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.


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/