the sights can be seen within a few hours, and although there are a number of restaurants and nice bars to keep one entertained during the day, I hear the city does die down at night.

The historic centre of Bruges, which is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site, is built along a network of canals. The heart of the city is Markt (The Market Square), which is home to notable buildings, including the bell tower with its iconic belfry, and the stately Provincial Court. The medieval city is stunning, with ornate Flemish brick buildings lining the cobble stone streets in all directions.

Bruges’ canals are not only beautiful, but also serve as a mode of transportation. Private boats are often seen cruising the canals, while tourist companies offer tours of the city aboard small speedboats. The tour boats can be boarded at a few different locations, and the ride lasts roughly 45 minutes.

During our visit, Timothy and I joined one of the canal tours. On top of allowing visitors to see the city from a beautiful angle inside the canals, the tour was also informative, as the captain of the boat explained a little bit about the history of the different buildings and about Bruges altogether.

After walking around the city, and cruising down the canals, Timothy and I stopped at a pub to people watch, and so I could have a Brugse Zot, Bruges’ local beer!

Having a Brugse Zot Beer in Bruges

Having a Brugse Zot Beer in Bruges

I definitely recommend a visit to Bruges if you’re visiting Europe; as I said, you can easily reach the city from other places within Belgium (and even from other nearby countries) by train, and makes for a great day trip.

Bruges Canal with Belfrey Tower in Distance

Bruges Canal with the Iconic Belfry in the Distance

Visitors don’t always include Belgium into the itineraries of their European trips, but if you can fit in a day or two, you’ll be surprised about how much this tiny country has to offer. While the much bigger Brussels, or even Antwerp have more to see and do, Bruges has incomparable beauty and is well worth a visit.

On my post about Antwerp, Belgium, I referred a few times to a local legend about a giant: a legend that kept popping up in various parts of the city, and which is embraced by the city as part of its folklore.

Sitting on Antigoon's Cut Off Hand, in Antwerp's Meir Street

Sitting on Antigoon’s Cut Off Hand, in Antwerp’s Meir Street

Well, the legend, as it goes, is about a giant named Antigoon, who lived in Antwerp two thousand years ago. The giant built a fortress at the edge of the River Scheldt, and demanded passing boats to pay a toll. If the sailors were unwilling or unable to pay, the giant would cut off one of their hands, and throw it into the river.

Eventually, the giant was slain by a Roman warrior (Brabo), who proceeded to pay homage to the giant’s victims, by cutting the giant’s hand off, and throwing it into the River Scheldt.

The legend is meant to explain where the name of the city, Antwerpen, came from; in Flemish, “hand-werpen” means “throwing hands.” The idea of Antigoon’s hand, now sunk at the bottom of the river, also symbolizes that the river is now a free sailing zone, important as the city’s port has been Antwerp’s biggest source of revenue through its entire existence.

The Giant’s legend is visible throughout the city: the Brabo Fountain outside City Hall in the Grote Markt, built in 1887, depicts the hero Brabo throwing the hand into the river; a sculpture of a giant’s hand is found in Mair Street, the city’s main shopping street; there is also a statue of a giant at the entrance to Het Steen, the city’s fortress. Even more, the hand is even depicted in the city’s coat of arms!

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.

IMG_8043.JPGBelow 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!

IMG_7940.JPGHappy Day of the Dead!

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!

Claus and Jack Skellington in Dinseyland, California (October 2012)

Me and Jack Skellington in Disneyland, California, USA (October 2012)

Enjoy the celebrations!

After a few days travelling around the Netherlands in August 2013, I took the train down to Belgium to visit my friend Timothy, a native Belgian who lives in Antwerp. I spent the next five nights in Antwerp, exploring not only this northern city, but taking one day to visit Bruges, and another to visit the nation’s capital, Brussels.

Antwerp Central Station Dome

Antwerp Central Station Dome

I will go ahead and confess right away that, before my visit to Antwerp, I knew very little about the city. In fact, I knew very little about Belgium as a whole, except for some common knowledge about their beer, waffles, chocolate, and an obscure art history reference to a statue of a little boy peeing. Not sure if it was the country as a whole, or my experience of seeing Belgium through the eyes of a local, but I completely fell in love with Belgium!

Antwerp, a city I knew very little about, happens to be Belgium’s second biggest city, with a population of just over half a million. The city is beautiful, and despite not being overly big, it was lively throughout my stay.

Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp Central Station
The first welcome visitors to Antwerp will receive, is that of the beautiful architecture at the Antwerp Central Railway Station; and to be fair, this is the best impression any city could make, as the Central Station is possibly Antwerp’s most beautiful building, inside and out!

Antwerp Central Station is a fairly new addition to the city, with the building only having been completed in 1905. The station was one of the last buildings designed by famous Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie, before his death.

Despite being an early 20th Century masterpiece, Antwerp Central seems to fit perfectly with the rest of the city. The reason for this is that the Station borrows aspects of Neo-Renaissance architecture, giving a nod to the architectural style which was popular when the city was at its prime in the 16th Century. The Station also includes two grand Neo-Baroque stone facades, and an extravagant interior completed with marble and gold guild work.

The centre piece of the station is its impressive 60 metre-high metal and glass dome, which can be seen from many points in the city. Altogether, Antwerp Central is one of the most stunning buildings I’ve seen in Europe!

Grote Markt
The city’s main square (Great Market Square) is one of the most scenic parts of Antwerp. Located right in the centre of the old city, the Grote Markt is home to Antwerp’s City Hall and a few other guildhalls and stately buildings, many of which now house restaurants, bars, cafes and stores.

A main focus of the square, the beautiful City Hall, dating back to the 1560s, is now a UNESCO heritage building. The stately building is noted for its unique architectural style at the time, which went to inspire the design of multiple buildings around Northern Europe in the 16th Century. During my visit, the facade of the building was covered in flags, a very colourful sight!

The famous Brabo Fountain, which depicts a local legend about a giant, stands tall in front of City Hall.

Antwerp City Hall

Antwerp City Hall

Great Market Square is often home to temporary festivals and events. At the beginning of my visit, Grote Markt was hosting an international food festival, with various tents were perched up, serving a variety of cuisines, spices, and ingredients, from all over the world.

Meir Street

Meir Street

Meir Street
Antwerp’s main shopping street, Meir, is regarded as Belgium’s most important shopping centre. The street, which is pedestrian-only through large portions, leads all the way from Antwerp Central to City Hall. Street-front shops, shopping centres, and a few cafes, line the street on both sides.

Meir is not only important for being the busiest shopping street in the country; the street serves also as a visual of the changes of architectural styles that Antwerp has gone throughout its history, including many Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Rococo structures which survived the World Wars, and more modern post-war buildings. The Boerentoren (english Farmer’s Tower, also known as the KBC Tower), a 26-story building which was at one time Europe’s highest “skyscraper” (and continues to be Antwerp’s tallest building), and various smaller notable buildings and museums, are also located on or around Meir Street.

Statues depicting important historical figures (none of which I know) are sprinkled along Meir, along with modern-style sculptures, including a sculpture of giant’s hand, which also refers to the local legend I mentioned above.

Cathedral of Our Lady

Cathedral of Our Lady

Cathedral of Our Lady
The city’s main Roman Catholic Cathedral is a beautiful sight to see. Located just around the corner from Grote Markt and city hall, the Cathedral is another major point of interest in the city.

The Gothic-Style Cathedral’s “first stage” was built over a period of almost 200 years, starting in the 1350s. Although the first stage was finalized, and the Cathedral looks complete, it actually was never fully completed, with the South Tower ending up under half its intended height!

The completed North Tower is Antwerp’s tallest structure by far (much higher than the KBC Tower, the city’s tallest building), and can be seen from pretty much any point in the city!

Saint Anna Pedestrian Tunnel
The Scheldt River separates the old town from what is now the new part of Antwerp. Despite the greater Antwerp area being split roughly in half, there are surprisingly no bridges to cross from one side to the other.

Antwerp is one of the few cities in Europe to not have any bridges, a decision mostly influenced by the fact that the city relies heavily in the shipping industry for economic survival (Antwerp is the third biggest port in Europe!) and bridges would get in the way of ships coming in and out. To fix the problem, the city built the Saint Anna tunnel in 1931, a pedestrian-only underwater tunnel, which runs 500metres under the Scheldt River. 

Saint Anna Tunnel

Saint Anna Tunnel

During my visit, Timothy and I walked over to the other side through the St. Anna tunnel. The experience is a little creepy, as the colour-less, half-kilometre tunnel seems to go on forever (its lack of colour or design honestly makes it look like it has no beginning or end!), but I must say this is one of the most unusual ways of crossing a river I’ve ever done!

There is not much to see on the other side of the river (aside from a big park, and a few nice restaurants), as it is mostly residential. However, the other side offers some beautiful views of the Antwerp Skyline across the river, which is worth the crossing in itself.

If you cross the tunnel, be careful with cyclists, as most of them tend to ignore the “no cycling” signs, and further have no concept of speed limits! Luckily there are no cars, as there is a separate underwater tunnel for vehicular traffic.

Antwerp Across the River

Antwerp Across the River

When going in and out of the tunnel on either side, check out the wooden escalators, dating back to when the tunnel was originally built… they’re quite cool!

Het Steen (Fortress)
The city of Antwerp was a fortification for most of its early history, and a number of fortresses and fortification walls were built to protect the city. Many of the walls and fortresses were disassembled over the years, starting in the 1800s, but there is still a reminder of this period in the form of Het Steen.

Het Steen, which literally translates as “The Stone”, is a medieval fortress dating back to 1303. For most of its history, the fortress was used as a jail and as an entry point from the river to the city. Today, what remains of the fortress (as most of it has been destroyed) is a museum.

Het Steen Fortress

Het Steen Fortress

In front of Het Steen, there is another statue of a giant, which refers to the local legend in Antwerp.

Zuid District
South Antwerp is a trendy, revitalized district just south of the town centre, which is mainly known for its art scene. Zuid Antwerpen is home to the city’s main museums, including the National Museum of Fine Arts (which was closed for renovations during my visit) and the Photography Museum; more over, there are plenty of independent commercial galleries spread around the area, as well as some cool designs on residential buildings.

Some iconic buildings to check out in Zuid, include the Dutch Synagogue, and the funky Five Continents Building, with its unusual boat-shaped balcony.

This trendy district is also home to some of the city’s most unique establishments, including the funky WASBAR, a laundromat / cafe which allows patrons to eat brunch while doing their laundry, hitting two birds with one stone!

Zurenborg District
The Zurenborg district, located just southeast from the Antwerp Central Station, might be one of my favourite parts of Antwerp, as it contains some of the coolest architecture in the city. Most of the buildings in the area have different aspects of Art Nouveau, with many exhibiting heavily organic features.

The area also contains various streets lined with beautiful, expensive mansions, most of which are still privately owned. Zurenborg is well worth checking out during your visit to Antwerp, if nothing more, at least to ogle at the beautiful architecture. Reaching the district can be done with a leisurely 20-minute walk from Antwerp Central.

Zurenborg is also home to Het Roze Huis (The Pink House), the central home for Antwerp’s LGBT community planning, including publications, queer events, etc. The ground floor of the Pink House also houses a cozy gay bar (The Dragon), which during my visit had an outside beach-themed patio, complete with sand!

The Pink House

The Pink House

*****

Antwerp really surpassed my expectations, and I highly recommend visitors to Western Europe check it out. Antwerp is easily reached by train from Amsterdam in less than two hours. It is also less than an hour away from Belgium’s capital, Brussels.

During my stay in Antwerp, I had the opportunity to go on day trips to Bruges and Brussels, so check this space for further posts of my time in Belgium!

Last week I made my way over to the Tower of London to check out the World War One memorial poppies, a beautiful (free!) art installation running through the Summer and Autumn until November.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red - Poppy Cascade

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – Poppy Cascade

The exhibition, named Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, contains over 888,000 ceramic poppies, which are being “planted” in the Tower’s moat over the summer. There will be one poppy for every British military casualty of the First World War.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

One of the coolest parts of this installation is that it continues to evolve throughout the summer, as new poppies are planted every single day, continuously growing the display until all ceramic poppies are planted.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red - Tower Entrance

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – Tower Entrance

Throughout the summer, anyone is able to buy a poppy (for £25.00), which they’ll receive as a keepsake once the installation comes to an end in November.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, with Shard in the Distance

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, with Shard in the Distance

If you are in London, go check out Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, it’s well worth the trip over!

One year ago today (25th September) I arrived into the United Kingdom for the next chapter in my life.

On my first day, I wandered around London’s South Bank with my friend Alison, falling in love with the beauty of the area. Tonight, I found myself accidentally wandering around the same place with my friend Adam, before I realized I had done the same thing on my very first day in London, exactly one year ago!

View of London City from South Bank (September 2014)

View of London City from South Bank (September 2014)

View of Westminster from South Bank (September 2014)

View of Westminster from South Bank (September 2014)

What can I say, my move to London has been incredibly amazing, and I honestly can’t believe a whole year has flown by. In this past year I have met so many incredible people and done so many great things.

Here is to many more amazing adventures in this wonderful city!

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!

Also, check out my reviews of LIMBO and BRIEFS, two of the shows I went to check out at the London Wonderground 2014.

Having a Beer at the Carousel Bar at London Wonderground.

Having a Beer at the Carousel Bar at London Wonderground.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a review about the show Limbo at the London Wonderground, a great cabaret / circus hybrid show that blew my mind. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check out another cabaret-style show at the same venue, in the form of the very sensual, extremely comedic, Australian sensation Briefs: The Second Coming.

London Wonderground 2014

London Wonderground 2014

The London Wonderground grounds have expanded over the summer (since my first visit to see Limbo), to include a much larger sitting area which includes more bars and eateries.

The Wonderground is meant to resemble an old-style fair / amusement park, and now also includes popular fair games, an amusement ride, and a carousel bar. Yes you read that right, a bar build inside a carousel that actually rotates, with the classic carousel horses serving as tables!

The stage for Briefs, is the same one used for Limbo, built inside an old-style circus tent (the Spiegeltent). A circular stage in the middle of the tent is surrounded by arena seating, with booths for bigger groups not he outskirts of the tent.

Briefs: The Second Coming
Briefs is an australian, all-male cabaret show which merges together a number of acts, including burlesque (boylesque?), drag, and circus acrobatics. Often described as an ‘Aussie Cirque du Soleil meets Ru Paul’s Drag Race,’ this show is sure to entertain anyone who likes laughter. Or scantily clad men. Or fun.

What most surprised me about the show was probably its audience. Being a show built around showcasing the bodies (and ok, talents) of beautiful men, with strong nods to gay culture (drag queens, cross dressing, etc), it was surprising to see a large number of straight couples enjoying Briefs… but I guess that is the fun of events such as the Wonderground, which are welcoming to everyone who has an open mind. After seeing the show, I would definitely recommend it to straight people, and be sure that they would enjoy it, because it is fantastic.

BRIEFS: The Second Coming

BRIEFS: The Second Coming

The show is hilarious from the beginning, thanks in large part to its incredible MC host, Australian drag superstar Fez Faanana, who may just be the funniest queen I have seen in my life. Her comedic ability is incredible, not to mention that it has no boundaries, and is non-stop, through the entire 75-minute duration of the show.

But laughter is not everything that we wanted to get out of this show; after all, with a name like Briefs, we were hoping to see some skin… and believe me, Briefs delivered skin. Through a series of acrobatic, comedy, drag, and classic burlesque acts, the boys at Briefs flaunted their beautifully-toned bodies throughout the show. I went in expecting to see men in briefs, but was greeted with everything from briefs, to jockstraps, to thongs, and even what can only be described as penis-sleeping bags (I’m sure there is a proper name for them, but this sounds… cozier). Surprisingly though, the almost-nakedness was delivered, for the most part, in a sensual, tasteful way. With a dash of skank here and there, to spice things up.

Each of the six members of Briefs contributed something different to the show, whether it was comedy, drag expertise, burlesque acts, or acrobatics. The numbers were often performed solo, but sometimes the team came together to perform, whether it was a choreographed routine, or everyone doing their own thing in a way that complimented each other’s acts.

Briefs began with a sexy dance number with all the cast, and a hilarious introduction to the show by Faanana.  Afterwards, we were treated to our first circus acrobatics, with the gorgeous contortionist Thomas Worrell showing us that he knows how to work his body around a ring suspended in the air. Newcomer Adam Krandle was introduced afterwards as a untamable monkey with a love for bananas… a running joke that kept creeping up throughout the show. The graceful Dallas Dellaforce was the only typical drag queen in the show, mostly lip-synching through her numbers, with dashes of good ol’ Aussie humour. Then there was Louis Biggs, a 20-year-old eye candy who instantly became the lust of everyone in the audience, with a boy-next-door smile that made everyone melt int her seats. Finally, Mark Winmill, who is a top player in the boylesque scene, delivered a number of incredible performances that left the entire audience feeling a little hot, and topped the show off with an exciting finale that is splash-worthy (spoilers!).

The Dog Show Scene, One of the Most Memorable Parts of BRIEFS... For Many Reasons.

The Dog Show Scene, One of the Most Memorable Parts of BRIEFS… For Many Reasons.

Instead of using an original music score, Briefs borrows current pop music for its show, as an homage to classic burlesque / drag culture. The music is all replays of the original tracks, which means there is no live music in the show, which, for this show, works perfectly.

Briefs was flawless, and it’s so good I dare say I’d be up for re-watching it. I highly recommend you make your way down to the Wonderground and check the show out before it’s over. Briefs runs every night from 7:30pm until the 28th of September 2014. For tickets, visit http://briefsfactory.com/

 

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Florida, sponsored by British Airways, Visit Tampa Bay and Visit St. Petersburg / Clearwater. I will eventually be writing more about these destinations in detail, but as a little preview for now, here are some photos of the amazing pleas I got to visit.

Tampa Skyline

Tampa Skyline

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach

Marina in St. Pete

Marina in St. Pete

Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park

A bit of a city break, some cultural aspects, some nature, and some beach. Lot’s of food and drinks at trendy restaurants and bars. A trip to remember for sure!

A Rainbow Welsh Flag

A Rainbow Welsh Flag

Earlier this month (on the 16th of August 2014), I returned to Cardiff, the beautiful capital city of Wales, to attend Pride Cymru, the official Pride celebration not only for the city, but for Wales altogether. I made a weekend out of it, visiting with my friend Adam, and met many of his Welsh friends.

I really enjoyed my time in Cardiff, spent surrounded by great friends, and the Pride Parade and festival was a great centre piece to the weekend.

Pride Cymru was my third (and final, for this year) Pride festival of 2014. Like the Brighton and Hove Pride, I felt that Cardiff organized the parade and festival much better than Pride in London. The weather held out, a little overcast with many sunny breaks, and warm enough for us to enjoy the whole day outside.

The Parade
The title of this section should really be named: The Shortest Parade in the World. I honestly couldn’t believe that the parade had come to an end when it did: about 15 minutes after it started. Having said that, it was still lively and colourful, and it flowed through the parade route without any delays.

The biggest downfall of the Pride Wales Parade was that the different floats were often too close together, so it was impossible to read at times the banners which they carried, so most of the time I had no idea who was sponsoring what. As a parade it was fine because attendees were treated to music and dancing and lots of colour, but it didn’t really allow the sponsors to showcase their causes all the time.

Good points were: the music was fun and lively, and everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves, both the attendees and the march walkers. Despite being an overly short parade, it was fun enough, and because of the route, we were able to watch it from the street near the beginning of the route, and then again from a pub at the end!

The Main Event
The Main Event was held at Cooper’s Field, near the Cardiff Castle, and was fantastic… once we finally got in anyways.

Getting into the event was a bit of a pain due to a bit of disorganization (which to me was the only major flaw of Pride Cymru), as everyone who had pre-purchased tickets had to stand in a queue, to switch our e-tickets to cardboard tickets, which then had to be scanned to enter the park. Pointless to get an e-ticket with a bar code which doesn’t work, but despite the long wait to get in (I speculate it took us nearly half an hour), things got better right from there.

The Main Event was a festival-style fair similar to the one in Brighton Pride, with a few amusement rides, a section with tents advertising LGBT-related causes, and two sections on either side with food outlets. The event also had multiple bars spread around Cooper’s Field, and show tents with different performances scheduled throughout the day.

My friends and I spent most of the day going between the Main Stage and the smaller Cabaret Tent. The Main Stage had a number of performances by semi-famous singers (none of which I knew, to be honest!) and choirs, while the smaller Cabaret Tent had drag shows and smaller performances.

The cost of food and drinks at the event  wasn’t outrageous, with a Turkey Sandwich coming in at £5 and pints of beer at £4 each.

Pride Cymru: Main Event

Pride Cymru: Main Event

The Incident of the Broken Tooth
I can’t talk about Pride Cymru without bringing light to my (personal) biggest downfall of the event: the incident of the broken tooth, or what I like to refer to as “My hero complex #fail.

I do have to note that throughout the entire event, I kept seeing groups of police men and women walking around the grounds at the Main Event, which makes me believe the event was safe overall. That’s why it was so surprising that, on my way to the toilet in the evening, I saw a couple of attendees in a full-on fist fight.

Call me crazy (I prefer the term whisky-fuelled insanity), but I felt it was my duty to attempt to stop the fight. My attempt was greeted with a side punch to my jaw from one of the fighters, which resulted in a big chunk of my wisdom tooth being knocked off. At the time I got punched I gave the fighters my classic “Oh no you didn’t” look, shrugged my shoulders to signify “I don’t really care if you stop fitting or not,” and walked away (mostly because I didn’t want to get involved in the fight).

The two people who had been fighting stopped (I think they realized how dumb they were being), and I walked away, broken toothed and pissed off. It took me a little angry cry in the darkness for a few minutes, and then the realization that there was nothing left to do, so I went back to dancing with my friends, determined to not let the issue ruin my evening!

Cardiff
The rest of the weekend was filled with non-pride activities, such as a visit to the Doctor Who Experience and an afternoon having wine and pub grub in a sunny patio by the bay… but I will write about Cardiff more in a very far away future, once I get myself up to date with my past travel stories!

Wow. I have just realized that it has been a year now since I packed my bags and left Vancouver for this new adventure of living in the United Kingdom.

Travelling Claus. I don't get tired of being out there constantly.

Travelling Claus. I don’t get tired of being out there constantly (Photo: September 2013).

Looking back, I know that I’ve done A LOT of new things over this past year, and seen plenty of new cities. I checked off a few countries of my list (although not as many as I had hoped), and met some wonderful people along the way.

Yet, despite seeing so much and doing so many fun things, I am honestly surprised the year has gone by so fast. One whole year down, which means I now only have one year left on my visa to work in the United Kingdom, and the terrifying question of “What next?” will soon be a question I have to ask myself.

For now, I will continue to enjoy my life in London, get excited about my coming trips, and fondly remember all the amazing adventures I’ve had since leaving home!

And to end this, here is a photo from every one of the eleven countries I’ve had the opportunity to visit over the past year, since August 2013!

Visit to Amsterdam with side-trips around Netherlands to start the adventure. August 2013

Visit to Amsterdam with side-trips around Netherlands to start the adventure. August 2013

Visiting my friend Timothy in Belgium (Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge). August 2013

Visiting my friend Timothy in Belgium (Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge). August 2013

Travelling around Turkey for three weeks, with my best friend Ryan and a bunch of new friends! September 2013

Travelling around Turkey for three weeks, with my best friend Ryan and a bunch of new friends! September 2013

Re-visiting one of my favourite cities: Rome, Italy, with my friend Nic. September 2013

Revisiting one of my favourite cities: Rome, Italy, with my friend Nic. September 2013

Starting my life in England with visits to a bunch of cities around the country. October 2013

Starting my life in England with visits to a bunch of cities around the country. October 2013

A visit to Wales... and then another one. October 2013 & August 2014

A trip to Wales with my friend Adam… and then another one. October 2013 & August 2014

A winter escape to Scottland (Glasgow, Loch Lomond) with my lovely friends Lindsay and Nat. November 2013

A winter escape to Scotland (Glasgow, Loch Lomond) with my lovely friends Lindsey and Nat. November 2013

Getaway in search of sun in Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). January 2014

Getaway in search of sun in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. January 2014

Re-visiting another one of my favourite cities: Paris, France (and my friend Loic!). April 2014

Re-visiting another one of my favourite cities: Paris, France (and my friend Loic!). April 2014

A visit to Portugal (Porto and Lisbon). April 2014

A visit to Portugal (Porto and Lisbon). April 2014

Multi-city trip around Germany. May 2014

Multi-city trip around Germany. May 2014

One year left now, lets see where this takes me.

I am escaping London for the weekend, to spend time with my friend Adam exploring Cardiff, the beautiful capital of Wales.

This will be my second visit to Cardiff, and Wales altogether, with the first being a day trip from Bristol back in October 2013, when I first traveled around the UK after I just moved here.

Mosaic Plaque Depicting Wales, Outside Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

Mosaic Plaque Depicting Wales, Outside Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

On the agenda for the weekend: Welsh whiskey, Welsh cakes, the Doctor Who Experience, and Cymru Pride celebrations… as well as some quality time with Adam and other friends!

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