Amsterdam Hotels

092008amsterdam492

A friend of my sister recently wrote:

Do you know of any cheap but clean/safe hotels in Amsterdam (specifically, safe for a mom and child alone)? I want to get a hotel in Amsterdam for a couple nights to avoid all the train riding back and forth from my friend’s house in the Hague but money is very tight so….some inside info would be great! My friend in the Hague never really seems to go to Amsterdam; perhaps you can help?

Hi

I haven’t stayed in a hotel in Amsterdam for quite sometime, but I’ll try to give you some help.

My favorite hotel is the Ambassade (http://www.ambassade-hotel.nl/) great location, rooms, service etc, but it might be more than you want to spend. Hotel prices in Amsterdam have risen quite a bit since the introduction of the Euro.

I think the NH chain of hotels in the city are good values for larger hotels with elevators, etc.

You might also check out the Lloyd Hotel (http://www.lloydhotel.com) along the eastern docklands; they have rooms in all price ranges and it’s rather a fun place. A short tram ride from the historic center.

A brand new hotel that might be good for you is the Citizen M Amsterdam City (http://www.citizenm.com/) it’s adjacent the WTC train station (NOT centraal Station) which you can get to by direct train from the Hague. It’s brand new, seems really nice and cheap. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood, but the number 5 tram will take you to the museum quarter and the city center.

If you go to hotels.nl you can compare prices and possibly find a good deal. There are lots of great little hotels along the canals if you don’t mind the steep dutch stairs. Best places to stay would be along the Western or Southern canal belt. This is the most picturesque part of the city, and it’s central yet quiet. Hotels between the Central Station and the Dam can be nice, but the nightlife there can be noisy and perhaps a bit seedy for a child, though the whole city is quite safe. Find a hotel that meets your budget, check the location on google maps, then go to the hotel’s website to check it out and see if you can book it even cheaper directly.

Also, if you don’t plan on staying out very late in Amsterdam, you can easily get from the Hague (either Den Haag CS or Den Haag HS stations) to Amsterdam on the intercity trains which run quite frequently. The trip takes about 45 minutes. The The train system is excellent so you may also want to visit Haarlem, Utrecht or Rotterdam as well. You can check the schedules online (in English at ns.nl. By the way, you can get to Delft from Den Haag by city tram.

Clay

Dresden: 800 Years New

Dresden

When Dresden celebrates its 800th anniversary with a year-long party in 2006, it won’t just be a celebration of centuries of history and culture. It will also be a birthday party for the new Dresden—a city that has, in a frenzy of reconstruction and renovation, recreated in a mere 15 years the historic city that was almost entirely lost, overnight, some 60 years ago…

Possibly Europe’s greatest Baroque city, the 18th century imperial seat of Augustus the Strong, capital of Saxony, Dresden had become a nearly mythical symbol of loss and of the destructive power of modern warfare. The city stood intact, virtually untouched by WWII—officially recognized as an open city—and filled with refugees from the collapsing Third Reich, when its historic center, the Altstadt, was completely destroyed in a single night of Allied bombing, February 13-14, 1945. With its splendid monuments then reduced to rubble, Dresden became most famous for its destruction—an event immortalized in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s celebrated novel Slaughterhouse Five. The sense of loss can still be felt, as large tracts of central Dresden are only now being redeveloped. Locked behind the Iron Curtain, forces that wanted to rebuild the ruins and those which wanted them replaced with a modern Socialist utopia collided in stalemate. However, with reunification came both the desire for reconstruction and a huge influx of public and private funding.

Today, most of the historic buildings fronting the Elbe have been rebuilt to give a breathtaking glimpse of what the city once was. The resurrected Frauenkirche—one of Dresden’s most famous monuments, largely completed and reopening on October 30th, is only the most visible symbol of a city of splendors finally rising from the ashes. With the Schloss to be fully reconstructed in time for the anniversary, and previously rebuilt monuments newly renovated, the baroque city of 18th century seems reborn. Dresden is now arguably Europe’s newest historical monument.

River front

Simultaneously, across the Elbe, a different sort of rebirth has taken place. Without the benefit of EU funds or massive financing, local Dresdeners, with gays and artists leading the charge, have reclaimed and restored the city’s Neustadt. This neighborhood of 19th century apartment blocks was just outside the area of firebombing—with the consequence that its buildings are now among Dresden’s oldest. Under the communist regime, this was an undesirable area of crumbling buildings and cold-water flats. Now squats and crumbling buildings have largely given way to lovingly restored courtyard apartments with restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and hip, interesting shops—making the Neustadt Dresden’s liveliest neighborhood. Still, it’s far from gentrified; a Bohemian, even slacker, air prevails. The creation of the Kunsthof Passage (Alaunstrasse 70, Görlitzerstrasse 21, 23, 25), a renovation by local artists of a series of interlocking courtyards is typical Neustadt—a triumph of creativity and imagination over limited funds.

Zwinger

The Sights

Despite the wholesale destruction of the second world war, the main attraction is the city itself. The Schlossplatz, at the foot of the Augustus Bridge, surrounded by the reconstructed riverfront monuments, is perhaps one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Likewise, the baroque folly of the Zwinger complex, perhaps Dresden’s most photographed monument, is a riot of sculpture and elaborate decoration surrounding an immense but perfectly proportioned courtyard. A number of rebuilt churches are likewise impressive, and with the reconstruction of the monumental Frauenkirche, and the completion of the reconstruction of the Schloss by 2006, all of the major monuments of the baroque city will be in place. It is worth the 8 euro fee to climb to the cupola of the Frauenkirche (be advised, the elevator only takes you halfway) for a magnificent view from the highest point in the city. Already the riverfront skyline is largely returned to its appearance in Canaletto’s famous 18th century paintings. These paintings occupy pride of place in Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery—while his celebrated views of Venice are confined to a small side gallery. This is perhaps as much a testament to the impressive quality of the museum’s collection as it is to local pride—the collection is large and positively stuffed with Dutch and Italian old master paintings. The galleries are remarkable too for the lack of crowds; you can really enjoy the artworks. All of Dresden’s famous museums will be open again by 2006, following various major and minor refurbishments. Well worth a visit is the Abertinum, for its New Masters Gallery—a comprehensive collection of German art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Newly reopened is the first phase of the famous Grünes Gewölbe or Green Vault, in new high-tech rooms in the reconstructed Schloss. The second half of the collection opens in 2006 in adjacent, restored baroque rooms. It is a vast—truly vast—collection of jewelry, precious metals, and fanciful curios elaborately constructed of gold filigree and gemstones assembled by the fabulously wealthy Saxon Electoral Princes. This is the only collection in Dresden where you’ll find a crowd—it’s on the top of the list for coach tours—and whether you find it to be a magnificent display of artistry and craftsmanship or a shocking excess of jewel-encrusted wealth, you will be impressed. Don’t miss it. And there are plenty more museums; depending on your interests you can explore Meissen porcelain, mathematics, transport, folk art, hygiene, history, Trabant autos and more!

The Semper Opera is famous both for its architecture and the quality of its productions. All of Dresden turns out for opera, ballet and the orchestral performances, so tickets can be hard to come by. In summer, outdoor concerts abound, with choices ranging from classical to contemporary—many with free admission. If you speak German, you may want to visit the very popular river-front open-air cinema. Do take some time to visit the Grosser Garten, Dresden’s expansive and lovely urban park. There’s a palace at the center and a charming miniature railroad to take you back when you’re tired of walking. Beyond the Altstadt, a walk through the Blasewitz district is worth it to see the elaborate 19th century villas built by wealthy Dresden bourgeoisie. The neighborhood escaped destruction in 1945 and the villas are now being lovingly restored. Though most tourists rarely venture to the Neustadt, you will definitely want to spend time there, with its lively cafes, gay scene, fun shops and bohemian atmosphere.

Elbe

Don’t miss a walk along the banks of the Elbe. This wide, marshy river is unique among urban waterways in bringing nature right through the city center. The banks of the Elbe are excellent as well for bicycling—whether you take a leisurely ride through the city or a longer trip to a picturesque nearby town, the scenery is beautiful, the terrain flat, and you’re protected from cars. Indeed, bicycle paths extend the entire length of the Elbe, from the Czech border to the port of Hamburg! Even in the city, traffic is light and the drivers polite, making a bike a convenient and pleasant option for getting around the city. Rent a comfortable, modern bike from the pleasant folks at Engel Reisen (Wiesontorstrasse 3, somewhat hidden at the Neustadt end of the Augustus bridge; +49 351/281 9206; 8 euros/day) and they will even provide maps with suggested city and out-of-town routes. They also organize longer group bike tours in the region—enquire for tours in English. If all that sounds too strenuous, you can tour the Elbe in a vintage paddlewheel steamboat—you can’t miss the ships docked near Augustus bridge.

It is worth purchasing a Dresden City-Card (widely available at hotels, stations and tourist offices; 19 euros for 48 hours) upon arrival. Not only does the card get you free admission to almost all Dresden museums, it allows you unlimited use of the city’s public transit (love those yellow trams!)—allowing you to bypass the expense and hassle of individual tickets.

The Gay Scene

You’ll see plenty of gays in Dresden: in shops, cafes, walking the streets— looking handsome, and even cruising. You’ll find them rather less often in Dresden’s handful of gay bars. Gay people were so central to the revival of the Neustadt area (buying the old buildings as the post-communist government disposed of them; renovating them, moving in, and opening business) that the gay community is a more than integral part of area. Dresden my be a model for the “post-gay” city. Because they regard the whole of the Neustadt as their own (while happily sharing it with young straight couples and wide range of slacker youth types—the median age in the Neustadt is ten years younger than the city as a whole) there is not a strong tendency to congregate in exclusively gay venues. As one Dresdener told me, “We usually go where ever the nightly drink special is—and the gay bars never have specials!” That said, BOYS (Alaunstrasse 80; 8pm—5am; www.boys-dresden.de) with its front windows open to one of the Neustadt’s main streets, draws a lively crowd most evenings—it’s your best bet. The smaller, campier Queens (Görlitzer Strasse 3; from 8pm; +49 49 351 810 8108; www.queens-dresden.de), sometimes draws a younger crowd for its various theme parties. For the leather and fetish crowd, Bunker (Priessnitzstrasse 51; +49 351/441 2345; www.lederclub-dresden.de) is open Friday and Saturday nights only (and on Saturday dares to limit attendance with a strict dress code!) It has a friendly bar and a large darkroom, but I suspect many Dresdeners prefer the infinite variety of the Berlin cruising scene, only two hours away. The other “cruise” venues are barely worth mentioning. The relatively new Pick Up (Jordanstrasse 10) is a darkroom bar that has yet to find a clientele, and across the street stands Duplexx (Förstereistrasse 10; +49 351 65 88 999; 9 euro entry!), a branch of the Berlin sex shop, comprising a cavernous warren of deserted video cabins. The Showboxx (Leipzigerstrasse 31; www.showboxx-dresden.de), while no longer featuring exclusively gay nights, is one of several mixed discos popular with gays for dancing. In addition, the open-air “beer gardens” than pop up on vacant lots in the summer months are also popular. Lesbians can enjoy the aptly named frauen café and bar Sappho (Hechtstrasse 23; +49 351 4045136; www.sappho-dresden.de) open nightly for drinks and dinner and on Sunday for brunch.

Neustradt

Finally, what could be gayer, and at the same time more mainstream, than a drag show? Carte Blanche (Priessnitzstrasse 10/12; +49 351 20 4720; www.carte-blanche.de; 25 euros, reservations essential) is a relatively new basement cabaret hosting a very professional troupe of drag queens. Shows feature a mix of comedy, lip-synch, live performance, audience humiliation—and costumes worthy of a Las Vegas production. If drag is your thing, the show is a scream; though without a command of the language you are likely to miss a lot. And while the performers and cute waiters may be gay, the audience tends toward straight middle-aged German tourists.

Sleeping it off

The ultimate place to stay in Dresden is the Hotel Bülow Residenz (Rähnitzgasse 19; +49 351/800 30; fax +49 351/8003100; www.buelow-residenz.de ; 180—220 euros), a 30 room ultra-luxury boutique hotel in a restored 18th century palace. This place has everything: an historic building, luxurious rooms, and great location in the charmingly restored inner Neustadt—a short walk to the historic attractions and convenient to the to the gay area. It even features complementary mini-bars! The service is friendly and efficient, and it’s really a bargain for this level of luxury.

All the major international chains are represented in the old center of Dresden, from the modern yet inexpensive Mercure Hotel Newa (St. Petersburger Strasse 34; +49 351/48140; from 69 euros; www.mercure.com) to the ultra luxurious Kempinski Taschenbergpalais (Taschenberg 3; +49 351/491 2636; fax +49 351/491 2812; www.kempinski-dresden.de; 340—700 euros). Housed in a reconstructed Baroque palace adjacent the historic schloss, the Kempinski is arguably Dresden’s most beautiful—and most expensive—hotel. The Holiday Inn (Stauffenberallee 25 a; +49 351/81510; fax: +49 351/815 1333; www.holiday-inn-dresden.de; 100-150 euros), of all places, gets points for actively courting a gay clientele—though most of its guests are businessmen and women. It’s a generic, but perfectly pleasant property, and though its location at first seems somewhat remote, it’s actually very convenient to the Neustadt, and a nearby tram line offers a speedy connection to the city’s attractions.

For the independent-minded traveler, the best option may be the City Cottage Dresden (Louisenstrasse 11; +49 179/5228241; fax +49 351/442 4584; www.city-cottage-dresden.de; 41-62 euros), a gay owned rental apartment that sits inside a quiet, enchanted garden in the very heart of the Neustadt. It can be rented with one or two bedrooms and accommodates from one to four persons. Currently there is only one apartment available (so book early) although several more are being renovated.

Eating Well

Eating in the historic center of Dresden is far more pleasant than one would expect from an area frequented mostly by tourists. The cafés and restaurants offer good quality and surprisingly reasonable prices—along with some truly gorgeous locations. You can try traditional Saxon specialties like wurst and beer (do try the local Radeberger Pilsner) at Radeberger Spezialausschank (Terrassenufer 1; +49 351/484 8660; fax +49 351/484 8631; $3-12), which offers an unbeatable location with a umbrella shaded terrace overlooking the Elbe and the Augustus bridge. The terrace café at the Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais (Taschenberg 3; +49 351/496 0174) offers both traditional and lighter, international fare in a convenient and charming setting (and at non-luxury hotel prices). Likewise, Café Alte Meister (Theatreplatz 1a; +49 351/ 481 0426; www.altemeister.net) with a terrace nestled in the shade of the Zwinger complex, is a nice option for either lunch or the German tradition of afternoon coffee and cake.

For the best selection of restaurants though, head over to the lively, untoursisty Neustadt. Here the streets are lined with local eateries, offering an array of international cuisines and everything from inexpensive cafés to moderately priced upscale restaurants. Here you can find just about anything: French, Italian, Indian, and salads and sandwiches in charming cafes, many with outdoor terraces. As a local resident remarked, “Only the tourists eat Saxon food!” which may be only a slight exaggeration. To start your exploration, try the local favorite Tiki Ice Cafe (Gorlitzer Strasse 21; inexpensive) in the charming Kunsthof passage. Or make for the nearby bar-restaurant Cigales (Aluanstrasse 68; inexpensive) on the bustling Aluanstrasse. For a more elaborate dinner, try the delicious, Mediterranean influenced Villandry (Jordanstrasse 8; +49 351/ 899 6724; www.villandry.de; dinner mon-sat; main courses 9—15 euros.)

For the dedicated gourmand, Dresden offers one Michelin-starred restaurant, the elegant Caroussel (in the Hotel Bülow Residenz; Rähnitzgasse 19; +49 351/80030; fax +49 351/8003100). As you might expect, you’ll find top ingredients exquisitely prepared, flawless service and a formal setting. It’s still rather a bargain for the Michelin star experience, with four course menus about 60 euros.

Shopping the Neustadt

A number of gleaming new shopping complexes have sprung up around the main train station (currently being rennovated in high-style by London architect Sir Norman Foster), offering the usual cornucopia of European and American brand names. But for the truly interesting shopping opportunities one must head across the river to the Neustadt. Check out the club-kid fashions at Men Only (Alaunstrasse 18; +49 351/821 0836), a fun, über-gay clothes shop where the friendly staff are also well informed about the local nightlife scene. You’ll find shops here selling everything from second hand clothing to expensive designer jeans; from skateboards to hand-made paper. The Alaunstrasse and the adjoining side-streets, and especially the Kunsthof passage, are filled with trendy and unusual shops. You can even check it all out online at the stylish website www.gappy.de.

Grossergarten

More Information

As in most German cities, the Dresden Tourist office (in the neo-classical Schinkelwache, on the Theaterplatz; +49 351/ 491920) is a terrific resource. As well as providing maps, schedules of events, and guides to the museums and sights, they can also find you a hotel room or get you tickets to the Semper Opera. Scope it out in advance at www.dresden-tourist.de , where they also have an online hotel reservation service. Gegenpol is Dresden’s own free local monthly gay magazine, which can be scored at the bars and shops throughout the neustadt. They have comprehensive listings with addresses, which are also conveniently available on their website at www.gegenpol.net.

Story and Photographs by Clay Doyle

I had the pleasure of revisiting Dresden in August of 2005. This is an expanded version of an article written for gay.com Travel. You can find the short version at gay.com Travel at http://www.gay.com/travel/article.html?sernum=9544 .

—Clay Doyle

Yosemite National Park

“Waterfalls.”

When returning from a trip, a game often played with my traveling companions is the question “What was your favorite thing….?” On a recent trip to Yosemite National Park, Michael answered “The Ahwahnee.” I replied, “The waterfalls!”. And Michael immediately agreed. Yes. The waterfalls. The recent record rainfall in California, viewed by the locals as at best something to be endured, to slog through, month after month, and by an unfortunate few as genuine natural disaster, at last offers a consolation: the spectacular waterfalls at Yosemite. It’s early spring when we visit, the last major snowstorm only two days in the past, and the melting snow fueling amazing, cascading, waterfalls throughout the valley. We are told they will only grow more spectacular through May, before most eventually dry up and disappear with the hot summer months…

Yosemite

It was a beautiful drive up from LA, once past Fresno. There’s nice spring weather but still some snow around from Friday’s big snowstorm. But today is very mild. Our first activity in Yosemite, typically for us, is dinner—at the Ahwahnee hotel. A delicious meal, plus this beautiful view of Yosemite falls framed by the huge window at the end of the elegant dining room. Little plates of assorted starters: duck ravioli, mushrooms, crab cakes, shrimp. Venison for main course, very tasty with some cabbage and risotto. Pot de crème for dessert. Rather expensive, but good, California wines. Saw a ring-tailed cat climbing around the rafters of the dining room! Outside, after dinner, there were like five raccoons wandering around on the tables outside the bar. There is no mobile phone service here in the park, but there is wifi in the lounge downstairs. Doesn’t reach our room however. The hotel is very amusing, grand yet still very much 8o years old. It doesn’t seem over glamorized.

Yosemite National Park is an iconic place; just the name conjures images: the silhouette of Halfdome; the valley ringed by towering waterfalls; the eclectic luxury of the Art Deco meets Native America Ahwahnee hotel; hiking, rock climbing, the world famous photographs of Ansel Adams. Indisputably, Yosemite is a place of incredible natural beauty even for California—a state abounding with beautiful landscapes.

But if you think of Yosemite, do you think Gay Destination— it seems most unlikely! Strangely, we are visiting the park with as small group of journalists from various gay media at the invitation of the Yosemite press office. Writers for such publications as various as the national Out Traveler and the local San Francisco Bay Area Reporter. I’m not sure who I’m writing for! The invitation came only a few days before, and the day after I drive back from to LA, I fly to Europe. But I decided it was an opportunity to good to miss—surprisingly, after all my years in California, I’ve been to Yosemite only once before, and that just for an afternoon on an unseasonably warm February day.

All the writers met at last nights dinner, along with our hosts and guides from the Park. In charge of our little gay group is Public Relations Manager, Kerri Holden, charming and organized, but surprisingly young. So much younger that the rest of us—and from a suburban background that doesn’t involve a lot of gay life—that some of the writers make a game of educating her to the more outlandish, fetishistic, and amusing frontiers of the gay “community.” To her credit, she is amused: curious and unshockable.

You may wonder, in this time of increased hostility toward gay issues from the Federal Government, why one of their National Parks has suddenly taken the initiative to direct a special marketing effort to gay and lesbian visitors. The answer to this lies in the perhaps surprising organization of the park—for while it is owned by the federal government—actually the American people—the park is run and administered by a private corporation. All the hotels, campsites, food facilities, equipment rentals, tours, shops, public relations, and public infrastructure is managed by DNC Parks and Resorts, which has an exclusive contract for the park’s concessions, and it is this private company that is actively courting gay and lesbian visitors. Interestingly, the park has always had a public/private component. Before there was a park, early entrepreneurs provided provisions to the first hearty 19th century visitors, and later built hotels and residences. In response to increasing development, Abraham Lincoln signed legislation giving Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Sequoia Grove to the State of California as a public trust. Although Yosemite became only the third National Park, in 1890, it was actually the first land in the U.S. ever set aside for the preservation of it’s scenic beauty. Still, private individuals offered lodging and amenities, until the largest operators were merged into the Yosemite Park and Curry Company in 1925 in order to tightly control expansion and development. Since 1991, DNC Parks and Resorts has managed Yosemite’s recreation, lodging, food and guest services—and is publicly courting gay and lesbian visitors.

OK, they haven’t turned it overnight into a gay Mecca, and probably never will. And it really seems beside the point, as Yosemite is a fantastic place to visit, for anyone.

Eighty percent of Yosemite’s visitors come between Memorial and Labor days—but unless you’re a hardcore adventure enthusiast, you’ll be better off avoiding this busy season. The PR folks tell us that summer isn’t that bad…they have done much to limit the impact of cars, for example; I’m not entirely convinced—it seems a certain solitude is the essence of nature, and the park is in April by no means deserted! The advantages of summer of course is that the entire park is accessible—there are multi-day hikes and horseback tours through the vast high country, rock climbing, and lots of opportunity for vigorous hiking and camping. But the famous valley, and the main attractions for the more leisurely traveler are best visited in spring and fall. Spring brings the most spectacular waterfalls, as the winter snows begin to melt. The high country is inaccessible, but the valley is still lightly populated and days can be pleasantly warm (though don’t be surprised by a sudden snowstorm.) Hikes of an hour or two to a full day can take you up the sides of the mountains for spectacular views over the falls. Rock climbing and bicycling are possible (bring your own bike if you with to cycle—the rented bikes are expensive, primitive, and available only in high season). Fall has the beautiful colors of turning leaves, and sees the return of the waterfalls after the dry summer season. The famous Mariposa Grove, with its ancient, giant sequoias, is only accessible by car in summer—probably reason enough to make the hour hike by foot to visit in the solitude of spring or fall. Winter is cold and snowy, but the hotels remain open and there are attractions for both the active and the aesthete. There is excellent skiing and there’s the Bracebridge Dinners—a gourmet and theatrical extravaganza based on a Renaissance Christmas feast and an Ahwahnee hotel tradition since 1927.

Where to stay in Yosemite? The first choice has to be the historic Ahwahnee hotel. Opt for the privacy of a bungalow in the forest, and come into the hotel for its lavish public rooms. Of course the Ahwahnee is impressively expensive—a more economical alternative is the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls—choose a deluxe room with a private patio, as far away from the restaurant and bar as possible. An economical option are the tent villages—basic but comfortable (in warm, dry weather) with food lockers, barbeques and communal bathing facilities—but nicely situated among the trees and streams. Take the smaller Housekeeping Camp rather than sprawling, raucous Curry Village. Outside the valley, convenient for skiing and to Sequoia Grove, is the Victorian-cute Wawona Hotel—the oldest in the Park.

Dining choices are somewhat limited—the best food by far is at the Ahwahnee Hotel, and the room itself is spectacular as well. The kitchen turns out first rate American cuisine—crab cakes and venison as well as Caesar salads and filet mignon. The more casual Mountain Room Restaurant (the Ahwahnee requires a jacket) is almost as pricey and not nearly as good. It’s worth dressing up for the Ahwahnee! There’s also a deli and a cafeteria serving petty good basic food, and more options in summer. You can bring your own food to the campsites of course—but you must keep it in a locker; crafty bears are highly skilled at sniffing out food and breaking into cars. Bears are best avoided, but deer, ring-tailed cats, and raccoons will walk right by paying you no attention at all!

There is friendly instruction in everything from mountain climbing to photography. And it’s fun—and in the off season at least—easy to meet the friendly, outgoing young staff—hundreds of workers come from all over the world to spend a few months working at the park. The staff are uniformly friendly and fun—from the PR Office, to the various activity instructors and leaders, to the hard-working busboys. You get the feeling that everyone enjoys being there—whether it is for three months or 21 years! When the employees are not working there is not a lot to do, and the Mountain Room Lodge—the bar at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls—serves as a sort of social center. We found the park employees eager to chat—there was an avid rock-climber from nearby Fresno, a San Franciscan originally from Mexico, various college students and recent graduates—quite interesting in their diverse backgrounds.

Out last stop on the organized tour was the Tenaya Lodge, located just outside the park itself, and operated by the same management. It’s a large, relatively new hotel, built as a rustic lodge, that sits in the middle of a National Forrest. For this reason, it is aggressively fire-proofed—which you may find reassuring, or slightly disturbing, depending on your personality. Fatalist that I am, I just found it slightly amusing. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about burning up—especially if I have a comfortable room to lounge about in. The Tenaya is nice, and far more reasonably priced than the Ahwahnee, but for me it catered far too much to business meetings, and to harried families (there are both extensive meeting facilities, and extensive pool and recreation facilities). It’s also an hour from the valley floor, so seems a bit remote. The restaurant however is excellent, our best meal since the Ahwahnee. Plus it’s a pleasant stop for the last night, as it put us an hour closer to LA for the return trip.

More information on activities, local conditions, and reservations can be found online at www.yosemitepark.com

A shorter article based on this entry appeared in Gay Travel News.

Amsterdam Insider Tips

I’m often asked to recommend a “gay” hotel in Amsterdam — my usual response is to suggest booking any hotel you like; all hotels in Amsterdam are entirely gay friendly. A gay hotel here (and there are more than a few) has always seemed a bit unnecessary — unless one requires the specialized atmosphere and bondage-equipped rooms of the Black Tulip Hotel.

Though there a number of specialized gay hotels in Amsterdam, they — regretfully — mostly offer a lesser standard of comfort and style than many of the charming Canal House hotels that are merely “gay friendly.”

While my favorite hotels fall in this category — particularly the Ambassade and the smaller Seven Bridges — there is now a self-identified “straight-friendly” gay-owned and -run hotel that is equal in style and amenities to the best of the city’s mid-priced hotels. The Hotel New Amsterdam, located in one of the prettiest spots in the city center — the intersection of the Herengracht and Brouwersgracht — comprises three historic canal houses. Completely renovated by the new gay owners before opening last year, the hotel offers stylish rooms, modern baths, Rituals bath amenities, complimentary breakfast, canal views (from many rooms) and the unbeatable location. It’s not just picturesque, it is also quiet — and yet a short walk to Central Station and in fact any spot in the city.

Virtually next door is the romantic gay-owned restaurant De Belhamel, as well as the friendly Frederic Rent-a-Bike. Replacing and expanding the former gay hotel New York, the New Amsterdam is a worthy match for its “gay friendly” competition.

Amsterdam has finally joined the ranks of cities like London and New York in offering an half-price ticket service. Now you can buy available seats for a wide variety of events — classical music, pop concerts, theater, dance, jazz and even movies at the film museum — on the day of the performance for half price. It’s a great deal for visitors, who may not have made plans in advance, as well as for anyone with a free evening. The tickets are for sale in the Amsterdam Uitburo Ticket office (noon to 5:30 p.m.) on the Leidseplien — where you can also purchase advance tickets (at full price) for events anywhere in the city. You can see what is available each day online at www.lastminuteticketshop.nl, but you must purchase the tickets in person.

by Clay Doyle

for gay.com Travel http://www.gay.com/travel/article.html?sernum=9485

Amsterdam A to Zed OR 26 reasons to visit Amsterdam

Clay Doyle moved from Los Angeles to Amsterdam in 1998, intending to stay a year. He is still there. Here are some of the reasons why..

Red Tulips

A is for Ambassade

The worst thing about living in Amsterdam is that I have no longer have a reason to stay at the Ambassade—one of my favorite small hotels anywhere. It’s made up of a row of 17th century canal houses and fairly oozes with charm. If the Ambassade is booked, try one of the many other small canal house hotels that dot the city center–a more romantic choice than the ubiquitous chains.

B is for Bicycle

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.

Bicycle Reflections

C is for Canal

It’s all about the canals—they are the city’s greatest monument. Canals embody the history, planning, and character of Amsterdam—and they are beautiful. Rent a motorboat and see the city from the water; a cheesy rondvaart tour can be fun too, but choose a boat with an open-air deck.

Canal

D is for Darkrooms

Admit it, you want a little tryst with a local on your holiday, and what darkrooms lack in romance, they make up in efficiency. The Eagle has the nicest space, and the Web is the friendliest, but there are plenty to explore. Make sure you buy a drink upon entering a bar with a darkroom though–it’s considered the price of admission.

E is for English

A foreign country where everyone speaks English–It’s almost as if it were a holiday spot designed for Americans. And we’re not talking basics here–your new Dutch acquaintances will eagerly engage you in discussions of politics, culture, and travel. And they are far easier to understand than the English!

F is for Film Museum

Catch a great film in one of the three small, comfortable screening rooms at the Nederlands Film Museum. Every day brings something different—from American classics to French new wave to communist-era East European musicals. Many programs are in English. Located in the Vondelpark, the museum has a lively café as well.

G is for Gay Capital of Europe

Paris has more men, London more clubs, and Berlin has more sex, so why is Amsterdam Europe’s gay capitol? Perhaps it is the lack of ghettoization—you’ll find plenty of gays anywhere you go. And the compact city center makes bar-and-club hopping effortless—nothing is more than a 15 minute stroll away.

H is for homomonument (and gay rights)

The netherlands was the first country to erect a monument to gay victims of the holocaust and homosexual oppression. I like the monument, but I like even more The Netherlands commitment to respect and equal rights for gays, including most recently, full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Homomonument

I is for Itinerary

The charm of Amsterdam is that there’s enough in the way of culture to keep you busy, but not so many sights that you feel compelled to run from place to place all day long. The Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum are must-see destinations; the Stadelijk (modern art) and the Amsterdam Historical Museum often have interesting temporary shows. Check out the Royal Palace and the several canal house museums–the Van Loon, the Willetholthuysen and the Amstelkring. Go to the Anne Frank house late in the day to miss the crowds. Feeling energetic? Climb to the top of the Westertoren for a superb view of the city.

Rode Klompen

J is for De Jaren

De Jaren is everybody’s favorite grand café and why not—the terrace on the Amstel River is one of the prettiest spots in town. The tomato soup is fantastic, and though the service can be chaotic, the waiters are cute. Second best canal side cafe: Spanjer and van Twist.

Cafe de Jaren

K is for Keukenhof

It’s not hip or trendy, but what could be more Dutch than tulips, and the Keukenhof is THE place to see them. It is one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. A short train ride from the city, the Keukenhof is open March through May only.

Tulips

L is for the light in summer

The summer days are amazing. Daylight lasts late into the evening, ensuring plenty of time for exploring, strolling, and sitting in cafes. Then watch the sun set as you enjoy a magical late dinner outdoors. The canal side tables at the Belhamel are too romantic.

Light in the Summer

M is for marijuana (of course!)

Contrary to it’s well-publicized image as a drug mecca, there are probably more stoners in San Francisco than Amsterdam. But there’s something about getting high in a pleasant sidewalk café—it’s just so civilized. The Belmondo on the Nieuwmarkt, the Kandinsky and Dutch Flowers in the Negen Straatjes and the gay coffeeshop The Other Side are laid back and friendly choices. Best to avoid the tourist traps around central station and the Leidseplien.

N is for Negen Straatjes

This is my neighborhood, the “nine little streets” between the Singel and the Prinsengracht. This 17th century district is home to numerous interesting and unique shops and pleasant cafes. Treat yourself to a stylish wallet from designer Hester van Eigen, an erotic woodcut from local artist Eddy Varekamp or a new outfit from the gay boutique Nieuwe Kledding van de Keizer.

Negen Straatjes

O is for Out all night

Dance with the circuit boys at Salvation or the revamped IT. Alternative boys flock to de Trut and locals love the COC and the Montmartre. Trendy boys pose at the Arc, the Soho and the Exit. Sleazy bars can be found on Warmoesstraat, and neighborhood places along the Amstel. Everyone seems to end up at the Cockring eventually and before you know it, it’s 5 am.

P is for the pace of life

New Yorkers may pride themselves on how busy they are, but Amsterdammers make time to enjoy life, and you should do the same—linger over a coffee, spend three hours at dinner, sit in the sun. Once the work day is over, the pace of life is leisurely and relaxed. Enjoy it—and don’t expect speedy service in shops or restaurants, it just doesn’t happen.

Q is for Queen’s Day

It’s Amsterdam’s most festive holiday—a 24 hour celebration in honor of the Queen’s birthday. The party starts the night of 29 April as revelers pack the bars (gay and straight) until the early morning hours. On Queensday, the 30th, the city becomes a giant flea market, a stage for myriad performances, and a citywide street party—cars, taxis and even trams are banned from the city center. The Vondelpark is devoted to children selling toys and performing; it’s charming and worth a morning visit. There are plenty of Gay parties too—gays throng the Westermarkt, the Amstel, and the Reguliersdwaarstraat, for performances, cruising, and of course, beer.

Egg Boy - by Patrik Noome

R is for Romance

Avoiding Amsterdam because you aren’t interested in a sex holiday? You’ve got the man of your dreams? Amsterdam is a great place to be in love. Stroll hand in hand down romantic canals, have a long, delicious dinner at Borderwijk, paddle through the canals together in a canal bike, give your significant other a kiss on a bridge—no one will mind.

S is for Schipol

Bright and calm, well designed and well organized, Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport takes some of the pain out of flying in these trying times. Plus, the a train station inside the airport makes getting to the center of town quick, effortless and cheap!

Schipol

T is for Tourists

With a population of only 750,000 (even if well over ten percent are gay) visitors to the city make up a sizable portion of those out on the town, providing an interesting, international mix. Tourists are vital to the gay scene in Amsterdam, so do your part and visit!

U is for Utrechtsedwarstafel

This is one of my favorite restaurants for a splurge–owners Hans and Igor always dazzle my guests with some fabulous new creation. It’s one of a number of small uniquely Dutch restaurants where chef decides what you will eat, based on the availability of the market. More moderately priced versions of this concept can be enjoyed at my other favorites Balthazar’s Keuken and Helder.

V is for Vondelpark

What’s not to love? This beautiful and expansive city park is also Amsterdam’s favorite people watching spot. Rent some rollerblades or have a drink at the 30’s moderne Blauw Teehuis, or join the shirtless gayboys for an afternoon of sun on the lawn at the rose garden.

Vondelpark

W is for the Weather

Nobody comes to Amsterdam for the weather—but really it’s not that bad. Spring and Fall are beautiful, the Summer is never too hot, and Winter’s not as cold as new york. Yes it’s rainy—it’s the locals’ number one topic of complaint–but the sunny days are glorious.

X is for x-rated

Amsterdam’s century old red-light district is the Disneyland of sleaze. Gaudy but totally non-threatening, lingerie-clad ladies sit in the red-lit windows of cute 16th century houses on some of the city’s oldest canals. The real show is watching the crowds of stoned and gawking tourists; grab a seat in in the window of the popular gay bar Casa Maria for a ringside view.

IJ is for IJ

IJ (say eye) is a letter unique to the Dutch language. A brief review of Dutch pronunciation (all those funny double vowels are easier than they look) will help in reading street signs, and your slight effort will endear you to the locals. Plus, you’ll be able to order a delicious rijstafel at Kantjil en de Tijger.

Boat

Z is for Zeedijk

One of the oldest streets in Amsterdam, the Zeedijk is the city’s newest “gay” street. Sometimes very low-key, sometimes very festive, the bars here–the Cock and Feathers, the Barderij, and especially the Queenshead are worth checking out. Finally, the Nieuwmarkt square, at the southern end of the Zeedijk, is a favorite for its outdoor cafes.

Article by Clay Doyle,

Photos by Clay Doyle and Michael Logan (except Queensday Photo by Patrik Noome)

{Published in Next Magazine, New York City, April 11, 2003}

The List

Favorite Hotels


Ambassade

Herengracht 341;

+31-20/626-2333;

fax +31-20/624-5321;

E-mail info@ambassade-hotel.nl;

www.ambassade-hotel.nl

Seven Bridges

Reguliersgracht 31

+31-20/623-1329

Cafes


Café Nielsen

Berenstraat 19;

+31-20/330-6006

Café De Jaren

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20

+31-20/625-5771

www.cafe-de-jaren.nl

Spanjer & Van Twist

Leliegracht 60

+31-20/639-0109

Le Soleil

Best place in town for Dutch pancakes!

Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 56

(31 20) 622-7147

Restaurants


De Belhamel

Brouwersgracht 60

+31-20/622-1095

Hemelse Modder

Gay owned, stylish, good food!

Oude Waal 9

+31-20/624-3203

Bordewijk

Noordermarkt 8;

+31-20/624-3899;

Utrechtsedwarstafel

Utrechtsedwarsstraat 107-109;

+31-20/625-4189

Helder

Taksteeg 7

+31 20 320 41 32

Fax +31 20 320 41 32


Balthazar’s keuken

Elandsgracht 108, Amsterdam

+31 20 420 21 14


Kantjil en de Tijger

Spuistraat 291/293

+31 20  620 09 94

Fax (020) 623 21 6

Drinks

ARC

Reguliersdwarsstraat 44

+31-20/689-7070)

April

Reguliersdwarsstraat 37

+31-20/625-9572

Soho

Reguliersdwarsstraat 36

+31-20/330-4400

Montmartre

Halvemaansteeg 17

+31-20/624-9216

Amstel Taveerne Amstel 54

+31-20/623-4254


Casa Maria

Warmoesstraat 60

+31-20/627-6848

DANCING


COC Friday Night Disco (

Rozenstraat 14

+31-20/623-4079

Fri 11pm-4am

www.cocamsterdam.com

de Trut

Bilderdijkstraat 165

+31-20/612-3524 S

Sun 11pm-4am, doors open at 11pm

Cockring

Warmoesstraat 96

+31-20/623-9604

IT

Amstelstraat 24

+31 20 489-7285

Sat 11am-6 am

www.it.nl


DARKROOMS


The Web

From 4pm til Midnight!

Sint Jacobsteeg 6

+31-20/623-6758

The Eagle

From midnight to 4 am

Warmoesstraat 90

+31-20/627-8634


Smoking

The Other Side

Reguliersdwarsstraat 6

+31-20/625-5141;

Kandinsky

Rosmarijnsteeg 9

+31-20/624-7023;

And…

A Bigger Splash

The city’s gayest gym is also clean, well staffed and well equiped.

Looiersgracht 26-30;

+31-20/638-9703

day passes available

Thermos Day Sauna

For a different sort of work out!

Raamstraat 33

+31-20/623-9158

www.thermos.nl

Eddy Varekamp

30 Hartenstraat

1016 CC Amsterdam

tel. 31 20 6.25.77.66

Open Saturdays 1-6pm

Frédéric Bike Rentals

Brouwersgracht 78

+31-20/624-5509

Friday, April 11, 2003

THE RED and THE WHITE: A food and wine tour of Burgundy

One of France’s most famous wine regions, Burgundy features a picture-postcard landscape of vineyards, forests, fields, canals, medieval towns, and Romanesque monasteries; charming country inns; and of course, delicious food and wine. Easily accessible from Paris—and considerably less expensive than the French capital—Burgundy is ideal for a relaxing holiday or a romantic getaway.

The Red and The White

The Red: Beaune and the Côte d’Or

For many, Burgundy is synonymous with red wine. Red burgundies are made from pinot noir, but they will not be labeled with the grape variety, and only the least expensive will be labeled Burgundy. Most will carry the appellation of a specific, often tiny, area, such as Fixin, Mersault or Rully–the villages of the Côte d’Or, or golden hillsides—each with its own distinctive character. Many of the wineries—and there are many—offer tastings; unless you are a serious oenophile, it can be a bit hard to know where to begin. One of the best ways to experience different wines is with food—and the restaurants accommodate with a huge selection of the local product. Not surprisingly, the region’s delicious specialties are a perfect accompaniment to burgundy wines. Classic Burgundian dishes include escargot (snails in butter and garlic), jambon persillé (a terrine of ham and jellied parsley), the braised dishes of coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon, and meats (especially the famed Charolais beef) grilled over a wood fire. Beaune, the beautiful medieval town that is the spiritual center of Burgundy, boasts a selection of fine restaurants. Le Jardin des Remparts (10 Rue de l’Hôtel Dieu; +03/8024-7941; $18-25) may have Beaune’s best food, and the tables set within the walled garden of a manor house make an unbeatably romantic location. The smaller Le Bénaton (25 Faubourg Bretonnière; +03/8022-0026; $18-22) offers equally fine, creative food, if a less impressive location. Though it looks touristy, La Grilladine (19 Rue Maufoux; +03/8022-2236) around the corner from the Hotel Dieu, has good regional dishes, a great wine list, and pleasant tables along the sidewalk. There are also many country inns thoughout the region where you can eat—and drink—extraordinarily well for very little money by sticking to the menu du terrior, the regional specialties. A delicious example is the Auberge du Coteau in the tiny village of Villars-Fontaine (03/8061-1050; $8-10) near Nuits-Saint-Georges, where the meats are roasted in the dining room fireplace. And do have a Kir, the local aperitif, properly made with Bourgonge Aligote and locally produced créme de cassis.

Glass

The White: Chablis and the Yonne

Chablis, unlike Beaune, is just a village–one of many tiny, picturesque towns scattered about the quieter, less touristy, white wine region of the Yonne. Though the name Chablis has been appropriated (unfairly) by cheap wine producers around the world, the real thing is a distinctive, sophisticated dry chardonnay whose character none-the-less varies greatly with the style of the many individual producers. Start your tour of the wineries with a visit to Les Chablisienne (8 Boulevard Pasteur; +03/8642-8989) in Chablis, a wine cooperative with 280 members. In nearby Bailly you’ll also find the best of the sparkling, champange-like, Cremant du Bourgonge (the Yonne is adjacent Champagne). Try a glass while nibbling a Gougères, a little cheese puff that is a local favorite. Other regional specialties include Andouillettes (tripe sausages); Jambon Morvan ( a raw cured ham served in thick slices); soft cows-milk cheeses–famously Époisses, a smelly, runny cheese; and Chaources, a milder creamy cheese; Pain d’ Epices (gingerbread); and in springtime, fresh cherries and asparagus. Chef Michel Vignaud’s Hostellerie des Clos (Rue Jules-Rathier; +03/8642-1063; fax +03/8642-1711; $20-40), in Chablis, is the region’s best restaurant—it was created as a showcase for the local wines, and gourmet menus are excellently crafted to show them at their best. Everything is top quality, and set menus provide excellent value. A good choice for a less formal meal is the Auberge des Tilleuls (+03/8642-2214; $12-16) in Vincelottes, with al fresco dining at tables set along the picturesque river Yonne. Not to be missed is the tiny Le St. Bris (13 Rue d l’ Eglise; +03/8653-8456 $10-15) in the village of St. Bris le Vineux, where chef-owner Jean Francois Pouillot will prepare you a memorable meal of regional specialties. In addition, restaurants belonging to the Terrior de L’Yonne association are highly recommended.

Beyond Food and Wine

Of course you can’t eat and drink the whole day; but fortunately there is plenty to do between (or instead of) lunch and dinner. The gently rolling hills are popular with cyclists, and you can rent bikes for a few hours or a few days, with maps and itineraries provided: in Beaune at Bourgonge Randonnés (7, Avenue du 8 Septembre +03/8022-0603); and at the Chablis Tourist Office (1 Quai Biez; +03/8642-8080). Beaune itself has much of interest. Most famous of its historic sites is the Hôtel-Dieu, a beautifully restored medieval hospital complex. Also worth a seeing are the Romanesque church, Collégiale Notre-Dame, and the town ramparts and moat. The region was a center of the medieval monastic tradition—the powerful Cluniac and Cistercian orders were both founded here—and a wealth of surviving monasteries provides a fascinating glimpse into French history and architecture. Many of the still extant monastic sights are well worth visiting, and represent Burgundy’s main cultural attractions. The ruins of the Ancienne Abbaye de Cluny—once the largest church in christendom—give a glimpse of the power of this monastic order at its height, but the perfectly preserved church at Paray-le-Monial reveals the architectural style at its apex. Situated in an isolated valley halfway between Beaune and Chablis, the self-contained monastery of the Abbaye de Fontenay (nearest town: Marmagne) is remarkable for its completeness and tranquility. The pilgrimage church of Ste-Madeleine offers amazing views of the surrounding countryside from its location atop the picturesque, if touristy, hill town of Vézelay—as well as housing the reputed relics of Mary Magdalene. A personal favorite is the little visited Cistercian Abbaye of Pontigny, north of Chablis, for it’s tranquility and fine architecture.

Pontigny

Sleeping Around

The entire region is well provided with rooms in all price categories. For luxury accommodations, look to hotels belonging to to the association Châteaux & Hôtels de France(www.chateauxhotels.com). For simpler, and very reasonably priced, hotels, as well as restaurants with reliably good regional food, look to the inns belonging to the Logis de France(www.logis-de-france.fr). In Beaune, Le Cep (27 Rue Maufoux; +03/8022-3548) offers the towns most luxurious lodgings; the Hotel Du Poste (5, Boulevard Clémenceau; +03/8022-08 11; fax +03/8024-1971; www.hoteldelapostebeaune.com) and the Blue Marine (10-12 Boulevard Maréchal-Foch; +03/8024-0101) are also excellent full-service hotels. For a less expensive alternative, the Hotel Belle Epoque (15 Rue du Faubourg Bretonnière; +03/8024-6615; fax +03/8024-1749) offers very pleasant rooms in the town center, while the Hôtel Grillon (21 Route de Seurre, east; +03/8022-4425; fax +03/8024-9489) offers comfortable, bargiany rooms, a good restaurant and a rural ambiance, a few kilometers from the city center. In Chablis, theHostellerie des Clos (see above) offers pleasant and inexpensive rooms in the former convent that houses their luxury restaurant. Nearby, in the picturesque and tiny village of Cravant,L’Hostellerie Saint-Pierre (5 Rue de l’Église; +03/8642-3167; www.hotels-tradition.com/saintpierre/)—owned and run by a gay couple—offers tasteful, comfortable rooms and a friendly welcome to gay visitors. Some hotels close during the winter months, and all will be at their busiest in August, and during the wine festivals in November.

Getting there, getting around

You’ll definitely need a car to explore the region. You can easily drive from Paris, or take the TGV (frequent connections from the Gare d’ Lyon) to Dijon and pick up a car at the station. All the major companies are represented; expect to pay about $200 for one week. The area is well served by major French autoroutes, but it is most enjoyable to travel the smaller, scenic, departmental roads. All roads are in perfect repair and well sign-posted, though a Michelin road map is indispensable. Be aware that you can never drive fast enough for the locals—let them pass!

The (limited) gay scene

You may want to schedule a few days in Paris if it’s nightlife you crave; if you can’t wait, the best option is the Sunday night only gay disco at L’An-fer (8 rue Marceau; +03/8070-0369) in Dijon. Dijon, a university town, also has two gay bars: Caveau de l’univers (47 Rue Berbisey; +03/8030-9829) and Le Phaune (4 bis, Rue de Serrigny; +03/8050-0169) as well as a gay sauna, Le Relax (97 Rue Berbisey; +03/8030-1440). Auxerre, a mid-size, lively town 20 minutes from Chablis, also features a gay sauna, Le KLS (21 Avenue de la Tournelle, 03/8642-7687).

Resources

More information is available on the internet at from the Burgundy Tourist Office(www.burgundy-tourism.com), the Chablis Tourist Office (www.chablis.net) and theAssociation of Alsace, Burgundy and Champagne (www.abcoffrance.net). Gay listings are available online from the France Queer Resources Directory (www.france.qrd.org) and the gay magazine Têtu, available throughout France, has excellent regional agendas. The Burgundyvolume of the Touring in Wine Country series offers the most comprehensive English guide to the region’s wineries and restaurants.

Article and Photos by Clay Doyle {Published in Out & About, October, 2002}