With gay pride events, there are certain elements synonymous with each location. In Chicago, it’s the Jewel Cart. In Brussels, we discovered an unattractive crowd. This weekend, in Madrid, the city treated us to an onslaught of beautiful sights and cultural experiences.
With the help of our friend Stephan, we booked a new hotel, The Alicia, located in the heart of Madrid city. Fortunately for Chris and I, we received one of three junior suites with ample space and amenities. Xavier, however, obtained a standard room to share. It was perfect for one couple or individual, but not two acquaintances who both would prefer a bit of space. And for this, Xavier relocated on Saturday. He upgraded to the Urban Hotel, complete with a rooftop pool we all shared throughout the weekend.
We devoted Friday afternoon to sight seeing knowing the remainder of the visit could potentially be “gay, gay, gay.” So we headed to the Prado Museum. I’d never heard of the renowned museum nor the featured Spanish artists such as Goya. Even though the museum is quite large, we completed our tour within an hour. Considering I lapped the Louvre in 20 minutes, my tenacity was quite an accomplishment.
Our first official gay event took place Friday night at a penthouse party high above Madrid. It was a guest only event complete with two checklists to get through the front door. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed. It seemed somewhat straight out of Queer as Folk. Everyone was attractive. Substances were abound. And we were told the it could possibly turn into a sex party (though, after being there, I think this might have been an exaggeration). Needless to say, it was an interesting and exciting way to begin the weekend.
Saturday, I started my day with a visit to a gym stuck in 1968. The posters on the wall were priceles. But I can’t go more than a few days without a workout – especially with my visit to Chicago coming fast and furious. So, I literally ran across town to one of two fitness centers close to the hotel. It was scary. I don't like to work out with roaches doing curls next to me. It did, however, serve it’s purpose – combating the Spanish food we’d be eating during our stay. And with the possibility of me going to Space the next day for what is referred to as “the best party of the weekend,” I had to pump some iron.
While the other boys ventured outside the city for a relaxing day at the pool, we opted to immerse ourselves in the pride parade that took place around 7. With over 60K people expected to line the street, we knew it would be crazy. It was. And with an apparent backlog of flag carrying pride groups and oversized tour buses with drag queens and Chip n' Dale dancers, we decided to walk the route where we ran into Madonna carrying her boombox.
After all, we didn't want to wait three hours to receive our gaydar.com whistle. Besides that, we had reservations at 9 for a traditional, family style Spanish dinner near our hotel. So with whistles in hand, we headed back to the hotel for a quick shower.
Chris is always good at finding places to eat. He scours through books, on-line resources and referrals to locate either top recommendations or hidden gems undiscovered by most tourists. From that, Xavier, Chris and I enjoyed a true Spanish restaurant at Marianna complete with locals celebrating a birthday party. To be honest, Chris and Xavier appreciated the dinner more than I (especially Xavier who was intrigued by the women and their golden fans). It was good, but I realized after Barcelona I prefer Mexican. Burrito anyone?
The following morning, I awoke with all intentions of Sunday being another sightseeing day. Then I received a call from Xavier about going to Space. I originally planned to miss the party. We hadn’t purchased tickets in time and I wasn’t going to stand in line for hours just to dance. And with Chris opting out instead for a bullfight later that night, I was fairly certain I couldn't do both. But after eating a light (and free) breakfast at the hotel, Xavier convinced me to go.
We arrived around noon. Luckily for us, there was no line to get in. And just after three hours, we departed. It was hard to leave the crowd full of attractive men gyrating to thumping beats. But with the bullfight just hours away, I knew I needed time to recover. So after Xavier said goodbye to his new tall drink of water from Amsterdam via Brazil, we headed for home (not before stopping at Burger King and clearing their waiting tray of all its items). Back at the hotel, I quickly showered and headed for bed. Chris was out sightseeing so I grabbed a little shut-eye before the bullfight that night at 9 p.m.
We met Xavier at his hotel around 8:30. Chris and I left alone 10 minutes later. Xavier had become preoccupied with his new comrade so we were on our own. After a quick ride in the Metro, we arrived at La Plaza de Toro. Just like at the movies, you grab overpriced snacks and soda before entering. With tasteless caramel-crunch almonds and dry licorice pieces in hand, we made our way to our box seats purchased for 60 euros a piece.
With horns blaring, the matadors entered the ring. I wasn’t sure I was up for a killing. However, in the end, blood was minimal and the show was not as traumatic as I originally anticipated.
CLICK THE SCREEN ABOVE TO WATCH
Simply put, the bull comes out. The matador plays with it a bit. A gold dressed man riding a fabric covered horse pricks the bull a few times. Another man in sequenced purple pants plops four forks on the bull’s back. The matador returns for a final blow by stabbing the bull in the back of the neck (he should only have to do it once, but at times, it takes more).
The bull drops then a chariot takes it away. One bull was saved, though two should have been. The third bull outwitted the matador by surviving four possibility fatal wounds. I guess they have a limit.
Two hours later, we returned to the hotel. It was a full day and I was ready for bed. So with earplugs in place (to silence the busy square outside our hotel), I hopped into bed.
Our flight wasn’t until 5 the following day. I personally don’t like to wait around to leave. But in this case, we didn’t make the arrangements so we were going with the flow. Besides that, it gave us a few additional hours at Xavier’s rooftop pool (along with the other 15 unregistered guests - including an Australian lad whose charming accent and sexy smile kept catching my attention).
Apparently, some thought Chris and I weren’t having much fun. It was quite the contrary. For gay pride events or circuit weekends, we don’t participate 100%. Instead, we opt to balance the weekend with a bit of culture and down time. And with Madrid, I couldn’t have found a better mix of activities. There were boys. There was sun. There was sightseeing and dining with friends. And with that, I couldn’t ask for anything more (except, of course, the inclusion of my friends from home – but we’ll save that for Ibiza and beyond!)