Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Australia's Gay Gold Coast Beckons...beaches, mountains, events

When gay vacationers envision travel to Australia, they naturally think of Sydney. After all, it's been the people's top choice for the best international gay travel destination for many years - and not just for Mardi Gras, but all seasons and reasons.

Maybe for their second downunder visit, they think of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsunday Islands, or the tropical rainforest resorts in Cairns and other parts of Far North Queensland.

In 2010, savvy lesbian and gay travellers will visit Australia's most vibrant and most gay-friendly tourism region - The Gold Coast. It's the other end of Queensland, close to the state capital of Brisbane and a quick drive from the international airport. You no longer have to hassle with Sydney International Airport if you want to see the "other" Australia.

Two years ago Gold Coast Tourism became the first new IGLTA member from Queensland in eons, and this year five more gay-welcoming tourism operators have signed up with IGLTA's Ambassador for Australia, Mark Proffit. He says, "Several more will follow in 2010 as word spreads about the very gay Gold Coast and about the first annual Screaming Queens Day at Dreamworld."

Besides the leading theme park, Dreamworld, the other new IGLTA members are Tiger Moth Joy Rides, the highest thrill on the coast, Hard Rock Cafe in the heart of Surfers Paradise, and two accommodations, the Watermark Hotel & Spa which is just steps from Surfers Paradise beach, and Breakers North Apartments on private beachfront.

If my hunch is correct, the very large Gold Coast Region - with so much to see and do from the mountains to the hinterland to the world-famous beaches and theme parks -will be on everyone's Top Gay Travel Destinations must-visit list.

It's not just Australia's top vacation destination any more. The Gay Gold Coast is beckoning everyone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Auckland's Premier Queer Event on Valentine's Day

Blending a celebration of diversity with safe sex messages is central to the Get it On! Big Gay Out, an annual event sponsored by Get it On.

Originally started to provide a safe and supportive social environment for people of diverse sexualities and gender, Big Gay Out has become a celebration and an opportunity for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) to deliver safe sex messaging to around 10,000 attendees.

Performers & Politicians

Annie Crummer will headline Big Gay Out 2010. Annie C is a New Zealander who has toured with lesbian icon KD Lang, and performed in both Rent and as Killer Queen in We Will Rock You. Also, Pop sensation Will C Barling will be joined onstage by sexy DJ Stevolicious.

The Get it On! Big Gay Out has extensive political support; Prime Ministers, Mayors and Opposition Leaders and MPs have all attended New Zealand’s biggest gay festival.

Follow the BGO Festival on Facebook. "If you happen to be visiting New Zealand and close to Auckland in February, you should add this festival to your itinerary," says IGLTA Ambassador Mark Proffit (a Kiwi himself).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mendoza---Argentina's Wine Capital and Much More......

By Roy Heale

Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, about 1000 meters above sea level, is the charming city of Mendoza. Known largely for being the capital of Argentina's wine making industry----especially the renowned Malbecs---Mendoza is also the center for skiing in the higher Andes peaks during July, August, and September. Plus the year-round natural hot springs just a short drive from town along with the beautiful parks and lakes in the city are fashioning Mendoza as a popular new vacation destination especially for budget-conscious travelers.

The city is the perfect place to call home while taking short excursions, day trips, or even overnight journeys to explore the numerous different vacation activities in this diverse region. Filled with tree-lined avenues, beautiful plazas, historic architecture, and artisan markets Mendoza offers a relaxed pace of life in a bustling urban environment. The heart of the city pulses in the main square called Plaza Independencia, while the Parque San Martin offers a multitude of relaxing outdoor activities in a lush green environment, and the Area Fundacional is a trip back in time to the city's early settlement days. And of course the annual “la Fiesta de la Vendimia” in March is the wine festival for which Mendoza is now renowned worldwide.

Finding accommodations in Mendoza can be challenging with a multitude of options and price ranges. Every style and size of hotel is available from major brand name chains to small independent pensionnes with everything in between. But the gay-owned and operated Deptosmendoza offers two alternatives for suite rentals in the heart of the city at reasonable rates with a variety of styles and sizes to match with every holiday budget. The Modigliani Art and Design Suites are eleven modern contemporary, comfortable, spacious apartments with complete facilities and a Galeria de Arte on the top floor. Coupled with the Dot Suites---a boutique resort, with only five unique units, minimalist design, with an emphasis on architecture, art, design and lighting---any vacation requirements and budgets can be accommodated by Deptosmendoza. The English speaking staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the whole region and can assist with all holiday plans for time in the city or excursions around the region. A surprisingly “big-city” gay welcome and experience awaits the smart gay traveler in this cozy mountain retreat town.

The dry desert-like climate almost guarantees hot sunny days for enjoying outdoor activities coupled with warm nights where outdoor dining is the perfect end to a high-altitude day.

A sophisticated local culture blends with a simpler, unhurried lifestyle for a perfectly relaxing vacation. Great sights and experiences by day plus restaurants, bars, and cafes offer a multitude of nightlife entertainment options including gay and gay-friendly establishments. Late at night the Aristides Villanueva is the street for dining out and of course the action starts at about 10PM as with all Argentine dinners. Here you will find a festive atmosphere with large patios full of locals and tourists indulging themselves at restaurants offering every International culinary delight imaginable plus, of course, the renowned Argentine Parillas, where beef is a heavenly delight especially when accompanied by a local Mendoza vintage red wine. All at prices lower than almost any other major vacation destination in the world today!

After dinner a leisurely stroll, perhaps some refreshingly cool Crema Helada---ice cream---and a visit to a local gay bar will be the perfect end to a fun-filled day. Either Queen or La Reserva Pub---the major LGBT bars in town---located in the heart of downtown Mendoza will be open and waiting to entertain you until dawn, or perhaps even later. On the weekends the city is very much alive at sunrise and as some people end their day almost as many vacationers are making an early start to theirs!

It's easy to understand why so many smart gay travelers are including a visit to Mendoza on their South American holiday adventures. Suddenly it's being recognized for much more than just the annual wine festival in March.

For More Information Visit: http://www.deptosmendoza.com.ar/ or http://www.welcometomendoza.com/
For More Travel Stories By Roy Heale Visit: http://www.royheale.blogspot.com/

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gay South Pacific Paradise Discovered

IGLTA Ambassador to Australia and the South Pacific Mark Proffit, sent his Rainbow Tourism colleague Dee Farrell to New Caledonia. She discovered a warm gay community and welcoming tourism industry on this seductive island off the coast of Australia.

The terms "South Pacific Islands" and "French Polynesia" usually draw to mind Tahiti, Fiji, and Vanuatu.

Overlooked no more should be the Melanesian island paradise of New Calendonia. Nouvelle Caledonie is the closest international destination to Australia's east coast capital cities and the north island of New Zealand. More and more Kiwis and Aussies are outnumbering European visitors, though Korean and Japanese visitors are a mainstay.

I encountered French and German tourists, of course, but was surprised to learn about Japanese lesbians who favor the romantic resorts that have their own wedding chapel! I arrived by ferry the day before a wedding and preparations were underway in the seaside church, and extra champagne chilling in the restaurant's well stocked cooler. (I was impressed to find an '05 Pinot Noir from Alsace region as well as an extensive range of the real thing from Champagne region. A foodie paradise on a remote marine reserve with gay and lesbian staff, I was in heaven!)

Besides romance and honeymoons, New Caledonia has great appeal for the adrenalin crowd with beaches exclusively for jet ski and kite surfing enthusiasts. It's easy to get away from the commotion by taking a water taxi to one of the many islets and marine reserves that fill the world's largest and most beautiful lagoon. It surrounds Grand Terre, the main island, and is now on the World Heritage list.

Once a property, tour operator, airline or tourism board from New Caledonia joins IGLTA, I will profile the ones I inspected for gay welcome mat.

--Rainbow Tourism Concierge Dee Farrell

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Travel Tips for the Middle East

IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella names his favorite spots to wine and dine in Israel and Jordan.

In Tel Aviv, Israel's most liberal city, the
mayor has said, "One of the most important communities in the city is the gay community, which has made Tel Aviv-Yafo a center not only in Israel, but in the entire Middle East. We are proud to be a gay-friendly city and recognize its potential as a destination for gay travel."

Tel Aviv also has a vibrant dining scene. Some great non-touristy choices include: the affordable Italian wine bar Piccola Pasta, which serves light meals in a cozy atmosphere lined with books and bottles of vino; upscale Toto, which fuses Middle Eastern and Italian fare; and Assif in the hip Neve Tzedek neighborhood, where an attractive staff serves seasonal dishes in an art-lined space.

In Jerusalem, don't miss having a cocktail on the roof of the new Mamilla Hotel, an oasis of marble, stone and glass with views of the old city. For a moderately priced meal, visit Zuni, an airy restaurant/bar open 24 hours a day with great service and an eclectic continental menu.

Amman, Jordan is home to Books@Cafe, a friendly, quaint gathering place in a quiet neighborhood where gay and straight locals mix comfortably. Downstairs is a bookstore and coffee shop; upstairs is an expansive bar with outdoor patio. Madian, the owner, is an amazing resource for LGBT visitors to Jordan.

Russell Lord of Kenes Tours, left, and IGLTA's John Tanzella, right, with the owner of Books@Cafe in Amman.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something New About Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

The 32nd Annual Mardi Gras Parade steps off on Sat. Feb. 27, 2010 along Sydney's famed Oxford Street, and past the "Glamstand" full of gay and lesbian visitors and local veterans watching the over-the-top pageantry that has made the parade world-famous.

This year, the Mardi Gras party will not follow the parade at Oxford St. nightspots. Instead, it has been moved to the following Saturday night, with a week filled with even more boutique and extravagant activities.

One local operator, OnQ Event Management, has teamed up with IGLTA members Sofitel Hotel Sydney and Rainbow T0urism, to put together Mardi Gras Spring Fling 2010 (Feb. 27-Mar. 7) - a private tour for overseas visitors that includes local tour guides pampering and escorting guests to all Mardi Gras and Spring Fling events and activites.

One exclusive event will be a full-day gourmet luxury visit to vineyards in the very gay-welcoming Hunter Valley Wine Region. In fact, lesbian-owned Tempus Two will be hosting the group for a priavte lunch and wine pairing with the winemaker.

Be prepared to visit all of the Sydney icons, from the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, to the Koala-full Zoo and Imperial Hotel of Priscilla fame. And the highlight besides the parade, party and gala Diva Show, just well may be the Bondi Beach Drag Races and after party.

Second tier might be posing nude with thousands of gay and lesbian for a new work called The Base by contemporary artist Spencer Tunick in one of his signature art installations on March 1st.

For all the insider out travel tips for visiting Sydney for Mardi Gras, please see Rainbow Tourism's Australian blog site.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Biggest Fish in the Seas

by LoAnn Halden

Some cruise ships are referred to as floating hotels or cities at sea, but Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is more like a sprawling metropolis skimming the ocean's surface. The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB hosted a group of 145 VIP guests and media on Charter One's Grand Floridian yacht Nov. 13 to watch as this behemoth of cruising made its debut entrance into its home berth in Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades. Let's just say that the Oasis made its accompanying tugboats look like kayaks.

The 5,400-passenger ship, which stands 20 stories high and is as long as the Empire State Building is tall, is now the tallest, widest, heaviest -- and with its $1.4 billion price tag, priciest -- cruise liner in the world. It boasts 24 restaurants, 37 bars, a living park (an oceanic first) with 12,000 plants and trees, a 139,000-gallon swimming pool and a zip line ride that makes a nine-deck journey over an open atrium.

Looks like season has arrived in a big way in Lauderdale. (There was even a spontaneous rainbow created by a tugboat's watery salute, which added a gay flourish to the ship's arrival. See below.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Everglades Eco-Adventure, Girl Style

by Sheryl Kay

Ladies, grab your rods and tackle….its time to go fishing!

Yes, we did say ladies, and we did say fishing.

Island Girls Excursions is one of the Everglades best kept secrets. Started two years ago by partners Captain Mary and Captain Kim, the company specializes in back country fishing charters planned especially for women, in and around the 10,000 Islands (just outside of Naples in South Florida, off Highway 41). Half day and full day packages are available, and the company also offers special excursions including airboat tours, premium shelling, land tours, and sunset cruises, all of which can be combined with the fishing (http://www.islandgirlsexcursions.com/).

And don’t let pretty faces fool you. Both women have extensive boating and fishing backgrounds. Kim is licensed to pilot a boat up to 25 tons with no miles and/or passenger restrictions, while Mary is licensed to take 6 passengers up to 100 miles offshore.

We had a full day adventure with the duo, all along the way, Captain Kim describing the scenery with astounding detail. From egrets, to herons, to kingfishers, to terns, Kim truly knows it all.

As for the fishing, it could not have been easier, or more bountiful! The tackle was all set up for us, bait on hooks (all provided by Island Girls), and instruction was given at every turn. Their secret fishing spots yielded so many snapper that we truly lost count. We also pulled up jack crevalles, lady fish, and one super nice mackerel. At one spot there were so many bait fish, they literally jumped into the boat (God’s honest truth).

Lunch was at a “secret” beach hideaway, a beautiful strip of white sugar sand, quiet and secluded, where we enjoyed sandwiches, a salad, and fresh fruit, also all provided by Island Girls. Then more casting, jigging, and reeling them in.

Most spectacular catch of the day—a 25 inch sea trout, the largest of its kind the captains had ever seen (No fish story either! See the photos!).

So what makes Island Girls Excursions especially suited for women?

For starters the pair use light tackle making it easy to handle. They also target a wide variety of fish, and offer fishing lessons right on board for the novice and more advanced, and they do it in a very non-threatening way.

“Women find fishing with men to be a bit intimidating,” said Captain Mary. “For most women, fishing is more about the experience which may include enjoyment of outdoor serenity, wildlife viewing, catching a wide variety of fish and other more intrinsic rewards that come from a memorable experience on the water.”

After an incredible voyage that included seeing an American Bald Eagle, we crashed at the Port of the Islands Resort (right where the girls will pick you up). Nice comfortable accommodations with breakfast included (http://www.poiresort.com/). Don’t miss dinner at the Bambusa Bar and Grill (http://www.bambusaonline.com/). Enjoy the terrific LGBT atmosphere and have the Bambusa Salad. You’ll have plenty of fish to cook when you get home!

Sheryl Kay is a freelance print and photo journalist, and a contributing editor at CURVE Magazine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IGLTA Members Join Forces in Latin America to Develop Market Research

By Roy Heale
At a news conference today in Buenos Aires it was announced that the first LGBT market research in Latin America will be expanded substantially beyond the original plans. It will now include Brazil, Uruguay,Chile and Argentina. This first market research in South America will investigate the habits and lifestyles of more LGBT people than originally considered. It had previously been announced that the Market Study Gay 2010 by IGLTA Members Out Now + GNETWORK360 would survey gays and lesbians living in Argentine territory.

Today at the news conference held at the Axel Hotel Buenos Aires, the organizers of the study revealed that there will be a far greater scope for this new LGBT market study. It will now include gays and lesbians in Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay in addition to Argentina residents. Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now, indicated the decision to expand research on this scale was logical. "Out Now works in countries around the world," said Johnson. "When we looked at the region of Latin America it became obvious that there was a strong need for information to be provided through studies of this kind. Now we confirm that this need is equally important in Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile as it is in Argentina.”

It was also announced by Johnson that the gay and lesbian marketing agency will open its first office in the region---Out Now Latin America---which will be based in Buenos Aires. "We are delighted that Pablo De Luca and Gustavo Noguera---the creators of GNETWORK360, the organization's most successful business networking for the GLBT community---join us as consultants for Out Now Latin America,” Johnson said." Both De Luca and Noguera, are intelligent professionals dedicated and committed to Out Now. This will surely prove to be really beneficial for the more than 12 million gays and lesbians living in the region in which we are now starting to work.”

Out Now was founded in 1992 in Australia and works in markets around the world with many corporate clients including IBM, Toyota, Volvo, Hilton, KLM, Lufthansa, VisitSweden, German National Tourist Board, Barclays Bank and Citibank. The future services of Out Now Latin America will include research, strategic consulting, advertising, public relations, and staff training.

GNETWORK360 is a business to business event held annually for three days in Buenos Aires. According to Noguera "More than 650 people gather each year to share information, workshops, presentations and discussion panels plus learn about new business opportunities within the LGBT market segment. De Luca stated, "Out Now and GNETWORK360 share the conviction that a better understanding of gays and lesbians helps businesses and other organizations to a greater awareness of the issues that concern our community assisting to create products and services in order to meet or resolve these issues in the most effective way to improve the lives of our community. "
For More Information Visit: http://www.gnetwork360.com/

Halloweek Heats Up Toronto

by Dan Allen

Just in time to beat the northern fall chill, 2009 IGLTA Convention host city Toronto heats up this week for the Church and Wellesley Village’s third official Halloweek, a full slate of ghoulish costumes, garish parties, and – natch – a girlish drag queen or 200.

Village mainstay Woody’s (along with its nautically named next-door brother bar Sailor) will host Wednesday night’s much-anticipated Queen of Halloween drag competition. Ambrose Price, he of Logo’s The Decorating Adventures of Ambrose Price (originally an HGTV Canada show), will serve as a guest judge this year.

Late costume planners can load up on get up for the weekend at Thursday evening’s Church Street Drag and Leather Boo-zaar and Psychic Fair (held at George’s Play), where wigs and costumes galore will be on sale. Proceeds benefit Toronto’s PWA (People with AIDS Foundation).

On Friday Ambrose Price is back to help judge the Church Street Jack O’Lantern Carving Contest, hosted by outdoorsy gay group Out and Out Toronto and held on the west side of Church Street, south of Wellesley between Cafe California and Zelda’s. Pumpkins are free and ready for carving.

Of course the big day is Saturday the 31st, which kicks off at noon in Cawthra Square Park (just north of Wellesley) with Pride Toronto’s Hallowe’en Party. All afternoon and into the evening, there’ll be live performances by DJs, drag queens and Village celebrities, culminating in a costume contest hosted by Canadian drag superstar Sofonda Cox. The winner will appear on the 11 p.m. edition of CTV (that’s Canadian Television, eh?) news. Proceeds go to Pride Toronto’s 2010 International Human Rights Program.

The craziness continues for the massive Halloweek Block Party, when from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., five blocks of Church Street will be closed to traffic to make way for the throngs of revelers (last year’s crowd was estimated at 55,000). Bars and restaurants all along the strip host special events, turning it into a night so fun, it’s positively scary.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Novel Way to "Cruise" Downtown St. Petersburg

New York has its subways, and San Francisco has trolleys. Well, check it out...St. Petersburg’s got Segways, and if you’re looking for a super fun easy way to get introduced to the bay side downtown area, riding a Segway may just be for you.

Using computer and gyroscope technology, these two wheel electric vehicles are based on the rider’s balance. They go forward when you lean forward, and reverse when you lean back. Sounds a little tricky, but it’s not.

First, a little bit about downtown St. Pete. Forget that blue hair vision you’ve had all these years. St.Pete is hip.

There are several long time venues that have served as anchors for the LGBT community. The Hideaway (http://www.myspace.com/thehideawaygirls), bills itself as the “oldest lesbian bar in the USA” having celebrated its 40th anniversary this past June. Take it up a notch at A Taste for Wine (http://www.tasteforwine.net/), a sophisticated, yet relaxed spot right on Central Avenue that serves fine wines and beer.

There’s also Georgie’s Alibi (http://www.georgiesalibi.com/stpeteevents.aspx), a café and sports/video bar, another long-time favorite, and the place to be during Pride month, particularly the day of the St. Pete Pride parade (http://www.stpetepride.com/), the largest in Florida, attracting more than 75,000 people this past June.

Other venues include the Gemini Lounge (http://www.myspace.com/gemini_lounge), Club Nautico (http://www.nauticostpete.com/), the Queens Head Restaurant (http://thequeensheadbar.com/home), and Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company (http://www.kahwacoffee.com/about.htm).

Perhaps the best thing to come to St. Pete in the last few months is the Flamingo Resort (http://www.flamingofla.com/), a brand spanking new hotel catering to the LGBT community, and easily accessible to downtown (as well as the beach).

So after you’ve checked into your digs, and before you check out the night scene, cruising the downtown shoreline via Segway is a must (talk about a new way to cruise the streets). David Boston, owner of the guided Segway tours company Gyroglides (http://www.gyroglides.com/) takes groups of up to six people on a several mile tour of Bay Shore Drive, pointing out all the landmarks along the way, with comedy, folklore, gossip and all (no prior experience needed; call ahead for reservations 727-896-3640). After retiring from a 20 year graphics design career with NBC, Boston, 54, moved to Florida with his partner, performer/writer Wilson Loria (http://www.wilsonloria.com/home.htm), five years ago and took over the Segway biz earlier this year.

“It's a new feeling--something you haven't experienced before, like a new sensation for your body to experience,” Boston told us before we took off. “You can be near the water and see a lot of dolphins and boats, and then in just a couple minutes be going through the palm arboretum, and then touring through the old northeast neighborhood looking at great houses.”

It’s all about an adventurous spirit and a little confidence, he told us.

True enough. No one choked, none of us fell, and we all had a blast cruising!

Sheryl Kay is a freelance print and photo journalist, and a contributing editor at CURVE Magazine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Our Gay Hollywood Adventures with Out & About Tours

Last Friday, a group of us had the opportunity to attend the "Pre-Tour" of the upcoming LGBT gay history bus tour that Out & About Tours is putting together here in West Hollywood, making its debut for Halloween 2009!

Offering an in-depth yet entertaining look at LGBT history and its hotspots not found in your average LA travel guide, we undertook one hell of a fun "journey" through LGBT history beginning with LA's pre-Spanish settlement era, continuing through the Golden Age of Hollywood, the gay rights movement of the 60s & 70s and ending in present day.

We began in West Hollywood, continued on through Downtown LA, via Echo Park and Silverlake and then returned through Hollywood. We saw it all... from LA's first gay porn theatre to a Judy Garland performance at The Other Side piano bar in Silverlake. We even had a chance to enjoy a cocktail there as well!

From their website, here are some of the tour highlights:
  • Join Out & About Tours as they share with guests the first footfalls of the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade which occurred on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place in June of 1970.

  • Out & About Tours uncovers LA’s more seedy side of life, as guests tour past Merced Theatre, LA’s first porn theatre from the 1880’s.

  • Guests will swing by one of the last gay piano bars for a cocktail, a song or two and a fascinating five minute clip from a documentary of the same name, “The Other Side: A Queer History” by Jane Cantillon.

  • Was “Stonewall” really the first gay uprising? Out & About Tours will ask guests to share a moment of silence at the site of LA’s “Stonewall,” two years before the riots occurred in New York City. The LA incident fueled many things, including the iconic magazine “The Advocate,” one of the world’s oldest LGBT publications, still in publication today.

  • Many are aware of the phrase “Lipstick Lesbian.” Out & About Tours will take guests past the famous lesbian bar that coined the phrase and changed the way that gay woman dressed and conducted themselves publicly. The patrons of Peanuts on Santa Monica Boulevard put a new twist on the term “liberated woman.”

  • It’s no secret that LA has a heavy Spanish influence but do Angelenos and tourist a-like really know where it all began? Out & About Tours will stop off at “El Pueblo” just outside of Olvera Street in Downtown LA and pay homage to some of the oldest public structures in the area and share with guests their significance in gay history.

  • No tour of LA is complete without a jaunt on the world-famous Sunset Strip; Out & About Tours will show guests the location of the first openly gay bar of the area and show how it influenced the feel and shape of all gay bars thereafter.

  • While the All-American white-boys were building a thriving “Boy’s Town” in the city that is now known as West Hollywood, LGBT Latinos and African American were dancing to the beat of their own drums in other parts of town. Out & About Tours will point out significant venues.

  • If it’s more dirt that guests are looking for, Out & About Tours will show them LA’s oldest bathhouse that still operates today and once hosted many a closeted movie star.

  • Out & About Tours will explore the complex gay underground scene during Tinseltown’s Golden Age for those guests who want the skinny on gay Hollywood.

  • While touring through the eclectic city of Silverlake, Out & About Tours will salute the house high on a hill that hosted the first meeting of the gay movement in America.

  • Out & About Tours prides itself in the fact that their comprehensive and entertaining tour contains more than 100 points of interest.

The tour itself runs on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as every other Friday. It departs from the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum in West Hollywood (which is a treat unto itself). From Out & About Tours, "the tour enlightens, educates and encourages riders to reflect on how history has shaped today’s gay-experience."

Check out this video we made from our trip, at:

Their most recent article:

Their official website:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Win a trip to Montreal!

To learn more and enter the contest, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Even the sunsets are pink in Cape Town!

by Brian Kruger, Cape Info Africa

The sun sets over an azure sea with shades of pink that defy description and can only be captured second best in a picture. As this happens, the Mother City awakens from the afternoon siesta to the sound of crockery clattering around various kitchens, from the most boisterous eateries to the sophisticated clinking of cutlery from any of the most sophisticated world class venues.

And all this is just an hour into your journey. What other delights are there to inspire you, make you fall in love or just while away the hours with a good book on a crisp white sandy beach.

Cape Town is a city of great contrasts from the ragged peaks of the surrounding mountains to the edifice of Table Mountain as it watches over this cosmopolitan playground. But one of the greatest features of the City is its liberal attitude. It’s a melting pot of cultures and makes for a rich diversity of experiences.

In between all this hustle and bustle a thriving gay life is also at hand to tease and titivate even the most jaded tourist. There is always something new around the next corner. From the intimacy of the gay and gay friendly restaurants to the throbbing beats found in an assortment of bars and clubs which are all located within walking distance of each other.

Even for the single traveler this city has much to offer. The locals welcome foreigners with open arms ready to discover and explore other cultures. There is a huge choice of accommodation as well which will suit any tourist. Gay owned and operated guest houses and boutique hotels to the ultimate in 5 star luxury of the Waterfront hotels all are there for the taking thereby catering to all tastes and budgets.

The City also plays host to a number of gay events throughout the year from Gay Pride in February to the annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival which takes place around September each year.

This year another festival has been planned to once again place Cape Town at the forefront of gay tourism in Africa and dare we say the world at large.

The Rainbow Festival will be a 5 day event that begins with a street carnival and massive circuit party to bus tours in the picturesque winelands, a boat cruise and culminates in a beach picnic to end off the festivities. It promises to deliver a world class experience and hopefully will grow into a yearly celebration of gay culture. This year is the 60th anniversary of the release of the Wizard of Oz and has been chosen as the theme for the Festival in honour of this iconic film.

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, a Gay Lifestyle Expo – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – is planned for April 2010. So as you can see it’s not just the Soccer World Cup it’s the golden chalice that awaits you then. This expo will encompass all that makes up for our lifestyles from décor to fashion, cars and everything else in between too.

I have just scraped the tip of the iceberg here, so make that booking now to come and see for yourself! Then you won’t have to gaze at a picture of those famous pink sunsets – you can see it for yourself and take your own pictures that will remind you of the pinkest sunsets you’re ever likely to see.

Monday, October 19, 2009

IGLTA Reception in Buenos Aires

By Roy Heale
Recently many LGBT travelers have discovered the great vacation bargain which Buenos Aires offers in today's difficult economic climate. Many airlines and accommodations have been promoting special tariffs for this holiday season as Spring begins in South America. And Buenos Aires is already recognized as one of the hot new gay vacation meccas where the cost of living is much lower than North American and European prices. It truly is the best place at the moment for lower cost vacations without sacrificing any of those great holiday memories.
Therefore it was very fitting that last Thursday evening, the 15th. October, IGLTA hosted an industry networking gathering at Sky Bar in the Buenos Aires Axel Hotel. The event was open to all IGLTA Members, friends in the tourism industry, and LGBT tourism professionals. Just over fifty attendees experienced one-on-one contact with IGLTA staff and members during the event. Mr Tom Nibbio, the IGLTA Manager of Global Partnership Development, was introduced to all attendees by the IGLTA Ambassador to Argentina, Alfredo Ferreyra. Together they gave a short presentation about the organization and its membership benefits.
Existing members networked with each other plus potential new members were able to ask questions about IGLTA membership criteria,costs and advantages. Many old friends were re-united and some new relationships were forged for the future. It was a very good opportunity for members of the travel industry to discuss their thoughts or concerns about the upcoming high-season for travel in Latin America. There appeared to be great optimism about the upcoming tourism period despite the worldwide economic downturn. Several members felt that Spring was off to a good early start after a slower than usual winter season.
Do your research now and enjoy the great vacation bargains available in Argentina with IGLTA members.
For more travel stories by Roy Heale visit: www.royheale.blogspot.com

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Gay Side of North Carolina

By Aaron Riggins

The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau hosted an IGLTA FAM for about 30 people in September, and it definitely opened my eyes to the area's LGBT-welcoming attitude and overwhelming friendliness. Charming Chapel Hill is the type of place where people seem startled if you don't greet them with a big smile and wave – a bit of culture shock for this D.C. resident!

The city is surprisingly liberal with great quality of life (and an openly gay city council member, too). Down-home Southern cooking took a starring role in our tour, particularly at Crook's Corner where we enjoyed a meal of cold fried chicken, aka "the church picnic." At A Southern Season, we were treated to culinary lessons in a studio worthy of a Food Network show. (They had cameras projecting the chef's moves onto TVs for easier viewing.) Next to the cooking school is A Southern Season's jaw-dropping warehouse of a gourmet market, kind of like a Whole Foods on steroids.

I stayed at The Carolina Inn, which was built in 1924 to provide comfortable accommodations to University of North Carolina alumni and later restored as an elegant hotel. It was like being transported back in time. When cocktail hour beckoned, a group of us went to the Orange County Social Club in neighboring Carrboro. This bohemian town is full of art studios, music venues and coffeehouses and has an equally liberal vibe. In fact, Amanda Ashley, who puts the "T" in LGBT, is running for Carrboro mayor this year.

If you've never thought about North Carolina as a gay destination, it's time to think again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Touring Tasmania With Pride

TasPride Festival - 31 Oct. -Nov. 15 2009

The biggest celebration of 2009 for the GLBTI community in Tasmania will be taking place right across the state for two weeks from Saturday 31 October to Sunday 15 November. This is a great period for revisiting (or trying Tassie for the first time) the great state of Tassie. This year the program will include touring options, sample itineraries and special offers for the GLBTI community visiting their shores.

Don’t miss out on the TasPride parties, including the legendary opening night Halloween Party, the film festival, cultural celebrations, live music, theatre and cabaret, community events, the family day picnic - to name a few!

There are just a handful of IGLTA/GALTA members in Tasmania, but the tiny state knows how to compete for gay tourism dollars downunder. Our staff from RainbowTourism will be attending many of the events, renewing friendships with IGLTA members and prospects.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gay Travel to Curacao

Article and pictures by JJ Keyes

I just got back from a week in Curaçao and had a fabulous time.  “The Curaçao Gay Plasa” is getting ready for their big “Get Wet Weekend” (September 24-27) and I got the low down on the event.  If you’re on the fence, just book a flight and go.  There’s going to be great parties all week and plenty of time to relax on the beach.  Never been to Curaçao?  Neither had I.  I took my boyfriend for a week in the sun and from beaches to adventure excursions to amazing museums and restaurants we found so much more.  Curaçao is just above Venezuela, in the Netherlands Antilles, the “C” in the ABC islands.  I just created a guide for GayCities.com (http://curacao.gaycities.com/) with the full low-down on my findings.  The Curaçao Tourism Board (http://www.curacao.com/) and the Gay Plasa (http://www.gaycuracao.com/) are other great resources when planning your trip.  If you’re planning on “Getting Wet” this September, be sure to book a room at one of the IGLTA member hotels.  I recommend one of the two Kura Hulanda properties.  Chris and I opted for the “best of both worlds” package and we weren’t disappointed.  Stay at the Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino (http://www.kurahulanda.com/kura-hulanda-spa) during the main nights of the party weekend and then head across the island to the Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club (http://www.kurahulanda.com/lodge) for the ultimate vacation. Both properties are charming and luxurious, truly a sampling of two different aspects of what the island offers.  The preserved history at the Spa & Casino is out of this world, you feel like you’re in a unique town within a town, a home base to go out and adventure from.  The Lodge offers all of the luxuries of a world-class resort, incredible diving lessons and opportunities, and the friendliest staff in the Caribbean.

While you’re in Willemstad, I recommend dining at the Gouverneur, Le Blochard, Moon & Scampi’s.  Over at the Lodge, plan on enjoying the Watamula and Christoffel Restaurants for dinner.  For a true taste of Curaçao, head to Jaanchi’s to try a little iguana for lunch.  Trust me, it’s an experience to write home about.  I’m not going to give anything away. 

The best beaches are over there on the west side.  Little Knip is my favorite beach on the island.  During the Get Wet Weekend, you will surely have a great taste of the more popular beaches (Mambo Beach, Jan Thiel, etc…) Once you sober up from the party, make spend some time in the new Kura Hulanda Museum, it will blow your mind.  You must check out the Hato Caves, the Seaquarium (swim with the dolphins!), and Eric’s ATV Adventures (don’t wear white).  If you go on the ATV’s you will make a few stops including the Ostrich Farm and the Aloe Vera Plantation.  Be sure to ask your guide to take you to the caves as well, you won’t regret it!  If you have a little extra time, take a ship to Klein Curaçao where you can spend the day on a completely untouched beach. 

We really loved Curaçao and I hope to get back for the Get Wet Weekend.  A week is just the right amount of time to spend on the island.  Make it your next vacation!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Finding Gay Peru

Peru started growing on me before I even boarded the plane.  The cute Peruvian check-in agent sensed that we were "family" and went out of his way to share his favourite spots in Lima with us:  Cafe Cafe just off the main square is his favourite place to people watch, while Cafe Haiti offers an unobstructed view of the main traffic circle in Lima's posh Miraflores neighbourhood.
Arriving in Lima we met our group of nine; four Americans, three Canadians, a Brit and a Peruvian (our gay local leader, Sebastian). The benefit of travelling with a gay leader is that we not only tour the fabulous areas of Lima but also have an insider to show us the gay hotspots such as Lola Lounge (various theme nights for Lesbians and Gays) and Downtown Club (formerly known as Valetoto) where all the locals go to shake their thang, often until after 4am!
Adios Lima and on to the city of Cusco, known for its cobblestone streets and original Inca construction.  This stunning city is also a haven for adventurers and luxury travellers alike.  At approximately 3300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level, Cusco serves as a main hub for trekking trips and tours to the famed Machu Picchu.  The history of Cusco is an interesting one. Once the capital of the Incan Empire it was conquered by the Spaniards beginning in 1533.  However, demolition proved impossible for the Spanish, leading them to construct a new city on the very foundation of the Inca ruins. 
Modern-day Cusco has something for everyone.  From quaint cafes and hidden plazas to great restaurants such as Baco (Ruinas 465, Cusco) specializing in wine and modern Peruvian cuisine and the well-known Fallen Angel (Plazoleta Nazarenas 221, Cusco). This gay owned and operated resto-lounge features modern art and decor including glass tables supported by bathtubs filled with goldfish.  The wait staff aren't too hard on the eyes either!
After exploring Cusco, it's on to the Lares Valley where we start a challenging 3 day trek through the Andes.  Early on day one we are joined by a mountain dog who we think has wandered from home.  We nickname him Pumpkin and he follows us along the entire trek, only adding to the comradery.
Our journey peaks at 4,400 meters (14,500 feet)  above sea level on day two of the trek.  The views are spectacular, the sense of accomplishment huge.  Our local guide David (not gay but VERY welcoming) has us participate in a ritual to pay tribute to the Andean gods. Followed by group hugs, this is a "heart to heart" as David says, and for myself a silent moment to reflect - and tear up a bit.
Most travellers only know of the Inca Trail, but the Lares Trek offers a different perspective of this wonderful country.  On the less-touristy Lares Trek, hikers are given the opportunity to see how the Quechua people of the countryside live - which is in many ways no different from hundreds of years ago!  They survive on the land, live in homes built of stone or mud and even wear somewhat traditional attire.  Children often greeted our group looking for an apple or a pencil (outside of school hours) which we are recommended to carry along the trek.  This is a truly unique opportunity that hikers on the more crowded Inca Trail do not experience.  Simply amazing.
We camp under the stars, and stars there certainly are. I stretched out on a large boulder by the river one night with a fellow traveller to reflect and discuss the trip thus far.  Within a half hour we spotted five shooting stars - one so bright that it lit the sky, enabling us to see the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains.  After making our wishes (I'm a bit superstitious), we bundle up and hunker down in our tents for the cold night.
Our Lares journey should have come to an end mid-morning on day 3, but a peaceful local farmers strike blocked some nearby roads, forcing us to trek along a highway for a few additional hours. All part of the adventure, this ended up becoming a highlight of the trek with Pumpkin (our fearless canine friend) defending the group by chasing passing motorcycles along the way.
We eventually made it to Aguas Callientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu where we boarded a bus to take us along the winding 25 minute ride to our final and ultimate destination - Machu Picchu, or "Old Peak".  This is what we came for.  This is it.  There is but one cloud in the sky, smiles are contagious and cameras start flashing.  Everyone has their ASKMEOUT shirts on, courtesy of OUT Adventures and there is an electric buzz in the air.  Pictures just don't do justice to this magical place.  Once home to an estimated 500 Incans, Machu Picchu took over 100 years to build - and was not even complete when it was abandoned.  Like much of this region the grounds today are still maintained by Alpaca, an animal that resembles a small llama.  After fully exploring the citadel, we have the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu, or "Young Peak", for an almost aerial view of the sacred site below. 
Back to Cusco with smiles on our faces, still in awe of the 9 days just behind us.  A great group of travellers, a dynamic country, mouth-watering food, famous sights and most importantly the opportunity to  make friends and experience a new culture.  What more could a gay traveller ask for?
For gay Peru tours, OUT Adventures is a Canadian based operator with both trekking and touring options (www.out-adventures.com) and for mainstream tours visit Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com).
Robert Sharp is a responsible travel advocate and Co-Founder of OUT Adventures, a Canadian based gay tour operator.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New York & London Sign Tourism Agreement

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Mayor Boris Johnson of London signed a tourism agreement to boost travel between New York City and London on September 15 at Columbia University in Manhattan. The cities will provide each other with outdoor media advertising space, and NYC & Company and Visit London – their respective tourism arms – will share best practices as a way to maximize travel between the two destinations and will assist each other with a publicity event in each City.

PHOTO CREDIT: Julienne Schaer for NYC & Company

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nightlife in Stockholm: Patricia

Who would have thought that one of the most fun gay nightlife experiences in Stockholm would be called Patricia!? Patricia, one of the oldest gay clubs in the world, is situated on a multi-level boat nearby Slussen and is the place to be on Sundays both winter and summer. There are several bars, dance floors, a restaurant and a casino on board this former English ship, with one of the dance floors outdoors on the open deck.

Among the different scenes were a small hip-hop bar and a large dance floor and light show featuring house and techno. But my favorite was the upstairs lounge which played Swedish pop and disco favorites of the last 30 years. It was packed with gay people of all kinds singing along to their Swedish favorites. If you've ever wanted to hear all the Swedish contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest, this is the place for you! And if you have an impression of the Swedes as entirely a dour and serious folk, spending some time on the Patricia will certainly expand your understanding.

It's like a gay-themed episode of "Love Boat" and is THE place where Sweden's biggest gay icons perform and party with their fans, including Abba and Ace of Base. Every Sunday night the hostess Babsan is entertaing; joking with the crowd and maybe singing one of her infamous hits. On special nights, Patricia also has theme parties such as Pirates, Christmas in July and a Foam Party. The food is great if you decide to dine, and the staff is really cute and friendly.

So come on down, party like a real Swede on the dance floor and come up for air to mingle and meet the handsome boys on both sides of the boat. Be sure to take your disco nap so you can climb up to the roof and watch the sun rise with all of your new friends, as you'll be dancing all night long until closing at 5 a.m, while watching the summer sun rise over Stockholm. Just remember...even though the sun has risen the night is still young.

Stadsgårdskajen 152, Stockholm

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stay in touch while traveling

From IGLTA Member Earhart Adventures

Time zones alone can make keeping in contact challenging, so what is the best way to stay in touch while traveling internationally?

Most US carriers offer an international calling plan that provides you with a discounted rate for incoming, outgoing calls and text messaging. For example, ATT's international calling plans costs @ US$5.99/mth which would reduce a call from Argentina to the US from $2.29 to $1.99 a minute. Frankly there are better deals... read on...

You can rent a mobile (cell) phone that has a local phone number for the country you are visiting. If you are visiting multiple countries, or traveling there often, this may not be a good option (as you may want a more permanent phone number). Also signing a contract in a foreign language is not recommended! HOWEVER, there are companies where you can rent or buy the phones and plan in advance of your travels, and receive your phone prior to your departure. This is a good option... check out Telestial.

Companies like Skype.com allow you to make and receive phone calls and text message via the internet (technically called voice over internet protocol or VOIP).
If you have internet access and are going away for a long time or travel frequently, a service like Skype may be the most cost effective, and offers continual service with the same phone number...

Click here for the rest of the article.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Time in London – Part Four: Pride & Goodbye

It took me a few days to finish this posting because I honestly wasn't sure how to sum up pride in London. I know there are tons of pride events all over the world and each city boasts their own claim to fame. Some cities have the biggest, some have the hottest guys, some party hard and others are very political. London pride was a little bit of it all. I imagine if you live in London you would argue that it's nothing special or that it's the center of the world - but I would argue that both claims are false. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

I woke in the morning very much in the mood for pride. The whole city was buzzing with it, even as far out as the suburbs, from what I was told. Bus and tube stations being out of service didn't stop the tight-clothes-wearing community to grab some cans of beer and trek into Soho any which way they could. It felt as if the entire gay community in the UK had crammed themselves into the small gay area of the city.

Before we experienced this mayhem we decided to head down to Trafalgar Square to watch the Pride Parade. Loving that European Nations let you drink outside, we grabbed some beer, found us a cozy spot and watched the parade of thump-thumping double-decker buses and nightclubs advertising the parties of that evening. It was superb, tons of fun, full of the usual "interesting" people that you're used to seeing in such environments.

After a few text messages from new friends and a quick view of a couple stages, we decided to head up to Soho via lunch and meet up with Tommy. (This weekend happened to also be Wimbledon and Tommy had to park himself somewhere to see which Williams sister would win.) I have never felt more of a sense of community than I did at London pride in Soho. It was a crazy, diverse crowd from one of the world's largest cities packed into a very small area. There was your typical dance area, bar specials, drag queens - the works - but it just felt more alive, more real. I guess that was the number one take away I had of London - everything just seemed real and alive. It was amazing.

We moseyed on around, met up with some people we had met during the week, asked which party was the best to go to, etc. Again, the Londoners were showing that they definitely knew how to throw a good party, and there was debauchery everywhere. Alcohol was flowing properly, dancing was happening and the festivities were just exploding all around us. It was amazing, just amazing.

Dinner consisted of some Indian food (when in Rome...or Mumbai or London) that was amazing. After polling as many people as possible it seemed the best course of action was to either see Lady Gaga at G-A-Y at Heaven, or go to Supermartxé London for the ultimate Ibiza/Miami type club experience. As much as we all love us some Lady Gaga (she's amazing), we opted for the crazy club scene. It was Pride in London, after all. So we went down to South London to this dance club that reminded me of Space in my hometown of Miami. It was huge and full of buff, muscle guys who danced until the wee hours of the morning to house and trance music. It was tons of fun and hard to not get caught up in the atmosphere, and we all found ourselves dancing all night long!

In the morning, Tommy and Trenard left on a train going to Paris for a few days. I bid them farewell and had an absolutely perfect last day in London. The weather turned cool the last day I was there so it was almost autumn-like. There were some sites I hadn't seen and some things a good tourist would have done to tick it off his list, but I needed to just soak in as much as possible. I walked lesiurely to Covenant Garden and had a sandwich, bought my father a present. Then I found an intersection near Box Bar with a statue and people just sitting out and talking. I sat there for what must have been a good hour, drinking some coffee, reading, people watching and just letting London happen around me.

The city was amazing, brilliant and perfect. This was because it wasn't perfect - it was completely organic, something that you just found yourself in the middle of and so excited that you were. It's so alive, so vibrant full of people from all walks of life and the urge to be a part of it is overwhelming. One of my best friends vows that one day he'll live in London and another person close to me tells me he's moving there "within the year" every time he goes. I can understand why - this vibrant, alive pulse that London gives off is infectious. It seriously leaves you feeling different and wanting so badly to be a part of it. I'm not sure if I will jump on the bandwagon and say that I'll be living in London one day, but the thought captures my spirit and I definitely know I will be going back whenever possible.

First Time in London – Part Three: Friends, New and Old

Tommy and Trenard arrived towards the end of the week, in time for pride. The year past, Tommy and I had traveled to Stockholm together for EuroPride and had a fantastic time. We were all excited to not only experience London Pride – but experience London. It was the first time any of us had been in the city. Upon their arrival they needed a nap after that long journey across the Atlantic, and then we were set to do some touristy sight-seeing – some of the stuff I hadn’t done already.

When I used to live in Washington, I was a tour guide. It was a fitting, wonderful job – and it’s something I feel like I do well, even now. When visitors come to Florida I show them around as if I personally built up the city and make commission on whenever somebody likes it. I showed off London with the same excitement – showing them the streets, areas and sights I had stumbled across the first few days there. I also recited every little tidbit of information that anybody spat at me. By the end of the first day there, both Tommy and Trenard felt like I had been to London many times before and knew exactly where everything was.

The first thing we did was take a walk down to the Thames through Tafalgar Square and hit up the London Eye. It’s a tad over-priced, but it seems like a necessary thing to do on a first-trip to London, and we were right. It was exciting to spend a little bit of time in that slowly revolving orb, taking in as much of London as we could. The only complaint is at the top of the wheel, when the car shifts to the other side, we all got a little nauseous.

I had scored myself a theater ticket that night and Tommy and Trenard had opted out. They weren’t as excited by the theater as I was. I had heard wonderful things about Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – fresh from a run in Sydney based on the hit movie. I got a seat and wasn’t really sure what to expect. The show was absolutely fabulous (is there any other way to describe such a thing?) and I had such a great time. The theater was nothing but LGBT people, I figured it was because the show itself is so campy and gay, but I was told later it was because of a special pride-showing. I highly recommend it, the story is great, the music fun and the dancing can’t help but get you moving in your seat.

The rest of the day was full of some more exploring, a nap and some catching up. As dusk started to settle around us we had to try and figure out where to go party. My friend Landon – an avid fan of London – swore that one of the best nights he ever had was at a party called “Porn Idol” held at Heaven. I had heard of Heaven many times before from many people, so I figured this would be a good place to start. We had a fantastic time drinking, dancing, watching twink-ish boys take their clothes off in hopes for a porn contract. We even made some friends from all around including Los Angeles. We were incredibly fortunate to be staying in the midst of the West End and every sort of club, so the walk home wasn’t bad and definitely involved a quick binge at McDonald’s.

The next day we were itching for some Pride festivities. The main event we knew was Saturday, but the city’s alive vibe was starting to buzz even more ferociously, it was a Friday in July after all, and London was experiencing some of the best weather all year we were told. The day just enabled us to explore a little more. We really wanted to see different areas of London so we decided to go down to Vauxhall – an area we were told was also pretty gay like Soho. The area was rather residential and even though we saw tons of bars and clubs, they were pretty empty during the day. Still – the whole thing wasn’t a bust and we did have a great drink in a bar under some railroad tracks to escape the heat. We took a disco nap and then got excited to explore some more nightlife. Before it got too dark we hit up Old Compton Street and made some new friends at Comptons. The place was festive for the Friday crowd and we couldn’t help get caught up in it. We strolled over to G-A-Y bar, taking in the sights, and met up with a friend of mine there who was crazy busy working for Pride. I was connected with somebody in London via a friend and we met him out at the Box Bar which was absolutely packed to the brim with insanely hot guys. I felt very mediocre here, but the people we met and talked to were incredibly nice and we had a lot of fun.

That night we walked with our new friends through Soho to go to Lo-Profile, a dance club that exists down a long hallway and down some stairs. This place was so much fun; we danced the night away among some really cool people. The vibe in this club was that of people who know how to party. It was laid back yet intense, one of those places where you feel like you can just dance and have fun with friends or really go crazy with some new friends.

After many a red bull and vodka drinks, the night lasted for a very long time. I won’t bore you with details, but we all had a very good night. We went to bed a little drunk and a lot excited for the next day, what we were sure was going to be hardcore insanity. Up to this point London was a city teeming with excitement and partying and life. We couldn’t begin to fathom what Pride would actually be like and we couldn’t wait to find out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

First Time in London – Part Two: Getting Acquainted

The beginning of the trip was the quintessential travel beginning - one you hope for whenever you travel. After the first 24 hours I began to get into the groove of the city and it started to become a part of me as most vibrant cities do. My friends were coming in Thursday for the festivities, so I had a few days to explore by myself and see what was out there. I allowed myself to be a tad more touristy than I usually allow to go sightseeing and whatnot.

I am a huge fan of modern art, so the first stop on my list was the Tate Modern. A very interesting architectural building on the Thames, I was almost giddy walking into the incredibly dramatic building. The exhibits were great - some better than others - but a couple really stuck with me. There was a room full of Soviet propaganda posters that created an image of Lenin and Stalin as gods. It was alluring - some of the best political propaganda. Then there was an instalment of different artists depicting the escape of a Japanese anime star from her animated world and corporate creators. Very cool.

The day I did all this was absolutely beautiful. The weather was warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I equally wanted to lie in a square and people watch and explore every inch of London. I walked tons that day. I do this thing involuntarily where I sing showtunes if I am in a place a musical takes place. (I know, how gay is that? I annoyed my boyfriend-at-the-time living in Paris and belting out Les Mis always.) So I found myself in front of St. Paul's singing "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins and then walking down Fleet Street looking for the demon barber and loving Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Naturally this type of behavior puts me into a great mood and I stumbled into a Chipotle-like place and had a lovely burrito.

When I could walk no more and my peeps back home were waking up I went back to the hotel to do some work. I had a friend of mine then meet me and show me some more of London (he lives in NY but travels to London often.) We walked all over Soho and my were the boys out even though it was a weekday afternoon. We actually were walking and I heard somebody yell my name - so I turn around to see a coworker of mine and a colleague! It's a crazy small world so we had a drink with them and chatted.

The evenings those first few nights were incredibly fun. Bar hopping to G-A-Y, Ku and other bars I can't remember their names. I never felt more American - from "Hi" I got that look and then the inevitable, "Oh! You're American!" Smiling and saying yes would then open up endless dialogue from how great New York and Miami are to our lack of universal healthcare and gay marriage.

I will use this opportunity to describe the type of people I came into contact with at these instances. I have heard many stereotypes about British people and I have to say - like all stereotypes - you can see where they came from but obviously barely fit across the board. Londoners that I met were incredibly social, great conversationalists and you could feel their thirst for life that the city oozes. At the same time nothing is sugar coated and debates seem to be friendly ways to engage each other. Being an honorary New Yorker, I loved this. It added to the life of the city and I felt myself enjoying everybody I was meeting. I must say I've met a few Londoners in my travels and was less than impressed, but those few bad apples - it was nice to see - were not the norm.

So I spent the week working, exploring the city and letting it become a part of me. It was fantastic. I was ready for Tommy and Trenard to come and show them what I've learned and get ready for pride. The weekend hadn't even started yet...