Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Royal Palms Resort & Spa

Written by A. Sebastian Fortino
via: SouthFloridaGayNews.com

The Royal Palms Resort and Spa recently underwent an expansive renovation, now boasting 62 guest rooms it is the largest gay resort in the United States. When you first encounter the gleaming white façade, with a royal palm dramatically cutting through an overhang, you know taste, and elegance lies within.

Spacious, gleaming white rooms with accents of lime or orange play upon the resort’s mid-century aesthetic. In addition to a cohesive, flowing color scheme the artwork of local renowned photographer Dennis Dean is prominently featured throughout.

This is not a gay guesthouse, where guests stay while on vacation. The Royal Palms is a destination unto itself. There are two pools, one clothing optional, but both heated for midnight swims. The pool bordering the bar seemed more popular than the other.

“It helps this is the clothing optional pool, but having a poolside, full-service bar and grill serving food until 4 p.m. and drinks until 2 a.m. also makes it popular,” said Richard Gray, Owner of the Royal Palms.

Gray has owned the initial, smaller property, now called the Royal Palms Annex, since 1991. Professionally he is known for bringing gay tourism to Fort Lauderdale, and has seen many changes in terms of gay travel demographics. With the recent expansion he seeks to bring something new for gay visitors to the area.

“There used to be tons of gay guesthouses, but numbers dwindled. I want to appeal to all gay men traveling here, and bring more gay-owned accommodations back to the beach,” he said confidently.

Gay guesthouses and hotels are often lost on younger men, who may find such venues outmoded. At one time, in order to feel comfortable while traveling, a gay guesthouse, a secret world, was needed in which to escape.

“And, in those days they came to shag,” said Gray, originally from London. “Don’t get me wrong when you’re on holiday you should have as much fun as possible, but today’s gay travelers want a massage, enjoy a facial, all the things they can find at bigger hotels – not just shag.”

Gray has more planned for the resort, and not just a tea dance launching in May, he would consider further expansion of the property if possible. There is also a 54-foot yacht, Anita, which can accommodate 10 guests, for a three-hour tour of the Intercoastal or chartered trips to The Bahamas. The Fitness Center and Spa at the Royal Palms also seeks to accommodate discerning clients.

“We are a destination, not only for guests, but for men who wish to use our gym, or frequent our Spa,” said Eston Dunn, manager of the Spa and Fitness Center. “We offer day passes and gym memberships for clients who just want to work out, or enjoy the pool.”

At night everyone carelessly frolicked in the pool, those wearing bathing suits were gently teased into skinny-dipping. During the day, lounging poolside, sipping perfect Bloody Marys, and delighting in homemade crab-cake sandwiches, we encountered a broad, fun, demographic of gay men. It seemed as if no one wanted to leave the lush pool area – even for a moment.

“My partner and I thought about heading to Sebastian Beach,” said Tim, from Washington, D.C., in town only for the weekend. “Why bother though? The pool is just beautiful, and time stands still here.”

Tim added the couple loves Key West, but for Northeasterners who want only a quick weekend getaway it’s impractical in terms of travel time.

“For a weekend by the time we get there, it’s time to leave. Here we pack a bag, head to the airport and we’re in paradise in two hours,” he said. “We don’t need to rent a car here either, not driving is luxurious.”

Before we checked out on Sunday afternoon we checked into the Spa. I overindulged in the sun earlier, and the masseuse informed me a massage was not possible. Instead it was suggested I take a combination of the hand and foot treatment, which are normally separate 30-minute procedures.

The treatments aren’t a manicure and pedicure. Instead it is a soothing treatment with a scrub, and paraffin dip to soften the skin with soothing essential oils. I was disappointed initially upon learning I could not get massaged. However, once my hands and feet were, rubbed, immersed in warm wax, the gentle music and peaceful atmosphere lulled me to sleep – truly as relaxing as a massage.

My guest indulged in The Royale, their signature massage. This includes deeper Swedish technique, combined with hot stones. Gentle pressure is applied to key points where stress and tension accumulate. During his massage, he learned his shoulders are hunched forward, indicating a great deal of stress – which he found eased by the session.

In addition to out-of-state guests we met locals, with whom we happily commiserated about life in the Sunshine State. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live here. However, at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, we relished and rediscovered life in paradise.

Federal government decides to give airline passengers a break

By David Wilkening

The federal government’s new airline rules won’t prevent them from adding the hated fees -- more are expected this summer -- or make it any easier or quicker to get through security but most observers say this is generally good news for passengers.

“When the US Department of Transportation announced recently that compensation for getting bumped from an airline flight was going up, thanks to consumer advocates and the Obama administration’s response to the demand for a passenger’s bill of rights, the sound you heard was a collective cheer from travel hackers everywhere,” wrote the Nashville Business Journal.

“Travelers, your day has come — finally. The Department of Transportation announced new passenger protection rules for airlines,” wrote the Washington Post.

If an airline loses your luggage, it also now loses your baggage fee, which it will be required to reimburse. Airlines will also have to prominently disclose all fees — include those for checked bags, meals and upgraded seats — on their websites. And ticket agents will have to include all government taxes and fees when quoting fares.

Here are some questions and answers on the new rules:

Q: What’s the impact on hidden fees? A: Airlines will be required to post all potential fees on their websites, including bags, meals, reservation changes and seating changes. Airlines and ticket agents must provide baggage fee information and include government taxes and fees in advertised prices. Supporters of the measure say this should help in consumers comparing fares which in the past have been misleading because they are not always prominently displayed.

Q: What about compensation for being bumped from a flight? A: Bumped passengers currently can get cash equal to their ticket value, to $400, if the airline gets them to their desired US destination within one or two hours (as much as four hours for international flights). A longer delay means double the ticket price, to $800. The new rule means double the ticket price, to $650, for short delays and quadruple the ticket price, to $1,300, for longer delays

Q: What’s the impact on those irksomely long tarmac delays? A: Current rules that impose heavy fines on US airlines for tarmac delays will be extended to cover international flights and non-US carriers operating in the United States. For domestic US flights, the tarmac delay limit is three hours. For international flights, the limit will be four hours. Carriers will be required to provide trapped passengers with status updates at least every 30 minutes, plus food and water every two hours.

Q: How about when the airlines suddenly spring a delay? A: All airlines must offer passengers a flight status update service (email or text) to which they can subscribe. They must also notify passengers within 30 minutes of becoming aware of a situation that will delay, divert or cancel a flight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Air Fares 101 – Why do fares change all the time?

Time and time again, people always ask; Why do fares change all the time?

It’s the airlines who set the prices—we just seek out and present the best ones. And as many of you have noticed, airlines change fares often.

Why is that? Why is checking a fare like playing the stock market – up one day, down the next, with seemingly no rhyme or reason? Here’s a little lesson on airfare pricing that will attempt to give you a better understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes as you shop for fares.

The Airline’s Dilemma

The airlines want to be able to have their cake and eat it, too, and they go to great lengths to make that possible. They employ a very high-tech strategy called yield management which intentionally aims to charge different prices to different passengers in order to maximize the total revenue collected for each departing flight.

Here’s what we mean: Let’s say you’re an airline. You have a plane with 100 seats on it that you’re going to fly from Point A to Point B. There will be a group of people — business travelers, travelers with family emergencies, people who just don’t care about the price — that are willing to pay a ton of money for a seat on that plane. We’ll call this the “go-at-any-price” group. Additionally, there will be a much larger group consisting of price conscious individuals who would love to travel but don’t necessarily need to. This second group may be willing to buy a ticket on this flight, but only if the price is affordable. We’ll call this the “go-if-the-price-is-right” group.

The airline’s dilemma is that if they set the price per seat at the maximum price they can get from the “go-at-any-price” group, they would generate a lot of revenue from those passengers but they would be flying planes with a lot of empty seats (a wasted opportunity for even more revenue). On the other hand, if they fill the plane by charging fares low enough to attract all the “go-if-the-price-is-right” travelers, they will be giving seats to the “go-at-any-price” crowd for far less than they would have been willing to pay. The thought of that makes the airlines cringe.

An airline’s goal is to get as much as they possibly can for each seat on the plane. If 10 people are willing to pay $1000, they would love to sell 10 of the 100 seats for that price; if there are another 20 people willing to pay $500, then they’d sell 20 more seats at the $500 rate; and so on until the plane is full.

But how can they do that?

Same Seat, Different Fares

Airlines never just have one fare – they have several, even dozens, of fares for each seat and they employ sophisticated techniques to maximize the number of people who get stuck paying the higher of those fares.

Here’s a real-life example. United Airlines currently publishes 43 different one way economy class fares for flights between Los Angeles and Chicago. These fares start at $109 one way, but there are also fares of $139, $149, $159, $189, etc. all the way up to $1765! The highest fare is more than 16 times more expensive than the lowest fare even though, no matter which price you pay, you’ll end up with the exact same seat, the exact same food (or lack thereof), and the exact same service. (To be the fair, the very highest fares do usually include a few extra, but relatively minimal, perks like being refundable, easier/cheaper to change, first dibs at the best seats on the plane, etc. but nothing that substantially changes what you get for the fare that you pay.)

Knowing that a given seat on a United Airlines flight to Chicago may cost anywhere from $109 to $1765, you would naturally say “I’ll take the $109 option” but, of course, the airlines don’t make it that easy. Their goal is to funnel every would-be traveler into the highest “fare bucket” that they can. They do that, first, by adding restrictions to the lowest fares that limit how many people can take advantage of them. For example, the $109 fare to Chicago requires you to purchase it 21 days in advance and to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays (the least popular travel days, where it’s harder to sell seats at higher fares). Other fares have 14 day advance purchase requirements and, still others, 7 day. Some fares are blacked out around holiday and other peak travel times. Generally speaking, the lower the fare, the more restrictions there will be on it, and the fewer flights that that fare will be offered on.

But just as important is the fact that, even if a fare is offered on a certain flight, the airlines will limit the number of seats available at that fare level. For example, United may say that on a given flight they will only sell up to 10 seats at the $109 fare, 15 seats at the $139 fare, 20 seats at the $149 rate, etc. From a practical standpoint, this is the probably the most important point to understand about airline pricing. As more and more seats are booked on a flight, more and more fare levels will be “closed out” so the end result is that additional passengers will be stuck paying higher fares.

It’s actually even more complicated in practice. Airlines actually have computer programs that are constantly monitoring flights, analyzing booking patterns, and in real-time changing the number of seats available at each fare level. If a flight is booking up faster than expected, an airline may decrease the number of seats available at some of their lowest fare levels, or wipe them all out altogether. If a flight is not selling well, suddenly more seats may appear at fare levels that were previously “sold out”.

Why Fares Change all the Time

This is why fares change all the time. If you see a different fare today than you saw yesterday, the issue is probably not that the airline made a conscious decision to raise or lower their prices — at least not directly. Instead, it’s likely that seats in the lowest fare categories sold out or were closed out. For instance, if there are 3 $109 seats left on our example flight to Chicago and someone grabs them, the lowest fare available will change to $139. If United’s yield management system looks at the flight and says “Wow, bookings are strong”, it may choose to close the $139 level, too. Then the fare will appear to “jump” to $149. But what if two days later 2 families of 4 booked on the flight decide to cancel? The same system might say “Uh-oh, we have way too many empty seats” and decide to open the $109 and $139 fare levels back up. This process happens continuously until hours before departure. Generally, over time fares on a particular flight will get higher and higher as more and more seats gets booked and more and more fare levels get closed. But there are short term blips all the time and, if you look at it hour to hour or day to day, there will be moments when fares temporarily dip before heading back up once new bookings come in. This entire process is extremely dynamic as at any given time there are hundreds of thousands of shoppers looking for flights and making reservations — and each reservation may have repercussions on the fares paid by subsequent travelers on the same flights.

Fare Sales

What about fare sales? Airlines are constantly promoting one sale or another and you may be wondering how fare sales play into all of this. In fact, if you subscribe to our fare alerts, you probably are constantly hearing about a brand new fare sale – often more than one a week.

The real news would be if there were no sales going on. To the airlines, almost everything is a “sale”. Returning to our United Airlines Los Angeles to Chicago example, of those 43 fares, about two thirds of them are considered to be “sale” fares. A “sale” fare really just means that it requires booking or traveling between a specified time period . Some sale fares are really good deals; others are worthwhile only because they provide decent fares on dates or times that previously weren’t eligible for the lowest fares; and still others are just plain meaningless because they are no better than one or more other fares already in the market.

What’s important to remember about sale fares is that, if they are really lower than the other fares in the market, they will be even more limited from an inventory standpoint. So, for example, if United introduces a 3 day sale fare to Chicago for $99, it will almost definitely not be offered on flights where the existing $109 fare has already been sold out. In practical terms, this means that when sales hit the market, they will usually only be obtainable on flights that are pretty wide open.

Confused Yet?

We apologize if you’re more confused than when we started. Air fare pricing will do that to you. The bottom line is this:

- It is not uncommon for fares on a particular flight to change on a daily, sometimes even hourly, basis
- If you see a fare, know that it may not be there the next time you search –it could be higher, it could be lower
- Neither Queertrip.com, nor any other on-line travel agency, has the ability to set prices; we aim to do a really good job at sorting through tens of thousands of options to find the best deals, but it is the airlines and their pricing teams who are actually responsible for those deals
- Fares on a particular flight will generally increase as the flight becomes more heavily booked but at certain points, fares may fall dramatically if a fare sale is launched or an airline computer determines that booking levels are below where they should be for a given departure date.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why You Should Fly With A National Airline

By Bobbie Laurie via Upupandagay.com

A national carrier is an airline, which by law or not, takes on the role of representing its country. The US doesn’t really have a single one, but our neighbors to the north have Air Canada. And it turns out most countries of the world have a national carrier – think big names like British Airways, Qantas (of Australia), Japan Airlines or Turkish Airlines.

Back in the old days of the jet age (the 1960s-1980s), these carriers were often the only airlines connecting their countries with foreign lands. Over the years as air travel picked up globally, these airlines assumed roles as flying ambassadors for their countries. On board, they’d serve up traditional foods, play classical music from their countries, and carry their countries’ flags across the world on their planes. With massive changes in the airline industry in the past decade or 2, things are a bit different today. Many airlines, though, have managed to retain their national brands – from uniforms to service to food on board.

On your next international adventure, flying with a national carrier can add a bit of spice to an otherwise uneventful flying experience. Here’s why:

A splash of culture
Setting foot inside a national carrier’s airplane is like setting foot into a foreign country. When boarding a Thai Airways flight, the flight attendants welcome you with the quintessentially Thai wai greeting. Announcements are made in Thai, English and maybe 1 more language (depending on where you’re flying). The inflight magazine has advertisements in Thai, for products and services in or related to Thailand. The food, unless you request otherwise, will likely be Thai or Thai-inspired. The inflight entertainment will feature Thai movies, TV shows and music. If you ask me, flying on Thai Airways is a sweet opportunity to pretend like you’re in Thailand without even setting foot in the country.

When would you be able to make this happen? If you’re flying to Thailand, or just using Bangkok as your connection point for a longer journey (a Europe-Australia flight, for example).

Pre-game for the country you’re visiting!
This one is probably the most applicable reason to fly a national airline. As a kid, my parents, brother and I would fly to India to visit extended family, and two of those times were with the Indian government-owned Air India. Air India’s an airline known for getting you from point A to B, as long as you’re willing to be late, have a couple bags lost, and be ignored at the customer service desks. What Air India has proven to do well, however, is give passengers a good sample of what’s to come in India – long lines, delays, near chaos all served alongside utterly phenomenal food. Similarly, Singapore Airlines gives you a sample of Singapore – they’re extremely helpful, convenient, but a bit pricey. Lufthansa’s efficient processing of their passengers, lack of on-board smiles, and a near militant on-time record shows off a bit of what Germany’s known for.

If you’re on your way to India, try the messy schedules of Air India! Or Singapore Airlines if you’re heading to Singapore, or Japan Airlines if you’re going to Tokyo, or KLM if Amsterdam is your destination. You get the point!

The fares & the miles!
When looking for the best deal among already expensive flights, the last thing you want to do is add on another condition that you have to fly a ‘national airline.’ Fortunately for you, on a lot of long-haul flights, the best fares can end up being on a national airline. A lot of the European carriers like Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines often have pretty attractive deals from select American cities to cities in Europe. And let’s not forget the major airline alliances – Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam, who are all full of national carriers! This arrangement is great, since you can rack up frequent flyer points while flying on partner national airlines.

So if you’re on your way abroad, try flying with a national airline. After all, the journey to wherever you’re going should be interesting, right?

Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade and Festival this weekend

Miami Beach Gay Pride and Festival, the largest single-day event of the year in Miami Beach, kicks off this weekend with an all-star line-up that includes Bravo's Andy Cohen as this year's Grand Marshal.

Numerous celebrities and VIPs will join more than 66 entrants and 1,200 participants marching in solidarity as the parade steps off at Noon.

The parade, which will travel Ocean Drive from 5th to 13th Streets, will be followed by an enormous festival with exciting celebrities and musical performances, 125 LGBT-friendly vendors and businesses, refreshments and a family-friendly play area..

Continuing her long-standing support of the LGBT community, DJ Tracy Young will be a special guest in the parade fresh off her recent guest appearance on "The Real Housewives of Miami." Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower and several of the city's commissioners and staff will ride atop a specially designed float and many of the entries in the parade will echo this year's "Super Hero" theme of empowerment.

Another highlight of Pride will be a salute to "Legacy Couples" – committed LGBT partners who have been together for 20 or more years who will march and ride together in recognition of their commitment and in affirmation of marriage equality.

Last year the all-day festival attracted more than 35,000 people.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Queertrip.com goes social

In an effort to keep up with the ever changing internet, Queertrip.com has added a new feature to our website. The new toolbar at the bottom of the page will allow visitors to socially interact with each other and friend.

Our new toolbar gives visitors the ability to:

- See where in the world visitors are on our website,
- Translate our page content into over 10 languages,
- See recent blog posts,
- Share content from our website,
- Connect to social networks like Facebook & Twitter,
- Chat with friends from your social networks on our website.

We strongly feel adding these social applications help make the experience more user friendly.

We encourage all our visitors to check it out and give it a try.

At Queertrip.com, it's the way you travel!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gay Travel: Visiting Vienna, Austria

via Starobserver

Vienna is the undisputed capital of gay and lesbian life in Austria and is home to an estimated 170,000 gays and lesbians. Both in the past and present, gays and lesbians have played a prominent role in Viennese public life.

Perhaps the earliest of these was responsible for stopping the Turkish advance into Europe in the 17th century.

Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736) freed Vienna from Ottoman siege, pushing them back to the Balkans over several wars. Prince Eugene’s preference for men was well known in his lifetime, but he rose in power under three emperors. His baroque summer palace, Schloss Belvedere, today houses paintings from the Middle Ages to the present, including famous works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.

Vienna’s most famous son, the composer Franz Schubert (1797–1828) shared a bed for two years with his librettist Johann Baptist Mayerhofer, and Schubert dedicated an unfinished opera to Mayerhofer. The houses of Schubert’s birth and death remain popular attractions in the city to this day.

Archduke Ludwig Viktor (1842-1919) had a reputation for cross-dressing and created a scandal when he was slapped by a young officer in the Centralbad indoor swimming pool. Ludwig was banished by the emperor but today the Centralbad is the gay Kaiserbründl Sauna.

Vienna’s gay scene centres around the Rosa-Lila-Villa on Linke Wienzeile where many GLBT organisations are based and most of the city’s gay and lesbian hangouts can be found nearby.

Young gays up for cocktails go to Mango Bar, whereas Felixx attracts the upmarket crowd. Village Bar attracts all ages, while the doors of Eagle Bar and Sling stay open late. Club-Losch attracts the leather crowd.

Girls can party at the Frauenzentrum Bar, Café Willendorf, Marea Alta or the Frauencafé.

Good food and delicious wines add to an unforgettable Viennese night out. This year, Motto scooped the coveted title of Vienna’s best gay restaurant in Name-It magazine, picking up 106,000 votes along the way.

Vienna Pride and its Rainbow Parade take place on June 14-19 this year.

Vienna also offers an immense range of cultural, culinary and shopping experiences that aren’t specifically gay and lesbian in character, with major cultural institutions in the city including the State Opera, the Burgtheater, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Museums Quartier.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Swedish LGBT Tourism Campaign Puts The L Into LGBT - Stockholm’s Leading Ladies

Stockholm, SWEDEN -- DIVA magazine in the UK has recently called Stockholm one of the world’s most exciting cities for lesbian travel, and to celebrate its über cool gay girl scene, and the fit, fashionable and fabulous lesbians who make it, Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network is launching an innovative new media campaign and competition.

Eight Stockholm lesbians - including a DJ and a flying rap singer - have been handpicked to showcase their diverse interests and favorite things to do in the city. From an outdoors adventure, to a shopping extravaganza - their lesbian Stockholm top tips, showcased online at www.visitstockholm.com/gay-lesbian offer some unique insights into the sophisticated, cultural and eclectic things to do in the city.

But that’s not all. UK lesbians are invited to vote for the lady, and her perfect Stockholm weekend, that most appeals to them - and by doing so will stand a chance of winning a perfect Stockholm weekend of their own. The lucky winner and a friend will be whisked off to the city where they’ll be put up in stylish accommodation in the heart of Stockholm’s thriving cultural scene. Free flight tickets courtesy of SAS, 3 nights stay at the Hilton Hotel in Stockholm plus dinner at lesbian restaurant - Momma.

Peter Lindqvist, CEO of Stockholm Visitors Board said the campaign was an exciting one for them. "Stockholm is one of the world’s most beautiful cities and we are fast becoming recognised as a global leader in extending an authentic welcome to all our lesbian and gay guests" said Mr Lindqvist. "This year we thought it would be nice to build a fun engaging competition especially for women and we are really looking forward to welcoming the lucky winners to our city".

The campaign has been developed for Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network by Out Now - a global LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) market consulting specialist.

"Lesbians are one of the travel industry’s most neglected valuable tourism segments" said Ian Johnson, Out Now’s CEO. "That is why Out Now works with some of the world’s leading lesbian consultants to make sure this significant group of customers are not left out. Too often campaigns target gay men and ignore lesbians, which makes no sense for either the advertisers nor their lesbian guests. Lesbian women have money to spend and travel frequently, so this new campaign by Stockholm is one that demonstrates a fresh, smart and modern approach. Letting Stockholm women share their weekend leisure ideas with UK lesbians builds empathy - and destination awareness - for one of Europe’s most stunning destinations".

This innovative campaign from a leading tourist board is set to put Stockholm firmly on the map for gay women and give the winner one ’L’ of a weekend in this Swedish lesbian hotspot.

Stockholm is a GayComfort Certified destination www.gaycomfort.com - investing resource in training tourism staff to deliver high quality customer service that is sensitive to the needs of its LGBT guests.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Confronted with Immigration Inequality, One Gay Binational Couple Goes Nomadic to Survive

via: PRWEB

Tony and Thomas are a gay binational couple affected by last week's decision by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) not to accept green card applications from same-sex couples. Until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is overturned, the American-German couple has gone nomadic to survive.

Unlike straight couples, gay and lesbian Americans cannot marry their foreign partners and sponsor them for a green card. Last week, this inequality came to national attention when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) first signaled they would accept green card applications from gay and lesbian couples and then, almost immediately, reversed the new policy. Such political flip-flopping has left same-sex couples searching for solutions. After years of struggling with immigration inequality, Tony, a native of San Diego, and his German partner Thomas decided to "leave sedentary life behind and go nomadic." Now on the road for almost four years, this dedicated couple survives by documenting their daily adventures and discoveries in their adventure travel blog ContemporaryNomad.com. Despite their unique survival strategy, Tony and Thomas want change now.

"It's infuriating to be told that you have to put your life on hold while society learns to feel more comfortable with your relationship," says Tony, "We were 23 when we first met. How long are we supposed to wait?"

Tony explains that their 18-year relationship has been a series of legal, political and cultural hurdles that would have torn most couples apart. For years, they hoped that immigration and marriage laws in the United States would become more inclusive or that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would be overturned. They describe bouncing between Africa, Europe, Central America and the United States living from visa to visa. When partnerships became legal in Germany, they moved to Berlin to start over. But German partnerships became a quick lesson in the meaning of separate is not equal. Frustrated with second-class status on two continents, Tony and Thomas decided to take their futures into their own hands by starting their travel blog.

"Life handed us a serious case of gay marriage lemons," says Tony, "so rather than just sit there and suffer, we decided to make some adventurous lemonade. Starting ContemporaryNomad.com was a declaration of self-determination. We wanted to define ourselves with something other than injustice; we wanted to be known for adventure."

"We write about adventure travel, culture, wildlife and the environment," describes Thomas, "Our experience as a gay binational couple has definitely had a huge influence on our writing as we sympathize with many of the minority groups we've met along the way. For example, we have talked about human rights in Tibet, the Paduang tribe in Myanmar, and women in India."

But this couple has a light side as well. Quirky travel tales and funny cultural observations combine with tongue-in-cheek titles to keep their readers entertained as they contemplate the globe and wait for the marriage debate to end.

"A sense of humor is necessary as a binational couple," remarks Tony, "without one, you would go insane with all the political and legal games that people play. This is not some abstract debate about definitions. Marriage and immigration equality are necessary for binational couples to survive. We have found a rather unique way to stay together, but this is by no means a solution for every couple in our situation."

Friday, April 1, 2011

From Canyon To Cove: Take your pick of gay-friendly cities

By Cindy Frazier via Coastlinepilot.com

The Boom Boom Room may be history, along with the Little Shrimp and Woody's, but Laguna Beach is not giving up on attracting and serving gay and lesbian visitors.

The Gay and Lesbian Travel Industry Directory 2011 has a two-page spread devoted to the city, extolling its beautiful beaches, secluded coves, absolutely fabulous restaurants, artists enclaves and hip nightspots.

The Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau placed the full-page ad and provided materials for an "editorial" page, a promotion that cost the bureau $3,000, according to Executive Director Judy Bijlani.

Laguna Beach is listed in the 123-page directory along with quite a few other "gay-friendly" cities that might not spring immediately to mind: Cleveland, Winnipeg, Canada, Milwaukee, Wis., Raleigh, N.C., and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to name a few.

Others are on the "gaydar" of just about every gay or lesbian single or couple: Key West, Fla., West Hollywood, Palm Springs, Santa Fe, N.M., San Francisco, Copenhagen, Denmark. Barely mentioned is the East Coast gay enclave of Provincetown, Mass., but maybe the folks in P-town figured they didn't need to spend money on a big, splashy ad.

Sarah Palin, get ready for the gay/lesbian onslaught in your state: Anchorage is throwing out the welcome wagon, touting itself as the "Bright lights, OUT city!"

The directory is full of tasteful photos of same-sex couples holding hands, toasting each other, enjoying spectacular scenery together and just having fun. The undertone — or overtone — of romance is apparent, as is the promise of meeting beautiful men and women waiting with open arms. There are hunky guys in Speedos and sylvan women in fashion heels.

Here's how Los Angeles is marketing itself to this niche: "LA is SO Gay." La dee da. And I love this bit: "They call us the City of Angels. But don't let that fool you."

Maybe you can be a little naughty here, the ad implies. As for the original "Sin City," Las Vegas, its advertising seems a bit muted compared to the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" wink-wink promotions for the general audience that you see everywhere.

Most surprising to me was how the Midwest and Far West is throwing out a lure to the gay and lesbian traveler. Who would think that Mormon-run Utah, of all places, and Colorado (where a major battle over homosexual rights was played out some 15 years ago), would be represented in a gay and lesbian travel guide? But there they are.

Then there's New Orleans, touting its charms as only it can.

"Why there are no closets to come out of in New Orleans," the promotion begins. "They say homes in Old Louisiana were built without closets because you were taxed according to how many rooms were in the house, and closets counted. In New Orleans, we have another theory: Closets just aren't necessary down here. We're all about letting the real you out. The only thing you'll want to hide behind here is a Mardi Gras mask." Now that's quite a come on.

Texas, of all places, invites gays and lesbians to "try Dallas on for size," with a photo of two women embracing — or are they two-stepping?

OK, now circling over the Midwest: pick your city and land in a sweet spot. Will it be Bloomington, Ind. ("the fourth gayest city in America"); Davenport, Iowa; the "unexpected fabulousness of Cleveland;" Oak Park, Ill; or that soon-to-be famous gay haven, Door County, Wis.? Or how about Lancaster County, Penn., where you can enjoy an "action-packed" visit to the Amish Country and taste jams and cheeses to your heart's content? And don't overlook Valley Forge, Penn., known for hosting George Washington's winter encampment of 1777-78, a city where you can look back at another era's "passion for personal freedom," as the write-up notes. You've gotta love it.

My favorite city of all (aside from Laguna, of course) has to be my old home town of Akron, Ohio, making a real attempt at inclusiveness.

"Our offerings are as diverse as the individuals we welcome," the campaign spiel goes. And here's a good reason to visit Akron in a few years' time: the city will host the Gay Games in August 2014. Who knew?

Perhaps the best slogan comes from the Philadelphia page in the guide: "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay!" it sills, inviting the discerning traveler to discover the city's "Gayborhood," where 69 rainbow street signs delineate an enclave devoted to small businesses serving the gay community.

Thumbing through these pages can make you feel a little overwhelmed. So many cities, so little time. Where to start? Why, right here at home, of course, in gay-friendly Laguna.

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.

Social Conservatives Take Aim at Gay Days at Orlando and Disney

By: Kevin Derby

With thousands of people from around the world planning to visit Central Florida for the Gay Days festivities in early June, religious conservatives from the Sunshine State are warning families not to visit the Magic Kingdom on the first Saturday of the month.

“Approximately 30,000 children will rush with their parents to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando on Saturday, June 4, only to be thrust into a crowd of approximately 15,000 people reveling about gay pride,” noted David Caton, the executive director of the conservative Florida Family Association, on Thursday.

Caton, who has led numerous protests targeting companies that advertise on television shows with questionable and mature content, urged that Disney, which is not sponsoring the event, restrict Gay Days activities to after-hours.

“Why would Disney allow Gay Day to take place during regular operating hours at the expense of offending tens of thousands of unsuspecting guests when they require other special events to be held after normal operating hours?” demanded Caton. “Disney requires special events like Grad Night and Night of Joy to be held after the Magic Kingdom's regular operating hours. Disney does this to avoid having a large group of like minded people in the park at the same time with regular patrons who expect a normal day at the Magic Kingdom.”

Besides recommending that members inform friends and family who are planning to hit the Magic Kingdom in early June, Caton urged his members and supporters to e-mail CEO Robert Igner and other leaders at Disney asking them to move the event back to after-hours.

Caton noted that his organization had raised enough funds to rent an airplane which would fly over the Orlando area on that Friday and Saturday with banners warning about the event.

“We have had a team attend several past Gay Days at Disney,” added Caton. “We estimate that as many as 10,000 people enter the park only to promptly exit before 1:00 p.m. after witnessing the same-sex revelry.”

Chris Alexander-Manley, the president of Orlando based Gay Days, Inc., welcomed the free publicity that Caton offered the event.

Pointing to the 21-year history of the event, which is not the largest gay and lesbian tourist event in the world, Alexander-Manley, whose company helps organize the festivities, countered that the event proved a boon to businesses in the region.

“We’ve proven the event’s impact to the businesses in Central Florida,” Alexander-Manley told Sunshine State News. Besides citing reports from businesses who found event patrons to be well-behaved, Alexander-Manley estimated the events his company promotes, which brought in around 150,000 people to the region in 2010, added $600 million to the economy.

Alexander-Manley took exception to Caton’s assertion that families left the Magic Kingdom over the event.

“As always, our attendees are expected to behave just like any other guest,” noted Alexander-Manley. “We get great feedback each year from families who didn't know that it was Gay Days and that they were happy their children were able to see the diversity of humanity.”

Alexander-Manley opined that the Florida Family Association could have spent their money on better causes than renting an airplane for their banners.

“That $3,700 could have been better spent supporting the disasters in Japan or the storm victims of Central Florida from the tornadoes from yesterday,” added Alexander-Manley.

Alexander-Manley was not alone in his criticism of the Florida Family Association.

"It’s offensive to see an organization call on Disney to discriminate against any segment of the population,” said Brian Winfield, the communications director of LGBT civil rights group Equality Florida. “Fortunately, Disney is among the 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies that have policies prohibiting anti-gay discrimination. At a time when Florida is desperate for jobs and needs the economic benefits of tourism, we hope that the tens of thousands of gay families who travel to Orlando will be able to enjoy their vacations free of the bigotry demonstrated by this organization.”

Started in 1991, the Gay Days events received national attention when the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney in 1997. The convention lifted the ban in 2005. Prominent televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson made national headlines back in 1998 when he suggested that God would punish Orlando for hosting Gay Days by unleashing natural and man-made disasters upon the region.