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.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Cosy or grand at La Gaichel

by Daniel Drolet from The Windsor Star

We had booked the hotel over the Internet, sight unseen, so we were not really sure what to expect. To be honest, one of our main considerations when we made the reservation was that the hotel have free parking, as we were on a driving holiday in Europe.

Judging from its website, the Auberge-Brasserie La Gaichel seemed to fit the bill. Three stars, not TOO expensive (nothing in Europe is cheap), a restaurant and easy access to the rest of the country.

But as we sat on the inn's outdoor terrace one warm night last summer, slowly eating our way through a delicious table d'hote menu under a leafy canopy on the edge of a quiet forest, we knew we had found a gem. And we regretted that we had not booked a longer stay at what turned out to be a friendly, comfortable and very charming little inn.

We were in Luxembourg on a lark. My partner and I are fascinated by those tiny European countries, but we'd never been to any of them. So we decided that we would make an overnight stop in Luxembourg just for the fun of it as we made our way by car, along with two friends, from Paris to the Alsace.

We knew La Gaichel was in Luxembourg, but as it sits outside the town of Eischen, we were never sure precisely where the hotel was located. Actually, La Gaichel is two hotels, one right next to the other.

We were staying in the lower-priced Auberge, a 17-room inn with a brasserie-style restaurant where rooms are to be had for 75 to 125 euros a night, breakfast included. (That's about $110 to $190 Canadian.) A table d'hote meal at the brasserie, where the menu focuses on seasonal local foods, is 29 euros, or about $45.

Our rooms, done in a relaxed country style, were just right for our needs -- a bit compact, perhaps, but clean and comfortable. The only down note was the bathrooms, which had all the necessary amenities, but were so small as to be cramped. But the brasserie and common areas were spacious and welcoming and we spent very little time in the room as we were eager to explore the country, which is pretty and which you can cross in 30 minutes by car.

Right next door to the inn, and painted in the same smoky pink colour, is a more grand version of La Gaichel, a four-star Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant where room prices range from 165 to 250 euros ($250 to $375) and where the dining is much more refined (and much more expensive).

Michel and Claudine Gaul run the hotel and the inn. The hotel has been in Claudine Gaul's family since 1852, handed down from mother to daughter over the generations. The inn was, until recently, their next-door competitor. The GaMichel Gaul said most of their guests are people from nearby Belgium, with a good mix of Dutch, French and Germans thrown in. During the week, the hotel gets a lot of business people -- La Gaichel, despite its rural setting, is only 25 minutes from downtown Luxembourg City -- but the weekend clientele comes for golf, relaxation and food.

Actually that golf course, which is literally right next door, has an unusual aspect: it's one of only a handful of cross-border golf courses in the world.

"Seven of the holes are in Luxembourg," he explained, "and two are in Belgium. On two holes, you drive from one country and putt in the other!"

We knew we'd find unusual things in a tiny country.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

LAGLCC-IGLTA-GayTravelocity Reception @ Custom Hotel

We had a wonderful evening reception at the Custom Hotel in LA, hosted by an incredible staff. Over 75 people were in attendance for our first event bringing members together from LAGLCC (www.laglcc.org) and IGLTA (www.iglta.org) and sponsored by GayTravelocity.com

A few words about the Custom Hotel... it's a gorgeous boutique hotel located very near LAX.  Every other Wednesday night is Crush, their local gay night they promote to the GLBT community living on the westside of LA.

Monday, April 13, 2009

NYC Launches New Gay Marketing Campaign

I recently had the privilege of meeting with New York City's tourism marketing arm, NYC & Company where they let me know about the city's new and first-ever integrated marketing campaign aimed at bringing GLBT travel to the city. Titled "The Rainbow Pilgrimage" the campaign comes this year, during the 40th anniversary of the gay rights movement as started by the Stonewall Riots in 1969 in New York. The creative for the ad is remarkable and the campaign is scheduled to highlight the vibrancy of New York and all this amazing city has to offer.

“New York City is an iconic destination for the gay and lesbian visitor,” said George Fertitta, CEO of NYC & Company. “We are eager to invite and welcome even more gay travelers to visit New York City in 2009 not only to celebrate the historical significance of the Stonewall Riots anniversary, but also to take in all the energy, beauty and vibrancy our great City has to offer.”

To see the campaign's web arm, make sure to visit nycgo.com/gay and definitely make the Rainbow Pilgrimage to New York City this year to celebrate gay pride!

Friday, April 10, 2009

IGLTA Symposium - Florianopolis, Brazil

We recently had another fantastic IGLTA Symposium in Florianopolis this past week, March 26th - 28th, 2009.  As you can see from the photos, we had a wide variety of attendees (see list below) and we were well taken care of by Clovis Casemiro and locally by Joceli and Martin Desmaras.

Florianopolis is like a mini-Rio... a local summer playground for folks coming in from Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires.  Officially, it's a
n island connected to the mainland by two bridges.  Gay life there is quite vibrant during this tourist season, with a variety of gay bars and clubs, one of the largest gay Carnival celebrations in the country, and a very cool gay beach at Praia Mole.

I arrived midweek after an incredible overnight flight on TAM Airlines from Miami through to Sao Paolo.  Their business class service was over the top and the way the shell seats reclined, I got a good night's rest on the flight down.

We began our tour on the south side of the island, hiking across a mountain trail (and yes, a big black snake did cross our path... how exciting!) and ending at a remote and beautiful beach tucked away amongst the hills.  We then took a boat to a remote restaurant in Porto do Contrato and had some fantastic seafood and oysters on the half-shell.

We continued the next day, investigating more of the island and then spending some quality time on the gay beach at Praia Mole.  I'm told that during the summer, this beach is packed... off season, it's a very pleasant spot with some hot gay men lounging in the sun and enjoying food and drink from the local beachside restaurant.

The weekend ended with a complete change of pace with a gay travel trade show and a subsequent conference about the state of the GLBT marketplace in southern Brazil as it relates to tourism.  Both the trade show and the conference were well attended, with presentations given in both Portuguese and Spanish to over 100 attendees.

It was another fantastic trip, and it has again highlighted a destination in the world that should be high on anybody's list to return to again.

Link to photos:

'Antiquing' in Montreal

by Daniel Drolet in the Montreal Gazette

What did you do? I went antiquing in Montreal.

What's so special about that? Well, um, most of the antiques I was looking at weren't very old. They're from the 1960s and 1970s, in large part. If you grew up in a house with avocado-coloured kitchen appliances, burnt orange shag rugs and teak furniture, you'll know what I'm talking about.

And there's a place where you can find this kind of stuff? A whole district actually, in one section of Amherst Street, several blocks long, where a series of shops sell such items as chrome lamps, vintage beanbag chairs, eye-popping fabrics from the psychedelic era and "electronics," mostly a lot of old phones, hi-fi sets and televisions that look like astronauts' helmets. Things that people used to think looked futuristic.

And people buy this stuff? Of course. It's very trendy. "People come from all over," says Andre Demondo, co-owner of Cite Deco, at 1761 Amherst. "This kind of stuff is very cool right now. Scandinavian style furniture, with its simple lines, is a good fit for a lot of lofts." Jean-Guy Cyr of Jack's, at 1860 Amherst, says it started off with collectors, but the look now attracts a lot of young people just starting out. He says it also attracts people into the environment because after all, antiques are recycled material!

Where is Amherst Street, exactly? It's a north-south street that cuts Ste-Catherine, the city's main shopping artery, a few blocks east of St-Denis in Montreal's gay village near the Beaudry Metro stop.

And where are the shops? For the most part they are up and down Amherst between Ste-Catherine and Ontario.

I thought Montreal's antique district was elsewhere. Montreal actually has several antiquing districts. Perhaps the best known is Notre-Dame Street down near the Atwater Market. That's where you find a lot of the much older stuff. The Amherst area is fairly new. It's where you find things like Salton bun warmers.

Excuse me, but what's a Salton bun warmer? It was a hostess's must-have electrical gadget in the late '60s and early '70s -- back when rolls were called buns and before people worried about cutting carbohydrates. It's basically a rectangular box with a cloth cover. You put buns in it, plug it in, and it keeps the buns warm through your buffet dinner party.

And these were popular? Apparently. Check them out on eBay if you don't believe me.

Are all the stores on Amherst Street stuck in the psychedelic '70s? No. Cite Deco has stuff going back to the 1930s. Karactere, at 1701 Amherst, is a gift shop with new or retro looking items with no antiques at all. Le 1863 at 1863 Amherst specializes in old toys as well as items from the 1950s through to the 1970s. And Jack's is starting to have retro stuff from the 1980s. So it's an interesting mix. It's basically a good street for offbeat home decor items, new or old, both furniture and accessories.

Has this area been a centre for antiques for a long time? Andre Demondo of Cite Deco says he was one of the first: He set up shop here about 15 years ago. But he says that in the past five years, the area has really come into its own as an area for "newer" antiques. Jean-Guy Cyr, who started up Jack's about 10 years ago, says stores do come and go, but overall there's a critical mass in the area. Yann Bris of Karactere says even though he sells no antiques, he chose to establish himself on Amherst because it is drawing people seeking trendy retro stuff and interesting design. He says the city of Montreal has recognized the street's potential and plans to give Amherst a facelift later this year with wider sidewalks to make it more attractive.

What if I don't want antiques or even newer ones? Actually, it's fun just to walk through the stores and delight in the visual experience. You feel like you are in a time warp. And with good reason: Jack's, which restores a lot of furniture, does a booming business renting out vintage furniture to people making movies, TV shows or commercials set in the 1960s and '70s.

So, what did you end up buying on your antiquing expedition? Nothing, actually.

What! Not even a Salton bun warmer? Um, I have one already, actually.

You do? Well, uh, I grew up in a house with teak furniture and avocado-coloured appliances and purple shag carpets and a wood-panelled rec room.

And a Salton bun warmer? Yes, and a Salton bun warmer. My mom didn't want it anymore and she gave it to me. I spent my time on Amherst Street checking out the prices of bun warmers in the various antique shops. I wanted to see whether mine was worth a lot of money, you know, like an Antiques Roadshow find.

And is it? Nope. I think an awful lot of people must have bought Salton bun warmers in the 1970s. The darn things aren't rare at all.

So you're stuck with it? I guess so.