Sunday, October 22, 2017

Copenhagen: Blondes & Bikes

Copenhagen: Blondes & Bikes

View from the Round Tower
This beautiful city on the water is home to the happiest people on earth – which makes sense given Tivoli, an amusement park in the city center! With great food, beautiful boys, and even the city square named for LGBT equality, Copenhagen provides much for the gay (as well as not gay) traveler – but don’t come without being ready to part with some cash.

I visited Copenhagen just for one weekday (and weeks later, a few hours on a layover). With incredible luck, my day was a Tuesday with an annual celebration that ensured late-night partying: high school graduation! Of course, in the US this would have meant house parties – but here, where the drinking age is 16 and you can drink openly on the street (remember happiest people…) meant an exuberant evening until at least 4am.

Can you tell what his custom
message is?
Here, high school graduates (and some from specialty schools) wear special caps – rounded (usually white) hats with a custom message or your name on the back. Of course, you can only really wear these hats around graduation time – they are a one-time-thing – but it’s a sort of rite of passage – so the city was filled with these youngsters, including, of course, each gay bar.
These Swans are in protect mode!

My local friend walked me through the maze of shopping streets in the center – he also pointed out the “lakes” dotting the city center where I found these incredible swans on my return trip. Also we were too late to go up the Round Tower - I saved for my layover – the best view of the whole city. As we walked, we ran into graduates with their hats – and more than some shouting - “The right hat is red” (Den rigtige hue er rød) – because the national high school uses red – other schools and vocations are not. Finally, our destination was yummy dinner along Rainbow Square – recently renamed to commemorate LGBT equality - eating outside (it was almost warm enough as the sun set) at Oscar Bar & Café.

G-A-Y Club Copenhagen (weekends only)
Oscar Bar & Cafe
Then it was time to bar hop. What surprised me most was that these bars were the smokiest I’ve observed in Europe (well, at least since Prague) – the law allows smoking in bars of a certain small size – but it appears exact size that now only can financially exist, at least on a Tuesday. Sadly I missed the gay club G-A-Y - open only on weekends.

Gay Street - Studiestraede
The most unique, chill bar is the Jailhouse – located on the main LGBT-filled street, Studiestraede. More of a bear-friendly bar, its simply a non-pretentious gay bar – where friendly tourists and locals chatted us up. All the kids were at Cosy, smoking and dancing up a storm. For this celebratory weeknight – everyone seemed to end up at Never Mind, where I enjoyed a private mirrored bathroom – and met a couple out for one of the boys’ graduation celebration.

Book your accommodations early – even I held out thinking I would just grab a hostel, but that cost $40 for a bunk in an 8 person room. Of course, I only slept a couple of hours – after walking home from Never Mind as the sun was rising. But I stoped into the room early on long enough to catch a conversation with a Thai guy traveling across Europe. Sadly, I didn’t use the free drink on the rooftop bar at the Generator.

Real castles from this roller-coaster
While the world’s oldest amusement park isn’t in Copenhagen (it’s called Bakken just 10 km north!), but the second oldest is Tivoli and opened in 1843 – right in what’s now the city center! My return layover included a few afternoon hours here. What struck me most about this locale: they didn’t need to build a fake castle nearby for scenery (a la Disney); real castles nearby date to the 1600s. There is one decent roller-coaster, a drop and of course swings that take you very high – but otherwise, the rides are for young kids. Still the park is more about sitting on the green, enjoying a wine, taking in a concert and watching the world go by.

Nyhavn Street/Docks
Tivoli Tourist Note: Whatever you do, don’t be fooled into partaking in the “virtual” roller-coaster – they give you a headset that blinds you to the beautiful sights – as you watch a virtual reality chasing a dragon – that’s about as good video quality as a Nintendo 64 game. Enjoy the beautiful sights you wind rapidly through the park – it’s a quick ride, but the best one I could find.
At least I got a pic with the hat...

Finally don’t forget to get your picture at the docks at Nyhavn street – where beautiful alternating colors stand out against the (typically) grey skies. Also, for new cheap (and not so cheap) eats visit the Meatpacking District – where I ate a great burger and wandered around at this hipster zone that’s revitalizing.

Copenhagen’s beautiful architecture, friendly people, and ease of life will attract you back – I didn’t get my white cap, so I’ll have to be back in June next time!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cyprus: Crossing borders with Cocktails

Incredible food at Dionysus Mansion
How can you get as close to the Middle East as possible, but still be in Europe? If you’re not counting Israel (Eurovision does!) then it’s Cyprus. Honestly, until I arrived, I actually didn’t realize how close I was to the death and destruction happening just a few hundred miles away (in Syria). But this lovely beach-island-town has most of the comforts of Europe – at least those appreciated by other Mediterranean parts – plus incredible food expected from the Med – although with quite a conflicted LGBT community.
Mosaics of Ancient Korion near Limassol
Cyprus not a place a great deal of young people flock to – or remain – but it definitely has tons of potential, especially with the beautiful beaches and fabulous Mediterranean food. It was a great destination for ILGA’sEuropean Conference I attended last October. For now, it’s a tourist destination for many Russians – and also a good spot for money laundering (guess which new Cabinet member was also Vice-President of the Bank of Cyprus?)

Of course, many ancient sites, including mosaics, line the island - the major one near a city is Ancient Kourion on the west side of Limassol. But nothing is as spectacular as the seafood is good! The ILGA conference marked the first time an LGBT event was held at the Presidential Palace - which has a large public space outside for celebrations and I enjoyed making a new friend with one of the members of the traditional dance group... :) 

Traditional dancers at the Presidential Palace
Gay Cyprus is difficult – but of course I made attempts with locals. I got disappointed when a Grindr guy offered to drive me to the beach, but then backed out when his friend wanted to go (he didn’t want to have to explain how we met). These guys are shy – worried about their image (typical in any small place) and of course many still very closeted. Yet gay bars exist and of course, you’ll have even more luck perhaps with Grindr (if you can get anyone to commit).

Nicosia – the divided capital - does not have a dedicated gay bar, except in the Turkish-controlled North. Gay bar Lorenzo’s is part of a strong if small community! However back down in Europe, Ithaki bar goes gay on Friday nights. What’s great is that you can cross the international border with a beer or a cocktail in hand - this is the last divided city in the world! With the amount of new boys in town, due to the Conference, it was difficult to make out the locals – but it was cool to see the bar was a mixed, diverse crowd.
New friends from around Europe...

Prices in Cyprus – like other Med & Middle East destinations - depend on your circumstances. I paid 10 Euro for a taxi through a neighborhood (at 2am – and the driver was drunk), then 11 for a (terrifying) mini-van across the country – 6 for a taxi 4 blocks down Larnaca beach (he asked for 7 at first!) and 5 for a taxi across the Capital city (when my hotel called). Just remember, try to keep them a little honest (and be sure the meter is working) – otherwise tourist prices can only go higher!

Ayia Napa - Kermia "Beach"
As far as Beaches, one of the best is Limnara Beach in Ayia Napa where there’s also a “nude” gay beach along the trail – but honestly, it probably has to be a busy time to find anyone but some older gentlemen cruising. The rocky shores are beautiful – but a little difficult to traverse without proper footwear. I made a friend who helped me take some good glam shots – and showed me the best vista for sunset.

Cyprus isn’t big – but it’s more than just another beautiful island of the Med – it’s got a complicated history. But the food and the beaches provide great uncomplicated reasons to stop by – you’ll be certain to make fast friends!

Sunset near Ayia Napa

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

P-town Part 3: Whale of a Party

Posing at the close of the BoatSlip's Low Tea
Theme parties are of course some of the main attractions during your time in Provincetown – especially if you’re in town for 4th of July Week, Bear Week (second week in July) or Carnival (the 3rd week of August). If you enjoy some fun with heels or a wig – these are definitely mandatory. One group I know came to their first BoatSlip happy hour as Disney Divas!

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Saturday night, for example is the big underwear (or jock!) party at Purgatory (at the Gifford House Inn) – where naturally, I met an older gentleman who quickly bought me a drink (and later some yummy lobster dinner!). But each night has a different theme party of some sort – and if you want to belt to show-tunes, do so any and every day of the week at Crown and Anchor. And you can always go to classic A-House – the oldest bar in the city – either to the bar, where the upstairs bar sometimes gets naughty or over to the larger dance hall. After that early 1am curfew, everyone finds themselves outside Spiritus for Pizza (or ice cream if you prefer) or of course observing or participating under the Dick Dock.

Don't I look like I'm having fun!?
Generally, the crowd of course is not typically a young one – but workers or those kept boys brought out with a group or their “special friends” keep some twinks around. It’s an experience built especially for those near 30 and above – but of course there are also straight families and vacationers of all sorts. Everyone should definitely go at least once – and if you go once, I’m certain you’ll come again.

The only minuses are the water temperature (which makes late August or Labor Day an ideal time), the pebbly gay beach (a cute look upon your attempt to confidently walk (naked) out of the water). But you’re not going to find a more beautiful, relaxed gay beach. If you want to change it up – the further beach is sandier (and more lesbian than gay) – and from there you can often see whales. Also, it’s tough to save money at all during your trip (hey, it’s vacation, after all) – but of course, you can always cart out some liquor to help. I actually met guys camping who were from Canada – they simply hauled everything in (easier when you take the beautiful (if long) drive in up the Cape).
Sunrise from the Jetty

My daily routine typically consisted of 1) getting moving around 11am 2) a specialty cream donut at the Happy Camper (yumm), 3) walk or bike over to Relish, where I purchased a huge Italian sandwich. This would last me all afternoon (the best option to stay fresh all day). Then 4) hike or bike to the gay beach, to see what trouble I could get myself into. One day I decided I would walk all the way across the jetty (which can be treacherous at low tide) out to Long Point and back to the gay beach. It took me 3 hours or more… so I would not recommend that unless you truly want a walk (and I don’t recommend doing this in sandals, opps!). Then of course, 5) BoatSlip happy Hour (you can get a week-pass for $40). 6) Out to dinner, 7) some shows, the bars, and the parties…

Shows & Stars advertised outside the Art House
Sunset at Herring Cove Beach
For food – any seafood will do - the lobster, of course, is to die for! It’s also relatively easy to find an older friend that might even pay – but be sure you’re clear about what that means for afterwards! Maybe he’ll just want you to say “maybe.” Or he might take you to the VIP section (first few rows) of the Art House for Well Stung – or any number of stars in town that will keep you entertained during your stay. During my time Cher visited with Hillary for an incredible fundraiser at the Pilgrim’s monument – which actually was visibly protested… if only we knew then what we know now!

This first trip to Ptown was more solo for me – I couldn’t be gone too long – my arrival was seeing friends on their way out post-Carnival and my last day didn’t align with others. My last evening there – mid-week for everyone else – I couldn’t convince anyone from BoatSlip’s low tea to go to my final sunset. When I arrived, a husky – straight, but definitely not narrow guy – invited me for fire-cooked cobbler. His young kids, wife and friends welcomed me to their beach sunset spread. Turns out he got his Ph.D. researching the effects of party drugs and HIV! We chatted in the twilight – our worlds so far apart, yet solidly connected on a warm August evening.

Setting course on the Dolphin VII!
My final day, I saw whales for really the first time – in the most amazing way. Watching whales breach and seeing them flip those tails up close is definitely worth the 3-4 hours. It makes the most sense to go out in the morning when the seas are calmer – then have the rest of your day to get back to your tan. I was fortunate to see nearly 15 different whales very up close.

And just one more reason why Ptown has so much to offer – don’t forget - the miles of bike trails through beautiful forest. You’ll use this to reach the far beach - Race Point - where often you can also see whales directly from the shores (if you don’t have time for that whale watch). You will need to rent a bike – count on that – which is relatively inexpensive and discounted for the week or multiple days.

Pilgrim's Monument in the background - with three of the biggest mammals on earth!

Taking that ferry back – is just as beautiful – as you blow back into reality from a week of revelry and relaxation. Conveniently, you can take a water taxi right from the ferry port directly to Logan Airport! Don’t forget to read Michael Cunningham’s book before you go (and no I’m not getting royalties!). That will complete your full tour of this history and current picture of life at “Land’s End.”

And be in touch if you’re interested in setting out in August!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

P-town Part 2 -- Summer is for fun!

Post-interrupted-meet-up before his ferry left

Read Ptown Part 1 first!

I was in the middle of “connecting” with a new pal – in this great centrally located Ptown accomodation. Clearly, he only came – I mean – visited me because it was near the dock where he ferry would depart shortly. However, my housemate was also trying to catch that same ferry....

.....And his laundry was drying in the washer/dryer unit in my room….

KNOCK! KNOCK! – Frantic housemate

“Really! – Now?!...” – under the blankets Ashton

“Yes! I have to catch the ferry!” – Frantic housemate

“What?!” – Confused twink

Planter's Punch at the BoatSlip Inn
If you’re interested in staying at this home this summer (if not this room!), please be in touch and we can arrange a group!

But keep in mind that P-town isn’t exactly about nightlife – besides, you can party inside all winter; now is the time to be outside!  Bars are only open until 1am – thus the main social gay event is earlier from 4-7pm at Low Tea at the BoatSlip Inn. This likely is the best gay happy hour in the world. An expansive balcony holds hundreds – and it feels almost like an “infinity” outdoor patio – with the water beyond, seemingly, it feels like you’re floating (especially when you’re tipsy from the Planter’s Punch). It’s HUGE compared with Fire Island’s Low Tea and no other place I’ve been can compete with this large outdoor space. Plus there’s a dancefloor adjacent to the large deck – with the latest songs of the summer to jam to. This is the best time of day to party.

Here's a little taste:

Afterwards, you’ll go home or out to eat for dinner, perhaps out to one of the many shows – and then back out for drinks & more dancing. Of course, it depends who you’re with – or who you aim to be with.

Also to note, later after 1am, below that infinity balcony at Boat Slip is what’s referred to here as the Dick Dock – the largest collection of let-loose gay boys (really children here) I’ve very seen – it’s basically the biggest darkroom in the world. Whether you want to observe or participate, it’s a must see at least once. Even the friendly father who invited me to join his family at sunset with this wife and kids brought it up! Of course, some folks also have hot tubs and there are plenty opportunities for late night canoodling – it’s a trip you typically want to do with a group, a boyfriend or at least one other person.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t great parties!

Saturday night, for example is the main underwear (or jock!) party at Purgatory – where naturally, I met an older gentleman who quickly bought me a drink …


Read the final part to this blog, with tips on bars, beaches & much more fun!