Tag Archives: travel

City Spotlight: New York

The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The Empire City. The City of Skyscrapers; just some of the nicknames given to New York, one of the most well-known global holiday hotspots and is also very popular with LGBT travellers, constantly topping or being in lists of best gay travel destinations. And it’s not hard to see why.

New York offers something for everyone to do 24/7, 365 days a year – it’s rich with culture (art galleries and museums galore) and history (including LGBT history in the form of the famous Stonewall Inn, where the Stonewall Riots of 1969 began), has a vibrant nightlife, great shopping being one of the main fashion capitals of the world and some amazing sights to see, including the fountain where the Twin Towers used to stand, the Empire State building, Times Square, Central Park, the One World Trade Centre and of course, the Statue of Liberty to name just a few. It may be a buzzing metropolitan city, but New York’s parks and rivers also offer some quieter solace from the hubbub of the streets and breathing space from the countless high skyscrapers.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

New York’s gay scene is thriving and is spread all across the its five boroughs – Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island, although its main areas are situated in Chelsea (lower Manhattan), East Side and East Village, Hell’s Kitchen in Queens and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, where are there a whole host of different kinds of bars, clubs, restaurants and other gay-run establishments that cater to or are aimed at different members of the diverse LGBT community.

via Twitter

via Twitter

New York City Pride is one of the world’s largest, attracting an estimated more than 1 million people. The Parade is a spectacular sight to behold as it snakes across the city southward down the famous Fifth Avenue and fittingly ends at Greenwich Village and Christopher Street, right by the Stonewall Inn – where the LGBT rights movement first began. Pride week usually takes places towards the end of June (17-25th this year). Confirmed acts that will be performing include Tegan and Sara, Years & Years, Roisin Murphy, Deborah Cox, Patti Labelle, LeAnn Rimes and Nelly Furtado. Other events that will take place include a Youth Pride, Family Movie Night, OutCinema, The Rally and the Village Voice Pride Awards.

via Facebook

via Facebook

Gay Homestays has more than 30 places to book in New York, from spare rooms in flats and houses or whole properties and B&Bs and guesthouses, with some being gay-owned or gay-friendly. While New York is certainly not short of hotels, including gay-run ones, the opportunity to stay with a local and see and experience the city firsthand through them should not be passed up.

City Spotlight: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is known as one of South America’s most gay-friendly countries with advanced legal rights for LGBT people including equal age of consent, health benefits, immigration equality, the right to change legal gender, anti-homophobia laws, and most recently in May 2013, same-sex marriages were made legal nationwide. Brazil is a very diverse country and a popular holiday hotspot for many people, including LGBT travellers, particularly because of its large cities’ LGBT festivals and parades, which are some of the world’s largest – São Paulo takes pole position with well over 2 million visitors every year, while the ones in the capital Brasilia and Salvador attract nearly 1 million. Rio de Janeiro’s – arguably the country’s most popular destination, and the soon-to-host of the 2016 Summer Olympics – is the second largest (1.5-2 million).

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Rio was recently voted as the world’s best gay destination and it was estimatedthat 1 in every 4 visitors to the city is LGBT and with not only a huge Pride event, but a bustling LGBT community, an open attitude towards sex and sexuality and of course and great attractions for every holidaymaker, it’s easy to see why that is the case. The Ipanema district in Rio is where LGBT life in the city is predominantly located where there are plenty of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses such as bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. The neighbouring Leblon district is also popular with the gay community and has art galleries, museums, theatres and boutique shops that serve as interesting local attractions.

The Copacabana beach is one of Rio’s many beaches, and probably its most famous, located next to the Ipanema and Farme Gay beaches, where if you want to eye up some of the hot local Latin guys and girls or other tourists making the most of the sun and heat, that’s the place to be. The beaches host a lot of parties too, especially during Pride and Carnival and will go on late into the night. Gay nightlife in the city also goes on late into the night and even into the early hours of the morning and usually starts pretty late as well, with most people preferring to eat late dinner and drink in restaurants and smaller pubs and bars before moving on to the major clubs. For a full listing of places, click here.

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As previously mentioned, the two main yearly events that take place in Rio are Carnival and gay Pride. The former usually happens at the end of February through to the beginning of March and is always big, extravagant, vibrant and colourful, with pretty much everyone getting involved as the huge collective party atmosphere and attitude takes over everyone and the whole city. Pride on the other hand has varied dates each year – in 2012 it was November, but this year it is slated to commence on 13th October and expected to once again to be a massive success and continue to be on the world’s biggest and best Prides. New Year’s Eve is also a very popular event which sees over 2.5 million come together to ring in the new year on Copacabana Beach, usually all dressed in white. Another gay festival, the Rio Festival Gay de Cinema – the city’s international LGBT film festival – usually takes place in July.

Rio offers a lot of other attractions, things to do and see and places to go, and being a predominantly Roman Catholic area, is of course home to many religious building and structures – the most famous being the must-see statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado mountain (the fourth tallest in the world). Other places include nearby islands, rainforests and mountains, if you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and explore Brazil’s wild nature.

One’s safety must always be kept in mind when travelling to Brazil and staying in Rio. Even though the gay areas are known to be the wealthiest part of the city, beggars and criminals still try their luck at pickpocketing or taking advantage of people, especially foreigners, so it is not advised that you be left or travel alone or walk around by yourself at night. Please take a look at our top tips for gay travellers for more information.

We currently have half a dozen accommodations available in Rio or alternatively, we also have accommodations in Belo Horizonte, Marceló, Natal, Salvador and São Paulo, but if you have a spare room or property that you want to rent out on a short-term basis to guests in Rio or any other Brazilian city, you can it here.

Gay couchsurfing

Gay couchsurfing = couchsurfing for gay people. Couchsurfing = forgoing the traditional hotel or hostel experience and staying with locals instead. In this week’s blog, we investigate why couchsurfing is appealing to more and more people in the gay community and why gay couchsurfing is becoming such a trend!

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“Couchsurfing” is a travel trend that has been growing for a number of years now. The idea: instead of booking a hotel or hostel, you travel around the world staying in the homes of other like-minded people, and when you get back, maybe host a few travellers yourself. Cheaper than a hostel or hotel, and you get a personal host and a potential new friend for life.

As the couchsurfing community has grown, the types of guests and hosts have become more various. The name “couchsurfing” of course comes from the idea of staying on peoples couches, and maybe you need to stay for one night in the centre of Berlin as cheaply as possible, and are happy to sleep on the sofa of a cool guy’s flat for a couple of Euros. Or maybe you’re happy to spend $200 a night for a multi-bedroom palatial Manhattan penthouse that comes complete with a  New Yorker who wants to share all the best party spots with you. Maybe you’re hosting to supplement your income, and you’ll keep yourself to yourself and leave your guest to their own devices, or maybe you’ll be doing tequila shots with them, cooking them your local cuisine and inviting them to party with your friends. The truth is, all of these are okay. The important thing is to be honest and up front with what you want from the experience, whether it be through an online profile or through direct communication with a potential couchsurfing buddy. In this way, you’ll find somebody you’re going to be comfortable with and there will be no awkwardness later on. 

Likewise, as couchsurfing has increased in popularity, the number of couchsurfing networks have grown, and websites like Gay Homestays now offer a couchsurfing database designed exclusively for the gay community. So what can couchsurfing offer the gay community?

Couchsurfing as a concept does attract laid-back and liberal people, and there’s every chance any straight couchsurfing host would be totally cool with your sexuality. But when you know you’re staying with someone the same sexuality as you, its a weight off your shoulders, especially if you’re travelling abroad to a country where the level of acceptance of gays may be different to that of your own country. In this way, couchsurfing can feel even more safe than staying in a hostel, as you know there’s going to be another gay person there, and that you’re going to be accepted and not have to think about hiding who you are or “coming out” to your fellow travellers. If you’re worried about what the local attitude to gay people could be, it’s great to know that you have a safety net, and an opportunity to talk with someone directly about what it’s like to be a gay person in another part of the world.

Furthermore, by staying with a gay person from the local area, you can get the low-down on the best places to go. Maybe you’re going somewhere with a huge gay district, and your host can tell you what’s hot and what’s not. Or maybe you’re going to somewhere with no gay district at all, and your host can tell you where the off-the-map hangout is. Either way, your host can be your link to the scene, and many guests and hosts make long-lasting friendships from sharing the secrets of their city with each other.

Of course, if you’ve never done it before, the idea of staying with a complete stranger can be intimidating. Make use of features of couchsurfing websites like the reviews. The couchsurfing community tends to review much more than hotel guests: if a guest has had a great host, they want to help them out and leave them a good review, and help out their fellow travellers with the information too. Gay Homestays also has an optional host verification system, where hosts can provide the site with information such as a copy of their passport to receive an extra stamp of approval.

So what are you waiting for? Get out, see the world, and make some new friends along the way.

Review: The Bodyguard, the musical

In 1992, Rachael Marron was brought to life as one of the most iconic divas on the silver screen in the 90s by, funnily enough, one of the world’s most iconic divas of all time – Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” was a huge commercial success, grossing over US$400 million worldwide and its soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all time, with over 45 million copies sold. Then, since 2012, not long after the untimely death of Whitney, a musical based on the film (that had been in production for several years already) directed by Thea Sharrock (the 2007 adaptation of “Equus” starring Daniel Radcliffe) and produced by David Ian (“Cats” and “The Sound of Music” among countless others) and Michael Harrison, was launched.

Tony award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley originally starred in the lead role and the musical was a critical and box office success, which continued after British soul singer Beverley Knight took over as Miss Marron and Tristan Gemmill replaced Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer in September 2013. But how did Beverley fair in her first major acting role and her West End début and how does the musical compare to the film? We recently went along to see the show in London’s Adelphi Theatre on The Strand to see for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised that are high expectations were met.

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The storyline is very similar to the original film, with a few minor changes – the predominant ones being a small shift in the roles Rachel Marron’s sister, Nikki (experienced theatre actress Carole Stennett) and her stalker/assassin plays (the rather ruggedly handsome Michael Rouse). In addition to songs from the film’s original soundtrack, a number of other well-known Whitney Houston songs are included in the production and are cleverly weaved into the narrative in one way or another, like “Saving All My Love for You”, “All The Man I Need” and “One Moment in Time”. The musical also manages to give this romantic thriller a comedic and light-hearted edge that wasn’t in the film, which was perhaps aided by cheeky and more adult-based humour and one-liners and the introduction of more fun and uptempo Whitney songs such as “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know” and the show’s closer “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.

While the whole cast, bar Beverley, consists of seasoned screen and stage actors, singers and dancers and none of them, including Beverley are bad actors at all, we were a little unsettled by some of their overly fake American accents, though this thankfully did not take anything away from their overall performances. Beverley, who has never really acted before, did surprisingly well in fulfilling the role of Rachel Marron and taking over from Heather; we already know she can sing, but her acting was pretty impressive too, particularly as we see her stepping out of her usual humble and down-to-earth persona and become a world-class diva (in fact, very similar to Whitney, whose acting début was in the film). And sing she does. Known for her combined rich and beautiful tone, extensive range, vocal power, agility and control, technical skill, intricate musical and lyrical interpretations, and the soul and emotion she put into her songs, Whitney will forever be hailed as one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. But Beverley is most certainly a vocal force to be reckoned with herself, possessing similar traits Whitney had and showcasing them brilliantly throughout the show. Not only does she retain the integrity, meaning and emotions of the original recordings but she also puts her own little twist to a few of them as well, some of which are given a slight re-arrangement to suit a musical setting and a theatrical performance – and she does so without a missing a note, a riff, run, trill or a beat. Carole Stennett also proves she’s a fine singer as she steps into the spotlight on a few occasions to sing solos and duet with Beverley, the latter of which showed great vocal precision and beautiful harmonies from the pair of them.

Though we felt (in a similar way to the film) that the story did lack a bit of depth and detail and there was little character improvement (except for Nikki Marron), it was definitely compensated by its slick direction and production, a great all-around cast and ensemble and of course its musical numbers that at times made it feel more like we were at a concert than a stage show. It was however, a shame that so many other great Whitney songs that could have been included were not and that there is no cast recording available to buy, though despite this we were left with a rush of tingles up our a spines and an energy that the cast gave us as they sang and danced their way through some of the biggest and catchiest pop songs of the past 30 years. And we’re sure Whitney Houston would have enjoyed it too if she was still alive to see it today.

“The Bodyguard” is currently taking bookings until 30th August and Beverley Knight will finish her run on the show on 31st May, with former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke taking over on 2nd June. The Adelphi Theatre is located on The Strand in the Westminster area of London near Covent Garden and is around a mile from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The area is not far at all from a number of London’s top gay bars and clubs, so is perfect for those wanting a night out in the city after watching the show. Check out our guide to gay London and see a full list of London’s gay scene, as well as view our 300 properties there right here.

Overall rating: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 3/5
Choreography: 4/5
Production: 4/5

Our Top Summer Destinations

I think we’re all starting to look forward to our summer holiday now, if we’re lucky enough to be going on one. Whether you’re off for a couple of days or two weeks in the sun, there are some destinations for everyone.

1. Sitges

Sitges is a Spanish seaside town not far from Barcelona. It has 17 beaches, and from 5th to 9th July is Sitges Gay Pride – only the second they have ever held, but it’s guaranteed to be a blast.

2. Milan

You don’t have to be a football fanatic to visit the second largest city in Italy. If you go on holiday to find art, culture and architecture, this is the place for you. And if you’re a football fan, all the better!

3. London

With the Olympics set this year, we’re pitching London as one of our top summer destinations for 2012. As if there isn’t enough to do in London already,  this year will be choc-a-bloc with extra things to see and do. One of those is at the Tate Modern, where Damien Hirst will be showing until the summer.

If you’d like to tell us about any of your favourite destinations, we’d love to hear about them!