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.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Enchanting Chez Wadi---Buzios, Brazil

The Swimming Pool is Nestled Amongst the Lush Tropical Gardens

By Roy Heale

Every now and then during my travels I am fortunate enough to stay in remarkable accommodations that have their own unique and memorable features. Such was the case when I walked though the front door of Chez Wadi Pousada in Buzios, Brazil. The aura of peace and tranquility was instantly apparent, but perhaps more importantly I immediately felt right at home. Located just about 100 meters from the Manguinhos Beach, Chez Wadi is the perfect place to stay and enjoy all that Buzios offers the LGBT traveler. Gay-owned and operated by Waldyr Abifadel, Chez Wadi is dedicated to perfection and ensuring that every guest experiences a flawless stay at his home. Certainly Waldyr's amazing hospitality is the reason that his pousada stands out from the crowd of accommodations available in Buzios.

Chez Wadi Entrance Foyer

The luxurious, yet warm and cozy, furnishings are complemented by Waldyr's personal collection of original artworks, mementos and sculptures from his personal global travels, and an extensive book collection. All of this combines together creating a very “home-away-from home” spirit throughout the property. The bold and rich color schemes combined with beautiful natural stone floors and wooden or leather furniture constantly encourage relaxing pleasure.

A kitchen and bar with an outdoor patio plus swimming pool in the lush tropical gardens complete the amenities for total vacation enjoyment. A full buffet breakfast is served every morning on the garden patio and drinks and light meals are available throughout the day. Waldyr will even demonstrate his expert culinary skills and plan a special dinner upon request, with sufficient advance notice.

Guest Rooms

The eight rooms are large, modern and complete with every personal convenience. Each room is unique and several small buildings located at the rear of the property house the accommodations. They are well appointed and tastefully designed to complement the lush tropical environment so as to appear unobtrusive.

The lush tropical gardens are manicured daily by the staff gardener and they provide the perfect environment for relaxing in a chair or hammock plus lounging poolside. Or the short five minute walk to the expansive Manguinhos Beach allows for surfside enjoyment in the hot tropical sun.

Strolling along the beach for about fifteen minutes will take you to the small Porto da Barra village and gastronomical center where you will find the fishermen's wharf, a fish market, the old pier, and several gourmet restaurants with ocean views. This is also the original location where the first vacation homes were built on the Buzios peninsula.

Manguinhos Beach from the Jetty

Chez Wadi is located a short fifteen minute taxi ride from the center of Buzios. This means it is very easy to head into town and enjoy the shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars that are the main attraction in the small seaside village. It is also very easy to travel around the peninsula in a rented dune buggie and visit the numerous beaches for which Buzios is world renowned.

After purchasing the land Waldyr designed and built his dream home. Shortly thereafter he began receiving his many friends as guests in his new abode. Because of his generous, perfect hospitality his friends encouraged him to add more bedrooms and begin offering his services to everyone. Thus Chez Wadi was born a few years later and now enjoys a reputation as the perfect pousada in Buzios.

Chez Wadi Living Space

A great location, luxurious living quarters, close to the beach and gourmet dining---what more do you need for a completely relaxing gay vacation or honeymoon?

Although Waldyr welcomes all guests to his home, he also demonstrates the true essence of the meaning of “gay-friendly” accommodations. He strives for perfection in every detail around the pousada and, in my opinion, completely achieves his goals. If you are planning a trip to Buzios be sure and check out the availability at Chez Wadi where you are guaranteed to receive a big gay welcome for a perfect holiday.

For More Information Visit: http://www.chezwadi.com/   www.buzios.biz/Gay-Buzios.php   http://www.visitebuzios.com/

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Local Balunjali Kayak Tours Among the Best Australian Experiences

Enjoy the greatest natural adventure on Australia's Gold Coast, including kayaking, snorkeling, dolphins and Aboriginal culture.

Breathe in the fresh air, and soak up the wonderful scenery as your guided kayak group paddles a short way across the calm blue water to Wavebreak Island. Marvel at the array of sea-life, dolphins, stingrays and birdlife you may encounter along the way. Snorkel straight of the sandy beach in the clear warm waters alive with sub-tropical fish and frequented by dolphins and enjoy a sumptuous traditional Aussie billy tea breakfast under the casuarina trees.

The tour guides will awaken your senses to the nature that surrounds you as you participate in a mock hunt for the Golden Swamp Wallaby and learn about Aboriginal ceremonies and survival skills.

Come down under for a visit and bring your sense of adventure!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Penguins, Dolphins, and Welsh History in Patagonia, Argentina

Magellan Penguin Heading for the Ocean

By Roy Heale

One of the most fascinating and enjoyable day trips from Puerto Madryn, Argentina is the journey south to visit the penguin reserve at Punta Tombo. With stops along the way for Dolphin watching and a traditional Welsh Tea in the historic town of Gaiman this is a full day of unequaled activities. The Flamenco Tour agency and fellow IGLTA member offers this day trip starting at about 9AM in the morning and returning to Puerto Madryn by about 6PM. With bilingual tour guides who are knowledgeable on the region and comfortable vehicles, this day trip is a must for those who enjoy nature and unique experiences.

The small peninsula of Punta Tombo is on the Argentinian Patagonian coastline. Thousands of tourists gather here to be amazed, entertained, and educated by one of the most fascinating shows performed by nature at the Magellan penguin colony. Approximately half a million penguins come every year in order to breed. The first of them arrive in September and stay until about mid-March, but the best time to observe them is after November, once the babies are born. One of the greatest features of this Nature Reservation is the fact that you can actually walk among the penguins, follow them and learn their habits, see how they feed their babies, the rites of pairing, the fights for the defense of their territories, how they build their nests, and the unending walks they take to and from the ocean. This is a truly singular experience with wonderful photo opportunities. Penguins and their individual style of waddling and behavioral patterns are always entertaining.

Penguin Crossing

Punta Tombo is also a paradise for other sea birds that have chosen this site to nest. Kelp gulls and dolphin gulls, skuas, two species of cormorants---the king cormorant and the rock shag---steamerducks, snowy sheathbills, and several species of terns and giant petrels all make their nests in this region. Be sure to bring your binoculars to enjoy the bird watching.

At Puerto Rawson the boat tours head out to sea where the dolphin sightings are a major attraction. Usually the Commerson's dolphins---called Toninas locally---and also known as bottlenose dolphins, can be observed year-round. This is one of the few places in the world where these dolphins may be watched in their natural environment. Semi-rigid boats leave from Rawson's harbor in the afternoon because in the mornings the dolphins remain feeding in the ocean depths. Theses dolphins are not at all shy and love to dart back and forth in front of the boats' bows and leap into the air performing a great show for the passengers on board. On one boat trip it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe numerous of these fascinating sea creatures having fun in their natural environment.

Puerto Rawson Dolphin Watching

For a change of pace the next stop is a visit to the town of Gaiman where the first settlers arrived in 1865 by boat from Wales. These immigrants were escaping from the English domination of their homeland as well as from the attempt of the latter to impose their culture upon them. They were looking for a virgin territory to be able to establish the "New Wales" where they could follow their own rules and customs without being attacked. Patagonia offered this safe haven. Today much of the Welsh culture is still apparent in the historic buildings, architectural style, and street names. Even the Welsh language is still spoken and taught in the schools, and real Welsh Tea Houses are open for all to enjoy a traditional Welsh Afternoon Tea. The Welsh village essence and small farms retain the charm and character created by these original settlers even in today's modern society. This is a bona fide step back in time with historical overtones for an incomparable Patagonia experience.

First House Built in Gaiman

From wildlife to local history this day trip from Puerto Madryn is a fascinating education of the local culture and yore. The gay and gay-friendly staff at Flamenco Tour agency will be happy to arrange this journey for your enjoyment and will also ensure that you learn from your time spent with nature and yesteryear.

For More Information Visit:     http://www.flamencotour.com/

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sun, Surf, and Fabulous Beaches---Buzios, Brazil

Sunset at Azeda Beach

By Roy Heale

Just one hundred and twenty miles north of Rio de Janeiro lies a small peninsula known as Armação dos Búzios. It is only eight kilometers long and adorned with over twenty magnificent beaches which are bathed in brilliant sunshine year-round. Some beaches are small and accessible only by short hikes or water taxis and others are expansive, sandy stretches of shoreline with restaurants, cafes, and bars. The diversity and options which these beaches offer creates the perfect setting for vacations in the sun with fun outdoor activities. No wonder this small Brazilian paradise has already been discovered by numerous LGBT travelers seeking the perfect relaxing gay-getaway.

Buzios has a long history as a small fishing community and holiday destination. But in 1964, when Brigitte Bardot---super model, actress, and icon of the sixties---posed for photographs in Búzios wearing a bikini swimsuit, which was a new rage at the time, the peninsula gained a new reputation. Naturally a beautiful screen goddess in a skimpy swimsuit declaring this small fishing village to be an “aphrodisiacal wonderland” proved to be more than enough to launch an entire industry of tourism which is still thriving today. In her honor you can stroll along the Bardot Cove and on the Orla Bardot you will find a statue of her sitting on a suitcase and gazing out to the ocean. Sunset is the best time here to experience the magic of Buzios and understand the mystique which captivated Bardot in the sixties and lives on today.

Brigitte Bardot Statue

With a resident population of about 25,000 people this is a truly international community. The locals have a long history in the community going back several generations. But many of today's residents came to visit Buzios on vacation and then returned later to make this Nirvana their permanent home. Perhaps this is the reason why the peninsula enjoys a reputation for tolerance and acceptance of all visitors including the LGBT traveler. Although this a very typical Brazilian cultural community there is also a strong European influence which leads to comparisons with the French Côte d'Azur towns like Saint Tropez. In the main center of Buzios the narrow cobblestone streets and unique architecture housing restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques emanates a sophisticated flair while the countryside offers rich tropical vegetation, rolling hills, spectacular views and, of course, sandy beaches.

Although the main attraction here is water sports and beaches, Búzios is also an ideal place for people who appreciate fine dining. There are French, Italian, Moroccan, Thai, and other restaurants to please the most discerning tastes. The influx of foreigners who relocated here is partially the reason for this diversity, having brought the recipes and spices from their native countries. Fish and seafood remain the favorite local dishes because Búzios is surrounded by beaches on all sides and an ocean plentiful with a variety of seafood. The popular Brazilian “Buffet By The Kilo” is well represented in Buzios by Boom Restaurant where the choices are incredible from salads, to local hot entrees, or meats cooked to order on the assado. At Chez Michou there is a wide range of sweet and savory crepes which are perfect at any time of the day. For gourmet dinning at night be sure to visit Patio Havana for great food and entertainment accompanied by ocean views. Almost every restaurant offers a Catch of the Day but the real delight is at the Fish Shanty on the promenade where the catch is literally direct from the ocean, to the grill, and to your table. Or perhaps some Argentine beef at Don Juan is an option from seafood delights. Whatever you are craving it is all available in Buzios and always with a different view.

Almost every accommodation on the peninsula is gay-welcoming but during my visit I was fortunate enough to experience two of the gay and lesbian owned pousadas. First I stayed at Chez Wadi where the gay owners strive for---and achieve---perfection in making you feel right at home from the moment you walk through the front door. Located just 100 meters from the expansive Manguinhos Beach, Chez Wadi offers ten air conditioned large rooms in a tropical garden with a swimming pool and artistically furnished common areas. This quiet location and carefully manicured lush tropical flora is the perfect place to relax and yet still be close to all the other attractions of Buzios. Secondly, I stayed at the lesbian owned Our House---and fellow IGLTA member---which is the only exclusively gay resort in Brazil. Located just a ten minute walk to downtown and about the same distance to the popular Ferradura Beach, Our House offers eight rooms with ocean views, a large swimming pool, a rustic cafe area where breakfast is served, an entertainment lounge, and more. Owners Maria and Giselle endeavor to provide a safe and comfortable place for gay vacationers to enjoy exclusive privacy and relax in a totally gay environment. They also offer a wide range of hiking or biking eco-tours along some of the peninsula's most beautiful trails and countryside. This is a great location, with great views, and perfect hosts.

Sunset from Our House
Naturally the beaches and water activities are the main attraction and Buzios offers everything imaginable including snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing, fishing, ocean kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, fishing, hiking, and more. Of course simply relaxing on the beach and swimming in the crystal-clear blue waters is a must! On one side of the peninsula the waters are slightly cooler with stronger waves for the surfers and the other provides calm, warm water for less strenuous sea sports. Whatever the preference for activities, the diversity of more than twenty large and small beaches offers beach-goers of all ages the perfect place to spend the hot sunny days.

No visit to Buzios is complete without at least one boat trip onto the Atlantic Ocean coupled with visits to the secluded beaches and scenery that is not readily accessible by land. I was fortunate enough to spend four hours at sea with BuziosNauta hosted by their experienced sailors and tour guides. During this cruise we stopped at four of the more secluded beaches where swimming and snorkeling or relaxing on the beach were enjoyed by all. The boat was well stocked with both alcoholic beverages---mostly Brazilian Caipirinhas---water and soft drinks. Plus in the afternoon our short stops included visits from kayak or boat deliveries of Pizza and fresh prawns. A truly blissful time in the sun on the oceans gentle waves with cool breezes.

Boat Trip

Getting around Buzios is easy on foot, by inexpensive taxi, or you can rent bicycles or dune buggies to explore more of the peninsula's beaches and lush tropical scenery. However, make sure you have a map and good navigator as the narrow, winding and curved country roads require careful maneuvering.

With a close proximity to Rio and the very gay-friendly atmosphere I could easily understand why Buzios is rapidly becoming increasingly popular as a new favorite South American gay vacation destination. What could be more gay than amazing beaches, calm and clear ocean waters, gourmet dining, gay accommodations, and late night clubs, bars, and entertainment? All of this at reasonable and affordable prices with a tropical climate for surf and sun gay get-aways. Make sure you add Buzios to your upcoming vacation plans and you won't be disappointed.

For More Information Visit:
www.buzios.biz/Gay-Buzios.php      http://www.visitebuzios.com/
http://www.chezwadi.com/       http://www.ourhousebrazil.com/   http://www.ecobiketour.com/

Friday, December 10, 2010

Married at 35,000 Feet: The SAS "Love Flight"

By Clark Massad, IGLTA European Ambassador
Getting married used to be about getting to the chapel on time. For Scandinavian Airlines, it’s also about getting a boarding pass, clearing security, and getting to the gate on time. And being on time is very important for Europe’s most punctual airline, especially when you’re celebrating the world’s first in-flight gay and lesbian weddings.

The SAS “Love Flight” – SK903 between Stockholm and New York on Dec. 6, 2010 – was the climax of an extremely successful social media campaign that attracted more than 300 couples to compete, all vying to be remembered as the first same-sex couple to be married in the air.

It all began with an idea from SAS PR Director Anders Lindström who originally conceived the contest as a traditional public-relations campaign, with SAS choosing the winners. After discussing his idea with colleague Chistina Ericsson, the two decided to “take it social” and wanted to see if the idea to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies at 35,000 feet would actually take off.

A landing page was created, and the phrase “SAS hopes to celebrate the first same-sex marriage in the air” was dropped onto Facebook pages in Tokyo, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. The trial balloon took flight and within 65 minutes, British Blogger Stephen Fry had re-tweeted the phrase to his then 1.7 million followers. Two hours later, five couples had already submitted their entries.

In all, more than 450,000 unique visitors came to the SAS “Love is in the Air” website and more than 350,000 votes were cast. SAS estimates that more than 120 million people worldwide heard or read about the campaign through the extensive social media and traditional media coverage that included Facebook, Twitter, online news, print news, TV, radio and bloggers, thus making this one of the most buzzed-about social media campaigns.

"[This] is a very important market for any travel company, and we felt we wanted to show our support to the LGBT community in a greater way than just traditional marketing. With this campaign, people all over the world got involved, which we would never have been able to do with traditional marketing,” says Anders Lindström.

The winning couples, Aleksandar Mijatovic & Shantu Bhattacherjee from Germany and Ewa Tomaszewicz & Gosia Rawińska from Poland, amassed more than 80,000 votes each and were treated to a mid-air wedding hosted by SAS.

Under the best of circumstances, organizing a wedding ceremony is no small feat. But organizing a wedding ceremony for two couples in the business class cabin of an A340 while taking into consideration all the security and safety restrictions is a real challenge. But as one of the world’s most innovative airlines, SAS was up to the task. SAS employees at all levels – from ground personnel to cabin crew – pitched in to make the Love Flight a unique and memorable experience.

The day started with VIP check-in at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, where the winning couples were whisked through Fast-Track Security and escorted to the SAS Business Class Lounge, specially decorated for the occasion. Champagne was served, photos were taken, interviews were conducted and the participants were briefed on the day’s events. Shortly thereafter, the wedding guests were pre-boarded.

A re-penned version of Cabaret’s “Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome” sung by the cabin crew replaced the traditional wedding march as the couples walked down the jetway. Inside the aircraft, the already luxurious business class cabin of the A340 had been decorated with white zinnias on the aisles and a heart-shaped wreath on the forward bulkhead. Cabin crew wore white corsages, and white orchids adorned the galley walls. Even the business-class lavatories were decorated with white roses.

The couples took their places in the center seats of the first two rows, with their friends and members of the press occupying the other 30 flat-bed seats. More champagne was served as John Paul Young’s 1978 worldwide hit “Love is in the Air” was played over a sound-system that had been cleverly concealed in a service trolley. Although the party had begun, the flight attendants – who had all volunteered to work this flight – still managed to get everyone seated and buckled-in for departure.

The ceremonies, presided over by Christofer Fjellner, the youngest member of the European Parliament, took place just minutes after takeoff from Arlanda, while the airplane was still in Swedish airspace. Luckily, Sweden’s official wedding ceremony is quite short, with the “long version” clocking in at just a few minutes.

At approximately 11:31am, Aleks and Shantu said said “I do” at 23,000 feet over the Swedish city of Borlänge, thus making them the first gay-couple to be wed in the air. Minutes later, Ewa and Gosia became the first lesbian couple to be married in air.

After exchanging rings and vows, the newlyweds were toasted with a “Love is in the Air” cocktail consisting of champagne and Cloudberry liqueur, followed by a multi-course wedding dinner. The cabin crew once again surprised the couples with a “wedding rap” inspired by the event, and there was even the traditional first dance followed by wedding cake and a showering of gifts, including replicas of the SAS A340 on which the words Just Married had been inscribed.

While aviation-themed weddings are quite popular in Sweden – more than 500 marriages are performed in Arlanda Airport’s chapel every year, with the newlyweds jetting off on honeymoons immediately thereafter – mid-air marriages are rare. “We are extremely proud to be the first airline to host not only the world’s first mid-air same-sex wedding, but both the first gay and first lesbian wedding. As the national airline of the world’s three most progressive countries, we felt it was completely natural to also be the first with this,” says Anders Lindström, PR Director, Scandinavian Airlines.

Scandinavian Airlines is owned by the governments of Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, three of the world’s most progressive countries when it comes to LGBT rights. Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex unions in 1989. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Sweden since May 2009, and Finland is on track to adopt same-sex marriage laws in early 2012.

However, not one of the three winning couples lives in a country where same-sex marriage is universally recognized. Germany has registered partnerships since 2001, but Poland does not yet allow civil unions for same-sex couples, despite ongoing debate in Parliament since the year 2000. In the U.S., same-sex marriage is currently legal in only five states.

“We are getting married today in honor of all the same-sex couples in Poland that cannot yet do this,” said Ewa and Gosia, expressing their hopes that “one day in Poland we will have a normal country where everyone that loves each other can just get married.”

Upon arrival in Newark, the celebration continued with a reception hosted by Visit Sweden at Ramscale Studios in New York. The couples honeymooned at the W Hotel in New York and enjoyed a VIP package to the Broadway hit La Cage Aux Folles. The honeymoon continued to Los Angeles with three nights at the luxurious Andaz West Hollywood, a commitment ceremony and a unique honeymoon package from West Hollywood Marketing & Visitors Bureau.

SAS also held a U.S.-based version of the competition with VisitSweden, which was won by Thomas Landreth and Brett Kessler of North Carolina. Brett and Thomas departed for Stockholm on the returning flight to be married at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, where they will have their commitment ceremony followed by a honeymoon in Stockholm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Manchester Gay Village: Weekend Bender - Part II

Manchester Gay Village: Weekend Bender - Part II: "Hi there! My name is Darren Cooper and when they let me out of my box, (which does happen occasionally!) I like nothing better than the free..."

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Valdez Peninsula An Open-Air Zoo

Punta Delgada

By Roy Heale

Located about 1400 kms south of Buenos Aires in Patagonia, the Valdez Peninsula is an astonishing sanctuary of wild life, unique in the world. It is protected by a group of National and Provincial Parks know as the Reservations of Punta Norte, Caleta Valdés, Punta Delgada, Punta Pirámides and the Isla de los Pájaros (The Birds Island). It is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whale as well as the southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The orcas in this area have developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.

The Peninsula is connected to the mainland by the narrow strip of land 35 kilometers long called Ameghino Isthmus with the Gulf San Jose on one side and the Gulf Nuevo on the other. Here you will find the entrance to the Park and an Interpretive Center where you can learn about all of the wildlife on the Peninsula before you begin the 400km journey around the coastline. The Valdez Peninsula has been called an “open-air” zoo where the close-up observation of wildlife is a unique experience. Around the Peninsula the land is flat, very arid and desert-like, with shrubbery and wildlife. But along the coast are white limestone cliffs dropping down to the clear blue Atlantic Ocean. This creates a spectacular rocky coastline with beautiful beaches where the sea mammals are in abundance.

Sea Lion Colony at Punta Piramides

The town of Puerto Madryn is just 200kms from the Peninsula and is the acclaimed center for all of the tours and excursions available for wildlife observation. The gay-friendly, and fellow IGLTA member,  Flamenco Tour agency with English speaking staff are experts when it comes to planning your time around the Peninsula. They organize daily tours for whale-watching, observing the sea lions, and learning all about this wildlife reserve. They can also assist with gay-friendly accommodations and other regional tours.

A typical day trip organized by Flamenco Tour begins at about 8AM with a pick-up at your lodgings. Your tour guide and host for the day will be fluent in English and Spanish plus they will be extremely knowledgeable on everything the region has to offer its visitors. The first stop will be the Interpretive Center to prepare you for the wildlife spectacle ahead. From there you will proceed to Puerto Piramedes which is the only village on the Peninsula and is the boarding point for the whale watching boats. Once aboard your Zodiac vessel the next two hours will prove to be an incredible experience as you will see the Southern Right Whale close-up and playful.

Boarding The Boats

Southern Right Whale Up Close

After your boat ride you will enjoy lunch at the Quimey Quipan---Friendly Welcome---ocean side restaurant, where you can enjoy authentic local cuisine plus of course the catch of the day! The view here is relaxing and peaceful with excellent home-cooked meals.

Next stop on the tour is Punta Delgada where a short walk down the cliffs is rewarded by Sea Lions and their cubs stretched out along the beach enjoying the sunshine. Then at Punta Cantor you will see more of these enormous mammals followed by the Magellenic Penguin Colony at Caleta Valdes. If you are lucky---as was the case on my tour---at Punta Norte you will catch a glimpse of the very rare Orcas.

This Flamenco Tour excursion is about eleven hours where the wonders of nature will constantly amaze you plus the beautiful cliffs and beaches will delight you. No wonder it is called an open-air zoo as the sights of so much different wildlife in its natural environment is truly unique to this region.

For More Information Visit: www.flamencotour.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Caledonia has purple bits and first "Pink Packages"

New Caledonia - a French Territory in the Coral Sea between Australia and New Zealand - is emerging as a hot travel destination for international gay and lesbian travellers seeking the "nouvelle" and a little French bliss.
The capital city of Noumea has several tour operators and hotels with gay welcome mats.  After a recent visit by gay media and IGLTA members, one group of properties has created a "pink package" and suggested short-break itinerary that includes visits to gay clubs and restaurants. 
The gay welcoming Le Parc Hotel on the step of Noumea’s main beach is the first accommodation to create a special pink package for gay visitors. The rates are inclusive of lodging in a deluxe room and extras like a Shiatsu massage upon arrival, followed by a seafood buffet and Polynesian dance show before you set out for the local gay bars and clubs. The getaway package includes a day trip across the lagoon to L’Escapade Island Resort, where you can kayak and snorkel in the lagoon, get committed in the chapel, and have a splash in the resort pool which has a swim-up bar. C'est la vie in the tropical paradise of Nouvelle Caledonie.

IGLTA members include the national airline, Air Calin, and the New Caledonia Tourism office. There are several Rainbow Tourism Accredited properties and tour operators located in Noumea and around the islands, and the local community association, Homo-Sphere, holds events for locals and visitors at gay owned venues.  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Going Gay at FIT in Buenos Aires

The Pink Corner at FIA

By Roy Heale

With a great deal of fanfare and excitement The 15th annual FIT Latin America (International Tourism Fair of Latin America) is taking place once again in Buenos Aires from October 30th to November 2nd. Last year the four day event was attended by almost 83,000 people and approximately 40% of these were travel industry professionals. With the recent increases in the number of international visitors to Argentina it is anticipated that this year's 15th Anniversary show will be even bigger than in prior years. With over 250 exhibitors from around South America and other parts of the globe, seminars, presentations, and more this is perhaps the largest gathering of travel industry representatives in South America. However, this year a new component has been added called The Pink Corner which is an exclusive area for LGBT travel businesses to promote their services and communicate the importance of the gay and lesbian sector of the traveling public.

This new feature Pink Corner is the first initiative of the CCGLAR (Cámara de Comercio Gay Lésbica Argentina)---which is the new Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Argentina---in collaboration with The Argentina Ministry of Tourism.

Fellow IGLTA members Pablo De Luca & Gustavo Noguera founders of CCGLAR and owners of GMAPS360 and Gnetwork360 began working on this project earlier this year long before same-sex marriages in Argentina became legal in July 2010, but only just received the go-ahead after the new law was enacted. However, according to De Luca it is now even more appropriate that the LGBT travel segment of this industry demonstrates a stronger presence at this major annual trade show and fair.

Gustavo Noguera (left) and Pablo De Luca

Some of Argentina's leading LGBT travel industry professionals participating at Pink Corner included Delta Air Lines, Gmaps360, Hertz, GNETWORK360, TIJE Travel, Glam Travelers, Friendly Apartments, GWedding, Casa Shanti, Pink Point Buenos Aires, Bariloche Gay Travel,Thennat Travel, BA Queer, Mendoza Gay Travel, Deptos Mendoza, INSIDE Resto Bar, Human Club, Pride Cafe, Libor Tour, Uomobello, Out&About, Howard Johnson, and Flamenco Tour. These local travel businesses and tour operators demonstrated the diversity of services which Argentina already offers to the LGBT traveler visiting this vast country. It is certain that with this kind of initiative by the CCGLAR and its future planned activities, the LGBT business community in Argentina will grow and develop into a major component of the overall travel industry in South America.

Entertainers Welcome the Crowds at the FIT Entrance

If you were unable to attend this year's FIT show then mark the dates October 29th to November 1st, 2011 on your calendar and head to the new gay mecca of South America---Buenos Aires---for next year's 16th edition of this important industry gathering.

For More Information Visit: http://www.fit.org.ar/ or http://www.ccglar.org/

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where Nature Is Close At Hand---Puerto Madryn, Argentina

The Five Kilometer Beach at Puerto Madryn
By Roy Heale

Named in 1865 by the original settlers in honor of a Welsh Baron, the Atlantic coastal town and seaside resort of Puerto Madryn is renowned as the whale watching capital of Argentina. It is also the gateway to the Peninsula Valdes World Natural Heritage sanctuary since 1999 and a major wildlife conservation area. The region encompasses approximately 50 kilometers of beaches and most ocean bays are overlooked by dramatic white limestone cliffs which accentuate the blue Atlantic waters. Every kind of outdoor activity imaginable is available including scuba diving, windsurfing, sport fishing, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, sea kayaking, white water rafting, and of course wildlife excursions. The beaches themselves are a major attraction during the hot summer months for relaxing days on the shores and cooling swims in the Atlantic Ocean. No wonder that LGBT travelers have discovered this eco-friendly outdoor playground. Fellow IGLTA member Flamenco Tour agency of Puerto Madryn has specialized in discovering gay or gay-friendly accommodations and activities in this area.

Located about 1400 kilometers from Buenos Aires in the Patagonian Province of Chubut, Puerto Madryn is currently the fastest growing city in Argentina. Although tourism plays a major role in the local economy the aluminum and fishing industries are the major economic engines. The deep sea port is one of Argentina's primary merchant vessel destinations along with cruise ship stopovers during the warmer months. The thriving community is bustling with activities during the months of October to May when tourists can enjoy an outdoor vacation full of wildlife and natural adventures for unforgettable sights and unique photographic safaris for documenting their travels.

The Penguin Colony
Whale Watching

The townsite is also the major hub for daily tours into the wildlife sanctuaries for whale watching, sea lion observations, visits to the penguin colony, Welsh Tea in the Rio Chubut valley, dolphin watching, and all the extreme sports activities. The large Gulf Nuevo is skirted by a sandy beach approximately five kilometers long creating the main attraction in Puerto Madryn and a beautiful promenade extends from one end to the other. Along this ocean boardwalk there are many statues, sculptures, the town's main pier, sand dunes, and of course restaurants on the beach with spectacular views. Across the street with uninterrupted ocean views are shops, hotels, apartments, tourist services, restaurants, and more. But the natural coastline has not been spoiled with a constant string of high-rise buildings as is the case in so many other resort towns with large beaches and ocean views. Everything about this community seems to have been designed with nature in mind and the industrial areas are located far from the natural landscape. Rainfalls are scarce in the almost desert-like environment so a hot, dry holiday in the sun is almost guaranteed!

Beach at Sunset

A wide variety of hotel accommodations or apartment rentals are available in Puerto Madryn and some of the surrounding towns have smaller, limited capacity, hotels. The gay and gay-friendly, English speaking staff at Flamenco Tour agency can assist you on where to stay, which tours to enjoy, bookings for any sports activity, and general local advice such as where to dine. With over three decades of experience Flamenco Tour is the only travel operator in town specializing in LGBT travel. They have pre-selected gay friendly hotels, tour guides, and local vendors in order to ensure a positive gay experience when visiting this outdoor adult resort area.

So if you are looking for where to go and experience nature close at hand then Puerto Madryn is your gateway to eco-tourism and a very unique outdoor gay vacation by the ocean. This is nature's own seaworld without the carnival side-shows offered at most wildlife parks. Experience mother nature's wonders in their inherent environment, but where you can almost reach out and touch the whales and dolphins.

For More Information Visit: http://www.flamencotour.com/

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Famous For Fun Down Under: Australia's Gold Coast

The first link you need to visit when planning your first - or repeat - visit to Australia and Queensland, is the new Gay and Lesbian Destination Guide to Australia's Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast Tourism Region - which will host an IGLTA FAM trip in March 2011 - also has a new brand, "Famous For Fun."  
Together, these guides have enough information to make your downunder dream destination come to fruition.   

Come and say G'day and play on the world-famous beaches, walk in ancient rainforests, pamper yourself at superb lifestyle retreats, pet a koala, feed a kangaroo and experience the land of "No worries, mate."

A Buenos Aires Lovers Locale---Torcuato & Regina, Bar-Bistro

By Roy Heale

Latin lovers are world renowned for their passion and intimate love affairs. Perhaps the most famous of these romantic couples was Juan Domingo Peron and Maria Eva Duarte de Peron---more commonly known as Evita. But prior to this historic coupling the 20th President of Argentina, Maximo Marcelo Torcuato de Alvear, met with a stellar Portuguese opera singer, Regina Pacini, whereupon another great love affair began. The latter couple is less renowned globally but equally immortalized in Argentina's political history. Now Buenos Aires is home to a meeting place named in their honor Torcuato & Regina Bar-Bistro where lovers come together---including same-sex partners---for great dining and casual encounters over cocktails.
Located on the edge of the Plaza San Martin with its magnificent, mature Ombú trees and adjacent to the historic facade of the Circulo Militar building, the Torcuato & Regina Bar-Bistro is conveniently located at the Plaza San Martin, Linea C, Subway station. The sidewalk cafe tables plus the huge windows provide a perfect view for relaxing and dining, or simply meeting for drinks. Close to the downtown business district, many historic sights, and the bustle of the Florida Street pedestrian mall, it is also the perfect respite for a break from strenuous activities affording time to stop and smell the roses in an otherwise frenetic day.

In keeping with the tradition whereby Torcuato showered Regina with bouquets of red and white roses during their courtship and throughout their marriage, a red rose is a predominant theme at this Bistro.

The décor throughout Torcuato & Regina offers a bright and airy, yet cozy atmosphere. A classic French chateau effect is created by the use of rich-colored polished wood, red and white accents of floral patterned wall coverings, a decorative high ceiling, chandeliers, and light tomato-red veiled drapes. The grand curved oak, paneled bar with a white marbled counter-top is the perfect place to relax and sample the extensive wine selection, enjoy a coffee break, or be refreshed by one of the nine different brands of bottled water. All of this is served by handsome bartenders and waiters eager to make your experience an enjoyable one. The bistro side of the complex offers casual and intimate dining with a diverse international menu also offering traditional Argentine cuisine with a modern flair. From hot and cold appetizers, plus light salads to pasta and pizzas plus assado meats or grilled fish, the extensive menu offers a gourmet selection for any dining occasion. Then there's also the desserts with perfect taste sensations to satisfy any sweet tooth craving. But perhaps the specialty of the maison is the extensive wine list prepared by the sommelier and General Manager, Alejandro Pagani, who will be pleased to guide you through your wine selections.

So now the LGBT community of Buenos Aires and visitors to the city have a gay-friendly place to meet and enjoy conversations in a tranquil atmosphere with the light strains of Latin jazz music in the background. It is also becoming a gathering place where---in keeping with the traditions of Latin romances--singles might begin their own love affair after that perfect same-sex encounter. Whatever your reason for a visit to Torcuato & Regina Bar-Bistro it is guaranteed to be a perfectly memorable experience and you will probably fall in love with the place.

Location: Avenida Santa Fe 772, Buenos Aires, Argentina, C1059ABO
Phone: +54.11.4312-9410/3349
Hours of Operation: Mon – Fri 8:00 am - 1:00 am Sat: 9:00 am - 1:30 am
Visa, Amex, Mastercard Accepted
For More Information Visit: http://www.torcuatoyregina.com/

Giraffes in Dade City, Florida?

By Sheryl Kay
Travel the back roads of central Florida and you're sure to come upon classic diners, great flea markets, fruit and vegetable stands, and red brick court houses.

And if you happen to cruise through Dade City, you'll see all that, plus you might also spy a few giraffes, or a herd of zebra just wandering. No worries....they're behind a nice wooden fence surrounding the 40 acre Giraffe Ranch, about five miles north of downtown, off highway 301. For some of us who've done Disney Gay Days for several years, the change of pace is welcome.

On a recent visit we were warmly greeted by owners Charles "Lex" Salisbury, and his wife Elena Sheppa. Over the years the two have collected a variety of exotic wildlife on their expanse of land, and opened the ranch to the public earlier this year.

Our tour began with a walk through visit with lemurs. These monkeys "fly" through the air, but the most extraordinary moment was feeding them grapes and having them hold our hands ever so gently as they tenderly took each grape and put it into their mouth. It was most unexpected, and the photo opportunities there were great.
Next we visited with Indian song birds. Sheppa explained all about the breed and then showed us how to feed them. After about 60 seconds of feigning timidity, the birds started flying all about, landing on our arms and heads looking for that food.

Then on to a most comfortable safari truck, where Salisbury told us about the ranch, the wildlife, and the ecosystem (the couple have made education a focal point), as he drove us around the property to visit with all kinds of wildlife, up close. For most of the ride we had camels alongside the truck, as well as Haflinger horses, and zebras, all coming to feed at small containers attached to the truck (great for photos, and touching their manes or backs). We also saw Bongo antelope, Dexter cows, warthogs, flocks of cranes, roseate spoonbills, and ostrich.
Perhaps most entertaining for us was meeting the giraffes. About four or five approached our vehicle just toward the end of the tour, and we were given the opportunity to feed them (not giraffe biscuits, but real tree limbs). Never underestimate the strength of this long neck, elegant creature, even when it's batting its eyelashes at you.....when they tear the leaves off the limbs you're holding, be sure to have a good grasp because if you don't, you will get pulled, big time.
Don't miss the gift shop after the tour. Sheppa is also an artist and is selling some of her sand blasted glass ware, as well as artist Heike Johnson's very funky wool purses, several in rainbow colors.

Admission to the ranch is by reservation only, and we recommend only wearing closed shoes! Tours are at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, and the cost is free for children under two, $49.99 for ages 2-11, $59.99 for ages 11 and up, and $54.99 for ages 65 and up (group rates are available too). Reservations are held by credit card, but payment can only be made by check or cash.

Visit the ranch and then make it an eco-weekend. Swim with the manatees in Crystal River (about 30 minutes away), go fishing and hiking along the Chassahowitzka Springs, or get rugged with some geocaching in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.

Be sure to stay at the Sawmill Camping Resort in Dade City, an LGBT campground. Here you can camp in complete comfort along the winding Withlacoochee River with towering old cypress trees and enjoy nature in a peaceful setting with over 100 acres of nature trails, RV sites with full hook up, tent sites and a large variety of cabins. Just the evening entertainment alone will keep you coming back.

Sheryl Kay is a freelance print and photo journalist based in Tampa, Florida. She's also contributing editor and Out In Front columnist for CURVE Magazine. She can be reached at skreporter@hotmail.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red Roof Inn in Flushing Great Hotel!

Red Roof Inn
Flushing, New York

This past weekend I had the pleasure of staying in the Red Roof Inn in Flushing, Queens. New York is essentially my second home and I really wanted to explore a new neighborhood, and Flushing was an excellent one.

Flushing is dubbed as “The Real Chinatown” and has an immense amount of Chinese influence. The street food, dim sum restaurants and eclectic retail shops really give the sense of East Asia. My friend and I have been to Shanghai and we felt like we were back traveling in the city.

The Red Roof Inn on Prince Street is a new property and decorated in the new NextGen design. It has the feel of a boutique hotel and the rooms are very nice. I stayed in a double bed room and the HD TV, desk and micro-fridge were top notch and brand new. The beds were incredibly comfortable, and waking up to a view of the New York skyline in the distance was amazing.

The neighborhood and hotel are at the end of the 7 train and it’s an easy, direct path to Times Square. At the end of the line in Manhattan you can take just about any train to any other part of the city. While the commute may deter some people, I found it a nice, relaxing ride and gave me the ability to explore more of New York.

I would recommend staying at the Red Roof Inn in flushing. It’s affordable, surrounded by great food, clean, new and close to the Subway. It really is a great deal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Come and say G'day

G'day Mates! IGLTA FAM Promises Golden Adventures in Australia's Playground
Here's the chance you've been waiting for to visit downunder and to use those world-famous Aussie phrases “No Worries” and “G'day mate.”

If you've always wanted to travel to Australia, then visiting the Gold Coast in Queensland is the trip for you.
IGLTA’s first familiarization trip to the Gold Coast (home of Surfers Paradise) is designed to be the perfect recovery week (March 7-11, 2011) after Sydney Gay Mardi Gras festivities.
An active itinerary – including learning to surf in world-famous Surfers Paradise – has been planned by Gold Coast Tourism and the local Gay Comfort Certified tourism community. Most of the FAM participants – hotels and tour operators – are described in the newly-created Gay and Lesbian Guide to Australia's Gold Coast. 

First things first, you'll have a chance to cuddle a koala and feed a kangaroo at a wildlife sanctuary then have lunch at a Surf Life Saving Club. This is a local tradition for watching the eye candy in the waves over fine food and famous Aussie beer!
One of the highlights is a visit to Mt. Tamborine Rainforest for a tree-top walk followed by lunch at Queensland's Best Restaurant, Songbirds in the Rainforest. A trip to Australia's Playground,would not be complete without a visit to DreamWorld for our own Gay Day at the Park.

These are but a few of the things that will be showcased in this IGLTA tour of Australia's Famous for Fun Gold Coast.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Buenos Aires Gay Pub Crawl

Out & About Hosts

By Roy Heale

When you are visiting a city which is the size of Buenos Aires with a population of over 13 million then the nightlife is bound to be overwhelming and full of choices. With so many bars, clubs, cafes, and restaurants in several different neighborhoods it's a veritable smorgasbord and for the newcomer this can be a real challenge. For this reason the expert and friendly staff at Out & About have created the Thursday night Buenos Aires Gay Pub Crawl. If you join this group you will meet other tourists from all over the world and be guided safely through the nightlife maze by local experts. It's a great introduction to what this gay mecca has to offer at night for LGBT visitors.

Every Thursday the group meets for registration at the initial location---which may vary from week to week---for the first hour of mingling, getting to know each other, complimentary wine or beer, and tapas. At this gathering you will learn the itinerary for the night's adventure ahead and what to expect on the guided walking tour.

Relaxing at Quiroz

Usually the evening will include three pub or bar venues and then one major night club for the final stop. On my particular Pub Crawl we began at 10 Mil y Pico Bar in Palermo. Here in a cozy atmosphere the tapas were great, the drinks flowed, and everybody got to know each other very quickly. The Out & About staff are amazingly welcoming and they make it their business to see that everyone is enjoying themselves. This sets the tone for the perfect evening which lies ahead.

Kyle, Danny, and Jared from Out & About are great hosts and obviously love there job introducing visitors and locals to the vibrant Buenos Aires club scene. Even though it was Kyle's last Pub Crawl before he headed back to his home town for a while, his enthusiasm was infectious. We moved on to Quiroz, Koh Lanta, and Sitges before our final stop at Amerika. Each with its own unique style and atmosphere including the entertaining drag show at Sitges.

Sitges Drag Show

Each venue had prepared a special complimentary welcome shooter for the group and offered special drink prices to each tour member. Also, the group is treated as V.I.P.s and there are no long line-ups for nightclub admission. This is not a tour where you want to have any plans for the next morning! Especially as Amerika allows you to dance and party until dawn!

If you happen to be in town on your birthday then this tour is FREE! Just bring a copy of some ID to the registration venue and you will have the best birthday party you can---or cannot---remember. With a price tag of approximately $35US this is remarkably good value for an escorted night on the town and a non-stop party.

Rooftop at Koh Lanta

Tickets are available form Out & About (0054 911-3036 1361) or they are on sale at Pink Point Buenos Aires.

Let the local experts at Out & About get you started on the right path with a sampling of the dazzling nightlife available in this renowned gay mecca of South America---Buenos Aires.

For More Information Visit:

http://www.outandaboutpubcrawl.com// or http://www.pinkpointbuenosaires.com/

Friday, October 1, 2010

Santiago, Chile---A Metropolis Nestled in the Andes Mountains

Cerro Santa Lucia Park Entrance
 By Roy Heale

Like a Wild West wagon train forming a circle at night time, the snow-capped Andes Mountains form a natural circle around the city of Santiago, Chile. Nestled in these peaks the city has a metro population of just over 7 million people and is situated just a short one hour drive to the Pacific Ocean coastal towns of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. The Republic of Chile is a long, narrow strip of coastal land wedged between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean---rather like a large snake--- which has some of the most beautiful beaches in South America and the capital city of Santiago is very gay-friendly.

During the past decade homophobia has all but vanished in Chile and same-sex relations have been legal since 1998. Currently the Congress of Chile is considering a law allowing civil unions between same-sex couples and several notable media celebrities have come out and declared their support for gay rights. This has led to an increase in the number of gay businesses especially in Santiago.

The urban renewal of Santiago is obvious as magnificent new office towers rise above beautiful centuries old estates and Spanish colonial architecture. The CTC Telecommunications Tower is literally the world's largest cell phone and dominates the Santiago skyline contrasting the nearby Bellavista neighbourhood with narrow streets and artsy boutiques of the city's bohemian quarter. This is a very clean, safe city and affords many enjoyable walks in the different tourist and residential neighborhoods or expansive public parks.

Where Old Meets New!

Any visit to Santiago should commence by riding the funicular to see the Statue of the Virgin atop the hill of Cerro San Cristobal and observe the city below. Many of the gay discos and bars are located in the Barrio Bellavista at the foot of Cerro San Cristobal. The nearest Metro station is Baquedano in Plaza Italia from where you cross Avenue Providencia and then over the Rio Mapocho bridge placing you in the Barrio. Local restaurants, colorful cafes, bars and night clubs can all be found here and it is one of the most fun communities in Santiago for both straight and gay visitors alike---it's no gay ghetto, but rather a truly integrated district. The other concentration of gay bars can be found in the downtown area a short walk from the beautiful park Cerro Santa Lucia and close to the pedestrian shopping streets. Recommended by some local residents for late night clubbing the Bokhara, Bunker, and Fausto are worthy of visits. The clubs don't usually get going until about 1:30AM and then the party can last until dawn.

See the full story at: http://www.royheale.blogspot.com/