That was a… unique week. I was holidaying with gaychums John and Roger at the Barbados Apartments in Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria, an area described variously as Spanish Brighton or Disneyland for Gays (though Disneyland is pretty gay already if you ask me). I returned light of head, light of wallet and lobsterish of hue, with a blue-edged soul flecked with volcanic sand and the fag lag of New York time on the Gran Canaria clock.
Our days enjoyed noon-ish starts, late lunches, a couple of hours of gay beach, silent contemplation/internet, dinner at ten, partying until late/early, and bed. We never left the bars before 2am, and were dirty rotten stop-outs until 5am more than once. According to my extensive records this was the greatest number of consecutive late nights + drink + dancing I have yet experienced. And I enjoyed it. The novelty played a part I’m sure; the sun and heat too. Plus scenery of both landscape and portrait aspects.
The gay beach, to a first approximation, consisted of older, larger, leather-skinned Germans working on their all-overs, and younger, lightly bronzed gym residents with stomachs you could bounce 5ps on. Coming a distant third were the Persil-white Brits and Irish, embracing the empinkening with relish, beer and insufficient sunscreen. Poor John overdid it that first day and a shoulder blistered up. Memo: ice, not aftersun.
The fastest path to the gay beach crossed a stunning expanse of sand dunes. These have a capital-R-Reputation, of which we saw some evidence from a safe distance. A few weeks before the holiday I had a dream in which I said the words “meandering through the sand dunes of Sodom.” It made me wake up laughing. It also led our friend Ali to create a T-shirt for the holiday, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t wear lest it be misconstrued. I might bring it out for special occasions.
The central gay area in Playa del Ingles is the Yumbo. Drab, sun-bleached tat-n-caff shopping centre by day, it transforms into gay bars, clubs and… other establishments after dark. A bizarre juxtaposition of trashy drag acts, presentably seedy leather-clad dancers, decidedly sleazy entrances into dens of unknown sordidness, and families with young kids wandering about at midnight. Funny lot these continentals.
We favoured La Leche, a light, open, breezy bar with milk-based decor, yer standard pop toons and the occasional live act. We also haunted clubs like Mykonos and Mantrix (less seedy than it sounds). We saw many of the same faces day after day wherever we went – a quintet of Dutch guys, including it seems the Milky Bar Kid himself, seemed to stalk our every move.
We didn’t dare visit Bunker, Gran Canaria’s self-proclaimed sleaziest establishment. The posters boasted/warned “anything goes”. I imagined a gruff Yorkshire-born manager running the place, slouched at the bar surrounded by gin and depravity with some form of jazz cigarette dangling limply from his lips, casting a lazy botoxed eye over the writhing dancers and occasionally crying out “Maureen! Maureen! Clean up in suckateria three!” to a long-suffering post-op assistant. There is, you might not like to know, a web site; it is unlikely to be safe for your workplace.
Our hotel was pleasant enough. Stamped gay-friendly on Thomson’s web site to ward off the loons, it was nevertheless virtually gay-empty on our holiday. A few twinks here, an ambiguous twosome there. Mostly Spanish families with holiday apartments decorated by blindfolded dustmen and Blue Peter competition winners and, oddly, a great number of straight Irish teenagers permanently on the cusp of being ejected by management for booze-related noisiness. One of them, in a conspiratorial whisper, asked me what I thought our swimming pool resembled. He agreed.
We found, to our surprise, a couple of decent restaurants. Not just resort-decent, but decent-decent. La Liguria just opposite our hotel was a fine Italian with freshly made pasta and other delights. Mundo, down the road, was oddly decorated but busy and equally excellent: when the waiter/proprietor recommends you don’t order something on the menu you know you’ll eat well.
I’m almost shocked to say I think I’ll return to the area again. A different time of year, though – gay high season, October to March – and it’d be fun to stay in an exclusively gay hotel if only for the lols. I might need a little recovery time first, though. And a flat stomach.