Backwards in heels
Dear blaze readers we're back in London after ten days in Belgium.
We had a night in London before setting off. After the rural English sojourn Will needed a recuperative Friday at Chariots Shoreditch, reportedly London's biggest and busiest sauna. In darling Martha's words, "What a dump!" "Big it may be," said Will, "but physically shabby, dreary and unexciting. And 19 quid entry!" Only a delicious Turkish meal en route made the evening worthwhile.
Of course we were in Belgium for WOGA (WorldOutgamesAntwerp). We travelled to and fro Brussels on Eurostar, smooth, comfortable, efficient, and overnighted in 'Europe's capital' each way. What a tourist honeypot; streets around Grote Markt, the grand main square, were still abuzz at midnight on a Monday, with young folk just lounging on the cobblestones peaceably drinking and socialising.
Our hotel provided us with a "free map for young travellers" - how flattering! Under "gay area" it informed that Brussels is "the gay capital of Belgium but actually it's all happening in 1 street". Indeed, there are a string of bars along Kolenmarkt. Surprisingly it notes that Royal Park is "known for rough gay sex at night" but doesn't list the only cruise bar in town. On five levels, Will reported good business for a Monday evening too!
WOGA was a mixed bag. The opening ceremony on Saturday night, compared with Amsterdam's, Sydney's, even Wellington's, was a disappointment and rather shambolic. Apparently funding was an issue. The Australian Embassy welcome to Aussie athletes on Sunday evening at a venue on Antwerp's impressive Grote Markt was enjoyable - plenty of nice free bubbles too!
Poor Will had to wait until 20:00 on Thursday for the 10km run and Sunday afternoon for the half-marathon (thankfully he achieved his targets of 50 minutes and 2 hours respectively). The latter actually occurred after Saturday's Pride parade, closing ceremony and party. Thus his opportunity to have fun was somewhat curtailed. He managed to squeeze in two 'therapeutic sessions' at 't Herenhuis, the gay sauna, and reported a physically pleasing and imaginative facility - and handsomely patronised too!
The WOGA cultural festival was slim pickings indeed. Will attended the finals of same-sex dance, listed under culture not sport, at Hilton Hotel's glamorous ballroom. What focus, discipline and athleticism are required. Our highlight of the games was the Choir Gala where Norway's 'boy' choir Fagottkor absolutely stole the show. Performing at Mardi Gras 2014, they're NOT TO BE MISSED!
Dear readers, I finally had my 'day in the sun' with a stellar manifestation and promenade in the Antwerp Pride. Much photographed, I was enthusiastically received by the crowd, many of whom called out the names of Belgium's queens as I passed.