from City of Light No. 2 by Clay Doyle
from City of Light No. 2 by Clay Doyle
You just have to ride a bicycle—it’s by far the quickest, easiest way around the city. It may look intimidating at first, but once on a bike you have the advantage as bicycles have the right-of-way. Rent one from Frederic Rent-a-Bike—their bikes don’t have any annoying logos that label you as a tourist. (Many shops that sell bikes also rent them—without the tourist identifying adverts—just ask.) Sadly, bike rentals are not the bargain they once were (now about 10 euros a day, with discounts for longer rentals) so when you rent one, do use it!
Frederic Bike Rentals
At a cafe near La Madeleine…
from City of Light No. 2 by Clay Doyle
One of the things that makes Apple’s iPhone so addictive are the wide range of third party created “apps” (which do span the admittedly silly to the overly complicated) but also include many which are downright useful and easy to use.
Kudos to the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions for creating the elegantly designed Amsterdam Mobile Guide app. Download this to your iPhone (it’s available absolutely free from the iTunes App Store!) and you’ll have a combination city map/guidebook right on your phone. While far from comprehensive, the maps are great, and there’s good information on sights, museums, cafes, and restaurants. While it’s at its best while connected to the internet (where you can use it to pinpoint your exact location) it’s also quite useful offline (saving expensive connection charges) as most of the information is stored right in the app itself, providing useful descriptions of historical sights, museum opening hours, cafes, restaurants, shops and more. And so far, the board of tourism seems to be committed to keeping it current with regular updates. One of the best travel apps I’ve come across, the Amsterdam app is simple to use, well designed, a great portable map—and much more.
I had the pleasure of being among the travel writers to submit nominations for Logo online’s TripOut Gay Travel Awards. My thanks to TripOut’s editor, John Polly, for including me on his “first-ever nominating academy.”
I wasn’t quite sure what he’d make of my suggestions—some of which probably went beyond quirky—but my nominations did make the top six (determined by a consensus tally of all the nominating academy members) in five of the eleven categories!
Here’s Logo’s press release:
NEW YORK, NY August 19, 2009 – Logo, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks, announced today that TripOutGayTravel.com, its comprehensive travel site dedicated to the LGBT traveler and MTV Network’s first stand-alone, travel-focused site, will present its first ever “TripOut Gay Travel Awards.” The awards honor the most stylish, exciting and hottest destinations and services that attract, pamper and market to the LGBT traveler.”
So please have a look at the nominations and vote for your favorites—trust me, it’ll be more fun than a Facebook quiz.
Vote here: http://www.tripoutgaytravel.com/awards/
Then, just for fun, I’m posting my complete nominations below:
Best Global Destination (country or city)
With European flair and third world prices, Buenos Aires is the perfect recession getaway. Plenty of gay venues, gay marriage equality, plus good food, fun shopping, plentiful taxis… and cheaper than staying at home!
A controversial choice I know, but the vibrant capital of this secular Muslim country is the perfect introduction to a largely misunderstood culture. While it’s a treasure trove of history and art, Istanbul is also a modern metropolis. Safe and friendly, it can be both luxurious and cheap, with a surprising diversity of gay venues. Plus, attractive Turkish men (straight) stroll arm in arm.
Arguably the most beautiful city in the world with great food, the great art, markets, fashion, parks, cafes— Paris is perhaps too obvious. But gay life is accepted and ubiquitous and the new Velib public bike system (one of the many initiatives by Paris’ gay mayor) makes club hopping effortless and fun. No more expensive taxis!
Best U.S. Destination (large or small city)
CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY 1
What’s more American than driving? And what drive in America is more fun than the winding, vertiginous, coast hugging Highway One. Leave glamorous Los Angeles and allow plenty of time for stops in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Monterey and Santa Cruz. After a suitable stay in San Francisco, keep heading north. Be sure to rent a convertible.
ARE YOU KIDDING?
My first thought on seeing this category. Flying (with it’s attendant security protocols; the hostile welcome of US immigration and customs; the seats designed for dwarves; and the extra charges for everything) is nothing more than the price we endure to get where we are going.
OK, Less bitchy:
For the unwavering professionalism of the staff, in an era when most airline employees (perhaps justly) seem to hate their jobs. Air France staff, in particular, have proved themselves helpful beyond my expectations time and again. And KLM has those charming souvenir “huisjes” as well as the world’s greatest airport.
Yes, it’s a flying bus, but at least it’s cheap, cheap, cheap! Plus the use of smaller airports can take some of the strain off air travel.
FORGET FLYING: THE EUROPEAN HIGH SPEED RAIL NETWORK
The expanding network of national and public/private high-speed trains allows travel to an ever increasing number of European destinations. It’s fast, it’s comfortable, it’s fun. That’s two out of three (and sometimes even three out of three) over air travel.
Best Hotel Chain (Collection)
I usually prefer local hotels over chains, but Hyatt has some great properties—from the luxurious Park Hyatt Buenos Aires to the Boutique Hyatt Madeleine Paris, to the Club floors at larger properties which give the feel and service of a boutique hotel. Count on comfortable, modern décor as opposed to frou-frou, and friendly staff that know when to be unobtrusive and yet are eager to be helpful beyond reason.
OK, it’s not a hotel chain nor even a hotel, but this German-based gay website of rooms-to-let in private apartments is a great option for gay travelers. Staying with friendly locals can save lots of cash, as well as providing personal recommendations on your destination. Great for solo travelers, the site has expanded to include completely private apartment accommodations as well.
Best LGBT Tour Operator
ANDREW BROAN at ALYSON ADVENTURES
It’s all about the guide isn’t it? With two decades of travel experience, knowledgeable, unflappable, athletic and multilingual Andrew Broan is a perfect travel guide. A long time tour guide for Alyson Adventures, Andrew is an expert on France, Italy, Morocco, Vietnam, and cycling tours.
Best Annual Destination Party or Event (global)
AMSTERDAM GAY PRIDE
Still one of the great gay parties. This three day event never really changes, but it brings together people from all over the world for a non-stop street party. The parade of boats is unique, and attracts not just an LGBT audience but is an event enjoyed by residents young and old, gay and straight, in this most gay-friendly of cities. Plus, it’s free. (First weekend in August)
Best Ultimate Luxury Hotel/Resort (global)
Sad to say, I have not been wined and dined in quite this style. Now accepting invitations.
Best Breakout Destination (global)
Croatia hasn’t gone gay all of sudden, but I’m sure it eventually will. In the meanwhile enjoy the relatively undiscovered Dalmatian coast. Croatia has natural beauty, Roman ruins, Italian inflected food, Adriatic beaches, and friendly and helpful natives. Driving is easy on newly built roads, but for the ultimate luxury, hire a yacht and sail the islands.
Sexiest Place on Earth
(a destination? a city? an event? a neighborhood?)
LES PAVILLON DES LYS, Amboise
What could be sexier than chef Sébastien Bégouin’s eight course prix fix menu in the garden of Les Pavillion des Lys as the spring sun sets behind the Château d’Amboise? It’s three star food at a no star price with a fairy tale setting. Have I confused eating with sex again? Should I mention there are also seven inexpensive but luxurious bedrooms upstairs?
Best Gay Bar in the World!
It’s really hard to find. It’s accessible only by car. It’s off a middle-of-nowhere country road between Pisa and Lucca. It’s open only on Saturday nights from October to April. But surprisingly, this is the largest and possibly the most fun club in gay-venue starved Italy. With multiple dance-floors, a huge outdoor area and a naughty men-only room, it’s packed all night long with Italian boys and girls who’ve driven great distances to party all night. As the guidebooks might say “worth a detour.” (www.hub.fm)
AND FINALLY… The Gay+ Award for Achievement in Making our World Gayer!
(this goes to a person, or company, or a city; fun in tone, but goes to a truly deserving recipient)
THE AMAZING RACE
As a travel-themed reality television program seen by millions, The Amazing Race deserves credit for consistently featuring gay participants and presenting them with respect, equality, and a refreshing lack of exploitation. It’s a show that depicts gays as individuals: a diverse group of partners, family members and friends rather than stereotypes.
On the Campo di Fiori in Rome we came across a concept we’d like to see catch on world wide: cane parking. Outside a shop on the square, there was a convenient hitching post to park your dog while you went inside to pick up some wine and cheese….