Friday, 31 August 2012

Far East in Vietnam - flying East, as far as I have ever been - alone!

Flying makes me anxious, the pure thought of it - I hadn't slept properly the entire week, waking to sweats of nervousness. It's 11 hours to Hanoi from London Gatwick via an airline I hadn't heard of - Vietnam Airlines. Settling on board I was comforted by the fact that it's part of the Star Alliance (phew, Air France I had heard of).

It's amazing what you experience across an 11-hour flight. One seat, little leg room, restricted food, dehydration, lack of sleep and a mixture of movies you'd most often avoid - then there's the emotion, and so there's nothing like travelling alone. Waiting at the departure gate excitement ran through my blood; settling into position I a intrigued of my onward journey; taking off and reality hits - I am on holiday - YES, relaxation. Then comes the little tipsy moment after a few too many Bloody Marys, laughter at films; then as you now confidently try to snuggle to sleep in an upright position, the plane jolts.

Suddenly, in the pitch black surrounded by a cargo of people, I am all alone. Scared. Family, friends and loved ones flash through my mind. No-one to hold. No-one to hold me - the tears roll, hugging the blanket tight I squeeze my eyes shut begging for sleep. The plane soothes, relief eases my muscles - fear, so far away from home, so far away from anyone I know....

[Continue the journey Far East in Vietnam...]

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Photos: It's so good it Yurts - the New Forest

Typical camping trip, trying to navigate to the destination with no SatNav and just an old Road Map, but through winding roads, past a fruit farm and down dirt tracks we found our Yurt. Hidden at the end of the stretch it immediately felt private and personal.

Grabbed the keys and swung the door open, just for us four to squeeze our heads and necks in all at the same time to get a nosy of our home for three nights. We gasped in awe - so much more than we expected. A large room, plenty of light, grand furnishings and the most comfortable beds, even the singles were exceptional.

 End of July and it wasn't cold enough to light the Wood burner which disappointed a friend, but we did have two nights of an open fire and two BBQs. It was well equipped, the shower room was large and warm (though I imagine in Autumn it could get nippy), the shower too had an excellent set-temperature.

Well done Forest Yurts, we recommend this to anyone - for families, for romantic escapes or for a group of friends who want to spend time together.

Set in Sopley just a few miles from the quaint village of Burley, not far from the beach at Highcliff and the town of Christchurch. We drank the cider, enjoyed traditional fish and chips, took walks among the wild ponies and danced around a camp fire.

The New Forest was little different to my adventures as child with my family, this time I was allowed a few drinks to make it more celebratory as we marked our 30th years.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Photos - Stockholm Pride, a thriving event for gay and lesbian

There's much to be said about countries that don't get the international recognition of global cities like London, Berlin and New York. They can put on an unexpected show of unity, celebration and colour with ease, as though an every day occurrance.

Stockholm Pride held its own and stood out as one of the best events in Europe challenging Madrid and New York as a gay pride of choice. The small capital city has a lot to show with its small population of just 9million proving that size is and isn't everything. This four hour procession through the centre of the city to the Pride Park with tons of floats, bikes, and marching LGBTs told me I had been missing out for years.

We arrived on the Friday before the main event, greeted by Visit Stockholm and Stockholm Pride. An evening meal on the shores of the Riddarfjarden demonstrate the laid back humble attitude of the Swedes.  The fine quaint capital city was about to surprise us.

That evening we headed to the Pride Park for the first of our Stockholm Pride festivities. VIP access we were among the organisers and volunteers and key gay and lesbian spokespeople of the city and country. Entertained by classic Swedish pop the evening was jovial before we headed to see the final of Mr Gay Sweden at Hamburger Bors followed by a pre-pride event at Kolingborg - perhaps the biggest and best gay club I came across.

Pride Day
The day started quiet, albeit a colourful and loud display of rainbow with flag draped throughout the city, on buses, buildings as far as the eye could see. We enjoyed brunch with the keen Pride supporters at Hilton Stockholm Slussen as the congregation of supporters lined the street vying for the best viewing position for the procession. At which point the clouds dispersed the sky a vibrant blue with a sun adamant to enjoy its birds-eye viewing position.

We waited in anticipation before Dykes on Bikes rounded the corner to pronounce the beginning of the procession. I expected a short one-hour procession of people, oh was I to be terribly wrong.

By 2pm the parade was in full-swing, music filled the streets, laughter and celebration pronounced on everyone's faces with an energetic array of movement.

Float followed by bike, by rollerskaters all flamboyantly dressed - all with a mission statement.

This was Pride at its best. At one point the number of participants overwhelmed the street as the procession burst its banks into the onlookers.

This was half a million spectators, 50,000 participants showing their support for the LGBT community. This is the country with midnight sun, legal gay marriages, the birthplace of Abba, two-times host to EuroPride, and the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. This was indeed a celebration of everything equal, pink and gay.

The procession continued for another 4 hours before it was all over as they headed to Pride Park. That evening every bar and club was brimming with excitement and people. Stockholm made it on my gay map - and should make it onto yours.