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Vamos a España

by Peter van Delft in Travel and weekendtrips , 05 december 2004

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


After the wettest August our small country ever went through, I called it a day. I wanted some more sunshine, beautiful men and culture. That’s the reason why I decided to visit the World Wide Web, to find myself a sunny destination for the last weeks of September. After a bit of browsing the choice was easily made: a city trip in Spain.

My last journey I had booked on the site www.basiqair.com. Basiq Air offers a good and very low-cost service, and furtheron you can arrange everything yourself from behind your PC. I wanted a city trip, so I chose to book a one way ticket to Madrid for the web fare of 69.99 Euros. Thereupon I booked a one way ticket from Barcelona to Amsterdam for the web fare of only 54.99 euros for my return ten days later. Within five minutes I was done, and my city trip for Spain was more or less arranged regarding transport.

It’s really fantastic that you can check in online even within twenty-four hours before departure, and you can decide for yourself where you would like to sit in the plain. To use this service of Basiq Air’s check-in by internet, you only need to follow some simple steps; at the site you will find a demo about how it works exactly, just click on check-in and find out how easy it’s done. You do need to have a printer connected to your PC, to print your boarding card. The only thing left to do is drop off your luggage at the Baggage drop off point at Schiphol, where they only need to label it, so there is no long lasting queue before that desk.

In short: you’ll fly (already) through the airport.
Basiq Air flies to twenty-one destinations in the Netherlands, England, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. So there is enough to choose from, when it comes to planning a journey. Of course you can also just choose for a return ticket.

In 2005 Basiq Air will be amalgamated with Transavia, which means that considering the prices of tickets nothing will change. You will still be able to buy your tickets advantageously; you only need to visit the site www.transavia.com from than on.

Madrid

In the Spartacus I found Hostal Puerta del Sol, meaning Gate of the Sun, situated at the square with the same name in Madrid. In the early days when the sun was going down, it used to shine here through the gate of the old city wall, that’s why they named it that way. There was also an entry of the website www.puertadelsol.com where you can find some pictures and also a booking form in English. The hostal/pension has thirty-four rooms varying in prices from sixty to one-hundred euro per double room a night, depending on the view and the availability of a terrace or a balcony.

From the airport you can easily reach it by metro for 1.15 euros or by taxi for fifteen euros, the hostal is just around the corner of the entrance to the metro station Sol, the entrance you’ll find at the side of Calle Alcalá at Plaza Puerta del Sol 14 at the fourth floor.



For the last eight years it has been a gay hostal managed by Ricardo and George. You’ll feel at home immediately. In the lounge, which has been decorated quite tastefully, you’ll find all kinds of (gay) magazines and the Lonely Planet (one of the better travel guides) for Spain. The breakfast room also looks very cosy. In the hallway leading to the rooms there is a computer with internet, which you can use free of charge. Ricardo speaks very good English, and will immediately answer all your questions. Next to that, he makes sure that he always has some Shanguides available, the free gay guide for Spain, which is published two times a month.

The hostal is right in the heart of Madrid; on the square you will find the 0 km point, from where all distances from and towards Madrid are counted. All places of interest, bars and restaurants are within walking distance. At Puerta del Sol the Madrilène gay Pride is celebrated and during New Years Eve there are also parties on the square. Of course the prices of the hostal are being adjusted in these popular periods.


After my travel companion and I had unpacked our suitcases and had a shower, it was time to explore the bars in the sultry Madrilène late summer night.
While leaving the hostal our host offered us two free entrance tickets for Cool, one of the gay clubs. Here you can dance on several sounds and beats till daybreak. Next to Cool Madrid has a big variety of gay bars, restaurants and clubs. Everybody can find a place to fit, whether you’re into bears, leather boys, drags, muscle or fashion queens, there is a place for everyone. Whether it isn’t hot enough already; there are also several saunas.



During the day it’s lovely to spend some time in Parque del Retiro, where there’s no sound of traffic and where you can enjoy the well-known Sangria at a terrace while you hear Spanish guitar music produced by a passing street artist. Furtheron you can also lay down on the grass for some sunbathing, or rent a rowing boat to peddle around the small lake a bit. It also seems to be a cruising area, but the real cruisers are to be found at Caso del Campo and at the toilets of department store El Corte Ingles (for years already). The night before we already had an overdose of male beauty, so we decided to stick with the Sangria.

For culture you’ll of course need to visit the Prado museum and the Palacio Real with the beautiful Cathedral next to it. From the courtyard you have a beautiful view over the city of Madrid which is situated at 650 meters above sea level. At Plaza Mayor you can have yourself immortalized by a cartoonist.

In July and August it’s low season in Madrid, because the temperatures are too high and everybody moves towards the sea near Barcelona or Ibiza. That was the only thing I missed in this beautiful city; there’s almost no possibility to swim. There is a swimming pool near metro station Lago, but when we arrived there, the outdoor pool was closed; you could only swim indoors - with a bathing cap, which you are obliged to wear - between screaming kids having their swimming classes.

About five times a day, there’s a train to Barcelona which costs fifty-nine euros per person tourist class. You’ll need to book on time at station Attocha; quit often the trains are fully booked. By the way, Attocha is a beautiful station with a tropical indoor garden, which is constantly being hazed, it’s like you’re in the Botanical Garden. We took the midday train which takes you in four-and-a-halve hours to Barcelona at a speed of sometimes two-hundred kilometres an hour. In the train you can sit very spacious and there are tinted glass windows and air-conditioning. You can also still choose for smoking or non-smoking carriages.

During the trip free headphones are distributed, so you can listen to Spanish music while the landscape runs by. There are also monitors which show you the news and inform you where about you are located. After the town of Zaragoza a movie was played. Funny to hear Starsky and Hutch speak in Spanish. There is also a restaurant car where the snacks and drinks are quite reasonably priced; in short, it’s a very nice way of travelling. Of course you can also fly. I understood that a ticket is about seventy eoros, but the train has in my opinion a more charming atmosphere and so you will also see more of the Spanish country side and its villages.

Barcelona

Barcelona is the city of Antoni Gaudí, the man that has made so many beautiful things in this town: the Sagrada Familia (in construction since 1882), Parc Güell, Casa Milà and Casa Battló. Even the biggest philistine will change its tack. It’s all so beautiful. Next to that you can fantastically parade among the Rambla. Like in Madrid you can eat a wonderful meal, for a very low price at many places. Through www.quetalbarcelona.com we had booked a room at gay hostal Que Tal at Carrer Mallorca 290. The owner of the hostal has painted the place by himself and that looks very cosy. Everywhere on the walls you’ll find landscapes, it’s camp with a capital C.



The hostal is situated very central and easily to reach by metro and trains. For the leather boys it’s only a roll around the corner to reach your bed, coming from The New Chaps. Furtheron the hostal has every map and flyer of gay Barcelona. The reception is open for twenty-four hours a day. There’s always somebody who can answer your questions in English. In Barcelona the bars and clubs have very late opening hours, everything in Spain starts much later than with us: at 01.00 AM you can still have dinner in a completely packed restaurant.

Using www.gayamsterdam.com (that site is so handy!) I had exchanged my house with two guys in Barcelona once. So I knew the city quite well already. Nowadays these same guys are also owning an apartment in Sitges, the gay beach town of the Spanish peninsula. It’s only thirty minutes by train from Barcelona; and twenty minutes from the airport. They insisted that we should spend some nights in their apartment there.

Sitges

In Sitges it was wonderful at the beach, which is situated around the corner of the apartment, and with the well-known gay bars like El Horno and the Parot bar around the other corner. So, we had two more days of relaxing at the beach, followed by the happy hour at El Horno which is owned by Ron, a Dutch man. Ron has been living in Sitges for twenty-one years already. Next to the El Horno, he is also the owner of the XXL and the Manbar. His underwear parties at Tuesdays and Thursdays are very pleasant and snug.



In Sitges the season starts in April and lasts until mid-October. Apart from the bars you’ll find a variety of clubs which are opened till early in the morning. There’s even a sauna. The beaches are quite narrow, so you have to close up. It’s rather funny to be between all these gays, who bring their brushes to the beach to wipe off the sand of their feet. “You might miss a spot while tanning your toes!”

Because our return flight was late in the evening, we could still enjoy a nice day at the beach. Completely satisfied we returned to a wet and dark Amsterdam.
During the writing of this article I heard the news, that the gay marriage is a fact also in Spain now. Homosexuals even have the right to adopt a child. In Barcelona you’re allowed by law to walk naked. Poor Franco, he probably would turn in his grave!



 

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