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.


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
•Maid service twice a day
•Laundry, dry cleaning and ironing
•Luggage Storage
•Safety deposit box in rooms
•Bilingual Staff
•Pillow Menu
•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