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.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Northern Forest Canoe Trail is as easy -- or hard -- as you want

by Daniel Drolet from the Ottawa Citizen, 4 July 2009
For a minute, I have visions of my hat getting hooked because the fly fishermen standing in waist-deep water in the middle of the Connecticut River won't see me coming.
The current is carrying us along at a good clip -- it's not rated as rapids on the map, but it's not still water either -- and so we have to think quickly as we manoeuvre the canoe around them, careful not to get in their way.
We pass close enough to smile a quick hello and then speed on downstream.
The fly fishermen are the only people we encounter during a half-day of paddling along one small portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 1,200-kilometre canoe and kayaking route that runs through the northeastern U.S. and a tiny bit of Quebec.
A liquid equivalent of the Appalachian Trail -- the hiking route that runs from Georgia to the Gaspé -- the Northern Forest Canoe Trail opened in 2006. It stretches from the town of Old Forge, in New York State's Adirondacks, to Fort Kent, on the Saint John River at the Maine/New Brunswick border, and passes through parts of Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire along the way.
And --with a few caveats -- access doesn't cost a cent.
The section I did -- we put in at Bloomfield, Vermont, and ended at the Maidstone-Stratford bridge about 18 kilometres downstream -- offered easy access, and no access fee.
Rob Center, co-founder of the trail, says only along certain stretches in northern Maine where the trail passes through private lands do paddlers have to pay access fees.
The trail is not a single waterway, but a series of age-old canoe routes connected by portages.
There's something for everyone, no matter what your paddling skills, says Center.
For example, he says there's good whitewater on the Saranac River near Plattsburgh, New York.
If you're looking for lake paddling, the trail includes a crossing of Lake Champlain. (From Memphremagog to Umbazooksus, there are some great lake names along the trail.)
And you can be in the wilderness or not: The section I did, on the Connecticut River along the Vermont-New Hampshire border, is farmland, so I never felt isolated.
And my section was an easy paddle: There were a few sections of rushing water that required some steering ability, but otherwise it was not strenuous. And there were sandbars and landings where we could stop to stretch our legs.
Center says the Northern Forest Canoe Trail organization is a non-profit group that oversees the trail system. It has put up a uniform signage system and published 13 detailed section maps, which are accessible on their website.
Right now, the trail has more than 150 access points and nearly 500 individual campsites.
Can you paddle a canoe from one end of the trail to the other?
Yes, if you're prepared to pole upstream in certain sections, face class IV rapids in others, and carry your gear over 67 portages. Only a handful of people, says Center, have ever done it.
- - -
If You Go The Northern Forest Canoe Trail website is a great planning tool, with interactive section maps that show camping, accommodation and amenities in each trail section. Website: See http://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org/. The site also links to operators with canoe trail packages if you don't want to organize the whole thing yourself.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Malmo, Sweden

by JJ Keyes

If you’re heading to the World OutGames in Copenhagen this week I recommend making a slight detour over the Oresund Bridge to visit Malmo and the Skane region. Malmo became the first Fair-trade City back in 2006. It’s a gorgeous must-stop destination if you’re hanging out in Copenhagen for the week. Book a room at the swank Radisson SAS Malmo Hotel and explore the adorable town! Rent a bike and take in Malmo like a local. Life seems oh so beautiful as you zip past attractions like the Turning Torso, Carl Milles’ Pegasus sculpture, the Malmohus Castle, through the picturesque Town Hall, and past St. Petri Church and into the St. Gertrud District and all of the gorgeous 16th-19th century buildings. Be sure to stop at the Castle Garden Café to sample one of the Tarec Taylor’s delicious open sandwiches. If Taylor is in you will surely go back for dessert and get a second look at this devilishly handsome Swedish chef. After your bike ride, dust off your Visa and go from Stortorget to Trianglen to hit stores like Indiska, Stadium, H&M, and MQ. Carry your bags over to salt&brygga for Bjorn Stenbeck’s answer to the Slow Food movement. Pop into Wonk Bar after dinner for an Absolut drink of your choice. My Swedish drink of choice was an Absolut Ruby Red and seltzer.

You’re going to love Sweden so much that you’ll want more. Head on down the coast to Skane where you can spend the day out on the sun. The new Rang Spa is conveniently located just a stone’s throw from a perfect beach. Spend the morning soaking up some Scandinavian sun and then enjoy an authentic Swedish massage treatment before a healthy organic lunch. If you want to spend the night in the region I recommend either the Hotel Gasslingen in Skanor or in the luxurious the Hackeberge Mansion, built in 1875, and located on a tiny island in Lake Hackebergsjon. Brainstorming for the ultimate gay wedding destination? Look no further, the Hackeberge Mansion has plenty of rooms and the view is perfect. Who knows, you might even take a liking to a Viking and stay. Stranger things have happened.

Some more images:

IGLCC Conference and OutGames 2009 in Copenhagen

I write this as I sit in the airport's SAS lounge, one of the finest lounges I think I've ever seen, on my way home from a whirlwind trip to Copenhagen to attend the IGLCC Conference here, held in conjunction with the Human Right Conference being held by the World OutGames 2009 here in this city.

A word needs to be said about Copenhagen... it's a wonderful city and I wish I could have spent more time here. Staying in a hotel in the old city center area, I felt the entire city was at my fingertips for exploring, with some of the coolest and hippest restaurants spread throughout within small, medieval streets and open, picturesque canals.

Despite some negative press related to the OutGames in terms of two hate-crimes being committed, the overall feeling here is definitely one of acceptance and tolerance, along with a slightly edgy feel when one stays out past midnight meeting some of the locals at the gay bars spread throughout the old part of the city. And can these Danes party! At 4 am, they are still going strong, and during the warmer summer months when the sun can rise before 4 am, it can be quite a scene as one leaves a club in the wee hours of the early morning with full sun and crazy revelers roaming the streets.

On the business side of life, the conference overall was a success. It was a bit tough at times, in that our business group was mixed with a wide variety of conference attendees who had come for the various educational/workshop tracks including a variety of GLBT human rights topics. But we all decided to make the best of it, and this mix allowed us to meet folks we normally wouldn't have met under a purely business setting.

The week began with an opening reception at City Hall, where everyone had a chance to reconnect after not seeing each other for perhaps over a year or so. The reception was also mixed, so we mingled among some new faces from the very beginning. After connecting, a few of us headed out to the local nightlife, which seemed to be primarily focused on Oscar's, a trendy gay corner bar that had hundreds of guys spilling out on the street outside of the bar every night of the week. Oscar's became the de facto meeting point for everyone to start in their after-hours revelry, and night after night we ran into old faces, along with a few new.

On Tuesday, many of us attended the IGLTA Reception held at the Hotel 27, a really cool hotel just one block from Oscar's in the center of the old city. By the time Wednesday came around, we were all enjoying the final night's reception hosted by the CGLCC (Copenhagen Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce - www.copenhagen-gay-life.dk) and IGLCC (www.iglcc.org) at Goldsmith Mads Heindorf (www.madsheindorf.dk).

The conference workshops, by the way, were quite varied... I moderated a marketing panel with Ian Johnson of Out Now Consulting (outnowconsulting.com), Tom Roth of Community Marketing (www.communitymarketinginc.com) and Andreas Citak of IBM, which went quite well. I also attended a workshop held right after ours, focused on some of the new social features being developed into the ILGA website (www.ilga.org), which sounded very exciting.

So overall it made for a great but short trip to Copenhagen. It seems from here everyone is either on their way to Stockholm for Stockholm Pride this upcoming weekend, or Amsterdam for their over-the-top Gay Pride festival coming up this same weekend. I wish I could go, but alas eventually we all have to return home at some point!

Below are some links to photos from this trip. Enjoy!

Additional Links:

Photo Links:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Quick Bahamas Jaunt

by Sheryl Kay, Freelance Writer, and Contributing Editor at CURVE Magazine

It may not float everyone’s boat, but there’s no doubt cruising is catching on as a popular vacation alternative.

Living in Florida gives us great departure options with four major ports including Tampa, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami (and almost all are within 15 minutes of major international airports so connections are routine and easy).

Last week we started out of Tampa and spent the night in Boca with friends Karl Dickey (libertarian candidate for County Commissioner in Palm Beach County and a mega gay rights supporter, http://www.karldickey.org ) and his wife Jodi McMasters (longtime organizer of the annual Girls and Boys Town of South Florida Basket Brigade). The next morning we helped celebrate the 73rd birthday of Connie Kurtz with her partner Ruthie Berman (of movie fame, Every Room in the House, http://www.ruthieandconniethemovie.com/ ) and then hopped on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Sky ship headed for Freeport and Nassau.

If there’s a recession in America, you’d never know it on this cruise ship. According to the check-in personnel every berth was taken, and then some!

While many shipping lines offer the standard bingo, art auctions, yoga classes, pool side reggae, the thrill of the casino, and more, NCL (www.ncl.com ) goes one step further, offering all that, and “freestyle cruising.” Rather than pin patrons down to one seating time for meals, two main dinning rooms open throughout all three meal times, and guests can eat whenever. There are also three “specialty” restaurants open at dinner time that charge an extra “cover” (and were actually packed almost every night) but we were perfectly happy eating in the main dining rooms (with dishes that included steak every night, broiled salmon, pasta primavera, tempura, jambalaya, polenta, escargot, and more). Like any cruise, the food was really good and overly abundant to the point of gluttony.

Luckily we were able to shake off a few pounds at the gym, the late night dances, and we actually laughed a few away the night we went to see the headline entertainer, comedian James Stephens III (http://www.dafunnyman.com ).

We also liked the many options with NCL for balcony rooms (240 balcony rooms on the Sky as compared to less than half as many on other cruise lines’ similar ships). The rooms are not any larger, but the price point made it well worth it.

And although it’s not Olivia, NCL does reach out to the community and every night offered a “Friends of Dorothy” hour in the open atrium Champagne bar.

For those looking for a wild welcoming gay experience off ship, the Bahamas are probably not the best ports to pick. Although there are more than 10,000 gay individuals living in both Nassau and Freeport, there is wide spread homophobia, with many reports of open and accepted hostility toward the LGBT community often attracting national media attention.

Still, there are clubs, and we’d recommend contacting the Rainbow Alliance of the Bahamas before visiting, as they will point you in the right direction (you can call them, redirected to Nassau, at 404-592-2664 or email them at bahamianglad@yahoo.com or 3genders@coralwave.com ).

One of our favorite moments was in Nassau when we ran into a young sister couple from Pennsylvania that had just joined our group for a swim with the stingrays. Easily recognizable as one of them sported brightly colored interlocking female sign tattoos, they were having such a remarkable dreamy time they decided they wanted to get married right then and there in Nassau.

“Do you know anyone who could do a commitment ceremony for us before the ship leaves port,” one of them asked. Yes, she said, they knew that many Bahamians had very homophobic attitudes, but that wasn’t going to deter them.
“We just figured we’d ask around anyway,” she said!

While in port there are ample opportunities for shopping, adventure excursions, and local sight seeing. We enjoyed a picture perfect day while in Freeport tagging along with a new local friend who took us geocaching (www.geocaching.com ) from one end of the island to the other. We got to see miles of pristine beaches, small mangroves, the Lucayan National Park, and Ben’s Cave (filled with bats). For amazing conch fritters head out east to Bishop’s Bonefish Resort, a small unassuming motel, restaurant, and outdoor bar run by Mr. Bishop himself (Phone: 242-353-4515).

In our case, given the ease of being out on the ship and given that we were looking for a Caribbean experience that we could afford (some rooms on the Sky can be had for about $300 plus tax and tips per person, which includes all food and entertainment), the four day Bahamas cruise was ideal, and a deal!

Here are some more pictures:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

10 Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Vacation with Your Friends

by Bryan Herb, Zoom Vacations

Vacations provide the perfect opportunity for reconnecting with your friends, and to enjoy their company without the hassles and complications of the “real” world. The following 10 tips will help you and your buddies get the most out of your time together, without getting under each other’s skin. These same tips a great to bear in mind when traveling with your boyfriend or girlfriend as well.

1. Get a good night’s rest before the trip and as much as possible during the trip. Children aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they’re tired.

2. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport. Flying can be a bit stressful, and this is magnified if you’re running late. The more stress you have, the more likely you are to take it out on each other.

3. Keep your hotel room clean and organized, especially the bathroom. This is a big challenge because you are living temporarily in an unfamiliar space, and you have to quickly develop a plan for where things should go. However, doing so will help limit how much you are in each other’s space.

4. Don’t feel that since you are on vacation together that you have to be at each other’s side at all times. There may be times when you each want to pursue different interests, and doing so is very healthy. When you reconvene, you have much more to share and talk about at the end of the day.

5. Be flexible, and focus on having fun, not worrying that you have diverted from your original itinerary.

6. If one of you needs to sleep in, let him. If one of you is having that extra piece of cake, don’t make a comment about it. Allow your friend to vacation the way he or she wants to.

7. Bring something to read or something to do so that if you find yourself waiting for your friend, you can entertain yourself and not get agitated.

8. If you are the type of person who is always late, remember that this is their vacation as well, and you should plan accordingly in order to minimize his or her waiting. Most of us do not have as much vacation time as we would like, and the last thing we want to do is spend it waiting for someone while he or she tries on jeans.

9. Stay fed and don’t let yourself or your travel companion get hungry. Nothing leads to crankiness as fast as hunger! If you are the type who needs to eat every few hours, pack a box of protein bars and carry one with you whenever you leave the hotel room for touring. You never know when your plans may change and a meal gets postponed.

10. Take this vacation time to tell and show your friend how much you appreciate him or her. Do something nice, like scheduling a spa treatment or some activity that focuses on his or her interests.

Bryan Herb works for Zoom Vacations, a global gay vacation company offers incredible gay group and independent trips to South America, including Rio for New Years and Carnaval, South Africa, India, Australia for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Peru, Argentina, Amsterdam for Gay Pride, and several luxury mega-yacht cruises. You can find more information on their website at www.zoomvacations.com or call 773 772 9666.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

GNetwork360.com Gay Marketing and Travel Symposium in Buenos Aires

I returned recently from what was one of my best trips to South America ever! After spending an incredible week with my Brazilian friends in Rio, I changed gears and went into business mode, heading down to Buenos Aires for the GNetwork360.com Gay Marketing and Travel Symposium, held at the Axel Hotel.

I arrived early, which allowed me to spend some quality time with both my local friends and some of the other presenters arriving early as well. Of course, quality time in Buenos Aires almost always includes food and drink, of which there was plenty of both to go around. The city itself has some of the best restaurants, and for travelers coming into Buenos Aires, the price is sinfully inexpensive. I enjoyed several dinners in the Palermo area of Buenos Aires, including a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant called Osaka, as well as several incredible meals in the San Telmo district, an up and coming area reminiscent of old neighborhoods in Madrid.

We started the conference with a pre-conference dinner and cocktails at Inside, a local gay restaurant/bar (called resto bar) where the energy was high as we all reconnected with the other presenters and our local hosts, Gustavo and Pablo of GNetworks360.com. We also got a chance to meet the GNetworks360.com host team of volunteers helping to keep the week organized, and we had the pleasure of working and hanging with them the entire week up to the closing party at Rheo @ Crobar on Friday night.

The conference itself went very well, as it was a mix of presentations by the NGLCC (nglcc.org) and IGLCC (iglcc.org) to start, as well as GLBT travel presentations by the IGLTA (iglta.org) and ABRAT (abratgls.com). We also had marketing presentations by OutThink Partners (Steve Roth - www.outthinkpartners.com) and Out Now Consulting (Ian Johnson ofwww.outnowconsulting.com)... I also had an opportunity to present social network and Web 2.0 marketing to the GLBT community.

The conference wrapped up with a closing party and marketplace GLBT travel trade show at Chueca Downtown, which was absolutely packed. After that, we presenters all joined the GNetworks360.com team for dinner in San Telmo at La Banqueano, where I also had the pleasure of meeting Gustavo Colombo of Manhunt Argentina (great guy).

Just when we thought the conference was over and the city of Buenos Aires was ours to enjoy before our departures, Luciano Cazenave of Friendly Apartments (www.friendlyapartments.com) invited us all over to his home for a lovely evening of dinner and cocktails. It seems everyone was there and ready to let off a little steam... by the time the evening was over, Luciano had cranked out his array of hats and we all decided it was time to pose for a crazy-ass photo shoot! Then we all headed out to Rheo, a gay club that made for an incredible last night out in Buenos Aires. The place was multi-level and PACKED with hot men... I don't know what is in that water, but those men (and Brazilians) are over the top! Just another good reason to return to Buenos Aires in the months ahead!

What a week it was... it made for a perfect opportunity to get spoiled rotten by TAM Airlines on my way home. Their business class seats make for a perfect overnight flight of dinner with fine wine and a restful sleep!

Photo Links:

Thursday, July 16, 2009


By Roy Heale
For the past two days in Buenos Aires, Argentina more than 250 delegates at the GNetwork360 2nd International Forum of Businesspeople and Entrepreneurs enjoyed LGBT seminars, presentations, educational forums, and networking. But the major surprise at the commencement of the conference was the announcement by Pablo De Luca and Gustavo Noguera of GMAPS and GNetwork360 regarding the founding of the Argentina LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Joining the global family of LGBT Chambers of Commerce will surely prove to be a giant step forward for Argentina's gay community and lead to growth, expansion, and networking for all LGBT businesses across the country.
This major initiative was supported by presentations from the United States National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce plus the International Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Delegates were able to learn more about how an LGBT Chamber of Commerce historically has strengthened the gay business community and led to more equality for LGBT citizens living in the regions where Chambers have been operating around the globe. Most delegates quickly realized the significance of this initiative by Pablo and Gustavo and hopefully support from the Argentine LGBT business community is sure to follow their leadership.
But this was only the beginning of the excitement as presenters from Barcelona, Brazil, The United States, Canada, and Great Britain shared their unique LGBT business stories, experiences, marketing campaigns, web savvy, business development, and many other related stories. Almost all delegates discovered that each and every guest speaker had tips and advice which would further strengthen their gay business or re-enforce the direction in which their company is already heading.
Business and social networking were an important on-going component of the gathering. Whether before or after presentations, during coffee breaks, at the Marketplace, or the cocktail reception, many new relationships were forged and old acquaintances re-affirmed. Often this LGBT networking can be the greatest reward from a successful conference and this will surely prove to be no exception to that tradition.
The Forum took place at the Axel Hotel and the Marketplace plus the cocktail reception were held at Chueca Downtown. Delegates enjoyed the entire forum without any registration fees or costs courtesy of the many sponsors, supporters and volunteers---a great tribute to the organizers and their total commitment to the Argentina LGBT community. A complete list of sponsors and contributers can be found at http://www.gnetwork360.com/ and support of these donors will ensure similar LGBT business growth opportunities can exist in Argentina's gay future.
And, of course, no successful LGBT event would be complete without the traditional wrap-up party and celebration which occurred on the final night at one of Buenos Aires' foremost venues---Rheo by Crobar. The Fiesta de Cierre began at Midnight and for many it continued until dawn. A fitting finale to an historic gathering in the emerging gay-friendly destinations within Argentina.

Stockholm Pride Says I'm Very Gay

You'll need to check out this new Twitter tool put out by the folks at Stockholm Pride. Entitled "How Hetero Are You?" it analyzes your twitters and by finding certain key words and their frequency in your "tweets", tries to determine just how gay (or straight) you really are!


1% Heteromattskal is 1% HeteroHow hetero are you? How hetero is Martha Stewart? Try out any Twitter name and get the real picture. Are we really the words we use? Hope to see you at Stockholm Pride!

The Old City

Yesterday we explored the Old City, and I must say it didn't come easily. I'm not sure if jetlag had finally caught up with me, or if I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but mentally exhausted was exactly how I felt. Still, I'm in China and lying around just wasn't an option. We decided to meet at the People's Square and head off on a little walk to the Old City. It was incredible to see the city change before us.

People's Square is central Shanghai and has lots of sky-scrapers, McDonald's, shopping malls, the works. Once you start walking South, the city changes and becomes much grungier, crazier and looks more like a developing world country. Then you get to old town after about 15 minutes and you're in the epicenter of what you think China looks like from a stereotypical perspective. Ornate buildings that look very traditional are everywhere with tourists snapping photographs and stores selling everything from Chinese candy to jewelry.

I felt very touristy being there, but I have to admit it looked really cool. Walking around, having people run up to us trying to sell us things, seeing all the traditional looking buildings - it really felt like we were in the middle of a Chinese city. Once you get through the area you are again on more developing world-looking streets with shops that sell tons of clothes, shoes and electronics. Moderately priced, you can't help but notice that the Nike swoosh isn't quite how it's supposed to look.

At this point we realized a drink would be nice to get away from the heat and humidity, so we walked North along the river. This street was under construction and had that grimy, industrial look with little huts where men and women sold sodas and foods. The amazing part of it was that you just look across the river and you see Pudong and the ultra-modern and elegant skyscrapers there. The contrast is incredible.

We also had the luxury of walking through a quiet park of bamboo and ponds. It was quaint and pretty. The highlight was when a teenage girl ran up to me and in very good English asked, "Excuse me, but can I take my picture with you?" I laughed and said yes, of course and her and a few friends gathered around me while somebody else took our picture. I definitely can't say that's ever happened before.

So we ended up sucking down some Starbucks which woke me up and grabbed a drink at a bar downtown. We then navigated the streets to an Indian restaurant that was recommended in a lot of Expat magazines. I'll have to get the name of it (I forget right now), but it was by far the most amazing Indian food I have ever experienced. Just thinking about it now makes me very hungry.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The French Concession

Tuesday saw us spending almost the entire day in the French Concession. This area of Shanghai feels like a step right out of Europe. The streets have beautiful trees lining the way and the buildings are grandiose and colonial in nature. The area also happens to be home to Shanghai's minor Gayborhood.

We started the day walking the streets pricing some spas. Spa treatments are big business in China and there were ample opportunities. We tool mental notes and just let ourselves get lost in the area. Every street was just as picture perfect as the next and it is incredible to see shops and people - culture - that is so incredibly Chinese in a very old-style European area. It was kind of amazing. I couldn't help taking a picture of the US Consulate and then got yelled at in Chinese.

We ended up having dinner at a Thai restaurant called Kevin's that was listed as a gay stomping grounds. The manager was just all but thrilled to tell us about the restaurant, how it's been under new management for a few weeks and to spread the word about how great it is. I will definitely be spreading the word because it was pretty amazing.

Afterwards we did some Tuesday night gay bar hopping. Eddy's was jumping and we had a great time chatting with people there and at Transit Lounge and Shanghai Studios. Incredibly nice people everywhere - easy to make friends and have a good time. The gay scene in Shanghai is so interesting as it feels like a scene in any US city but still with a more underground vibe. It's a really interesting dichotomy. The city is still impressing me and showing me a great time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dumplings, Empty Gay Bars and a Chinese Child - a Monday Night in Shanghai

Last night I ate amazing dumplings. Being in Pudong, we went to this massive shopping mall to a traditional dumpling restaurant. An odd place to be, the mall was a testament to the Chinese economy and made the shopping back in the US look trivial.

The restaurant was family style and our Shangainese friend Stella showed us the proper way to eat one. 1. You tear a teeny whole in it with your teeth over a soup spoon. 2. You pour the soup that's inside the dumpling into the spoon. 3. Dip the dumpling in soy sauce and/or vinegar. 4. Place it in your mouth followed by drinking the soup. It's amazing. The whole meal was a Chinese feast and was pretty spectacular.

Afterwards, Landon and I decided to check out another gay bar called Frangipani. It was empty but played great music and we got free drinks for college night :). The bar-runner was a peppy guy who seemed so happy with the world around him that you couldn't help but feel good.

Then we decided to check out the neighborhood and walk by The People's Square at night. Again, the city just presented itself as beautiful and majestic at night. The Shanghai Grand Theatre made me fall in love. A city that puts performing arts on such a pedestal is an amazing place.

In front of the theater, a little boy ran up to us with a "Ni hao" and a smile. He then proceeded to talk - but we of corse had no clue what he was saying. The two men in business suits behind us almost seemed to send hin to us for something, but it was again not easy to figure out. The boy's good natured smile made it appear benign.

So then we hopped in a cab and called it a night. As the week progresses we'll have to see what else the city has in storefor us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Winter in Rio for the Gay Traveler

So it seems that prior to my arriving in Rio de Janeiro for a week in July, EVERYONE had the same two thoughts on their mind... 1) "it's winter time, how could you possibly go there when it's cold and raining" and 2) "you can't go to Rio, it's too dangerous!"

Well, I can tell you that both myths are just that... myths! First, Rio in their winter is a bit like Miami in winter, but just a tad bit cooler. Most days we were there, it was a gorgeous 80 degrees and sunny. There were two days of cooler winter weather, but that meant it was windy and in the 60s, and that was just really one blustery day.

So why go into all of this about the weather in Rio? Because for the gay traveler, going to a destination such as this "off season" is fantastic. There were so few tourists and the majority of hot men roaming the streets were all locals. And they are HOT! Once in a while you'll hear an occasional English or French word heard, but overall, all Brazilian!

We had the opportunity to stay with friends in Copacabana, very near the Copacabana Palace. We ate like the locals, including one seafood hot spot called Shirley. Strolling the beach boardwalk by day, the scenery both on the beach and walking, rollerblading or biking by, was stunning. Shirts off, eyes lingering just a little longer than they should. Stopping for an occasional coconut made for great walking breaks, and we walked a lot... from Copacabana to Ipanema and then further to Leblon. On Sunday they close off part of the street, so renting a bike and taking that tour from Copacabana to Leblon is a ton of fun... and then biking inland a bit to the lake there in Rio is just a cherry on top for a delightful Sunday afternoon.

Heading into Ipanema, the gay beach is really easy to find as it's highlighted with several rainbow flags right at the foot of Rua Farme de Amoedo. Walking up that street any time of the day or evening is a real delight, as "the gays" are all perched in various eating and drinking spots along that street just enjoying the day and the sites. Some of our favorites were Cafeina, a true delight and reminiscent of Le Notre in Paris, just much more Brazilian! Getting a little chicken at the Galito restaurants in the neighborhood, as well as some acai at one of the various Sucos shops in the neighborhood, make one feel like they're living life like the locals.

Nightlife was over the top, even off season. Le Boy never fails to disappoint, and we went both Thursday and Saturday night to a packed club full of friendly and hot locals. One can only imagine the line outside when Rio is "in season!"

Safety-wise, the entire area felt quite safe overall. There were cleaner areas than others in this small ocean stretch of a rather big city that is Rio de Janeiro, with Ipanema and Leblon being a bit more upscale. The area around Le Boy got a little sketchy, but never really unsafe. As anyone will tell you, it's always about being just the tiniest bit street smart in such scenarios and all should work out fine. Walking along the beach boardwalks at night always feels the safest, as there are lots of people and "tourist police" keeping folks in line.

Overall, winter in Rio is when I would return time and time again... it's like being on the beach in LA on a nice, sunny 70-degree January day and enjoying all of the cafes, the boardwalks and the lunch hot spots without fighting the summer tourist crowd. It's like you found your own little hidden gem in life.

Cloud 9

Cloud 9 is the bar at the Grand Hyatt in the second-tallest building in Shanghai, the Jin Mao. Sitting in this chic bar, sipping cocktails and watching day turn to night in Shanghai was amazing. The crazy lights of China's biggest city give a glimpse of just how big and massive it is.

First Impressions of China

Yesterday I arrived to Shanghai - my first time on the continent of Asia. It hasn't been 24 hours yet, but I think I am going to have a love affair with it. It has surprised me in many good ways.

I must unfortunately say I pictured Shanghai to be very dirty and ugly. I'm not sure why - but it's definitely not true. The city is no dirtier than New York (with maybe a touch more smog) and very beautiful. I obviously have only barely scratched the surface, but the parks and gardens mixing with the East and the West mixing with the old and the new is incredible. All I want to do is explore every inch of this city.

The people seem friendly if not a tad impatient (like most city dwellers) and the street food makes my senses quiver. Dumplings, noodles and meat made in a wok mere footsteps from any doorway. Is that not heaven?

Last night - completely jet lagged and dead - Landon and I decided to hit up a gay bar. Taking the last train at 1030 and walking a good half mile, we still couldn't find it. Feeling a tad defeated, we had a hotel clerk write the address in Mandarin and hopped in a cab. An embarrassingly short block later we were at Eddy's. The bar was very swanky - like LA or New York - with red lighting and cool communist art on the wall. Great place for a cocktail.

Across the street we went to Shanghai Studio which looks a little sketchy from the outside as it's in an alley and basically just has steps going down. The bar was great though - incredibly friendly and we made new friends from Switzerland, China and the US. It was by far the perfect introduction to Shanghai. I really am going to love this city, I can feel it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Air Travel Back When

When I was a rookie travel agency owner, I was often called upon by the local airline representatives. Braniff Airlines's rep in Denver became the FIRST airline sales manager to join IGTA.

I was in Key West recently, wearing my "Las Flight Out" t-shirt referring to Pan Am pulling out of that market. The first Pan Am flight ever was from Key West to Havana in 1927. The Pan Am city booking office is now a celebrity-owned restaurant - but their sign still hangs proudly.

PS IGLTA Board Member Steve Smith lives in Key West. IGLTA Cofounder Dee Farrell revisted long-time IGLTA members with Steve recently - 26 years after we travelled to Hollywood to start IGTA.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bar Harbor, Maine

by Sheryl Kay, Freelance Writer, and Contributing Editor at CURVE Magazine

You won’t find any rainbow flags hanging on Main Street here.
But ask around and everyone in Bar Harbor, Maine will tell you its all about street maintenance (no flags may fly other than four representing the seasons which show which stores are open during what times of the year).
In fact the small coastal town that lies within the boundaries of Acadia National Park is not only gay-friendly—its just plain friendly.
“Actually we have zero tolerance for bigotry,” says Shawn Robinette, who owns Café Milagro (www.milagrocoffee.com) with his partner Brian White. The café offers everything from skinny lattes to mouthwatering, icy whipped specialties
The season opens in Bar Harbor on Memorial Day weekend with a grand burst of flora all around, and goes well into October. Given the small town feel, its amazing how much there is to do. Consistently listed as one of the top ten national parks in the United States by numerous organizations, Acadia has something for everyone—hiking (for novice through experts), biking, geocaching, horseback riding, sheer cliff rock climbing, museums, and breathtaking scenic overlooks where mountains end in jagged boulders and ever-crashing ocean waves.
The area is also well known for its seals, puffins, and whale watching (see www.barharborwhales.com ). While there’s no guarantee, just this past Memorial Day weekend a 30 foot juvenile humpback whale delighted tourists for half an hour, often frolicking within ten yards of the boat.
If nature is not your thing, fear not—there are boutiques lining Main and Cottage Streets. Some sell the kitschy fudge, t-shirts and lobster gummies while others carry top line sports equipment, high fashion, and exclusive home décor items. There’s even Sherman’s Book Store that’s been in town for decades, and managed by long time resident (and yes, she’s gay) Debbie Taylor.
There’s no dearth for good food either—only the tables to seat everyone. Whether you dine at Poor Boy’s Gourmet, McKay’s Public House, Rupununi’s, Route 66, or any of the other well known haunts, call ahead for reservations. And for the carnivores (and omnivores) among us, be absolutely sure to have fresh Maine lobster at least once, best experienced at the Bar Harbor Lobster Pound (414 State Highway 3, across the street from the huge totem pole, 207-288-2225). Owners Charlotte Gill and Dalton Dalzell (who is also the fisherman) steam the fresh crustaceans you pick from a tank and serve up an amazing dinner with a wide selection of sides, including “bah habah clam chowdah.” The lobster, possibly the most reasonably priced in town, is by the pound ($9.99) and it’s a true lobster in the rough experience (bib included).
After dinner, check out the Criterion Theater (on the National Registry of Historic Places) or ImprovAcadia (a stellar hysterical audience generated performance) and then crash in any one of numerous hotels, motels, cottages, bed and breakfasts, or camp grounds (although we didn’t stay at either, Maples Inn and Aysgarth Station are both lovely bed and breakfasts that welcome the LGBT community).
It may not be a P-town or Key West quite yet, but given Maine’s recent vote to legalize gay marriage, this just might be the last chance to say “I went to Bah Habah way back when.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I love Stockholm in the Summer

Pictures & Text by JJ Keyes

I've never been to Stockholm before and have to say that I will be back soon because it's one of those destinations that keeps surprising you. Decadent, Expansive, and Liberal are the first three words that come to mind as I look out at the Royal Palace from the famous Grand Hotel. I made a b-line for the unique Vasa Museum as soon as I set foot in Stockholm. This one of a kind museum features a massive war-ship that sank on it's maiden voyage in 1628. Afterwards I checked out Reality Revisited, this killer exhibit with over 300 photos from the 70's nearby at the Moderna Museet. If you're after a view, City Hall is the place to be. Downstairs Stadshuskallaren serves the most elaborate banquets for the Nobel Prize Winners. Rather than taking a disco nap, I decided to get a little wild and climbed onto a RIB Charter boat and explored the archipelago: we found some awesome Baltic waves and clipped t around the Stockholm Harbor. Across town, I sat down to a sumptuous dinner at the Michelin Starred F12 Restaurant, located in the Royal Academy of Art. Upstairs, there's a club that reminds me of how great Body and Soul used to be back in the late 90's in New York. I could have stayed there all night but I moved on to the big party at hotel BernsDrinks, Dancing, History, Art, Food...just a glimpse of everything Stockholm has to offer.

Copenhagen: "Don't stop 'Til You Get Enough" 2009

Pictures and Text by JJ Keyes

Where were you when we heard about Michael Jackson? I was in Copenhagen.

The city is busy preparing for the 2009 World Out Games and thought everyone in the GLBT community is busy at work stitching the red carpet for the thousands of people who will fly SAS to Denmark for the big kick off July 25. The friendly faces of Copenhagen gave me a sneak peek of some of what this wonderful city has to offer.

I checked into the lush Hotel D'Agleterre, Denmark's leading five-star hotel located in Kongers Nytorv, right in the heart of Copenhagen. The rooms are out of Vanity Fair photo shoots, I can't even begin to gush. I took a one next door to their best luxury suite where all the celebrities stay: the concierge informed me I shared the terrace with this suite (where Michael Jackson once stayed) I was having an apertif at Skt. Petri Hotel's bar when I heard the news. Dinner conversation at the Divan 2 Restaurant in Tivoli Gardens was all about our favorite Michael Jackson hits, and I had the opportunity to do the Thriller Dance at the tribute gathering with a few hundred fans. Later that night, remixes of "Dirty Diana" and "Bad" were blaring at Oscar, Code, Central Corner, and Jailhouse (yes, we tried all four!) and the city was buzzing with men and women of all walks of life celebrating the legacy of true King of Pop.

Later that night I opened my laptop on a comfy table and looked out at the calm waters of the Nyhavn Canal and couldn't help but download a few of my favorite Jackson songs. The next few days I ventured out into Wonderful Copenhagen with Michael Jackson's greatest hits playing over and over on my ipod. Canals, Christiansborg Castle, The Tivoli Garden's Rutsjebanen Roller Coaster, the Gammel Strand, Little Mermaid, the CPH ICEBAR...I just can't get enough.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Highlights of our recent GLBT Fam Trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen

from our partner gaysweden.blogspot.com

We recently came back from an incredible fam trip that the folks in Copenhagen and Stockholm put together for a group of us. From this trip, we will be able to keep you up-to-date on some of the hottest trends and events coming from this exciting part of the world.

Our trip took us from Malmo in the south of Sweden, where we dined out, explored gay nightlife and even enjoyed a bike ride through the heart of the city, to Copenhagen, where we had the opportunity to both discover the city by day and by night!

On top of all that, the graduation tradition of this region was happening simultaneously, so we got some excellent side footage of young Danes partying like you've never seen young adults party before... they rent out trucks, get drunk (with a designated driver) and parade through the city for days on end, stopping in various squares and parks throughout the city and just plain old getting crazy. Good times... we'll be posting some footage on that as well.

Our trip then took us for a weekend in Stockholm... as we continued to travel north, the sun became ever brighter, setting close to midnight and back again by 3 am. It's quite an experience to leave a club at 4 am to a full sun!

In Stockholm, we toured the museum housing the Vasa ship, as well as explored all throughout the city including some of its various waterways. We also explored Old Town Stockholm by day and some incredible clubs by night, including the mixed F12 and the gay Paradise and Patricia (both close to each other and nearby our Hilton Hotel).

So stay tuned... each week we'll be posting various detailed highlights of this trip, as well as updated information from some of our key content partners including QX Magazine, the folks at Stockholm Pride and our new friends from the Gay Stockholm Business Network.