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.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Morocco offers a surreal mix of old and new

by Daniel Drolet in The Vancouver Sun

FEZ, Morocco - In alleyways barely as wide as my outstretched arms, the city's bustle pushes past me in waves -- giggling schoolchildren chasing each other, veiled women on their way to market, wizened old men in traditional djellabas walking hand-in-hand, Moroccan style, and chatting.

Every minute or two, weary donkeys laden with cargo trot past, their masters yelling "Balik! Balik!" as a warning to get out of the way. I sometimes have to push myself flat against the walls of the houses to let them pass.

Thin shades pulled overtop of these labyrinthine alleyways keep out most of the sharp North African sun and create a dark, dappled place where the scent of orange blossoms mingles with the acrid smell of ammonia. Somewhere nearby, in a cubbyhole off the street, there is a schoolroom, and I can hear the angelic voices of children chanting their lessons. The sound of it is as sweet as honey.

For a moment I am disoriented, unsure not only of where I am, but also -- more strangely -- of when I am. Is this the 21st century?

A man talking on a cellphone walks past. I am not in the 13th century after all. I am in the medina of Fez, the ancient capital of Morocco. And Fez, like all of Morocco, is a strange mix of new and old, modern and traditional, cellphones and donkeys.

It's a mix the Moroccan government wants more Canadians to see. About 32,000 of us visited the country last year, says Abdelghani Ragala, Canadian director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office in Montreal. From Canada, the road to Morocco usually starts in Montreal. Royal Air Maroc offers direct flights from Montreal to Casablanca -- the only direct Canadian air connection to Africa. (There are also excellent connections through Paris.)

As my plane lands at Casablanca's Mohammed V Airport, I am struck that from the air, Morocco looks like Alberta: wide, fertile plains framed in the distance by the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas mountains. That Albertan impression remains as I travel the north of the country.

There are ski resorts in the High Atlas, and cool cedar forests with alpine architecture in the Middle Atlas, and broad plains elsewhere. The expressway between Fez and Rabat, the capital, is as modern as any Canadian highway.

Morocco is a California-sized country with a population equal to that of Canada. But unlike Canada, about half the population is rural. And most of the people are concentrated in the fertile area north of the High Atlas.

Northern Morocco is green and bountiful: In the markets I see strawberries lusher than any I had ever seen, along with oranges, artichokes and green peas in their pods, every manner of fresh herb, beans and grains, dates and apricots, nuts and figs, and mounds of spices.

Morocco's peoples are a mix of Arab and Berber, with black Africans in the south and smatterings of Jews and Christians. But it is an overwhelmingly Muslim and many mornings I woke up to the sound of the muezzin calling the faithful to early prayer.

But if the country looks like Alberta, it sounds like Quebec: French is universally used as a second language after Arabic, and virtually all signs are in both Arabic and French. The French connection dates from France's protectorate over Morocco from 1912 to 1956 and it remains strong.

For anyone visiting Morocco, there are three main attractions: the Sahara Desert in the south, the beaches near Agadir on the Atlantic, and the great cities of the north -- the imperial cities, as they are called here.

I was on a week-long tour of the imperial cities that took me to Marrakech, Fez, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca. It was a circle tour of more than 1,500 kilometres, done in a group, with a guide and organized through a Montreal-based company. A number of tour companies offer similar visits. While it certainly is possible to travel on one's own, I would never in a million years have been able to find my way around the medinas -- the old Muslim quarters -- without a guide. The medinas are daunting mazes -- and the most fascinating things I saw.

The medina of Fez is the most amazing of all. Now a World Heritage Site, it is 1,200 years old and feels it. The buildings are too tightly packed for motorized transport. You visit on foot, and commerce moves on the backs of donkeys.

The most amazing of all the craft shops of Fez is the city's tannery. After being given branches of mint to wave under our noses for the smell, we are led up a narrow set of stairs to a shop full of leather goods. At the back of the shop is a balcony, and from the balcony is the most amazing sight.

At our feet, two storeys below, is a large open space filled with what look like dozens of over-sized children's paint pots. Each pot is filled with a liquid, and barelegged men stomp on hides in the liquids as if they are stomping on grapes. Some liquids are coloured, to dye the hides. Others are white. These, we are told, are filled with pigeon droppings. The ammonia from the droppings gets the hair off the hides. It also contributes largely to the smells wafting up.

On nearby roofs, other men spread the newly tanned leathers to dry. The sight is truly from another century.

As we leave the balcony, we pass back through the shop where all manner of leather goods are being sold. Would we like to buy something?

Moroccans are a commercial people, always intent, it seems, on selling, selling, selling. And at each craft shop we visit, we are urged to buy, buy, buy.

It is all part of the experience, but it is not always pleasant. That's because shopping is different in Morocco than Canada. With few exceptions, nothing wears a price tag. Every purchase is negotiated -- often at length. If you so much as glance at goods in a shop, you may be approached and asked to come in. In some cases, I was grabbed by the arm in the street and literally dragged toward a shop.

If you want the crafts without the hassle, most major cities have what is called an Ensemble Artisanal -- an "official" crafts store -- where the approach is more North American. And if you find the medinas too disorienting, most cities also have a European quarter with wide, car-filled streets and sidewalk cafes and tearooms selling a delightful assortment of pastries.

We ended our trip in fabled Marrakech, where all the buildings old and new are in the city's trademark ochre colour.

At day's end, we made our way to Jemaa el Fna Square, the heart of the city.

Imagine a market run by the Cirque du Soleil and you will begin to get an idea of Jemaa el Fna: Snake charmers, fortune tellers, monkeys and musicians share space with row upon row of open-air kiosks selling every kind of food imaginable, from boiled snails to roast lamb. And people! Everywhere, a crush of humanity, sightseers and locals, mixing in a roiling, jostling melange.

IF YOU GO

- Getting there: I flew Royal Air Maroc, which has regularly scheduled non-stop flights from Montreal to Casablanca several times a week. The flight lasts about 71/2 hours. For information, visit www.royalairmaroc.com/ or see a travel agent.

- Finding a tour: Call the Moroccan tourist office in Montreal at 514- 842-8112 or visit a travel agency. Expect a basic two-week tour -- one week in the imperial cities and the other on the beach -- to cost between $2,000 and $2,500 per person, which includes your flight and most meals.

But tour costs vary tremendously depending on what you do, when you go and what kind of accommodation you want.

- Money: The dirham, Morocco's currency, is not internationally traded so you can't change money here before you go. The easiest thing to do is use ATMs, of which there are plenty. Or you can change Canadian cash or travellers' cheques at banks and many hotels.

- Weather: Hot and dry, particularly in the summer. But it can also be cooler than you'd think, so bring something warm. And there is rain in winter.

- Dress: In the imperial cities, you will see people wearing a mix of western and traditional garb. Shorts are generally acceptable in tourist areas, but remember that this is a Muslim country.

- Accommodation: Major cities have European-style hotels. But if you want something more authentic look for a riad, a small hotel usually established in an old, renovated house.

- Language: Arabic is the official language, and French is widely used. English is common in major tourist areas.

- More: Consult the multilingual government website http://tourismmorocco.ca/ or call the Moroccan National Tourist Office in Montreal at 514-842-8112.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IGLTA Convention in Toronto - May 2009 - Take 3

Ah, the convention is now in full swing... everyone has reconnected and yet the schmoozing and networking never seems to stop! On Friday, everyone is hustling and bustling along, starting with the opening breakfast where David Whitaker of Tourism Toronto welcomes us all to Toronto. The day is then a mix of various workshops and a great lunch sponsored by Air Canada.

The real highlight of Friday is yet to come... the consumer travel trade show held in the gay village at Maple Leaf Gardens. Although the lighting was dim, the event was a complete success. Various IGLTA members were able to exhibit their companies to both the other IGLTA members attending the convention as well as the hundreds of gay travel consumers to marched through the aisles. Along with a Brazilian Samba performance that blew everyone away with some very HOT dancers and performers (OK, the drumming did last a bit long... my ears are still recovering), the night was a complete success. This was the night most of the attendees headed straight over from the travel trade show into the gay village... and our own John Tanzella even blessed us all with a drag performance at Zelda's that was of course caught on cell phone video and broadcast for all to see the next morning. You go, John!

On a personal note, I had a great evening, albeit mellow (since we did have so much fun celebrating my birthday the night before). I thought I'd get a nice quiet bite to eat at this really great Indian food restaurant located just outside the Conxity.com office, and as I'm relaxing and chatting with Richard, along comes Jeff Marsh from Orbitz.com and then Tom and Dave from Community Marketing. It was one of the wonderful, unplanned evenings that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Saturday the Media Trade Show breakfast began... it's always cute to watch our IGLTA Convention attendees roll in for that Saturday morning breakfast one by one... you can always tell who went out, who stayed in and who went crazy by the way they stroll in. The breakfast was a success, however, and it allowed the various media companies in attendance to mix nicely with the attendees and "talk shop" for just a little while.

Of course, as with all IGLTA Conventions, it was the anticipation of the upcoming Gala Dinner that had everyone buzzing. And this evening was not one to disappoint. I had the opportunity to sit at a table with my dear friend Kelsey Bray of Earhart Adventures, along with the Air Canada folks who had sponsored so many functions during this event. The evening went without a hitch, with the ProudFM local personality Deb MCing the night. The new board was introduced, with Mya Lake Reyes from Las Vegas CVA and Tanya Churchmuch of Tourism Montreal / GirlPorts.com becoming our newest board members, and Steve Smith from Key West winning a board of directors comeback! For the IGLTA awards presented for best website and best brochure, our friends from OutAdventures.com took 2 out of the 3 awards presented that night - the third one going to American Airlines for best print ad, and Clovis Casemiro of Brazil was awarded the Ambassador of the Year award. Especially thrilling was our past board Chairman, Andrew Stokes of Marketing Manchester receiving the Hall of Fame Award, and Juan Julia of Axel Hotels receiving the Chairman's Awards.

What was really fun was the dance set up just outside of the dinner, along with a full Belgian chocolate fountain with lots of goodies to try out, all sponsored by our friends from Antwerp, the location of the 2010 IGLTA Convention next year.

Friday, May 15, 2009

IGLTA Convention in Toronto - May 2009 - Take 2


So here we are, Thursday morning... our only moment of reprieve as the board meetings are now over and the members are all arriving in waves.  The main event begins at 2 pm, but as I go down to the registration area, everyone is doing exactly what they do best... reconnecting, schmoozing and networking.  It's a frenzy as old friends who sometimes only see each other during these conventions get together and catch up.  I love this moment in the IGLTA conventions each year... this and the opening reception are always the most energized moments of the convention.

The convention opens up with our presentations by John Tanzella and a board of directors Q&A.  Perhaps because this Q&A was positioned at the very beginning of the convention is the reason the participation and interest from the membership as to where the organization is going was so energized... it was great!  We received feedback ranging from a re-orientation as to what it means to be truly "international" to what we can do to help increase our outreach to more and more regions around the world and make that outreach mean something in terms of our mix of suppliers and retailers in the GLBT travel world.

Next came the new potential board members and their presentations (tight election with only 5 positions available to 10 potential candidates), and then we convened... one so that everyone could now have plenty of time to grill the potential new board members over the course of the convention, and two, to give everyone time to prepare for the upcoming events of the evening.

There were a few pre-party events... one was the local Canadian member reception, which was packed and overflowing with an open bar of fantastic local wine.  Next came the first timers reception held at The Bay in downtown Toronto, tied in with a Barbie exhibition and some hot models to boot!  The first timers reception seemed to go very well... our goal is to allow the new members an opportunity to both get oriented and connect with the group before they become overwhelmed with everyone meeting and greeting at the main opening reception, and it seemed to work... kind of like "divide the crowd and conquer" so that everyone can maximize their opportunities to meet those they flew all the way into Toronto to see.

The main opening reception was flawless... great food, excellent company and a gorgeous venue made for one hell of a night!  It was here that the excitement was at a frenzy, as everyone reconnected with each other and some of the new attendees which ranged from Manhunt.net introducing their new gay travel product to Earhart Adventures bringing a new twist to lesbian global adventure travel.  Locals who really stood out included Robert Sharp and his partner from OutAdventures.com, as well as all of the Pride Toronto team who came to make sure there was not a moment lapsed in our entertainment for the night!

As it was my birthday on this day, a group of us headed straight on out to Lola's, a fun little martini bar in the gay village... we had the place pretty much to ourselves, and a few tequila shots later we all headed over to Woody's where we not only go to hang out with a whole new group of IGLTA members who had all wandered on over, but we also got to see a Hot Chest contest with a few IGLTA members joining in on this as well... crazy, I tell you, crazy, but all in good fun (and all "after hours" and not on the IGLTA clock, may I remind you! LOL)

Stay tuned for part 3 coming up next!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

IGLTA Convention in Toronto - May 2009 - Take 1


What an incredible whirlwind of a week!  For me, it all started a bit early as I flew into Philadelphia on Saturday, May 2nd to attend the Equality Forum Dinner that Saturday night.  As the Equality Forum has always been such a great supporter of IGLTA over the years, I really wanted to attend this event prior to arriving in Toronto for the IGLTA Convention, and I'm so glad I did.  The evening's reception was such a pleasure and I had the opportunity to hang out with several of my business friends from around the country and from Philly.

That evening, Gavin Newsom, our potential future governor of California, got up and gave an eloquent speech to cap off a truly remarkable evening.  He made it very clear to the audience that he stands behind the progress underway for GLBT rights in this country, especially focusing on gay marriage since he was at such a focal point of this controversy with that first legal gay wedding in San Francisco last year.

The next day, after waking up with a Philly cheesesteak sandwich still in my stomach (I ordered a "wiz wit!"), I flew in to Toronto where I was able to enjoy a relaxing evening with friends.  I discovered the Toronto community of Yorktown and the Sassafras restaurant, a hot spot where the film festival crowd hangs out every year.  I knew the whirlwind was about to start, but fortunately we had our IGLTA board of directors meetings first, so starting Tuesday we hit the ground running with board meetings both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday night we had a wonderful dinner at the Gladstone Hotel, one of the older original hotels from Toronto's historical past fully restored with each room designed by a different local designer.  The dinner menu was all from unique and local fare, and between that and the wine, the evening was truly over the top.

The next evening, Wednesday, we made a mad rush to the Out Adventures pre-IGLTA reception at their offices on Bloor St.  I was in the mood to walk, so a group of us set out on foot and got there just a tad late, as we had a subsequent board dinner at the nearby Marriott Hotel and we absolutely could not be late (John Tanzella would crucify us!).  We made the pre-reception where we hung out a bit with Robert Sharp of Out Adventures, as well as Marta from Brazilian EcoTours and a few other gay travel professionals, both local and coming in early for the IGLTA Convention.

Dinner at the Marriott was scrumptious... I decided to go healthy and have everything with fish in it that night, so my menu ranged from black cod to sable fish, with an incredible dessert thrown in.  David Whittaker from Tourism Toronto and Tracey Sandilands of Pride Toronto joined us and we had an amazing evening, all set as a perfect backdrop to the upcoming arrivals of our 26th Annual IGLTA Convention starting on Thursday.

Stay tuned for part 2, the IGLTA Convention, coming up next.

How Twitter Helped Find A Gay Travel Agent

I can't think of a better example of how social network marketing and the world of Twitter helps GLBT travel agents in today's world.

Jessica Cook put out into the "Twittersphere" that she was looking for a gay-friendly travel agent, using a program called TwitterFon.  Within 2 hours, she had an immediate response from GayTravelPros using TweetDeck, one of the more popular programs designed to interface and work closely with Twitter.

As you can see above, looks like the start of a beautiful relationship!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

TORONTO WAS A CHIC SUCCESS!




By Roy Heale
The 26th Annual IGLTA Convention was another great experience for almost 400 delegates from twenty-one different countries. From May 7th to May 10th the downtown Hilton Toronto was ablaze with rainbow colors and bustling with activity as the delegates enjoyed four days of networking, re-uniting with old friends and making new ones.
Opening night commenced with a special reception for Canadian delegates and the Convention First Timers' reception. These welcoming events were followed by the Grand Opening Reception at the Bay for all delegates, sponsors and convention organizers plus volunteers. Needless to say the welcome by a truly amazing “Ken Doll” set the tone for a night of festivities.
The next few days were packed with Toronto city tours,informative seminars and presentations, the media marketplace, and the big consumer Travel Show at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens located in Toronto's Gay Village. After the Friday night Travel Show almost everyone walked into the Gay Village for a full night of socializing and partying in this welcoming atmosphere.
These amazingly busy and productive four days concluded with the Gala Dinner at the Hilton Hotel. Great entertainment, a uniquely Canadian dinner menu, and a Belgian chocolate dessert plus dance made the perfect farewell environment. The festivities continued well into the night and everyone headed home full of fond memories of Toronto and another hugely successful IGLTA Convention. The Belgian dessert was just a sampling and teaser for what lies ahead for delegates at next year's convention in Antwerp.
Congratulations and thanks go to all the IGLTA Staff, the Toronto and Canadian Tourism offices, the sponsors, and all the volunteers who worked so hard to make sure every delegate had a wonderful time.
See you all in Belgium in 2010!

AquaGirl X - Where the Girls Are Now!


Wow, South Florida girls were third, outnumbered by New Yorkers and Californians at this year's pool party.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon poolside at Aquagirl's 10th anniversary celebration, held at the same hotel as The Winter Party two months ago. Thanks, Doubtree Surfcomber for one heck of a venue and decorations. You better join IGLTA soon!

The only conflict I forsee, is that the next rendition of Aquagirl will be the same week as IGLTA's 27th annual convention in Ft. Lauderdale. None of the women delegates will want to attend the seminars with the temptations of South Beach!

Your Ft. Lauderdale girl guide, Dee Farrell, charter member of IGLTA.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's still a gay time to travel

by Daniel Drolet, from Canada.com


Earlier this year Atlantis Events -- a large U.S.-based travel company specializing in the gay and lesbian market -- launched its first-ever gay cruise in New Zealand and Australia for 2010. Every available berth, with prices ranging from $1,599 to $9,999 U.S., was sold within three days.

Recession? What recession? The gay and lesbian travel market isn't immune to a downturn, say travel experts, but they're behaving differently from the mainstream.

For now, at least, many continue to travel, searching out deals or taking advantage of discounts on luxury trips.

Just like a mainstream cruise, you party till you drop or just chill with some good reading on an all-gay cruise.

Just like a mainstream cruise, you party till you drop or just chill with some good reading on an all-gay cruise.

John Shirley

As a result, many destinations are actively courting the market. One of them is Toronto, which will host the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) convention in May.

"It's definitely more recession-proof than the community at large," said Pat Barry of Rainbow High Travel, a Toronto travel agency that caters to the GLBT market.

"Sales reps are coming in and they are saying 'Are you able to hold your own?' and we're saying 'We're up 10 per cent since last year.'"

Barry said recent history bears out the notion that gay and lesbian travel is less affected by economic and other woes. He said that when the travel industry in North America went into sharp decline after the 2001 terrorist attacks, "our business didn't even burp."

The same thing happened in 2003 when the SARS scare kept many out of Toronto, said Bruce MacDonald of the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. "People said, 'I've lived through AIDS and lost friends; I'm not going to not travel because of the flu."

Experts say there are several reasons for this reaction.

One is that most gays and lesbian households don't have children, and so have more income for discretionary spending. (That also means they aren't tied to the school year and can travel year-round.)

Another reason is that travel is simply one of the things gays and lesbians do. It's part of the culture, if you will.

"Gay people have a strong affinity to travel," said Bob Witeck, co-founder and CEO of Witeck-Combs Communications, a strategic communications firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. with expertise in LGBT marketing and issues. "Given the opportunity, they will travel."

He says his research suggests that gay consumers behave differently when faced with an economic crunch. If they have to cut spending, they may cut things other than travel.

And MacDonald of the Chamber of Commerce adds that research suggests that gays and lesbians take more vacations than the general population. Many take four to six trips a year, compared to 1.5 or two for mainstream travellers. So even if they do cut down on travel, they don't cut it out entirely.

David Paisley, senior projects director of Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in gay and lesbian market research, says about one-third of the gay and lesbian community in the U.S. feels threatened economically by the recession and has cut back; another third had not changed its behaviour; and the final third is actually increasing spending. Those people, said Paisley, have told surveys they were "going to travel like crazy."

And he said they are interested in high-end products being discounted because of the recession.

"You can get luxury products now for prices we haven't seen in a long time," said Paisley. "For the gay community, that can be very attractive. To some degree, that's the big story."

Beth Mairs runs Wild Women Expeditions, a company based in Northern Ontario and specializing in adventure holidays for women. Nearly half her clientele is lesbian, and she says business is doing well this year. In fact, she says her most expensive trips for this summer sold first.

"Right now, you cannot buy a trip from us for over $1,000. They are all gone," she said.

"We at Atlantis are continuing to sell out cruises," said Oscar Yuan, Atlantis's VP of sales and marketing. "Both our January 2009 Caribbean and March 2009 Caribbean cruises sailed at or very near capacity. Our Cancun resort in May is sold out."

Witeck says marketing to gay customers "is one of the smarter investments in a down economy."

Toronto, for example, has been actively courting the gay and lesbian market for several years.

"It's one of our highest priorities right now," said Andrew Weir, vice-president of communications at Tourism Toronto.

"We've increased our marketing and sales in the gay and lesbian market over the last two years. It's not something that been done in response to the recession, it's done because we view it as a significant potential growth market for Toronto."

Whether gays and lesbians will continue to travel if the recession continues is another matter.

OUT Adventures is a new adventure travel company out of Toronto for the GLBT market, and co-owner Robert Sharp says he finds he's having to work harder to sell his trips.

People are still booking, he says, but they are taking longer to make up their minds.

In the States, Jeffrey Ward of Savvy Navigator Tours agrees: "I don't think the gay and lesbian segment is booking any less, but there's a lot more deliberation and evaluation of what their travel and tour options are."

Both Sharp and Ward say the market may soften as the recession goes on.

GLBT travellers are a self-aware group, one that identifies and seeks out destinations responsive to them.

John Tanzella, executive director of the IGLTA, said that destinations that appeal directly to the gay and lesbian market -- and make a concerted effort to understand their lives -- will do well.

"Even in difficult financial times, this is a sophisticated market that identifies a genuine connection between your product and their needs," he said.

Daniel Drolet is an Ottawa writer.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Gladstone Hotel

Tonight we had a dinner hosted by the absolutely amazing Gladstone Hotel. Located in the artistic West Queen West in Parkdale. We entered the hotel and were greeted by Hank - the hotel's legendary icon.

We were privileged to see a few rooms - each one designed by a different artist and having a very unique feel to it. The walls in the hallways were littered with installations and the place just beamed art and expression. I personally love art and the way they mixed it into the hotel was seamless.

They treated us to a wonderful dinner - the main course being a fabulous duck entre. Wine was poured, laughs were had, stories were shared and the evening was splendid. We also got the insider view into what everybody would be if they were a kitchen appliance...just don't ask Carlos what his was!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Azure

Today, as my coworkers arrived in Toronto - our Executive Director took us to a nice dinner here at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre at their restaurant called Azure. The meal and service were both divine and I indulged myself with a wonderfully prepared steak with vegetables and potatoes. Their soup of the day was a seafood chowder that was superb. It was a great time to catch up with my colleagues and talk about the daunting week ahead with all of the work to do.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sassafraz



Before the crazy pre-convention stuff started I decided to grab a drink with my friend Naoufel and two of his friends. We went to a place in Yorkville called Sassafraz. The place was exquisite and beamed with an elegant, yet casual, vibe. The table next to us was wrought with high-end business deals and a few upscale looking people nearby were dining on what looked like great food. Even so, we didn't seem out of place dressed very casually and just drinking. The raspberry margarita was amazing. It was a perfect place to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day in Toronto.

Toronto Day 1

Here is the view from my hotel room at the spectacular Intercontinental Toronto Centre hotel. The lobby was beautiful and the check-in desk people were absolutely charming. I am excited to explore this hotel more!

A Boy in Toronto - Pre-Arrival

For the next eight days I will be in the great city of Toronto, Canada for the IGLTA convention. Keep checking here for the latest information regarding my excursions around the city - a great May week in Canada! Here is a shot out of the window leaving Miami on American Airlines!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Looking for a Vacation on a Lower Budget this Year?

By Roy Heale
A warm and gentle climate coupled with the Spanish influence has made Buenos Aires the hottest destination in South America for gay vacationers seeking a genuine Latin experience—from Tango dancing and historic architecture to elegant dining and vibrant nightlife. The city’s original European settlers came mostly in the nineteenth century from Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Exploring Buenos Aires, you will sense a sort of déjà vu of Europe while you explore the splendid boulevards, classic architecture, plazas everywhere, extensive parks, and ever-changing style of Argentina’s stunning capital city. You will quickly understand why this city is known as ‘The Paris of South America’, populated by sophisticated Porteños---as the local residents are affectionately known.
Perhaps one of Argentina’s most valuable tourist attractions today is the low cost of living and shopping bargains to be found here. You can enjoy a low-cost vacation without sacrificing any pleasures or comforts. If a bottle of good wine or a liter of beer for two dollars sounds appealing, then you will also be pleased to rent a cozy vacation apartment for as little as four hundred dollars per week. Even gourmet restaurant dining is affordable when a three-course dinner with wine can readily be enjoyed for less than fifteen dollars per person. With airfares this summer from LAN Airlines of approximately $499 plus taxes round-trip between New York and Buenos Aires, who can resist this destination in our current financial circumstances?
Although there is no specific gay village in Buenos Aires, the community is spread throughout the center of town. The districts of Recoleta, Palermo and San Telmo are very gay and the local bars, restaurants and clubs are found mostly in these areas. Many gay places are within an inexpensive taxi ride of each other. These districts of Buenos Aires are some of the safest zones of any major city in South America and visitors should feel secure walking around day or night—however, sensible precautions should never be abandoned.
Sidewalk cafes, Argentine beef Parilla grill-restaurants—renowned for the best beef in the world—and cheap shopping make this a wondrous gay destination. Buenos Aires now has over sixty gay or gay-friendly discos, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, saunas, movie theaters, and possibly the best-looking Latin men you will see anywhere.
The gay scene in Buenos Aires, in common with other cities in South America, starts very late. Apart from one bar (Flux) and the cruising bars and movie theaters, nothing really starts until around midnight. Very few people arrive at discos until 2:00 AM, but then the discos quickly fill to capacity and line-ups occur, particularly on Saturdays. The principal discos and bars mostly operate from Thursday to Sunday, but there are show bars with comedy drag and strippers open seven nights a week. Most of the cruising bars, cinemas and saunas are open seven days a week, with some being open twenty-four hours throughout the weekend.
So if you are trying to find a place to enjoy a fun gay vacation but these economic times have restricted your budget, then check out the current discount flights to Buenos Aires and enjoy the Paris of South America. The temperate climate in South America makes Buenos Aires a year-round gay vacation possibility. Several IGLTA members are ready and waiting to make your visit to Buenos Aires a gay get-way full of hot Latin memories.
Visit http://www.gmaps360.com/ for local gay information in Buenos Aires.