STEPHEN UNWIN just canâ€™t get enough of the beaches, bars and boys of Mykonos
â€œYour boyfriendâ€™s a big, flaming, feather-wearing, man-kissing, disco-dancing, Vermont-living, Christina Aguilera-loving, Mykonos-going queer,â€ goes Will & Graceâ€™s Karen Walker, with typically charming panache when describing, well, the gayest person she can think of.
Which makes Mykonos, well, the gayest gay friendly island on the planet for the gay men. Save maybe Key West, or Fire Island, or the traffic island by Londonâ€™s Vauxhall Tube come the early AMs on a Sunday.
Karen Walker has a point. Gay friendly Mykonos is pat-your-hair-in-the-style-of-Mae-West gay. Its gayness glows like a Diptyque candle, flickers to the playlist of Elaine Paige on a Sunday, parties like itâ€™s 1999 but – if weâ€™re sticking with the metaphor thing – itâ€™s all wrapped in a rather lovely Liberty bow (as opposed to Claireâ€™s Accessories or Londis or somewhere). And itâ€™s kept me coming back for five years on the trot. Who knows, it could even be six â€“ I might have had a drink!
The appeal the first year was easy. A group of us, all gay men varying in ages from 28 to late 40s, five days, hot, Europe, beaches, bars, sophisticated yet fun, no stupid mega-clubs, no kids, no hen parties, absolutely-under-no-circumstances any stag parties. Mykonos was the safest bet there was. And we loved it so much weâ€™ve been going there for our annual boysâ€™ holiday ever since.
Some gay men roll their eyes at just how gay it is, but since when is being gay a bad thing? Mykonos sees no reason to hide its celebratory outlook, having been welcoming gaymakers for well over 30 years. They came for the laissez-faire attitude, the beauty of the place, the weather and of course to meet other gay men on their big gay holiday.
The island also looks pretty much as it did 30 old years ago. Even way before then. Development is so strictly controlled that at first glance it could be any year during the last 100, save of course for the quad bikes and Lycra swimwear.
And that is another of its charms. The place is authentic Greece, with Mykonos Town (or Chora) looking like it just stepped out of a yoghurt commercial with its cuter-than-a-button white cubist buildings peppered with cobalt-blue shutters, and streets so narrow anyone over a size 12 would struggle.
And with the gay and LGBT community comes the money, and places they wanted to spend it. Thereâ€™s Gucci, thereâ€™s Pucci, thereâ€™s Fiorucciâ€¦ and the relative cost of staying on the island (even Londoners balk!) means the clientele is resolutely non-twinky and very international.
There is also a glut of fancy gay friendly restaurants catering to palettes refined in London, Paris and Milan. Thereâ€™s even a Nobu – at arguably the smartest hotel on Mykonos, the Belvedere. Those that beg to differ stay at the slick, Miami-esque Bill & Coo or, for another variation on the minimalist theme, Cavo Tagoo.
As for everyone else, they stay at Rochari (or neighbouring Little Rochari), or the actually-gay-themed-and-not-for-everyone Elysium, which is also where most gay men start their nights with cocktails and a naff-but-wonderful drag show as the sun dips into the Aegean, as the views from here are pinch-yourself dreamy. All of these hotels fringe Mykonos Town, meaning an easy walk to, and stumble from, the nightlife.
For a gay holiday its all about this gey friendly island, Mykonos is even popular with celebs â€“ John Travolta brought his wife here earlier in the year in the wake of those gay sex allegations. Thereâ€™s irony in there somewhere â€“ and itâ€™s getting even more popular with cruise ships because of its beauty. On some days over the high summer the bay in Mykonos Town is bumper-to-bumper with colossal monstrosities fit to bursting with Americans that look like they would need a suite of cabins just to accommodate their elevenses â€“ but thankfully this lot are just passing, and rarely stay more than a few hours at a time, and then only in Mykonos Town.
This is fine, because during the day the gay and LGBT community on this very gay friendly island are either down at Elia beach (less noisy and much more popular these days than Paradise or Super Paradise, which have gone a bit Ibiza on our asses. The cruising bit is down by the rocks, by the way.) or hanging round the pools at their respective gay friendly hotels.
In fact, you could set your watches by the day-to-day activities of most of the gay men on Mykonos. In-hotel breakfast, a taxi down to Elia in time for lunch at its gorgeous beach bar (if you havenâ€™t got your own transport you could get the bus â€“ or a boat â€“ but this takes ages), back to your hotel for a disco nap before heading to Elysium for sunset cocktails-cum-cabaret, then into town for dinner then dancing. Incidentally, there are plenty of cute little kebab shops should you wish to skip the cost of dinner but still want a little somethinâ€™ somethinâ€™ to line your stomachs. It is all a bit Groundhog Day on Mykonos – but no-oneâ€™s complaining.
The nightlife is, handily, pocket-sized. There are only four or five places people bother with â€“ all within waving distance of one another – meaning you really do get to know everyone during even the shortest of breaks.
Once youâ€™ve cocktailed at Elysium, jovially heckled the turn down at Montparnasse Piano Bar (Little Venice, thepianobar.com), exchanged numbers at Porta (Ioan. Voinovits 5) – thereâ€™s a gorgeous fish tavern opposite, incidentally- , and danced till dawn (literally) at Babylon (Akti Kampani, Waterfront), and/ or Jackie Oâ€™ (Kastro, Waterfront,
Jackieomykonos.com) â€“ these two are right next door to each other on the waterfront – your friendship circle will have tripled. And if youâ€™re that way inclined, you can add a few more at the local cruising spot up at the old church, just round the corner from Jackie Oâ€™.
By the time you get back to Elia youâ€™ll have everyoneâ€™s names on your lips – which is just how I like it.
A few practical tips about Mykonos
If you donâ€™t dare risk a scooter or quad bike (Iâ€™ve seen a fair few strewn across the wiggly roads), getting around can be a little tricky. The island is small-ish (33 square miles), but there are only around 30 cabs so you end up sharing most of the time (which can be fun!), or there are the buses. These also can be fun (and crazy cheap compared to taxis), but often rammed if youâ€™re getting the last one of the evening from, say, Elia back into Mykonos Town. If youâ€™re not pushed for time, try the dinky boats that cover the main beaches in a loop during the season.
Avoid August. Itâ€™s the least gay month of the summer (the gay-straight population becomes a little swayed in their favour when the kids are on school holidays). June, July and September are your best bets.
Whilst lesbians are numerous, this is predominantly a gay menâ€™s destination. The girls have Lesbos.
This place is expensive, despite the Greece being strapped for cash thing. The likes of sunscreen can cost a good 35 Euros, so stock up before you go.