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


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Travel Tips for the Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Something New About Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Biggest Fish in the Seas

by LoAnn Halden

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

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

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

Everglades Eco-Adventure, Girl Style

by Sheryl Kay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what makes Island Girls Excursions especially suited for women?

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

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

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

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