OUT Destination: a weekend gay guide to West Hollywood

OUT Destination is a new series of travel guides to popular gay destinations on My Gay Travel Guide. This edition is a weekend gay guide to West Hollywood.

By Joey Amato

In my first visit to the West Coast in many years, I decided to venture out to the land of dreams, Los Angeles, California and more specifically, West Hollywood. In a region known for celebrities, rolling hills and mega mansions, West Hollywood is a wondrous enclave, with its own identity and a drastically different vibe than its surrounding neighbors.

The most difficult part of your journey will be getting from Los Angeles International Airport to West Hollywood…the traffic in Los Angeles is legendary.  But once you arrive, all of your worries seem to fade away.  Check in at the newly renovated Le Montrose Suites, situated just blocks from Santa Monica Boulevard and minutes away from some of the most popular gay venues in the country.

The magnificent boutique hotel offers a full-service restaurant, beautifully appointed suites complete with full kitchen, living space, balcony, flat screen televisions and luxury linens. Le Montrose also features a fitness center and rooftop pool overlooking the Los Angeles skyline, perfect for sun bathing or enjoying a late-night swim.

A car isn’t really necessary in West Hollywood, unless you would like to take a trip to Malibu, Santa Monica or nearby Pasadena. Everything you need during your stay in WeHo is at your fingertips. Stop in at one of many LGBT-owned retail shops lining Santa Monica Blvd. and check out the latest fashion trends from local designers.

For a delightful dining experience amongst the West Hollywood “It” crowd, head to Eveleigh, located on the famous Sunset Strip.  Here, diners can feast on a variety of options. To start, try some of the wonderful “small plates,” which include: Crisp Spring Fennel with black olive aioli, Grilled Monteray Squid with garlic, lemon and olive oil or Roasted Bone Marrow with celery cress, radish and smoked sea salt.

With something for every taste, Eveleigh is definitely one of the premier dining establishments in the area.  The restaurant also offers a wonderful wine selection, perfect to accompany any entrée.  I highly recommend the Grilled Boulder Valley hanger steak with crisp potatoes and caramelized onions or the Roasted Half Jidori Chicken with picholine olives, almonds, preserved lemon, and golden raisins.

The Abbey - West Hollywood gay bar

After dinner, head back to Santa Monica Blvd. to one of over a dozen gay bars/clubs in the city. Of course, the most popular of them is The Abbey. Voted “Best Gay Bar in the World,” by Logo, The Abbey is located just steps away from Le Montrose Suites. Owner David Cooley founded the venue 20 years ago as a coffee shop and since then, it has grown to be the premier LGBT nightlife venue in West Hollywood with approximately 16,000 square feet of space.  Continue reading OUT Destination: a weekend gay guide to West Hollywood

Paris in the summertime: gay, lively & fun

Be sure to bring a healthy lunch of cheese, fruit & bread for your day on the Paris beach!

July and August is very much the holiday season in Paris, with locals leaving the city in their droves to spend a few weeks at their countryside cottages. However for those Parisians that do stay, and of course the tourists like ourselves, there’s a fantastic treat in store – Paris Plages, a number of man-made urban beaches that appear on the banks of the Seine and bring a whole host of cultural events to the city.

Stretching from the Tulleries to the Pont d’Arcole, these beaches feature sunloungers, parasols and plenty of sand on which to sunbathe or build a sandcastle. Whether you arrive to Paris by train or plane, the city can be quite lively and fun in the summer. Maybe that’s because all the stereotypically obnoxious locals aren’t there to annoy the tourists. There’s plenty of action on the Seine itself, with boats, canoes and ‘tube rollers’ to enjoy.

Sun, Sand and Sports

Many exciting events take place throughout the days of Paris Plages too, such as live, free concerts, big-screen broadcasts of the Olympics, a mini Olympic village and even treasure hunts and dance shows, so you’ll never be short of something unusual to do.

The events begin on July 20th and run until August 19th, so if you’re thinking of snapping up cheap flights, check out airlines like Jet2.com for prices as low as £21.99 from the UK including taxes.

Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit!

Day out in Brighton—and a dip in the sea?

Staying near Gatwick? Go active sightseeing this summer: dance and water sports events in Sussex’s alternative capital

Brighton is one of the UK’s real unique destinations. A city with a strong reputation for its liberal attitudes and openness – home to the first ever elected Green MP; widely acknowledged as the most pro gay-rights and sexually liberated city in the UK; a haven of bicycles, organic veg and the seaside.

That said, Brighton is far more than smug yummy mummies buying avocados. It is a place that houses projects, social centres and cafes committed to alternative living – such as the renowned Cowley Club, on London Road. It’s also the city to find some of the most expressive voices on queer and feminist politics in the UK.

It’s actually a city with a small city centre which mashes together the liberal middle classes, students, activists and working class locals who are often all drawn to the same, magnetic point: the Pier and the accompanying seaside.

Many visitors to the UK don’t realise that Brighton is both extremely close to London – more than that, the UK capital and this Sussex city are more or less equidistant to Gatwick Airport.  Yet visitors rarely think of turning the other way and heading out to the coast for a taste of Pier life.

As well as being a great place for culture – from poetry readings by the likes of Keston Sutherland to works by resident Brighton Dome dance company the Hofesh Shechter Company – Brighton is an excellent place to get active.

As well as hosting an increasingly over-subscribed marathon in spring, Brighton’s proximity to the sea makes it an ideal spot for getting a wetsuit on and having a paddle.  This summer there’s the chance to jump right in as part of an alternative Olympic season.

In July, Brighton hosts two of the biggest community sports events in the UK – Paddle Around the Pier (7th-8th July); which also coincides with the launch of a national Big Dance Wee. This runs from the 8th until the 15th and aims to get record numbers of Britons dancing – many events are free and there’ll be plenty of people there, so you can easily blend into the crowd with your moves…

More unique to Brighton is the aforementioned Paddle Around the Pier. This was established in 1996 by local surfer Dave Samuel and the premise is simple: bring surfers together to raise money for charity by paddling around the pier as fast as you can!

Money raised by the event goes to charities which protect the sea and support surfing communities and areas. You can do it on a sea kayak or surfboard of your choice. Previous beneficiaries include the RNLI, Surfers Against Sewage and SurfAid International.

This year is no different, as competitors from around the world will be lining up to take part. The event will be launched on the 7th July with a Brazilian Carnival at The View in Hove – with handsome rewards for the best attire. In my opinion, it’s a safer bet for a good time than trumping around London during the Olympics.

If you are travelling through Gatwick airport, why not make a day of it and visit Brighton?

One very gay week in Berlin

The past week in Berlin has been an especially gay one for me. I’m not one to hit up gay clubs or bars every week, but sometimes life just works out that way.

We’ll do this narrative style.

Saturday night out in Berlin

My very gay week in Berlin began with a friend’s going-away party at Club der Visionaire. It’s not a gay club but instead a hipster one. It’s on the side of the Landwehr canal and has some of Berlin’s best pizza (seriously). It’s open 24-hours on the weekend, only costs 2 euros to get in and has some of the most awesome DJs you can find for that price. Some of the people inside are going to be the type to party hard, usually with artificial supplements, but chilling on the floating barge attached to the bar is also a perfectly acceptable way to enjoy the club. Nothing extraordinarily gay here except a lot of cute hipsters…and druggies hanging out in the bathroom.

As my Friday evening at Club der Visionaire wound down, I made my way to the legendary Berghain club with a friend. He’d try to get inside several times before but had always been stopped at the door (as so many do). With a little luck, though, we’d make our way inside.

We waited in the Berghain line/queue a good two solid hours. Thankfully we had brought some beers and there was a friendly Irish couple in front of us. We spent the time talking about the party scene in Berlin, travel around Europe and other things I don’t remember. Sometime after 4:30am, we were in. Continue reading One very gay week in Berlin

Pride 2012: London, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Prague

Forget Queen Lizzie’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, many a gay in the UK has been building up to this month’s World Pride celebrations in London, following a shortfall in cash however the expected proceedings were ‘adjusted’. Meaning that World Pride 2012 went ahead in central London last weekend without a number of well-known Pride mainstays e.g. big flashy corporate floats and the Soho street party.

According to Pride London, the UK is “the best country in Europe” to be gay, and I’d say even better if you’re a fan of the rain (welcome to the UK folks!). The drizzle on the day itself added to the potential disappointment, but as ever with Pride there was more than enough joy swishing around to attract thousands strong crowds of curious onlookers.

Record numbers of Pridegoers from around the world were drawn to London all the same (by the promise of proximity to each another), with revellers wholeheartedly ignoring the fact that the Soho street party had ever been called off. Some even reported Soho square and the surrounding streets being busier than ever.

But what about us Brits, where do we fantasize about taking our beau away for a romantic break, or for that boy’s or girl’s holiday with friends? In Europe, and even Tel Aviv in the middle-east, couples can take a break in easy-going gay friendly surroundings all year round. With World Pride celebrations upon us, the very real atmosphere of acceptance in the air – and those flashy pink euros to boot – the world is your oyster!

Take a look at Adam Spawton-Rice’s choices for next month’s Pride celebrations in Europe: Continue reading Pride 2012: London, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Prague