Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

First Time in London – Part Two: Getting Acquainted

The beginning of the trip was the quintessential travel beginning - one you hope for whenever you travel. After the first 24 hours I began to get into the groove of the city and it started to become a part of me as most vibrant cities do. My friends were coming in Thursday for the festivities, so I had a few days to explore by myself and see what was out there. I allowed myself to be a tad more touristy than I usually allow to go sightseeing and whatnot.

I am a huge fan of modern art, so the first stop on my list was the Tate Modern. A very interesting architectural building on the Thames, I was almost giddy walking into the incredibly dramatic building. The exhibits were great - some better than others - but a couple really stuck with me. There was a room full of Soviet propaganda posters that created an image of Lenin and Stalin as gods. It was alluring - some of the best political propaganda. Then there was an instalment of different artists depicting the escape of a Japanese anime star from her animated world and corporate creators. Very cool.

The day I did all this was absolutely beautiful. The weather was warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I equally wanted to lie in a square and people watch and explore every inch of London. I walked tons that day. I do this thing involuntarily where I sing showtunes if I am in a place a musical takes place. (I know, how gay is that? I annoyed my boyfriend-at-the-time living in Paris and belting out Les Mis always.) So I found myself in front of St. Paul's singing "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins and then walking down Fleet Street looking for the demon barber and loving Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Naturally this type of behavior puts me into a great mood and I stumbled into a Chipotle-like place and had a lovely burrito.

When I could walk no more and my peeps back home were waking up I went back to the hotel to do some work. I had a friend of mine then meet me and show me some more of London (he lives in NY but travels to London often.) We walked all over Soho and my were the boys out even though it was a weekday afternoon. We actually were walking and I heard somebody yell my name - so I turn around to see a coworker of mine and a colleague! It's a crazy small world so we had a drink with them and chatted.

The evenings those first few nights were incredibly fun. Bar hopping to G-A-Y, Ku and other bars I can't remember their names. I never felt more American - from "Hi" I got that look and then the inevitable, "Oh! You're American!" Smiling and saying yes would then open up endless dialogue from how great New York and Miami are to our lack of universal healthcare and gay marriage.

I will use this opportunity to describe the type of people I came into contact with at these instances. I have heard many stereotypes about British people and I have to say - like all stereotypes - you can see where they came from but obviously barely fit across the board. Londoners that I met were incredibly social, great conversationalists and you could feel their thirst for life that the city oozes. At the same time nothing is sugar coated and debates seem to be friendly ways to engage each other. Being an honorary New Yorker, I loved this. It added to the life of the city and I felt myself enjoying everybody I was meeting. I must say I've met a few Londoners in my travels and was less than impressed, but those few bad apples - it was nice to see - were not the norm.

So I spent the week working, exploring the city and letting it become a part of me. It was fantastic. I was ready for Tommy and Trenard to come and show them what I've learned and get ready for pride. The weekend hadn't even started yet...

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