Saturday, July 28, 2012

LGBT Life in Lebanon

Lebanon is a melting pot of European, Mediterranean, East and West cultures. The St. Georges Beach and Marina is the best example of this and is the best place for those who wish to mix and mingle with the locals. Here the hottest guys the city has to offer lounge around in their swimwear. Sadly photography is not permitted but Zaitunay Bay is THE marina in Lebanon where the largest yachts and all that goes with them can be found. At the end of the yacht basin is the Hotel St. George, the “in” spot in the 1960s, now a derelict shell caught in disputes with local investors. This is also the neighbourhood of the former Holiday Inn hotel, partly destroyed by mortars decades ago and the place where a car bomb killed Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister, in 2005. A walk along the promenade is an absolute delight at night with the amazing lights!

Beirut is a safe and fun place. Arabs from the Golf States and Iranian tourists fear driving through Syria but still do so as this is by far the cheapest way to reach this pulsating city on the western Mediterranean shores. Saudis and Jordanians escape the summer heat at home and visit Beirut. For the gay scene this means a mixture of men from throughout the Middle East, difficult for us Europeans to determine their origins. It seems that in hard times the Lebanese enjoy spending money and enjoying life. The local tour specialists Lebtour (www.lebtour.com) will be happy to plan your trip to Lebanon. Bertho is an expert in his own country and ensures you will enjoy your time in Lebanon. He is also the local organizer of the Bear Arabia event and many other fascinating events and tours in the Arabian world.

The nightlife in Beirut is vibrant. The people here love life and show it. There are numerous outdoor restaurants where one can enjoy a water pipe and the warm evening breeze along with the delicious and varied Lebanese cuisine. One of the best addresses for this is the restaurant Republic located in Zalka. This is a haunt of extremely good looking, wealthy, young men and their stunning, high heeled girl friends, much to the distraction of the abundant, attractive and attentive waiters.

Bardo (Mexico Street, Clemenceau) is the new playground for the gay scene in Lebanon’s latest effort to recapture the era when Brigitte Bardot was a regular guest to the city and Beirut was a fashionable playground for the rich and famous.

A recommendation which will help pass the time until the clubs are busy is the Armenian Restaurant Mayrig (282 Pasteur Street, Gemayzeh). The numerous dishes ranging from cold followed by warm starters and the main course followed by dessert is an explosion of tastes and perfumes. Try the meatballs with a red cherry sauce or the “Rose Turkish Delight” ice cream – just to mention two highlights of the excellent menu. The attractive waiters are a further delight.

After dinner the club Milk (in Port of Beirut, Salifi) or Ghost (Saloumeh / Dekwaneh - behind Freeway Center) await to entertain you with oriental sounds and great looking guys. These clubs are frequented by locals and the exotic music animates spontaneous belly dancing. The entrance fee of around US$20 includes an open bar, so once you arrive you end up staying long after sunrise. There is something special about this emerging gay scene, which has been long lost in Europe and America. The genuine “Joie de vivre” electrifies. The clubs don’t get busy until midnight – even during the week, when they are notably emptier. Photography in these clubs is not allowed, due to the double lives lived out by many of those who flee the family and go clubbing for a few hours of fun!

For those looking for a traditional hamam, Shahrazad in the Al Massaken Street, Burj Hammoud is your best bet. Take a taxi because this place is difficult to find. A towel is needed in all areas. The sauna itself is on the lower floor with a dry and steam sauna and a Jacuzzi, with cubicles for massages and scrubbing.

A visit to the country’s most popular tourist site is a priority. The trip to the Jeitta Grotto is well worth the effort. Held for one of the world wonders, these caves are very impressive. Especially popular is the phallic shaped stalagmite which stands on the path on the main cave. A boat takes you through the lower cave on a 7km ride. Sadly no photography is allowed here. Apart from when the lower cave is flooded by the melted snow, the caves are open all year round to the public.
An insider tip for accommodation in Beirut is the Cosmopolitan Hotel Beirut (www.cosmopolitanbeirut.com) with affordable and very comfortable rooms, a great garden with pool and a fully equipped gym as well as free WiFi.

Outside Beirut gay life is sparse and more difficult to find. The insider tips outside the capital city are easy to visit with help from the only gay travel professionals in Lebanon - Lebtour (www.lebtour.com)

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Byblos (42 kilometers north of Beirut) was founded around 5000 BC and was conquered and inhabited by over 17 civilizations since then. It is said to be the oldest, continuously-inhabited city in the world.

The latest highlight to Byblos is the Eddésands Resort – the largest resort in the Middle East. This five star resort was built on the former gay beach Paradise in 2003. The gay scene moved to St. Georges Beach in Beirut, although a small, gay beach is now located on the far end of the bay. The latest attraction to this resort is water skiing and snow skiing, which are both possible on the same day! There are 4 ski resorts, including the Cedars Ski Resort, which is only 90 minutes drive away from the Eddésands Resort. The slopes are up to 3000 meters high with snow most of the year, offering the best skiing in the Middle East!

A visit to the self-help project Batrouniyat, located in Batroun is run by Philipp is especially recommended around lunch time. This restaurant with shop offering homemade local produce such as rose water or soap, oils and sweets was opened in 2007. Philipp recently returned to Lebanon after living abroad for many years. On Sunday an extremely popular brunch is served here with local specialties including their famous lemonade.

The Shouf Mountains, the greenest part of Lebanon is a must. A stop at the Beiteddine Palace which is 45 km from Beirut and at an altitude of 900m and experience how Emir Bechir El Chehab II lived. This is the best example of Lebanese architecture. Just above the palace was our hotel live like a king in the Mir Amin Palace hotel with 22 charming guestrooms, decorated with exquisite fabrics and antique furniture.

Baalbek, in the Beqaa Valley, is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival (the oldest and best-known cultural event in the Middle East) in June to the end of July. Baalbek is 85 km northeast of Beirut and about 75 km north of Damascus and is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture and is a World Heritage Site.

A gay trip to Lebanon or many other exotic destinations can be booked via the unique gay travel company OUT Adventures. By choosing OUT Adventures, you’ll stay at locally owned hotels, travel with local guides, support local craftsmen and eat at local restaurants. In addition when travelling in small groups you can easily make friends and be sure to be yourself. No stress and maximum fun. Robert from OUT Adventures will be delighted to help you with your next gay trip. See www.out-adventures.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

Traveling In Our Fabulous Gay World: The Naomi Wilzig Collection - World Erotic Art Museum

We have just found one of the most unusual, interesting and exciting museums in the world. In our travels from coast to coast we have NEVER visited such a fabulous museum. Located in Miami Beach, Florida at 1205 Washington Avenue, owner Naomi Wilzig has created a world class museum featuring erotic art in all forms. We do need to state that this is NOT a "porno" collection but an "erotic art" collection. They are made out of wood, porcelain, glass, ivory, bronze, silver and every conceivable substance known to man.

There are over 4,000 artifacts in the museum which includes biblical, mythological, antiques, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, African, Ethnographic, South American, European/Victorian, Art Nouveau/Deco, Saloon/pin up, Gay and Lesbian, Surrealism , Folk Art, Fetish, as well as modern masters and contemporary art. Many of the Gay and Lesbian artifacts dates back centuries as well as modern items.
The museum is housed in a high tech designed museum with over 12,000 square feet of display space and 20 separate rooms. Most of the artifacts are one of a kind rare items and unbelievably fascinating.
There is also a large selection of paintings, watercolors and drawings from throughout the ages. Among the thousands of items on display are a one of a kind hand carved "Penis" four post bed from Germany, hand carved ivory figurines from China, dozens of sterling silver items, furniture, music boxes, posters, lamps, figurines and just hundreds of other unusual items. This truly is a very rare treat for anyone to visit.
After you get half way thru the museum you think that there could not possibly be anything else, but then you enter another room and you are amazed at what else you will see. They also have special rotating exhibits from time to time so if you are in the area, but sure and visit often.

However the real treat is to meet the owner Naomi Wilzig herself. She is originally from New Jersey and moved her collection to the museum a few years ago and since then, thousands of visitors from all over the world have toured her museum. She is one of the most fabulous people we have met in our travels. She loves what she is doing and it shows. You will usually find her at the museum on most days giving tours. She loves showing off her collection and why not? She has the only erotic art museum in the world ! She is simply fun, funny, fascinating and full of life. Just way too bad that more people cannot be as energetic as she is. When she walks into a room with her smile, everyone smiles. She is that type of a person.
The World Erotic Art Museum is located at 1205 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, Florida. Their telephone number is 866.969.9336 and their website is www.weam.com. They are open daily Monday thru Thursday from 11 AM to 10 PM and Friday and Saturday from 11 AM to Midnight. For visitors from abroad, no trip to the United States would be complete without visiting this museum and for visitors from the continental United States, be sure and put it on your "bucket list".


On a side note, Naomi Wilzig just happens to be the Mother of Sir Ivan, the outstanding, exciting, world-famous singer who is also referred to as "Peaceman". He has done so much for the GLBT community. While we were in South Beach we went out to a restaurant and had dinner with both of them. VISIT her museum and BUY`` his CD's. His website is www.sirivan.com
Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married). Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at gaytravelers@aol.com and visit their website at http://gaytravelersataol.blogspot.com/

Traveling In Our Fabulous Gay World - Santa Fe

Santa Fe is so interesting and exciting. The city was established in 1610 and is one of the oldest cities in the country. The elevation is 7,000 feet. Everyone is welcome in Santa Fe. You won’t see very many gay flags as they don’t need any. Actually it is the most gay-friendly cities in the country.

We always stay at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear which is owned by Robert Frost and Ralph Bolton. It is the estate of the former Witter Bynner, the famous poet and author who lived there for over 40 years. Actually the Inn is a “compound” with an adobe wall all around it. It is located just a few blocks of the downtown Plaza. You are really stepping back in time when staying there. Their guest list reads like a who’s who in the arts, entertainment and writers. We have met so many extremely interesting guests over the years staying there. This is just a very grand place to stay when visiting Santa Fe. Actually we think that is the ONLY place to stay in Santa Fe. Their website is www.turquoisebear.com

There are so many things to see and do when visiting Santa Fe. The “Plaza” which is the business square in downtown Santa Fe has been at the heart of Santa Fe which everything regarding the city. You will find all of kind of shops in the area selling Indian jewelry, bronze sculptors, an abundance of all kinds of art for sale. The shops on Canyon Road are extremely top of the line. There are many museums in the city including the Museum of Fine Arts, with regional art, oil paintings and watercolors and photographs. The Palace of the Governors built in 1610 as the original capitol of New Mexico is located right on the Plaza. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture with exhibits of pottery, basketry, clothing, carpets and jewelry is a must see.

The Museum of International Folk Art houses over 130,000 objects from around the world. The Girard Room is truly spectacular. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has the largest collection of her works in the world. There are several other museums that you would also want to visit. For those interested in architecture Santa Fe has some of the most wonderful old churches, many dating back several hundred years. The Santa Fe Opera was established in 1959 and is considered the 2nd finest Opera company in the country, second only to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Check them out at www.santafeopera.org

One has to dine and we highly suggest the Cafe-Cafe Restaurant. Kirstn Griffin and Donalee Goodbrod have owned this fabulous restaurant for 3 years and since its opening day, throngs of diners have passed thru their doors. Their menu is exciting and everything is freshly made daily. Service is impeccable! We would dine there every day if possible. We used taste buds that we have not used in years! It is so great dining at a restaurant where the owners really care about the food that they are serving. Check them out at www.cafecafesantafe.com There are also many wonderful Mexican restaurants in the city from small cafes to large outside venues. They are all great. A new bar recently opened in downtown Santa Fe right across the street from City Hall. The Rouge Cat has a nice lounge upstairs and then down stairs is their dance scene. It has been open only a few months however it has become a favorite among the locals.


Speaking of City Hall, we met with Mayor David Coss who is one of the favorite mayors that we have met. He also has a great administrative assistant, Marge Sandoval. Also a must see is the Juan Siddi Flamenco Theatre Company. You can visit their website at www.juansiddiflamenco.com

For shopping, the Canyon Road Arts District is THE place to go. There you will find more than 100 art galleries and studios, unique specialty shops, restaurants and the historic adobe architecture that gives Santa Fe its legendary southwestern charm. There are numerous day trips that one can take from Santa Fe including driving up the high road to Taos thru the very small Indian villages and then visit Taos itself. The Bandelier National Monument close to Los Alamos is a scenic beauty and just 15 miles to the south is El Rancho de las Golondrinas which is a 200 acre ranch dating back to 18th Century. Check out santafe.org/ before going. And for the most memorable time visiting Santa Fe, be sure and stay at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear Bed and Breakfast. A special THANK YOU to Steve Lewis, Public Relations at the Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone! TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columns who write for gay publications from coast to coast. Proud members of the IGLTA. You can email them at gaytravelers@aol.com and visit their website at: http://gaytravelersataol.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 19, 2012

PRAGUE PRIDE OVERCOMES POLITICAL CONTROVERSY TO BECOME THE BIGGEST LGBT FESTIVAL IN CENTRAL EASTERN EUROPE

Last year the first ever Prague Pride was organized amid political controversy, when Czech president Václav Klaus openly criticized having a Pride event in the capital of the Czech Republic. In spite of his statements the first Prague Pride was an overwhelming success, with more than 25.000 visitors. The event turned out to be a human rights manifestation as well as a celebration all over the city, which had a lasting impression on all those present.

Prague Pride 2012 will be held from 13 to 19 August 2012 on various attractive locations in the Czech capital. The ambition of the organizing team is to attract an even higher number of visitors than last year. With 7 days filled with entertainment, debates, concerts, exhibitions, theatre and more, Prague Pride 2012 will represent the Czech LGBT+ community in its full colour and diversity. With Prague Pride still being a relatively new event, it has a fresh atmosphere of activism combined with fun, which can no longer be found in many other, more commercial Prides.
The theme of this year’s festival is “Bringing our colours together” with the aim to introduce the general public to the LGBT communities that are usually hidden from the public eye, such as LGBT Roma, disabled or transgender persons.

The highlight of the festival will be the parade through the city centre and the consecutive concert at Střelecký Island on Saturday the 18th of August. The route of the Parade will take the participants from the famous Wenceslav square to the beautiful Střelekcy Island, where a concert will be held with many local and international stars.

“We want to show the Czech society as well as visitors from abroad that we will continue to put Prague on the map as Central and Eastern Europe’s capital of diversity and as one of Europe's main LGBT travel destinations.“  the director of the festival Czeslaw Walek says. By giving Prague Pride 2012 his auspices, the mayor of Prague acknowledges the significance of its LGBT community, with Prague Pride becoming a tradition in Europe’s LGBT summer season.
www.praguepride.com
www.facebook.com/prideprague
#praguepride on Twitter

International press: willem@praguepride.com, tel. +420 73 22 77 104