Sunday, 26 February 2012

Holiday travel shows in London

The Times presents - Destinations The Holiday Travel Show
London Earls Court
February
www.destinationsshow.com

The Telegraph Adventure Travel Show
London Olympia
January
www.adventureshow.com

Holiday travel shows can be a great way to get inspiration, find new ideas, see new ways of traveling and learn more about the world. While these are incredibly commercial events if you know what you are looking for it becomes incredibly useful.

The Adventure Travel Show was a new one for me, the single floor space of exhibition stands was easy to walk around giving me chance to stop and speak to those that gave me interest. A friendly atmosphere of largely small businesses all vying to give the ultimate travel experience. Africa and Asia were the key destinations with trips offered to live in a remote village, do volunteering courses or get to basics and hit off-the-beaten track hard.

Destinations is significantly larger and the array of different sized stands and corridors initially intimidated me. I knew it was a luxury travel show in general that covered the world with areas for each continent. There were familiar faces from The Adventure Travel Show and more money was certainly spent here. While most established organisations were offering all inclusive more luxury packages, the smaller and newer companies definitely offered more challenging experiences like a trek through the Congo, or safari trips through the Amazon and climbing expeditions in Azerbaijan. If you have a general idea of what interests you and the sort of experience/ information you want to get then this is a great opportunity to collect it in one fell swoop.

Both had talk and seminar sessions. The Adventure Travel Show welcomed Nick Hewer from The Apprentice to talk about his travel experiences with a car journey that took him 12,000 miles from London to Ulaanbaabatar ahead of the Mongol Rally in a 25 year old Renault 4.

Destinations Show had a number of high profile talks from people including Trevor MacDonald, Dan Snow, and Liz Bonnin. It also had a number of educational sessions including Travel Writing hosted Lyn Hughes, Wanderlust Magazine and featuring Bradt Travel Guides - Adrian Phillips, Rough Guides - Matthew Teller and Exodus Travel Ltd - Paul Goldstein



A few tips on how to handle a show:
1. Check programme first. See what seminars you'd like to go to. I would suggest going for one day, so pick the best day (weekends will be very busy so try to avoid that, and you should only need 3 - 4 hours at the vent)

2. Prepare to only bring back business cards or some leaflets. Don't collect all the brochures, you'll walk out with bags clinging to exhausted arms. Take a note book with you too (and possibly a small backpack so you won't go over board collecting information)

3. List 3 things you want to learn while there so you can narrow down what stalls to visit

4. Don't distracted by other offers, but there maybe good promotions on travel magazine subscriptions like Wanderlust, Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveller Magazine.

5. Speak to someone on the stand, act like you are booking the trip - what do you want to know? what sort of company are they? what do they offer? how flexible are the trips? what destinations do you cover? what experiences are they? how much are they?

6. Pack your back with a couple of light snacks, talking and walking is hungry work! 

With that you should have a great time.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Search for a hotel & booking

The most stressful part of booking for my holiday is making hotel reservations. I squirm at the idea of hunting for hotels, price comparing and finding something reasonable for my needs.

There are several criteria:
- Location, usually city centre is a necessity for short breaks or near the busy area
- Hotel grade, now this confuses me. I'm not too fussed, I choose anything from a hostel to 4* usually, with most being 2*
- Price, this is essential, personally I don't want to pay more than £50 a night (double per person) or max £75 (single)
- Extras, I prefer breakfast included, infact this is usually a necessity as I hate hunting for breakfast in a foreign city

Though the next step has to be the difficult part:
Search - 
Try searching for the specific requirements above and it becomes near impossible, Google struggles to provide enough, you need to hunt across multiple online travel agents for prices

Price comparison - 
What a nightmare, there's no real simple system like there is for airlines (Kayak). While some services are getting there they just cannot handle the number of hotels available

Inaccurate information - 
Showing me 20 year old glossy images or tacky user-generated photos. Blugh. Plus when you arrive you expect the "grand exterior" they wrote on their review just for it to be a nothing impressive

Guest reviews - 
Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes I'm reading a review of someone who is not like me. It's like information overload

Booking - 
Now this has got to be the scary part. It's like being stood on a ledge 100foot from the ground - the heart races. Will it work? Will the reservation reach the hotel? Have I got a good deal? While I have extras to pay on arrival? Will it be what they sold me? Oh and also check when you pay - the amount of times I get caught out and arrive at the hotel STILL having to pay (why on earth they make you go through the whole process of taking card details then not using them to take the money.)

A few tips on hotel searching:
1. For your initial search, go to Google and run a search with location details (where you want to be), describing hotel rating. This will bring up some flags for you to do your next search.

2. Visit a couple of online hotel booking websites like www.expedia.com or www.booking.com and run a search for those hotels. Remember to check what you are booking (single, Double deluxe, King, with or without breakfast - any extras), this will help you compare better.

3. Check the hotel website, see what they are offering for the same booking

4. Call the hotel, if their website is more expensive than the online travel agents for the same product ask them why. See if they offer you something better....

Sometimes booking online doesn't give the benefits you deserve :-)

Example:
Location: Berlin
Star: 4*
OTA price: £156
Website: 188euro = £155




Thursday, 23 February 2012

Arosa Gay Ski Week – becoming a snow-mosexual


 
More gays are emerging from winter hibernation to head for some of the most famous mountain retreats for increasingly popular gay ski weeks. Today the snow-mosexual is more visible than ever with the rainbow flag adding that missing speck of colour. 

Close to home, Arosa Gay Ski Week was established in 2005 and has become an event for people wanting that all gay winter experience. What better place to play host than the Swiss Alps in January. Arrive to 2000 metres above ground to experience an average of three-feet of snow, excellent weather (often clear blue skies) and a huge expanse of slopes for the inexperienced and professional skier.

While still in its infancy, Arosa attractss over 350 gay guys and girls from across Europe to enjoy a lively schedule for a mix bag. Small compared to the thousands that attend the infamous Gay Whistler in Vancouver, yet the friendly and intimate group delivers a more personal experience.

The Ski Week Team welcomed us with a warm furore, forming like-minded ski groups helping to break the ice (so to speak). There are certainly a lot of gay couples, however for a lone traveller there’s singles dinner tables, just to put you in your place.

Apr├Ęs-Ski at Kursaalwas was the perfect way to unwind. Its lounge room with huge leather sofas, open-fire place, and floor-ceiling windows with a mountain backdrop is warm and intimate. While in the bar the music blared to classic cheese pop disco providing a great way to relax the muscles after a couple of Swiss biers.

Wednesday the Swiss Chesse Fondue evening by candlelight and night-time ride on the gondola to Tschuggen plus some sledging fun too. Thursday’s Splash Pool Party was a relatively sedate affair, a large whirlpool, Jacuzzi, and dance room – the room so well heated the best way to cool down was in the warm salty water. Friday’s Avalanche Party with Ibiza’s Sandra Love was a night of classic gaydar dance music until 4am.

The Drag Race on the Saturday afternoon ended the weeks skiing with contestants certainly putting their heart into their costumes. Flamenco snowboarders, Birds of paradise and sexy serenading skiers gracefully descended the slope, challenged to blow-up balloons in the bitter cold before downing an alcoholic shot – all of which had to be completed in good time with excellent poise and style.

The final fling for the week was The Snow White Party with most dressed head-toe in white. Exhausted bodies with wiped-out faces begrudgingly sipped on their last beers, tapping their failing legs to the rhythms of house before crawling home early.

Arosa Gay Ski week; romantic natural Swiss Alps landscape, littered with cosy log cabins and traditional chalets, accompanied by an incredibly laid-back and social atmosphere. This event is easily rated 8/10.

Downpoints:
Arosa has a limited number of restaurants many of which stop serving by 9.30pm, not ideal for events that don’t get going until 11pm.

Switzerland is expensive, beers will set you back FR6 (equivalent to £4) while a vodka lemon will set you back FR15. An average meal is about FR26.

Getting there:
Flights from Heather / London City Airport by SwissAir / British Airways to Zurich
Train from Zurich Airport – Zurich Central – Chur – Arosa, three changes and takes approximately 3 hours.
Arosa town is easily walkable.

Arosa Gay Ski Week Gold Pass CHF200

Arosa Ski Lift Pass: CHF242 (6 days)

For more information on Arosa Gay Ski Week: www.arosa-gayskiweek.com

For more information on Switzerland Gay tourism: www.myswitzerland.com/gay

Other Gay ski weeks around the world.
The European Gay Ski Week. Alp d’Huez, 24 – 31 March 2012: http://www.europeangayskiweek.com/
Scandinavian Ski Pride, Hemsedal, 12 – 15 April 2012: http://www.skeiveski.no/
SWING – Swiss Gay Skiing and Snowboarding Week, Lenzerheide, 3 – 10 March 2012: http://www.swing-on.ch/
Winter Gay Pride event – GayWhistler, British Columbia, Canada, 5 – 12 February 2012: http://gaywhistler.com/
Gay Ski Week in Queenstown. Australia, 25 August – 2 September 2012, http://www.gayskiweekqt.com/
Bariloche Gay Ski Week, Argentina, 9 – 15 September: http://www.barilochegaytravel.com/index.php/en/bariloche-gay-ski-2010



Thursday, 16 February 2012

Andorra - Gay Ski Week

Taken from clips for Gay In The UK on www.afterelton.com - go to there for more.
Gay Ski week organised by Original Andorra, March 2009

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Video - Fete de Lumiere - Festival of Lights, Lyon France

A walk around the second city of France delivers an easy walk among historic buildings in the former fabric production industry. Fantastic food and excellent entertainment from the Fete de Lumieres in December.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Contributed - Ogunquit: Vacationland’s Glorious Little Gay Getaway

Contributor article: by Jon Fairbanks. www.gaytravel.com


For gay and lesbian travelers around the world, Provincetown is paradise found.  This small stretch of Cape Cod is the most famous gay getaway destination in the region, but it’s certainly not the only one.  Drive just four hours north and you’ll find the crown jewel of LGBT Maine, Ogunquit.
The town has a year-round population of less than two thousand residents, but it’s in the summer and early fall that this quaint, charming beach community comes alive, catering to gay and lesbian travelers.  Ogunquit differs from other resort towns in Maine in that most of the restaurants, galleries, hotels and dance clubs … that’s right … dance clubs, are gay-owned and operated. 
The beginning of the beach is where the heteros station themselves, but if you walk less than a half mile beyond that you’ll find family.  Bare in mind, this is New England and the weather can go from sunny and gorgeous to rainy and miserable at any given moment.  So if you do have to make a quick exit from the beach, don’t fret, there’s a variety of other ways to occupy yourself.
If you’re a sucker for art, there are incredible galleries featuring the work of local artists, including The Barn Gallery and Art & Soul Gallery, both located on Shore Road.  The great thing about Ogunquit is that most of the shops, museums, hotels and restaurants are located within walking distance to the beach.  Trust me, this is a blessing because parking can be a nightmare and if you time your entrance or escape out of town at the wrong time, it could take the better part of an hour to get back to the highway. 
A cloudy day is also the perfect time to check out John Lane’s Ogunquit Playhouse.  Located just a few miles outside of the center of the action heading back to the highway, this is a great venue to enjoy popular shows like Avenue Q, The Music Man or Chicago. 
Ogunquit may be a small town, but don’t be fooled by Ogunquit’s size, the clubs are incredibly fun and get packed.  Front Porch is a great place to start your evening.  It’s a piano bar filled with locals, Bostonians and visitors from points beyond. The staple of gay and lesbian Ogunquit, MaineStreet.  Dance music, drag shows, pool and sexy bartenders, all the prerequisites are here.  Oxygen is close to MaineStreet.  It’s that gay bar in town that’s been in business for years but constantly changes ownership. 
Remember ladies and gents, Maine isn’t just lobster and lighthouses!  If you’re that gay or lesbian traveler who wants a change from Provincetown, Key West, Fire Island and the other typical LGBT summer haunts, Ogunquit is a refreshing option.  It offers all of the trappings of most other gay resort towns with smaller crowds and lower prices. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Berlin - first steps around a poor city

Berlin considers itself poor, I consider it friendly, charismatic and rather cheap for a major European destination. Such a wealth of history that will cause a massive pang in the heart as the reality of the destruction of the World Wars becomes apparent.

Berlin's night scene, especially the wealth of gay bars and clubs a a reason to visit.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Visiting Rome - Video

Take a quick tour around Rome and its main attractions, plus a few gay venues.