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.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Vivacious Viet Nam

There are a number of reasons people choose their vacation spots: Maybe you've heard it has the best beach in the world, or the hottest nightlife, or the greatest shopping. I remember when I first went to Rio, it was because it held a kind of cultural mystique like no other city. Visiting Peru was all about seeing Machu Picchu, whose pictures had haunted me since I was a kid. And my desire to go on safari was born long before I ever saw "The Lion King."

But my desire to visit Viet Nam came for one reason: a good friend of mine who travels more than anyone I know said that it was her favorite place she'd ever been. I had to see why. As a small child, I associated Viet Nam with images of war, pain, and destruction, and I knew that tourism in Viet Nam had undergone a renaissance over the past 15 years. I was right.

My journey would take me to Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Halong Bay, and Hanoi, which comprised the perfect combination of experiences in this incredible country.

Saigon offers a culinary scene that rivals some of the best cities in the world, with its mix of French, local, and fusion dishes. Our tour group had a passionfruit sauce on the first day that were still talking about by the end of the trip. Of course, one of the most interesting things one can do in Saigon is take a trip through the Mekong Delta, visiting local communities and passing gorgeous tropical countryside from the comfort of a chic, teak boat.

Back in Saigon, the city is yours to take in a vibrant ever-changing nightlife, offering some of Asia's hippest, newest venues. Everyone in Viet Nam takes motorcycles and Vespas, and so, always wanting to do like the locals do, we took Vespas to dinner at an exquisite French restaurant.

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is also home the one of Viet Nam's most visited sites, the War Remnants Museum. Take everything you know about the Viet Nam War, flip it upside down, and add perhaps the most visually disturbing photos you have ever seen in your life, and you'll know you're in the right spot. You will also see some of the actual telecommunications offices from the war. The Museum's collection is well laid out, and taking in the collection can be a very emotional experience. You will come away with a new understanding of the Viet Nam War, and a greater appreciation of the resilience, strength, and kindness of the people.

From Saigon, we took a short flight to Danang, and drove just a few minutes to one of the most charming cities in Viet Nam, Hoi An, famous for the TV show "China Beach" and for its silk lanterns which ignite the small streets at night in vibrant luminescent color. This place abounds with stunning hotels, and ours was located right on China Beach. My room was about 4 times the size of my apartment I used to share in New York City, with its own large plunge pool. Complimentary massages were also available whenever I wanted. Somehow I managed to pull myself away from this oasis, and enjoyed some fantastic shopping in town. Of course I had to buy some silk lanterns, and I also bought silk ties and some incredible art made by a local artist.

One of the great things you can do in Hoi An is enjoy a cooking class, which we did. I was so busy filming the cooking that my own creations failed in comparison to my cook-mates, and I had to cheat off the woman next to me. Ah, it was just like being in high school again. Seriously, we made some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten, and I can't wait to try out these recipes back home. One of the most interesting things we learned was for one of our dishes, they differentiate between pork for the locals and pork for tourists. Our "tourist" pork was clean and lean, whereas the pork for the locals is full of fat. Our teach-chef told us that if either gets the wrong pork, they will complain.

After significantly helping the local economy, we flew to Hanoi and drove a few hours to famous Halong Bay. You may not have heard of Halong Bay, but if you have seen any tourist photos of Viet Nam lately, you've definitely seen it. Our overnight cruise took us past fellow boats with brights yellow jagged sail, reminiscent of bat wings and tremendous limestone peaks that seemed to sprout from the calm waters and exalt to the Heavens.

Our cruise lacked for nothing, with nice sized rooms, beautiful common spaces, and terrific local cuisine. By day we visited ancient caves that once held cities what went deep inside the limestone mountains and various grottos and wilderness preserves rich with wildlife.

At night we had a grand Vietnamese Bar B Q and drunks on the top of the boat, with the lights of follow boats and the dark shadows of the enormous peaks as our backdrop.

We disembarked the next day and drove back to Hanoi where we immediately got on cycles to immerse ourselves in the historic old town section. Cyclos are a great want to kick back on a comfy seat and enjoy the town, weaving in and out of little winding streets, while your pedaler behind you takes care of the momentum. We passed by people cooking lunch on the street for local businessmen, fellow cyclists carrying so many bundles of fresh flowers that you couldn't see the pedaler, and numerous shops selling virtually anything you can imagine.

Even though I spent most of my day sitting, as the city came alive before me, I somehow worked up an appetite and for our last exquisite dinner in Viet Nam we dined in a garden outside the gorgeous Hanoi Opera House, which was celebrating its 100 year anniversary that night. Of course, this was after cocktails in a large art gallery nearby, where we entered to little girls throwing flower petals for our arrival.

These people really know how to make one feel special. the art in this gallery was remarkable, and we all kept commenting how we could easily see 20 or more pieces looking beautiful adorning our walls back home. Fortunately for my bank account, my will power held out and I didn't buy anything, but admittedly, there is one piece that is still haunting my memory. But I did take the shopkeepers card...

For more information on Zoom Vacations tours, go to www.zoomvacations.com or call 773.772.9666

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Axel Hotels Gets Even More Social

“Walls will be an option” at Axel Hotels, courtesy of their new social media project. The heterofriendly hotel chain with properties in Barcelona, Berlin, and Buenos Aires recently launched Axel People, and each hotel guest now receives a VIP pass code to this new portal at the moment of booking. Guests can then define their profile and the degree of privacy that they want to have, and begin to interact on the net. If the reservation is made through external booking channels, the access to the network will be available after check in at the hotel. (Regular clients of Axel’s Local Community will have access through the Events section created in the official Facebook pages of the hotels.)

Features of Axel People include the Lobby, a wall in the Facebook style on which users can publish content and even show their global position; the Events category, where the hotel keeps its clients updated on the hottest parties and happenings in the city; and the Rooms section, where you can see who is staying in the room next door (if the guest wishes to publish that information), and begin an interaction that could make for a great vacation story.

The different hotel areas, from the Sky Bar Terrace and wellness center to the Kitchen Restaurant, also receive personalized treatment – look for special promotions via the portal. A free Axel People application for iPhone is now available via the Apple store so you can stay checked in with the hotel scene even when you’re out in the city.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pink Point Buenos Aires Enters Second Year of Service To LGBT Visitors

Patrizia and Erik from Pink Point, Buenos Aires

By Roy Heale

After the successful inaugural year for Pink Point Buenos Aires plans are now underway for the second year of operations. Pink Point is now the Official LGBT tourist information centre of the Buenos Aires City Government (ENTE de Turismo de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires). A provider of LGBT information, gay city maps, and passes to bars and discos, Pink Point also has Pride articles, excursions, and the regular City informational brochures. The overall aim of Pink Point is to unite gay and gay-friendly businesses to build a stronger community spirit for all LGBT locals and for international visitors, ex-pats, and tourists. In Pink Point's mandate these are the fundamentals for a real gay capital city.

This year Pink Point is selling annual memberships to individuals and businesses. Pink Point Buenos Aires does not receive financial assistance from any local government agencies and needs to raise its own operating funds. Without the support of visitors and residents of Buenos Aires they would not be able to maintain the Pink Point services. Pink Point is a non-profit organisation and needs the reinforcement of local gay businesses to continue providing their FREE visitor services.

Members will be posted in the Pink Pages---the LGBT version of the yellow pages---which is an online guide with listings of all gay related businesses and services (from plumbers to dentists, from doctors to wedding planners). Once a year---commencing in July 2012---a printed version of the Pink Pages guide will be distributed all over the city and in relevant places across the country. The Pink Pages will also be FREE to download from their website and also available for FREE as an App for Smartphones and Ipads.

Every two months a Pink Point Member's event (workshop, talk, function, etc.) will be held starting in March 2012. With expert guest speakers on gay related topics, networking, and social activities, these events will be educational and informative. Also, an Official Pink Point member sticker will be supplied for promotional use by members. A newsletter will be published every two months with the Pink Pages new member updates and local upcoming events and information. There will also be an invitation to the Members' Pink Point Ball, to be held annually during the last week of October commencing in 2012.

Corporate Memberships are only available when businesses agree with the rules of being gay- friendly---a Pink Point document which requires a commitment signature.

The new Pink Point LGBT guide and map to Buenos Aires will be published shortly in conjunction with ENTE de Turismo de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. This map will be distributed at Pink Point and other tourism locations throughout Buenos Aires and beyond.

Erik Hovenga, Owner & Creative Director, Pink Point Buenos Aires: info@pinkpointbuenosaires.com
Official LGBT Tourism Information Centre (ENTE), Lavalle 669, local 24, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone: (+ 5411) 4322-1343

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Glories of Bhutan

With a population of less than 700,000 people, Bhutan is one of the smallest and most culturally intact countries in the world. They have only had phones and TVs since the 80s, and while smoking is illegal, ironically marijuana grows naturally and abundantly all over the country. During my first day in Bhutan, our guide took us to different points of interest in Bhutan's capital city of Thimphu, such as its markets, squares, and vistas. Archery is also a big deal in Bhutan, and we got to watch archers hit targets that we couldn't even see with the naked eye. As if to intentionally create another piece of irony, the high tech looking bows, shot by their masters wearing traditional Bhutanese clothing come from Houston, Texas.

Day two, our group had a long breakfast, then a tea sampling, and then we all read and visited for a while. All that talking and tea made us hungry so we dined on yak burgers for lunch, which were honestly in the running for the best burgers I have ever had. Our guide is absolutely amazing, and we are learning so much about Buddhism and Bhutan. We went to a holy site and then to a huge fortress, both spectacular, nestled at the bottom of the Himalayas.

The temple inside the fortress sadly did not allow photos, and it was so breathtaking and inspiring, with a large golden Buddha at the front.
We later visited a fruit market and several towns and tried to do some shopping, but as beautiful as this country is, there isn't a lot to buy here. There are, however, carved wooden penises everywhere-- I am sure a fertility symbol. Those things always are.

We had an astrology reading as well, and it turns out I was a prince of Gods in a former life, which I guess explains why I became a queen in this one.

Today was such a great day of simply enjoying the beauty of Bhutan. I loved it.

Day three, after a big breakfast, we drove through pristine forest along a river to the base of a mountain. All along the way colorful giant prayer wheals turned by the rushing water, and Buddhist prayer flags waved in the
wind, suspended over vallies.
Our goal was high atop of the mountain, the home of a 16th century Buddhist monastery. The high altitude made accessing it difficult even for those most in shape, but those who made it received the award of one of the most
beautiful sites we had ever seen. The whitewashed monastery had painted carved windows, and a view that would cost millions in the States.

We were the only tourists there, which was unbelievable to have that kind of experience in today's age. Just when it couldn't get any more beautiful, a monk or two, clad in bright red and saying not a word would walk past us, busy with their duties of the day. In all, 250 monks live there, and in a short time there were dozens moving about us, some with books, some with vegetables about to cook, and some with ceremonial candles, simply going about their day's work.

We pulled ourselves away and came back to the hotel for lunch. Then we went to a traditional Bhutanese house to learn their way of life, which was fascinating.
We went to a traditional art center, where those fortunate enough to be accepted, learned painting, sculpture, embroidery, wood carving, and more. Just being in that environment was energizing and felt completely beautiful.
Then we went to the national library and the textile museum, and rounded off our day with a cooking demonstration of the food of Bhutan.

After a great sleep and a wonderful breakfast, we drove to a mountain to see the biggest Buddha in the world, which was tremendously beautiful and strangely inspiring.
We then headed to a farmhouse, taking photos all the way, and had traditional butter tea and rice wine with the local family--truly special.
We arrived at our hotel later and had one of the best hotel meals I have ever had. Everything was so fresh and flavorful. I was in heaven. The hotel, by the way has breathtaking views of the mountains and valley.
After lunch we drove to the national museum and then onto the Rimoung Dzong (Dzong means fortress) which is now a monastery.
Driving back to the hotel, a huge double rainbow appeared and landed in the village of Paro. It was truly one of the biggest, most vibrant rainbows I have ever seen. So, my fellow gay travelers and I felt quite welcome.

and now for the big day... I am not even sure how to write about today, as I don't think that words can do it justice....but here goes.

Today I would visit one of the most beautiful manmade creations I have ever seen. Tiger's Nest, in Paro, Bhutan, is a monastery that was built in the 16th century over several caves on a cliff. One of the caves is the site where a famous guru, Padmasambhava (also called Rinpoche) came to Bhutan on the back of a flying tigress and is said to have meditated for three months in the 8th century. He is credited with bringing the Nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism to Bhutan.
The hike to Tiger's Nest is pretty intense, so intense that most of our group decided to stay back and enjoy our hotel. Travelers, Jim, Robert, Jeff, myself, and our guide took to the mountain. Hiking is one of my favorite things to do on the planet, and so with the blessing of the others, I tore up ahead of them and hiked and ran by myself. The sunlight ignited all the leaves and rocks in the trail, making everything so vibrant and fragrant.
As I hiked, I could feel the high altitude, but I started meditating as I climbed higher and higher, and the exhaustion seemed to get less and less. By the time I reached the top of 11,000 feet, I could see tiger's nest right in front of me, clinging to its cliff as if man and nature collaborated to put it there. I started down a winding path that would lead me past a tremendous waterfall, with unbelievably long strings of buddhist prayer flags hanging above, blowing in the wind, their prayers visible when the light hit them just right. So easy to imagine their messages truly reaching Heaven.

And then something weird happened. I started crying. I am not a cryer, but so many emotions hit me at once that they started to leave my body as tears. I thought about the tough couple of years I have had with unending neck/back pain brought on by herniated discs, I thought about how beautiful this place was and how wonderful that places like this still exist in the world, and I thought about how fortunate I am in life in general, and especially how fortunate I am to come to a place like this. Plus, the sunlight was beaming on my face, and life in this moment just felt so completely perfect, and I so blessed to be there.
I also felt so powerful today. Physical fitness has always been a big part of my life, and so my neck issues have made me feel at half mast, but today my body felt like a machine again, like it used to. I got to the monastery in 50 minutes, and our guide said that most arrive in 3 hours. One doesn't have to sit still to meditate, and as i climbed the mountain, chanting to myself, my back pain at times was almost completely gone. Because I got up when I did, I had over an hour to sit and meditate and take photos before I saw Jeff, Robert, and our guide in the distance. Jim stopped at the halfway point, and enjoyed the views from there, not wishing to go on.

Sadly, photos are not allowed in Tiger's Nest, and it is just as beautifully rustic as one would imagine it to be. We visited 8 small temples within the complex, and our guide talked to us about Buddhism, its history, the practice of meditation, and how to have a strong mind. It was then that he stopped being our guide and in a way was transformed to our own guru. We hovered on every word he said, surrounded by brightly colored paintings and carvings, with the gentle scent of incense mingled with the neighboring pine trees. It is a moment that I hope I will never forget.

Less than 100 people visited the site today, so it felt like we were the only ones there. No where else on the planet does one get this feeling--only the hidden gem of Bhutan, which is still unknown to so many.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Volcanic Vacation: Climb a Caldera in Bali

Bali is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world with many gay and lesbian couples, singles and families visiting this gay welcoming paradise.  There's a lot more to Bali than beautiful beaches, wellness spas and great nightclubs.  You can actually find loads to do under the tourist radar screen if you get out of the main meccas and head for the hills.

By straying just a little from the beaten path, an entirely different perspective of the island can be explored. Climbing up an active volcano to view a spectacular sunrise from the summit is one way to do it.
The vast Batur Caldera is one of the most beautiful in the world. It has been described as “Trekking with the gods.” After climbing the caldera wall you will trek along the edge for breathtaking views of the amazing volcanic landscape.
After the descent past lava flows and untainted villages, think how good it will feel to pamper your feet in the pool at sunset – before an evening of unforgettable dancing
For more information on gay accommodations and adventures, see Rainbow Tourism Bali.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The art of Mexican Cooking

Upon arriving in Cancun, I got out of there as fast as possible and made a dash for the Maroma Resort and Spa by Orient Express in Playa del Carmen. Formally an old coconut plantation, it is now the best hotel in the area, and a truly spectacular place to call home.

Nestled right on the beach, it also boasts the best spa in Mexico, the friendliest staff imaginable, and food that is so delicious that mealtimes become much anticipated events. This is largely due to the hotel's talented, charming chef, Juan Pablo Loza, who in 2005 won the award for best chef in Mexico.

Much to my amazement, my tour group was given the opportunity to learn the art of Mexican cooking from the master himself! Plus, a tequila expert was on hand to show us the art of drinking, in between courses.

Today, we learned to make a tomato salad with cactus, shrimp ceviche, red snapper ceviche, and perfect guacamole. I am somewhat of a guacamole junky so I was excited to see how his would compare.

What surprised all of us the most was how fresh, light, healthy and uncomplicated the dishes were. The tomato salad was mainly red wine vinegar, garlic, and tomatoes that were allowed to marinate for 15 minutes. The result was the most flavorful tomatoes I have ever had.
The ceviches were equally uncomplicated, and it was fascinating to watch the fish "cook" and literally change color and texture after just five minutes in lime juice!

Then the guacamole....oh, the guacamole. It was so good that if I found a way to make sweet love to it, I would have. We learned that the key to good guacamole is to never mash it, but simply stir it with the lime juice, salt, and herbs, yielding delicious junks bathed in creamy green. We enjoyed our guacamole on homemade chips, and those more daring tried it with fried grasshoppers. As gross as this may sound, they were unbelievably tasty, and I found myself sprinkling Them on subsequent guac scoop-fulls. the guacamole went perfectly with the ceviches too!

Four courses and 8 glasses of tequila later, we were ready for a night on the town in Playa del Carmen, having learned mouthful!

Try these recipes out for yourself, and cook like a Mexican superstar!

Ceviche Zihuatanejo
4 to 6 People

½ Red Onion Sliced
1 or 2 Serrano Pepper Finely Chopped
1 tbsp Salt
½ cup Lime Juice
1 lb Fresh Fish Cut in Strips (Snapper, Tilapia, Sea bass, Sole, etc.)

Mix the Onion with the Pepper and the Salt, and leave to rest for one minute
Add the Lime juice and put the fish in to the Juice and marinate for 5 minutes
Serve accompanied with Tortilla Chips

Tomato Salad “Like Grandma used to make”
4 to 6 People

1 piece Garlic Clove
1 tbsp Salt
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Roma Tomatoes
12 Cherry Tomatoes
¼ cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil

Crush the Garlic and Make a Purée with the help of the Salt
Add the Vinegar and Mix well
Marinate the Chopped Tomatoes in to the Garlic Vinegar for at least 15 minutes
Add the Oil and Rectify the Seasoning
Serve and decorate with Herbs, Cheese or any other Salad Ingredients

4 to 6 People

½ White Onion Finely Chopped
1 Serrano Pepper Finely Chopped
1 tbsp Salt
2 tbsp Cilantro Chopped
2 Limes
4 Ripe Avocados

Mix the Onion with the Pepper and the Salt
Add the Cilantro and the Lime Juice
Mix the Avocado chopped and mix it with the rest of ingredients
Rectify Seasoning and serve

4 to 6 People

2 White Onion Sliced
3 tbsp Corn Oil
1 tsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Canned Chipotle Chiles Puree
1 Tomato Chopped
½ cup Shreded Chicken
Dry Oregano

Sauté the Onion in a pan with the oil, add the Sugar and caramelize it for 1 minute
Add the chipotle puree and cook it for 1 more minute
Add the tomatoes and the Chicken until became a stew.
Season the mix with a little oregano an salt

Serve it over Crispy Tortillas and decorate with Lettuce, Sour Cream and Fresh Cheese

-for more information on Zoom Vacations Tours, go to www.zoomvacations.com.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cathartic Costa Rica with Zoom Vacations

Perhaps the only thing better than a fun, relaxing vacation is one where you emerge a better person after the experience. Zoom's trip to Costa Rica made that possible in many ways for our travelers.

Some arrived in Costa Rica scared of heights, some of water, and some of creepy crawlies. Still others simply came to this country needing to get away from it all to get in touch with what mattered. Costa Rica delivered.

Our zip line canopy tour took our guests high above the jungle, secured safely in harnesses to zip through the jungle on 14 different cable lines. On the first line, one could see the fear the faces if those scared of heights, but as we did more and more, fear turned to pure fun, and confidence replaced caution. We finished the day with several travelers having accomplished something they never thought they would, and even desiring more!

Then, it was on to whitewater rafting. Zoom selected the perfect river for novices to get their feet wet, and for the experienced to play around and perform rafting tricks over the rapids. Our life vests were virtually unsinkable, and after our first dive into the water, it became clear that today would be the day for even the most water-weary to test their former limits and ride the waves.

As it turned out, the most difficult part of the day was trying to pay attention to the rules and instructions of our head guide, while other chiseled shirtless guides scurried around us, getting equipment ready and pumping up rafts, wearing nothing but board shorts that slipped just far enough down their behinds to leave us titillated. Clearly they knew their audience.

Now, since much of Costa Rica is preserved natural jungle, it has some of the best insect and wild animal viewing in the world. For many of our travelers, their experience with large insects and wild animals was limited to cockroaches and city rats. So of course they're grossed out. I have to say it all changes when an expert guide shows you the complexity if an ant colony, the natural defense mechanism of the owl faced butterfly, the hard shell of a centipede, and the brilliant green of a giant grasshopper. The freaky become fascinating. And the squirrel monkeys? They're so cute and funny, it's as if Costa Rica Tourism has them on payroll.

-for more information on Zoom Vacations Tours, go to www.zoomvacations.com.

Location:Costa Rica

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gastronomic Guatemala

While die-hard foodies have been coming to Guatemala for years, only recently is it making a name for itself on the global culinary stage.

It is true that in Guatemala you'll have the best tamales you have Ever had in your life, but the cuisine is so much more than this. Last night, for instance, I dined on beef carpaccio, escargot, and steak, accompanied by a tasty red wine.

Perhaps Guatemalan cuisine is most inventive with it's sauces. Red peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, herbs, and squashes come alive in flavorful concoctions one wouldn't normally expect, but that are exquisite. It adds a delightful sophistication to hearty dishes. Pop a pumpkin and sausage taco on your mouth, smothered in creamy pumpkin sauce, and you'll see what I mean.

Of course, Guatemala is also famous for having one of the world's best runs, Zacapa. It's smooth and flavorful, and while expensive, many boast that it's hangover-proof.

-for more information on Zoom Vacations Tours, go to www.zoomvacations.com.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stepping Back in Time in Antigua

So, here we are in Guatemala with another gay group, and I am hearing what I always hear from my gay groups in Guatemala-- "I can't believe this is Guatemala! Why don't more gay people come here?"

It's true. Guatemala is strangely absent from the gay map, and one visit to the town of Antigua makes this hard to understand. Few places in the world can achieve this kind of rustic elegance.

Once the heart of the Colonial Empire, Antigua was rocked by earthquakes and then essentially abandoned. What remains is a stylish, sophisticated, gay friendly city that looks much like it did 400 years ago.

-for more information on Zoom Vacations Tours, go to www.zoomvacations.com.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Tremendous Tikal

Visiting the Ruins of Tikal is like stepping into an Indiana Jones movie.

Pyramids pop up out of the jungle, and closer inspection of ancient walls reveals mystical carvings.

Just when you think it can't get any better, the ominous calls of howler monkeys is heard in the distance.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

There's No Where Like Australia's Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is more than "Famous for Fun" as its marketing slogan suggests. It's also more than glitter, as its playground reputation suggests.

So what is attractive about the destination that has made gay and lesbian visitors travel there from far and wide? It's not the gay nightlife, though that exists. It's not the plentitude of accommodation and attractions, but it has many IGLTA members and gay welcoming operators.

Perhaps it is that the Gold Coast region has become more glamourous as its glitter strip reputation has been supplanted by a very stylish essence.
After Sydney and Melbourne, the Gold Coast is attracting the most new (and repeat) gay and lesbian visitors in the country, thanks to an ongoing campaign by Gold Coast Tourism operators who have joined IGLTA and hosted the Fam trip delegates.

The recent IGLTA-Gold Coast Tourism FAM trip in March was a huge success, and the agents and media on the week-long experience saw the upscale side of the destination with eyes wide open. Among their experiences were designer shopping, staying at sublime waterfront accommodation, dining in spectacular settings, surfing iconic beaches, dancing at swanky clubs, and tackling other tropical treats like tasting Queensland fine wines at cellar doors.

“Australia's Gold Coast has broadened its status from a top leisure destination to a gay and lesbian experiential travel hotspot,“says David Cox, Niche Marketing Manager for Gold Coast Tourism and a long-term member of IGLTA. Among the experiential activities, the group fed kangaroos, pet kolas, stood well clear of a man-eating crocodile, were awed by performing Bengal tigers, worked out on the beach with a Ironman triathlete, learned to surf after a Tai Chi exercise class, got soaked while jet boating, walked above the trees in an ancient rainforest, and played like kids at the premier theme park, zoo and water world complex.

Famous for its stunning beaches, subtropical rainforests and theme parks, the Gold Coast encompasses the southeast corner of the Sunshine State and is located one hour south of Queensland's capital city of Brisbane. To learn more, see GayGoldCoastAustralia.com and click on the Gay and Lesbian Guide to Gold Coast Australia.

Curious about Australia's Gold Coast as an iconic gay travel destinatoin? Check out the gay destination  videos or ask the IGLTA members on the recent FAM trip in March:
  • Mya Lakes Reyes, IGLTA Board Member, Las Vegas
  • Fabrice Tasendo, Pink Banana World, West Hollywood
  • Mary Buckheit, Gay Travel.com, San Diego
  • Silke Bader, Avalon Media Publisher, Sydney
  • Dee Farrell, Peacock Tourism Marketing, Adelaide
  • Nick Cook, DNA Magazine, Sydney
  • Mitch Baker, Upscale Gay Travel, Los Angeles
  • Neil Dalrymple, Assibonie Athletic Club, Winnepeg
  • Geoffrey Pfitzner, Travel Out, IGLTA Ambassador, Melbourne

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dining Out----Buzios, Brazil

Capricornia Restaurant, Ferradura Beach, Buzios, Brazil
By Roy Heale

With over twenty fabulous beaches, great nightlife, and the best gourmet dining in Brazil it is little wonder that Buzios has developed a reputation for fun, relaxing gay vacations. Located only 120 miles north east from Rio de Janeiro, the small peninsula of Armacao de Buzios is becoming renowned as the up and coming gay-friendly resort destination in Brazil. The gay-owned accommodations and resorts of Chez Wadi and fellow IGLTA member Our House provide the perfect gay places to stay and after a hot day on the beaches the nightlife sizzles with gourmet dining plus great nightclubs.

An important part of every vacation is the question of where to dine and this is where Buzios really excels. Throughout the peninsula, in the central town, on the beaches, or amidst the small villages, are great dining options. Whether you enjoy dining right on the beach, or on the boardwalk with a view of the ocean, or a patio table in town for people watching, then Buzios can satisfy your needs. Of course, fresh seafood is a local specialty and readily available on almost every menu is the Catch of the Day.

During my recent visit to Buzios I enjoyed several different restaurants around the peninsula and I have compiled a list of some of my personal favorites, each with different menu offerings. However, the most fun part of your vacation in Buzios will be discovering your own list of special places as you experience for yourself the vast selection of dining spots. Either way you won't be disappointed by the gourmet dining available here.

Located where all the action is and in the heart of Buzios Centro town are the following suggestions:

Boom Restaurant Patio
Boom    Rua Manoel Turibio de Farrias, 110 Tel: 2623 6254

One of the great dining traditions in Brazil is the “Buffet por Kilo”where you pay for your meal by the weight of the food on your plate. This is an excellent way to satisfy your appetite without ordering too much food and Boom offers an upscale version of this popular concept. The buffet includes hot and cold selections of local specialities, salads, fruits, or vegetables. Plus there is a sushi option, a selection of pizzas, and a parilla for those who would like some grilled meats. Amazingly the hot dishes remain hot and the salads remain fresh---not always true of buffet meals--- due to careful planning by the chef and kitchen staff. The atmosphere is cool and relaxed with tables outdoors for those who want enjoy the bustle of the pedestrian street. Highly recommended for lunch or dinner to satisfy any sized appetite or culinary tastes at reasonable prices.

Chez Michou Av. Jose Bento Ribeiro Dantas, 90 Tel: 2623 2169

Here you will find the best crepes, either sweet or savory, that have been a Buzios success story for over fifteen years. This open air cafe is considered to be the soul of Buzios and is open all day and most of the night in a central location where the night-time party crowd loves to hang out. The menu offers the largest selection of crepes which I have ever seen and the prices are very affordable but the quality is first class. By night the brassy music, the open-air relaxed environment, and great food is conducive to a great party-time. There is always a large crowd here and it is renowned throughout the peninsula for a fun time and great crepes.

Patio Havana Ocean View
Patio Havana   Rua das Pedras, 101 Tel: 2623 2169

Built in 1998 with stunning ocean views, here you will find a taste of Cuba with amazing multi-level architecture and unique design features. With an emphasis on seafood, there is a wide menu selection including prime beef, Italian pastas, snacks, and pizzas. With five different settings, a cigar store, nightly entertainment, a vast wine cellar, and more, Patio Havana is one of the hottest spots in Buzio for dining and entertainment in a unequalled environment. Open every day from Noon until the last client leaves!

Estancia Don Juan   Rua das Pedras, 178 Tel: 2623 2169

An outstanding restaurant in a great location, the Estancia Don Juan has been a Buzios tradition since 1994 offering the best imported beef from Argentina and an outstanding wine cellar. With exotic architecture and charming decorations this is one of the coziest places in town for dining. The extensive menu also includes pasta dishes and exotic desserts. On selected nights Tango dancers and musicians will provide entertainment while you dine. Open every day from Noon until the last customer leaves!

Tartaruguina Fish House  Avenida Jose Bento Ribeiro Dantas, 440. Tel: 2623 6978

Located on the ocean boulevard with a great view of the bay. The daily feature here is obviously the local fish dishes exquisitely prepared and served with flair and style. It is also popular for Happy Hour drinks, light snacks, and simply relaxing by the ocean. With over twenty years of experience entertaining and satisfying their customers, the owners and staff know how to please. You're bound to return here.

Seafood Platter at the Fish Shack
The Fish Shack  Located on the Promenade at Armacao Beach

This is a simple outdoor cafe where the BBQ is outside and you can watch your fish dinner being cooked and served directly to you. It is a real local diner where the fish is direct from the ocean, to the BBQ, and to your table. The food is simple---fresh fish, salads, rice, and vegetables---but accompanied by a cold beer or glass of wine, it is an amazing feast of Fruits de Mer which will prove to be unforgettable. No fuss, no fancy place settings, just casual drinks and dining, but the prices are extremely affordable and the location is shaded by large trees with a great view of the sea and fishermen's boats. This is a must for seafood lovers!

The Aquarium Avenida Jose Bento Ribeiro Dantas

This small, all glass restaurant---hence the name---is perched on the beach with spectacular ocean views. Specializing in seafood, the prices may be slightly higher than most places, but the excellent seafood and views make this a worthwhile investment for a special evening.

For a little sand between your toes and great seafood located right on the popular Ferradura beach are the Sarah Mar and Capricornio outdoor restaurants. The fresh seafood offerings vary daily but sandwiches, salads, and cold drinks are always available. The location is perfect for enjoying the beach and the ocean while dining whenever the appetite demands. At Capricornio I saw the biggest ever mouth-watering lobster tails on the grill! Along the expansive Ferradura beach are numerous options for enjoying a variety of different foods but mostly seafood served in numerous ways to suit every palate.

Dining at Ferradura Beach, Buzios, Brazil

So enjoy the amazing beaches and scenery by day and experience the international cuisine and culture at night on your gay-friendly vacation in Buzios.

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