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.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Stylish Euro Sampler

By Clark Massad


We hit the road with Spain, Germany and Italy in our sights. The plan: experiencing some of Europe’s incredible nightlife and shopping.

Madrid
They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but Madrid is certainly burning the candle at both ends too. Madrid nightlife is all about moving from terraza to terraza as darkness falls. Strips of pavement are crowded with partygoers who eat as much as they drink. Tapas are always a favorite for Spaniards and we were definitely as enthusiastic as they were. We did a tapas crawl, soaking up the culture of the warm night. Afterwards, we headed to Chueca, known for its gay nightlife.
Of course, we were also there for the shopping. There are some brilliant boutiques in Madrid, but we also like to visit Las Rozas Village to take advantage of discounts up to 60% off luxury brands. We went on a spree and got some great deals on denim courtesy of the Destination Denim campaign going on at Las Rozas and the other Chic Outlet Shopping® Villages. We also entered a competition to win a five-day road-trip along on Route 66. (Fingers crossed.)

Munich
Munich is a city of beautiful architecture and rich history, but it’s also known for its incredible nightlife. Like Spain, people don’t really head out until 11 or 12 at night. The beer gardens are a great starting point as the sun is setting. Friends recommended Hanoi Bar and Candy Club – both were lively and crowded and we had a great time. Everything in Munich is really accessible through public transport.
During the day, we wanted to relax, but also wanted to make sure we toured Munich’s impressive architecture, including The New Town Hall. But a few of our friends really wanted to go shopping and we had heard that at Ingolstadt Village you could customize your own denim, and we loved the sound of that. That, together with cool brands such as Philipp Plein and MCM, made it worth the trip. Like the other Villages, the brands have up to 60% off retail prices, but we did so much shopping, we were worried we would have to ship some bags home separately!
Milan
Flying into Milan was exciting – it is, after all, one of the fashion capitals of the world! We were all looking forward to experiencing la dolce vita.
The nightlife in Milan is varied, with everything from lounges to clubs; a lot of gay bars are on Via Sammartini. One of the best bars we visited was Café Atlantique – full of stylish people in an equally stylish atmosphere.
For shopping, we headed to Fidenza Village, which is just down the road and had some great offers on Levi’s. We were also excited about finding top-name brands such as Guess and Italian fashion royalty Missoni.
  
Chic Outlet Shopping® is a Platinum Partner of IGLTA.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Travel Snapshot: Progressive India



























Utopia Asia's John Goss enjoyed an LGBT sandwich on a layover at the Mumbai International Airport. Wonder if they have gay pastries too? www.utopia-asia.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

There's More to Costa Rica















By Sheryl Kay
It is a land of many dichotomies. Costa Rica is home to incredible Atlantic Ocean sunrises, yet just a few hours drive away the sun sinks lazily into the surf of the Pacific Ocean. The land is fertile, perfect for growing cocoa beans, but you'd be hard pressed to find chocolate bars made in Costa Rica.

And while the country is Catholic by law, even to the extent that the priests are government employees, the Costa Rican LGBT community is growing bolder every day. It's true that there are no civil rights laws in place to protect the community, but most locals will tell you their countrymen espouse the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As long as you don't talk about it, it's fine to be gay.

Of course Manuel Antonio, located on the southwest coast, is well known. Few places in Costa Rica are as open and welcoming. The Hotel Villa Roca is a long recognized icon in the community, gay owned and operated. Nestled on a hillside, it offers stunning views overlooking the rain forest and the Pacific Ocean.

We landed in San Jose, where the nightlife is extensive. Don't miss La Avispa, the oldest LGBT bar and disco in the country; Cafe Mundo, a quiet bohemian spot; Omar Khayaam, where the mid East cuisine meets student life just adjacent to the University; and Castilla, for the younger, less affluent crowd. 

Our tour then took off on an incredible journey, from the rim of the Poas Volcano, bubbling with active fumaroles; to the rainforest canopy of Tortuguero National Park, replete with dozens of monkeys, exotic tropical birds, and rainbow-colored butterflies; to the Northwest coast of Guanacaste where surfers await the big one.  

We learned every step of coffee production at the Doka Plantation, walked 16 hanging aerial bridges in Arenal, dipped in the Eco Termales hot springs, watched an endangered green turtle lay eggs under the starlight, made authentic hot chocolate, rode the Bebedero River beside 10-foot crocodiles, and participated in the ancient Chorotegan method of hand making pottery.

Costa Rica is a place where you can find the rainbow flag, or you can just fly yourself via zip line among the multihued butterflies. Either way, it’s a pallet of adventures.

Sheryl Kay is a freelance photographer and journalist who also serves as the Out In Front editor for CURVE Magazine.  She can be reached at skreporter@hotmail.com  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pattaya, Thailand - An LGBT Traveler's Paradise


By Brett Hayhoe
Bangkok to me is just another big city. My real love is around an hour and a half from Bangkok: the beautiful beachside city of Pattaya (Chon Buri).

For the LGBT traveller, Pattaya (and neighbouring Jomtien) is heavenly. From Boyztown (an area specifically designed by Jim Lumsden and his business partner Gordon May) to the bars, nightclubs and beaches, this area has something for everyone. The accommodation on offer encompasses all star ratings and often includes breakfast. My personal recommendation would be The Ambiance or the newly built Baan Souy Resort. The two properties are very different. Both properties feature in the July issue of Q Magazine and you can read more about them on my website at www.qmagazine.com.au.

For total relaxation, Sansuk is a beautiful sauna in the area and is within walking distance of Baan Souy Resort. It has amazing facilities including a bar, restaurant, pool and in October this year will complete a whole new accommodation wing with elevator access to all floors and to the older section. It is open from 2 p.m. daily and is a favourite spot for socialising in a safe and friendly environment. 


It is advisable to consult as many websites as possible prior to visiting Thailand. There are specific protocols that will make the exercise a lot less surprising. You can choose to indulge in the wilder side of life or simply laze on the beach, buy a foot or full body massage, and enjoy light refreshments and food with the panoramic vista of water, boats and the buildings of the area.

I have often said that Buddha would be so proud of Thailand and its people, and I don’t say that flippantly. The people really do make this country special. They are generous, centred, happy, accommodating, welcoming and attractive to boot. Their demeanor is one of mai pen rai (in layman's terms: "no worries"). Nothing is a hassle, service is paramount and if you’re on a budget you can’t go wrong. This is obviously assisted by the very healthy exchange rate with most other currencies and a flamboyant barter system.

I have travelled all over the world but no place relaxes me like Thailand – and in particular Pattaya. If you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to receive them via my personal email: brett@hayhoe.com.au


Brett Hayhoe is the publisher & editor of Australia's Q Magazine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Iceland - A Fresh Meeting Point!

By Hannes Sasi Palsson 
Queer Sports Club Styrmir, in co-operation with LGBT travel experts Pink Iceland, hosted the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics World Championships in Iceland from May 30 to June 2. 

450 competitors and about 150 supporters graced Reykjavík for the biggest organized LGBT event the country has ever seen. 

The idea was planted at the Copenhagen Outgames in 2009, and a bid to host the event was presented at the Gay Games in Cologne in 2010. With support from the city of Reykjavík, The Ministry for Sports and The Icelandic Swimming Association, the organizing team was able to secure part of the funds necessary, the aquatic facilities and the expertise needed to run the championships. The overwhelmingly positive reaction from those who were approached echoes the general attitudes Icelanders have towards the LGBT community; and while most were happy to support a good cause that livens the city up, the financial benefits of hosting an event of this size escaped few people.

Competition was set up so that most people competed either before or after noon, freeing them up to take part in tours and activities organized by Pink Iceland and their affiliates. The most popular one was the Fontana Tour where guests visited Iceland’s most famous landmarks and then took a soak in Iceland’s newest thermal baths at Laugarvatn. Some ventured further out to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Modest estimates value the worth of the championship to the Icelandic economy at $1.2 million dollars, creating a very high ROI on the $50,000 support from local authorities and government.

Reykjavík, and its guests, enjoyed 10 consecutive days of sun and unseasonally high temperatures before, during and after the championship. With its open society, breathtaking nature, vibrant nightlife and lively locals, Iceland's way forward is gay. All the way.

For more information, visit www.pinkiceland.is.

Friday, May 11, 2012

LAN Makes it Easier to Visit South America's Wonders

By Megan Kat

Travelers looking to visit some of South America’s most famous and iconic destinations can reach them more quickly and easily today thanks to LAN Airlines and its affiliates.

Gay Pride - Sao Paulo

In 2011, LAN launched nonstop flights to Easter Island, Chile; Iguazu Falls, Brazil; and Lima, Peru.
“Before, travelers had to go to southern cities like Santiago and Buenos Aires just to connect to these tourist hotspots,” said Katitza Mandakovic, Leisure Director, LAN Airlines North America. “Travel time from major U.S. cities to these emerging destinations has been cut substantially. And passengers finally have the opportunity to visit these ‘wonders’ of South America without having to backtrack on their itinerary.”
Between Lima and Iguazu Falls, LAN offers four weekly flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. LAN’s Lima-to-Easter Island service returned in February 2012, with two flights per week, on Wednesday and Sunday.
LAN has also made getting to the Galapagos Islands a lot easier. In September 2010 LAN Ecuador, an affiliate of LAN Airlines, began daily service between the islands and Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador. LAN now operates Airbus A320s on these new routes.
Last fall, LAN Ecuador also launched a new twice-weekly service to San Cristóbal in the Galápagos. LAN Ecuador currently operates into Baltra, Galápagos, so this new service will enable easier connections to cruise ship itineraries and reduce backtracking for travelers to the islands.
Galapagos is a growing LGBT tourism destination regularly visited by LGBT groups. Tour organizations like Olivia and Concierge Travel have offered numerous trips to the islands in recent years.
“Ecuador has some great tourist attractions for LGBT travelers,” said Mandakovic. “In addition to the Galapagos Islands, Guayaquil and Quito are fast becoming LGBT destinations in their own right.”
Cusco and nearby Machu Picchu, Peru as well as Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, El Calafate and Bariloche in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina are just a few of the other unique tourism destinations to reach from LAN’s hubs in Lima, Santiago and Buenos Aires.
LAN also offers flights to dozens of other popular South American destinations with a network of over 90 destinations in the region. Major destinations include Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Guayaquil and Quito, Ecuador; and Santiago, Chile.

For more information on LGBT travel in South America, visit LAN.com/diversity.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Your Very OWN Gay-friendly Hotel

Palermo Hollywood, Buenos Aires

Own Hotel Entrance


By Roy Heale
Some may call it the restaurant capital of Buenos Aires, but Palermo Hollywood is a barrio with its own distinctive flavour. In the mid-nineties a number of TV and Radio producers set up shop  in the area of Palermo Viejo between Córdoba, Santa Fe, Dorrego, and Juan B. Justo Avenues. Subsequently, this part of the neighbourhood began to be called "Palermo Hollywood". Presently, it's best known for the concentration of restaurants, cafes, night clubs, and vibrant atmosphere.
Although Palermo Hollywood is a name that was recently invented, this area  has been a popular residential community in Buenos Aires since the late 1800s. Walking around Palermo Hollywood you will see more of the old, Spanish-style architecture than in other parts of the mega Buenos Aires city, and these historic buildings are mostly low-rise style construction. This is due to the earlier city bylaw prohibiting new buildings in the area from being above nine meters in height. A perfect harmony exists between the old and the recycled houses. The spacious factories and warehouses are mostly used as art galleries, showrooms, restaurants, bars, or TV sets and photo studios. These calm and shady streets are home to a huge variety of excellent restaurants. This is a special place for a full day's stroll.
Typical Palermo Hollywood Architecture

The combination of low houses, wide cobbled streets, and trees lends it a nice ambiance. However, you will notice a great deal of new construction of high-rise apartment towers due to the recent trend of people desiring to live in Palermo Hollywood.
Palermo Hollywood's gay-friendly Own Hotel represents a new concept in urban boutique-hotels, characterized by personalized attention, modern design, and timeless style. Own Hotel offers a unique experience with oversized rooms providing all the services expected of a 5-star hotel. You have the feeling of  being in your Own private oasis amidst the action of the city. The highly trained staff will insure that guests have everything they need to enjoy their stay in the hotel. The decor is pure and simple yet elegant, and in order to feel completely at home, the hotel offers you the opportunity to customize your stay!
Own Hotel Suite

With a choice of Junior, Deluxe, or Master Suites, your Own Hotel offers the perfect choice to suit your travel budget. They range in size from 35 to 55 square meters with either luxurious King or twin beds. The indulgent and spacious rooms include Mini Wine Bar, hot/cold individual air conditioning, hair dryers, luxury bathrobes and towels, 500 threads Egyptian cotton sheets, a security box large enough to store your laptop, and  LCD TV with DVD, CD player, home theatre and surround system. Some suites include a balcony or terrace to enjoy the views over Palermo. A delicious continental breakfast is served daily in the lobby lounge and is included in the room rates. This gay-friendly boutique hotel is a must stay to enjoy the vibrant Palermo Hollywood community within walking distance.
Own Hotel Foyer

As you enjoy the tree-lined streets and distinctive architecture you will find The Pride Cafe just a five minute walk from Own Hotel. This is the sister cafe to the very gay and popular Pride Cafe in San Telmo and it is developing a loyal following with the Palermo gay community. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11am till closing for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and simple snacks.
But Palermo Hollywood earns its reputation for fine dining with restaurants on almost every corner--- and in between---with every culinary speciality imaginable. Close to the Own Hotel is a wide variety of dining choices. Il Ballo del Mattone is as peculiar as its Italian name---The Dance of the Brick. The interior is a jumble of tables and eclectic artwork, while out on the pavement or in the rear gardens you sit around an old tree, decorated with trinkets. The freshness of the homemade pasta  and the tiramisú coupled with friendly service has resulted in the popularity of this genuine Italian experience. For some pastas and jazz, swing and bossa nova music, this is Palermo Hollywood's favorite! (Gorriti 5950)
Pride Cafe Palermo

Hidden behind an 8-ft high wooden fence on the quiet street of  Gorriti, sits Olsen, a wonderful restaurant serving Scandinavian cuisine in a tranquil environment. Whether you are seated at one of the reclining chairs in Olsen’s mini-garden out front, or at a round table for eight in the open-air dining room, your experience will no doubt be relaxing and enjoyable. Olsen transports diners from Palermo Hollywood  to Scandinavia with its seafood-heavy menu and impressive selection of more than sixty vodkas. Dishes like blini, smoked herring, and red tuna are a large part of the restaurant’s allure, but so is the 60’s-inspired dining room, set in a former warehouse. Vodka is the focus at the bar, but innovative cocktails like dill martinis are also available. The Sunday champagne brunch attracts both expats and the Argentine elite. (Gorriti 5870)
If you are looking for a break from meat at the renowned parillas, then Artemisia is a veggie lovers delight. They only have a few dishes on the menu and daily specials, but most of the offerings are inventive and seasonal vegetarian meals. The home-made bread and garlicky hummus---served free before your meal---are sublime, and along with the gingery lemonade it’s seriously worth a visit just for the bread and juice. The pear, goats cheese and rocket bruschetta or the huge tapa selection, featuring fresh and tasty vegetables, cheeses and dips, provide a great variety of taste sensations. It’s a lovely bright space with huge windows, wooden tables and a small courtyard. The menu selections are constantly changing so they are handwritten on brown paper bags, while the hand-crafted, colourful plates and bowls add to the rustic charm. (Gorriti 5996)

Mercado de las Pulgas


Your Own Hotel is also located just a short fifteen minute walk to the Mercado de las Pulgas---flea market---where you can hunt through the antiques and other items for that truly unique Argentina souvenir.
Quiet Tree Lined Streets

Despite the lively nightly action the tree-lined streets provide a quiet, relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. The very gay-friendly Own Hotel is located on a peaceful street, yet just steps from all the vibrant action. Prepare yourself to enjoy the wilder side of Buenos Aires by night whilst enjoying your Own luxurious suite.
For More Information Visit:
www.ownhotels.com

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fashionable POP Budget Boutique Hotel

Villa Crespo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Roy Heale
POP Budget Boutique Hotel Entrance

Sometimes referred to as “Palermo Queens”, the Villa Crespo barrio is located at the southern end of Palermo Soho with the unspoiled charm of  tree-lined, cobble stone streets for which Buenos Aires is renowned. However, this neighbourhood is much less touristy than its Palermo neighbours and the Porteños---as the local residents are affectionately known---dominate the scene here in cafes, boutiques, bars, and clubs.
Trendy Villa Crespo is home to the new and evolving Paseo de Compras---Fashion Outlet Stores---where shopping for new clothes is a unique, fun experience. And what gay person doesn't love to shop for a new outfit while on vacation! The latest addition to this fashionable, hip community is the POP Budget Boutique Hotel---the first of its kind in Buenos Aires. Opened in November 2011, this unique hotel offers large, designer rooms---at modest prices---which are perfect to enjoy the local scene but leaving enough holiday budget to savour the nearby shopping.
Fashion Outlet Stores

The gay-friendly POP Hotel is a place where you can make new friends, relax in spacious rooms, enjoy the lounge areas on each floor, and use the computers on the second floor. It is a comfortable place with a modern design, clean and accessible facilities, and with an outstanding price-product relationship.  Located in a strategic area near to the gay nightlife, commercial and tourist attractions, yet close to the subway and bus routes.
Whether it is for business or leisure travel, POP satisfies every traveller's needs, regardless of the length of stay. Focusing on guests who are seeking to get the maximum benefit from their trip, POP offers a simple service, with emphasis on an economic price point. The forty-four rooms reflect the smart design of the urban clientele, created for comfort and flexible use of the specific space. POPCORN Lounges are on each floor with a specially designed area for pleasure, relaxation, comfort, recreation or to meet other guests. The F&B Lounge, located on the first floor, is a space to enjoy snacks and drinks, where you can interact with fellow guests plus make new friends. The 24/7 gay-friendly, knowledgeable front desk staff will quickly assist you to find your way around the Villa Crespo community.
Spacious Designer Rooms

Included in the low room rates is a morning breakfast and it is served at the nearby Krok Bar and Cafe. Here you will be able to enjoy complimentary coffee, fresh juice with a fruit plate, plus toast accompanied by preserves, dulce de leche, or cream cheese, and of course the local Argentine speciality---medialunas. Krok offers both indoor and outdoor seating with friendly, efficient service.
Krok Cafe For Breakfast

In close proximity to the POP Hotel many local restaurants offer a variety of menu options. The Almacen Purista Cafe is on the same block as the hotel and offers an extensive menu of Argentine specialities all prepared on-site. Just three blocks from the Hotel is the Cafe Crespin where the lox and cream cheese on a bagel or New York Cheesecake are rarely seen on Buenos Aires' menus and the hearty brunches are renowned. Central Cafe on Serrano Street will delight you with fresh baked breads, pastries, salads, and more. For a unique experience the Jamming Radio+Bar on Loyola Street offers pizza, baquettes, tapas, burgers, and veggi specials accompanied by live Jamming Radio Reggae for musical entertainment. Of course there are several local Parillas (BBQs) where traditional Argentine assado and grilled meats are prepared for hearty appetites.
Another fashionable reason to stay at the POP Hotel is the close proximity---fifteen minute walk---to the Murillo Street leather shops. Here you can find the best prices for genuine leather goods, made in Argentina, including shoes, coats, jackets, bags, accessories, and novelties.
If you are looking for a break from the urban excitement and shopping then a twenty minute walk will take you to the Parque Centenario---Centennial Park.  Here you can relax in twenty-five acres of parkland including a mile-long promenade around the lake's perimeter which is very popular with local joggers. The Buenos Aires characteristic Tipa trees provide lots of shade but there is plenty of open space for sun worshippers.
Parque Centenario---Centennial Park

So if you are looking to plan an economical visit to the gay mecca of Buenos Aires, the POP Budget Boutique Hotel and Villa Crespo offer a fashionable, budget conscious, and smart alternative to the more expensive and well-known tourist neighbourhoods. But there is no need to sacrifice any of the LGBT excitement of this metropolis which is still close at hand when you stay in Villa Crespo. This is one of Buenos Aires' best kept secrets!
For More Information Visit:
www.pophotelsbuenosaires.com
www.almacenpurista.com
http://www.jamming.com.ar/radiobar/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cafe-Crespin/106729469390708?sk=notes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gay-Friendly Rosario, Argentina

Beach Cafes, Rosario, Argentina


By Roy Heale

Rosario is a radiant city on the move with a tolerant and gay-friendly population. The city is nestled in a gentle twist of the mighty Paraná River about 300 km northwest of the city of Buenos Aires. Due to this close proximity to the Capital City, it is often overlooked as a potential gay vacation destination by first time LGBT travelers to Argentina.

However, Rosario freely displays its natural ‘water-world’ of the Upper Delta with its magic islands covered by lush vegetation and the many desirable sandy beaches. In the city proper there are a number of museums, a curious blend of Spanish and Italian architecture, lovely parks harboring beautiful statues and monuments. The rainbow adorned LGBT Paseo de la Diversidad walk and monument is proudly located on the river boardwalk---located between Corrientes and Paraguay streets---for all to see. There are numerous beaches along the river front, restaurants with international cuisine, and steakhouses where you can sample the renowned Argentine beef cooked on a parilla, or taste the local gourmet speciality---fresh river fish.

Paseo de la Diversidad, Rosario, Argentina


Vacation activities abound for the LGBT traveler to enjoy in Rosario. Night life is exciting with several gay discos---mostly open only on weekends--- gay-friendly bars, sidewalk cafes, and restaurants in a balmy, romantic atmosphere.

The local gay map and guide De Ambiente is an excellent source of Rosario LGBT information which is updated and published four times per year. It is readily available around town including the Official City Tourism Information Centers---another sign of how gay-friendly this city really is!

You know that you have arrived at a gay-friendly Hotel when the De Ambiente is displayed prominently in the hotel lobby along with other tourist information brochures. Such is the case with The Plaza del Sol Hotel in the heart of downtown Rosario where the local gay guide is readily available in the foyer. The welcoming gay-friendly staff are also extremely helpful and it is nearby all the historic attractions, including the Paseo de la Diversidad, Independence Park Theatre, and El Círculo Opera House, plus numerous gay-friendly cafes, bars, and clubs.

A short City Bus ride---costing less than two dollars---on the special “de la Costa” bus route will take you from downtown to the extensive sandy beaches of La Florida neighbourhood. Here sun worshippers gather around the umbrellas, beach volleyball games are everywhere, outdoor bars and cafes are dotted along the shore, nautical sports and bathers catch the eye. Were it not for the calm river and the lush islands in the background, it would seem akin to a tropical ocean resort beach.

Florida Beach, Rosario, Argentina


For relaxation, you can take a leisurely cruise on the Paraná River and thread your way through a maze of vegetation-rich islands in the delta or, if you are more adventure-minded, paddle a kayak across to one of the islands. Many tourists and locals alike ride bicycles or horses around the parks.

Rosario is the city where General Manuel Belgrano, one of Argentina’s most important forefathers, designed the country’s flag. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the impressive Flag Monument placed in the Parque Nacional de la Bandera (National Flag Park). There is also the possibility of heading to the top of the monument's tower for a great view of the city and river valley.

National Flag Monument, Rosario, Argentina


The history of LGBT Rosario is extensive and fascinating. According to local historian and long time Rosario resident Carlos Italiano---writer, history and Italian teacher---even during the oppressive dictatorships and religious influences the gay community in Rosario continued to thrive in secret. Some of their clandestine meeting places still exist today like the Hotel Savoy lobby bar. Although it has been renovated and upgraded it still seems to have a gay atmosphere inherited from those early days. Even Ricky Martin chose this hotel for his gay home-away-from-home when he visited Rosario. What could establish a gay reputation more than a “Royal Visit”?

In those early days the main gay cruising street was San Juan Street dating back about forty-five years when there were no bars or clubs in which the LGBT community could gather and no internet for instant hook-ups. Coincidentally, the gay-friendly Plaza del Sol hotel is located on this street today.

The renowned El Cairo Cafe was also a gathering place for the gay community along with local famous artists and authors. Today the Cafe has undergone a major restoration and is still a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike.

Savoy Hotel, Rosario, Argentina


The journey from Buenos Aires by bus, train, or rental car takes about three hours. It is well worth a side trip to Rosario for LGBT city life with some great opportunities for a change of pace and some relaxation during a gay vacation to Argentina.

With such a rich LGBT history, the Paseo de Diversidad, and a thriving LGBT community, it is no wonder that Rosario is recognized as an extremely gay-friendly major city in Argentina.

Contact De Ambiente Gay Guide:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/dambiente
Contact Plaza del Sol Hotel:
http://www.hotelesplaza.com/hotelplazasol/hotelplazasol.html


Friday, January 27, 2012

A Chic Trip to Europe


By Clark Massad
It is impossible to think about planning a trip to Europe without getting excited about the fantastic shopping that is available. European designers have that je ne sais quoi that makes the shopping experience so unique. During my last trip I discovered two of the nine Chic Outlet Shopping ® Villages, which offer savings of up to 60% (and sometimes more) off the recommended retail price, year round.

The brands in these Villages include niche European names as well as leading fashion designers. Bally, Belstaff, Calvin Klein Collection, Links, L’Occitane en Provence, Roberto Cavalli, Missoni, Mulberry, Penhaligon's, Pringle of Scotland, Smythson, The White Company, Thomas Pink, Vivienne Westwood, and Yves Saint Laurent are just a few of the boutiques you will find. The open-air Villages are located near some of Europe’s most iconic and popular LGBT gateway cities; I recently visited La Vallée Village near Paris and Milan’s Fidenza Village.

Located less than an hour outside of Paris, and easily accessible by public transportation, La Vallée Village is home to some great names in design, including Paul Smith, Fred Perry, Diesel, Dsquared, Kenzo, Marithé + François Girbaud, Puma, Zadig & Voltaire, Maison Martin Margiela and Sandro.

Milan may be known as the fashion capital of the world, but some of the best shopping is just an hour outside of the city center at Fidenza Village. The Village showcases an amazing array of designers in addition to the Vogue Talent Store, a concept boutique previewing the names to watch in fashion. Don’t miss the enticing Obikàa unique dining experience inspired by Japanese sushi bars that features a menu centered on some of the finest Mozzarella di Buffala Campana.

This month I’ll be heading to Madrid’s Las Rozas Village followed by London’s Bicester Village later this year. I’m probably going to need an extra piece of luggage – which isn’t a problem since the Villages feature top-name brands such as Tumi and Samsonite!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gay-Friendly Azur Real Boutique Hotel, Cordoba, Argentina

Azur Real Boutique Hotel, Cordoba, Argentina


By Roy Heale

In the center of Argentina---about 700 km northwest of Buenos Aires---with a student population of more than 300,000, Cordoba is a bustling, gay-friendly city. With nearly 1.5 million people, and 3.2 million in the region, Cordoba still has a small town feel to it with a variety of neighbourhoods and parks to enjoy. Nueva Cordoba is the heart of the university scene, full of gay life and community hang-outs. Just a short walk from here is Viejo Cordoba where the historic part of the city includes the San Martín square, the Cathedral, Córdoba´s Townhall, and the Jesuit Block which was declared by UNESCO in 2000 as a World Heritage Site with a group of buildings dating from the 17th century.

The most gay-friendly living quarters in the city is surely the Azur Real Boutique Hotel located just two blocks from the heart of Viejo Cordoba and a ten minute walk to the Nueva Cordoba community. The historic hotel exterior proffers an unassuming entrance, but the short elevator ride to the hotel lobby reveals an elegant, calm, and tranquil haven in the heart of the city. Stylish and comfortable with gay-friendly, English speaking staff, the 24/7 reception area will immediately make you feel right at home.

Hotel Lobby


The original house, where Azur Real Boutique Hotel is located, was built in 1915 as a traditional home-store, where the household members and the family business co-existed. The property evolved over the years, becoming a Drugstore, a Restaurant, and later a Students Residence. Part of the building was used by Dean Funes National School, where personalities from the City of Cordoba attended classes. Perhaps its most famous student was Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

The current owners began restoration work in 2004 and after five years finally the hotel opened its doors in 2009. However, the property is so well maintained and cleaned it appears to have made its debut yesterday.

Stylish Comfortable Rooms


Azur Real Boutique Hotel has fourteen spacious rooms each with a unique architectural style and exquisite modern design, equipped with LCD TV, Internet Wi Fi, computer sized safety deposit box, mini-bar, multi-function shower, and American percale 180 thread count sheets. The attention to detail is luxurious including bath robes, slippers, and nightly turn-down service. Comfort is combined with an opulent ambiance to make every guest feel pampered while staying here.

A sumptuous daily breakfast buffet is served from a civilized 7AM to 11AM in the top floor restaurant, or by room service, or outside on the comfortable rooftop sun deck. The restaurant is also open for À La Carte lunch and dinner with exquisite local Argentine specialities being served. The Deli Lounge lobby bar also serves refreshments throughout the day and evening.

Roof Top Sun Deck


Throughout the property there exists a peaceful aura of relaxation combined with the total professionalism of the gay-friendly staff. A rare combination today in many hotels.

One of the many attractions of Cordoba is the surrounding Sierras (hills) where many smaller towns and Villas (villages) offer unique tourist attractions and historic buildings from the earlier Spanish Colonialism and Jesuit Orders. Most of these communities can be visited as day trips from Cordoba via local buses or on organized tours. The Azur Real front desk staff will be happy to provide you with additional information.

The Hotel is also conveniently located close to the main Omnibus Terminal and the Mercado Sur Bus stop for easy access via local transit to the Sierras. A visit to Cordoba is not complete without at least one excursion into these hills to enjoy the scenery and local history. Of special note is the Villa General Belgrano, a small mountain village named after the creator of the Argentine flag---Manuel Belgran---and located in the lush green valley of Calamuchita. The Alpine architecture of the village attracted immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria which gives this small town a truly European atmosphere and charm.

So be sure to stay at the gay positive Azur Real Boutique Hotel while you enjoy the LGBT life and the Sierras of Cordoba. It will be the perfect, memorable gay get-away during your visit to gay-friendly Argentina.

Azur Real Boutique Hotel Services:
•Deli Lounge
•Room service
•Roof-Top Terrace with splash pool
•Meeting room
•Wi Fi
•Transfers
•Maid service twice a day
•Laundry, dry cleaning and ironing
•Luggage Storage
•Safety deposit box in rooms
•Bilingual Staff
•Pillow Menu
•Massages
•Shoe shine service
Gays and Lesbians Welcomed

For More Information Visit: www.azurrealhotel.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gay-Friendly Hotel Rosario, Argentina




By Roy Heale

You know that you have arrived at a gay-friendly Hotel when the local gay guide is displayed prominently in the hotel lobby along with other tourist information brochures. Such was the case when I arrived at The Plaza del Sol Hotel in the heart of downtown Rosario and the De Ambiente gay guide was readily available in the foyer. The welcoming staff were also extremely helpful and spoke English, which is not always the case in Argentina.

Located on San Juan Street near attractions such as Plaza Montenegro, The National Flag Monument, Plaza 25 de Mayo, and the Cordoba Street Pedestrian Mall, this is a perfect place to explore Rosario. Also nearby are Independence Park Theatre and El Círculo Opera House plus numerous gay-friendly cafes, bars, and clubs.

Rosario Beaches


Of course the renowned riverbank promenade is also just a ten minute walk from the Plaza del Sol Hotel. Here you will find spacious and beautiful parkland with cafes overlooking the Rio Parana plus the islands and beaches of the Westbank.

Plaza del Sol is a comfortable hotel with all the necessary amenities for a perfect trip. Hotel guests can enjoy a free buffet breakfast served daily on the second level. The staff provides concierge services, tour assistance, ticket purchases, business services, and translation services. Additional amenities include a fitness facility, swimming pool, sun deck, laundry, and room service during limited hours. There is also a computer located in the hotel lobby for guest use.

Spacious Rooms With Balconies


The spacious guestrooms have views of the city with cable television including free movie channels. All rooms have personal safes and telephones. Internet access is provided with free high-speed wireless connections. Beds have down blankets and the bathrooms have shower and tub combinations with jetted tub and rain shower head. They also offer bidets and hair dryers. The rooms include air conditioning and private balconies. In addition, guests may request iron and ironing board, bathrobes, and wake-up services.

Indoor Pool


During my visit to Rosario I learned that San Juan Street was one of the original gay cruising streets in the city, dating back about forty-five years when there were no bars or clubs in which the LGBT community could gather and no internet for instant hook-ups. Although times have changed it is interesting to find a gay-friendly hotel located on a street with such gay history.

Hotel Reception


Rosario is situated only 300 kilometers from Buenos Aires making this an easy destination for a visit during an Argentine vacation or business trip. By car the journey takes just over three hours and slightly longer by bus or train. The River Parana with its islands and beaches makes for an ideal relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.

With moderate prices for room rates Plaza del Sol Hotel is perhaps the best option for staying “gay” in Rosario.

For More Information Visit: http://www.hotelesplaza.com/hotelplazasol/hotelplazasol.html