After enjoying so much last’s years Spanish Pride Lullaby I was super excited to get an invitation to the biggest Pride event of 2017, World Pride Madrid. We flew in with a group of 25 journalists, bloggers and social influencers, all from different countries, and threw ourselves into the rainbow coloured festival, visiting LGBTQ themes exhibits, participating press conferences and receptions, eating out (and drinking SO much wine) at Spain’s capital’s coolest restaurants, and partying backstage with the organisers, performers and other journalists. Not to mention the Pride march, which we enjoyed from the top of a float – what an experience it was, seeing a million people celebrating diversity, acceptance, and love.
Although the plan was that my loved one, Nimrod Dagan is joining me for the press trip – as a journalist of Mako, Israel’s hottest LGBTQ online mag, meanwhile life happened: as an actor at HaBima, the National Theatre he has to have his priorities, and he started rehearsing in a new show that’s premiering soon, so he had to let me go all alone. We were both bummed out a bit, but hey, life is long – and we’ll have so many more Pride trips together in the future, right?
I arrived no Novotel Madrid Center with a gigantic, almost empty suitcase – whenever I go to Europe, especially towards the end of the season, I prepare with the basics and that gives a great excuse for me to do some shopping while the sales are on.
I moved into my room – a comfortable, relaxing space with an outrageously big shower (my spa for the next few days, rejuvenating after the tipsy nights), and I put on the Spanish music TV. As I was a television host of the Hungarian MTV for so many years, I always love exploring while traveling, what’s up these days at the local music scene. Here’s my pick as soundtrack to my trip – I never heard the song before, but I was obsessed instantly…
Soon enough I had my new favourite songs, and they put me in the mood for my first glass of drink – I was behind the schedule, who is sober throughout Pride Week at 2PM?! The lovely crew of the hotel honoured me with a glass of champagne, I went back to my room to get all pimped up, and very soon I was ready to meet the fellow journalists who were invited by Madrid Pride, and the Spanish Tourism Board, TourSpain.
I instantly became friends with an Austrian girl, Stefi from Austrian PRIDE magazine (she is half Hungarian by the way), and from that moment on we were the little trouble makers of the group. On the way Gian, a fun Italian lad joined in to our team, and the Fierce Four became complete with Benjamin, British journalist for PinkNews who was the most outgoing from all of us – so he could always entertain us with saucy stories from the night before.
In just a few hours we all started to feel like we are on the coolest school field trip of our lives – without trying to mention everyone, I’m giving you a few highlights. We had Josh from Gay Times, Pedro and Nelson, the South American princes of social media, Arielle, a lesbian girl with killer style who always had an opinion and wasn’t afraid to say it out loud, our blonde prince (minus the white horse) Thomas from Denmark’s Out ‘n’ About mag – I was very jealous that his lovely boyfriend made it to the press trip, unlike mine. Meg was an inspiration as well, running her own blog DopesOnTheRoad, Merryn, is Editor at Curve magazine amazed us all with her sensitivity and knowledge.
Bella from Sweden, who works for UK based Diva magazine was also with us – the most glamorous lesbian gal I’ve ever seen, and of course my old-new friends from Britain’s famous gay radio channel, Gaydio (legendary radio DJs Emma and Chris were responsible for picking me up from the street if I’m so drunk I cannot move – it’s a tradition that started last time in Benidorm, and now it was taken over by not less iconic radio stars Matt and Craig). And of course our incredibly helpful and sweet hosts, Manuel, Anna, Susana, and the rest of the dream team – I already miss you all!
After all of us getting a goody bag filled with Madrid World Pride merchandising gifts we headed to Óscar Roommates Hotel in the very heart of the city, where we were welcomed with cocktails, and a breathtaking view of the opening ceremony, looking at the crowd of thousands from above. At this point I was ready to jump into the rooftop pool, but I was controlling myself – we might wanna come back to this fabulous place with my boyfriend Nimi, so I shouldn’t blow away my reputation, right? So… I just got a few more drinks, and then I don’t really remember – maybe I did jump into the pool in the end?
Hopefully not, ’cos we still had to be presentable that night: we were invited to a private reception to the City Hall, where we’ve been greeted by Manuela Carmena, Mayor of Madrid. It was beautiful to see the building dressed into rainbow lights, and even more beautiful to get some more wine – these Spanish know exactly how to keep up a guy’s interest!
The next morning we met our guide, Pedro from Your Madrid, who is such an awesome character, I could swear he stepped out from an Almodovar movie. He walked us around the city centre, arriving to Plaza Mayor, where we participated a private press conference by Miguel Sanz, director of tourism, director for TourSpain Manuel Butler, and many more inspirational speakers and influencers who helped to turn this dream into reality: Madrid hosting World Pride for the very first time.
Later on we took part in a tradition old as times – the famous „Run In Heels” in Calle Pelayo, the centre of the gay(est) district of Madrid. It was SO fun to see the guys trying to race wearing high heels – but it was even funnier, when (after jumping in to a local supermarket and finishing a bottle of Lambrusco all by myself) I lost my team, and ended up shopping sexy undies for Nimi – after all he deserves some gifts and bits, he should be here too, right?
The upcoming day was all about meeting new people – and how great that it was! We kicked off the morning at breathtakingly beautiful Dior room of Ramses Life restaurant, where we met the organisers of New York World Pride 2019.
The presentation of Chris Frederick, NYC Pride Managing Director included a part about a concept called „The Taste of Pride” which will host chefs and foodies from all over the world, and I got super inspired to take part as a vegan chef – now that I’m traveling so much with my cooking courses and pop-ups, it would be a blast arriving to NYC for Pride, with spreading my vegan magic all over.
Later on we went on to Cecilio Rodriguez Gardens, a venue looking like the Garden of Eden, with peacocks walking around, and flowers reminding me on Alice being in Wonderland. We got a of how World Pride and Euro Pride will be like, met the Stockholm Pride team, and – needless to say – got blown away by the Spanish wine and yummy tapases.
From food culture to art: we headed to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum we walked through the exhibit „Inclusive Love”, with the help of a well-prepared and full of soul guide, who always had an unspoken story about each and every LGBT themed painting. Yes boys and girls, that’s a real Dalí right there…
Later on we walked through CentoCentro, the old post office, now a museum’s Pride History Exhibit, then headed to Sala Alcalá for Spanish rebel artist, Mateo Mate’s exhibition, „Canon”, re-discovering and re-interpreting classic sculptures. I must say, Venus looks great at 65 – and fuck ageism! But the greatest artie-experience was certainly Prado Museum, where I cried like a baby seeing my favourite Bosch paintings in real life, – for the very first time, like a virgin. Special thanks to Daniel Manrique Moreno, our incredibly art expert guide.
After all the naked men on classic paintings it was just about time to see some in real life: we headed to the backstage of Mr Gay Spain, where – thanks to a cocktail promotion – we got even more washed away, which was lucky as hell.
In just a few minutes the very queen of one hit wonders, Whigfield stepped on stage to sing two songs, one of them, „Sexy Eyes” was clearly remembered by no one else but me, and the performer totally noticed that, basically she was singing especially for me for about a minute, before she kicked off her ultimate hit, „Saturday Night”.
We were so ready to party that we didn’t even wait until Mr. Gay was elected – instead we finished the night at Tanga party, a fun, easy going and poppie party line, dancing to Queen Madonna, Princess Britney, and Whaterver Gaga, as good gays should do.
The day of The Pride was yet to come! Still hangover from last night Stefanie and I decided to join the group a bit later, and sang Whigfield songs all the way in the taxi to World Pride Park Village – an awesome open air venue in the outskirts of Madrid, where I chilled my headache with cold tomatoes and veggies soup, and got myself a hot-hot-hot pair of sunglasses for the upcoming „floating” – as Pride March was upon us.
We ended up on yesterday’s party’s float, and I got to give it to the DJ, it was The Coolest One. For 6 hours, non-stop I have been dancing shirtless, feeling the love, seeing the crowd of millions, filling up the streets, squares, roads and parks of Madrid, and by the time he march was over, I literally couldn’t feel my legs – or my ears.
After the party ont he truck we went on: we saw another 90s icon Kate Ryan, and Eurovosion phenomenon Conchita Wurst (who for whatever reason forgot the lyrics of „I will survive”, but hey, who am I to judge, I forgot where my hotel is).
As a vegan, I was prepared to eat bread for a week – our hosts warned me, I might have restricted selection in the restaurants, but I can honestly say, I ate like a king throughout the trip. Novotel had a rich breakfast aligning grilled vegetables and fresh salads, there was no problem asking my coffee with soy milk anywhere.
Bottilería, a traditional tapas bar surprised me with a gigantic pasta dish with garlic-roasted veggies and thick tomatoes sauce, San Antón Market’s waiters never stopped bringing more and more food for me.
NH Suecia Hotel’s rooftop bar’s starter – my vegan Porn Star Martini – was the best thing ever happened to me, and they even had hummus which – as a Middle Eatern boy – I missed dearly. NuBel restaurant’s Asian fusion dishes blew my mind, and Cien Llaves, a cozy garden restaurant served me a variety of dishes close to a fine dining experience.
The last thing I really want to point out – if you are looking to buy affordable and über cool stuff, may they be clothes, home or beach accessories, or presents for the loved ones, stick with Ale-Hop, the posh interpretation of a 1 Euro shop, where everything is under 10, and you’ll feel like you simply wanna take the whole shop home.
You’ll thank me later. Nimi, my boyfriend did – ’cos after returning home I flooded him with crazy gifts from the store, even crazier stories from the Pride Week, and the promise: next year we’ll do this together. Special thanks to The Spanish Tourism Office in Rome for making it happen!
Will you be there to join us? Meanwhile follow the blog on Insta @whitecityboy, and join us on FB as well.
Warning! These pictures can be viewed only while listening to this forgotten Whigfield classic that was hiding in your subconscious for the past two and a half decade.
Tres-dos–uno-cero, #WorldPrideMadrid, here we go!