“We did promotional pictures for pride right here on the comedy carpet. Imagine me in heels walking around in broad daylight all glammed up in front of all the tourists, it was fabulous,” he tells me laughing. But he also goes on to describe the pride festivities that take place just down the boardwalk where LGBTQ locals and those from the surrounding area come up for a raucous time.
That afternoon, I watch as kids run around in the chilly sea air on the boardwalk, but the attention is all on the awesome Blackpool Tower (www.theblackpooltower.com). This 518-foot-tall, turn-of-the-century building, modeled after the Eiffel Tower, is a showstopper. The building, when it debuted in the 1800s, attracted tourists from all over the world who took the elevator to the top to take in the sea views and iconic sunsets. It also contains one of the most spectacular ballrooms in the country, often hosting the wildly popular Strictly Come Dancing finale. At the time of my visit, the building was getting glammed up to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
No trip to the seaside is complete without eating classic fish and chips. DuVaux brings me to his favorite spot, but don’t be fooled by the name, Yorkshire Fisheries (Topping St, Blackpool. Tel: +44-1253-627739. www.yorkshirefisheries.co.uk) (we are in Lancashire after all). The mom-and-pop shop, located off the boardwalk serves no-frills fried fish, chips, plain toast, and mushy peas. Splash some vinegar on it and get ready for a taste treat while you enjoy some great people watching.
Nearby, the Winter Gardens (97 Church St, Blackpool. Tel: +44-1253- 625252. www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk) is a must visit. This Victorian entertainment venue may not look like the most impressive theater from the outside, but inside it’s filled with beautiful surprises. If you’re not going to see one of the many traveling productions that occupy the main theater, signup for an architecture tour where you’ll be able to see some of the lesser-visited stages, as well as the grand ballroom with its massive arched ceilings and golden etchings.
At night, I attend Funny Girls (5 Dickson Rd, Blackpool. www.funnygirlsonline.co.uk), a long-running cabaret show that features drag performers and men in tight pants who show off some exceptional talent as they perform oldies, pop hits, and also some sultry burlesque numbers. Afterward the crowd rushes to over a dozen queer bars that are all located within walking distance of one another. I, of course, head to Peek-a-Booze to watch my favorite lady Cybil DuVaux command the crowd. And as the ocean breeze mixes with the smell of late-night revelry, I make my way back to my room, to continue my journey.
There is a lot of shopping here, lots of beauty, it’s very LGBT-friendly, but above all it’s a northern city filled with characters who will call you ‘love’ no matter who or where you are” says Liaqat Ali from Leeds Pride (www.leedspride.org) as we take a free water taxi down the canal. Ali is also a member of the community’s rugby team, The Leeds Hunters RUFC. We are on the way to the Royal Armouries Museum (Armouries Dr, Leeds. Tel: +44-113-220-1999. www.royalarmouries.co.uk), and the water taxi is an excellent way to get a glimpse of the gorgeous architecture that lines the River Aire. We go beneath the currently under-renovation Leeds Bridge that was built in the late 1800s and is painted in a majestic baby blue.