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Travel Posters From The Gay Old Days


You must have heard old straight people complaining that they can no longer use the word "gay" to describe their day, hobbies or more importantly, vacation destinations, right? Well, here's number 1 in an occasional series celebrating those naive (or were they ...?) old travel posters. This is from the so called "polite comic play" At Gay Coney Island.

The $750,000 Cruise

A British couple has booked what must be the ultimate round-the-world cruise, with a price tag of a cool half a million pounds (around $750,000).

The January 2012 Crystal Cruises trip starts and ends in LA, with added-on segments from LA to NYC (via the Panama Canal) and from NYC to Dover, England.

The news is reported through travel consortium Elite, who're not giving away any details of the monied travelers, save to say they own one of the UK's biggest flooring companies.

Can you imagine an Atlantis cruise that costs that much, and lasts for months on end? Take a look at our fun "Gayest Dancing on the Gayest Cruises" videos and decide just how many dogtag dances you could endure ...


Walk Like A Roman

Ok, so The Eagle was no Oscar-winner, even if Channing Tatum and the gay love story subplot was rather a laugh. But it did turn our heads east, to the Romans in Britain, and to that monument of gay emperorship, Hadrian's Wall.

Rather Gay Old Travel Posters

This gem from Cuba has a lady dancing awkwardly in the middle of the frame, yet ALL the attention is on the two men in the picture. First, the costumed fellow in his impossibly tight, bluging breeks and open-to-the-sash silk shirt, and then the besuited man in the foreground, watching intently. So, (a) no WAY is either of these guys straight, and (b) the lady will be dancing on her own very soon ...

Yet Another Reason To Vacation In The Dominican Republic

World-famous Pinewood Shepperton, the Brit movie studio group, has announced a major franchise deal in the Dominican Republic, that will give the company a foothold in the burgeoning Latin American market and, we hope, see more A-List Hollywood hotties running around on the beach.

The new studio will cover 35 acres, and feature a colossal water tank for filming outdoor scenes: the tank will be so large (80 yards square) that it will give the impression of a natural ocea horizon, say reports, and will have a diving and marine department.

Here's hoping the studio nails some future Bond films: we might get a glimpse of Mr Daniel Craig in those tiny short shorts of his.

You Can't Be American ... You're Not Loud

The unfortunate overseas view of American tourists as loud, fat and obnoxious, may have changed for the better, reports say.

CNN has compiled various first-hand and expert opinions, plus surveys, and says that fewer Americans are pretending to be Canadians when visiting other countries, and that the popular impression of U.S. travelers is now overwhelmingly positive.

Almost three quarters of the people in France and two thirds of Britons now have a favorable view of the U.S., compared with 39 percent and just half, respectively, back in 2007.

And in a cring-inducing experiment by ABC, American actors pretending to be tourists in France behaved obnoxiously, but cameras recorded most locals being amused, while the only people outraged were fellow Americans embarrassed by their compatriots.

Best of all, a young American couple traveling said that they were most often greeted with surprise when they revealed their nationality: "How come you are skinny?" the locals would ask, expecting fat tourists. "How come you don't shout?"

The Other Ibiza

We all know Ibiza for its huge gay and gay-friendly club nights and days recuperating on the beautiful beaches. But the Spanish island is much more than just a haven for hedonists, and the year-round population of Spaniards and incomers have a lifestyle far removed from the terrace at mega-club Space. As revelers there watch the first flight of the day roar  overhead on its landing approach as the sun rises, the island's villages and farms and fishing boats are all up and busy.

The BBC has a timely feature on all the island has to offer, aimed at those people who may not want to be stumbling in at 7am, but might be heading the opposite way, to explore perfect coves, windswept hilltops and family vineyards.

And if you feel you need a little blast of the wild life, you could always head to San Antonio for the night. But we bet you'll be itching to leave again come morning.

A Pillow Fight Festival? Count us in ...


Hard on the heels of our Gayest Straight Festivals roundup, we're reminded that it'll soon enough be Pillow Fight Day, 2011.

What's the plan? Well, you turn up to a pre-arranged public place with a (hypoallergenic, ideally) pillow and beat the stuffing out of similar-minded people's pillows. Literally.

Before you worry that it'll be just you standing alone and feeling foolish with a pillow, as people make you a Youtube spectacle, we want to point out that this takes place in over 100 cities worldwide. And there're more than a few people who see this as fun, as well as a chance to meet people that – who knows – you might be spending more pillow time with in the future.

It's the brainchild of the urban playground movement, whose aims include, in their own words: "to make these unique happenings in public space become a significant part of popular culture, partially replacing passive, non-social consumption experiences like watching television, and consciously celebrating public spaces in our cities as our 'urban living rooms.' The result, we hope, will be a global community of participants in a world where people are constantly organizing and attending these happenings in every major city in the world."

Oh, and we believe that your regular nightwear will suffice. Though local  police forces might disagree.

NYC: The City That Never Smokes


New York City's famed grittiness has certainly gotten a lot more gentrified this past decade, to mixed reviews. But the health-forward city (remember when calorie counts at chain restaurants got posted?) has taken a huge leap and decided to ban smoking from all of its famous (and not-so-famous) parks.

The new rules, which passed a council vote by 36 to 12, will be in effect by summertime, when millions of visitors come to Central Park to walk, lie in the grass, feed the overfed ducks and, often, to smoke and watch life pass by.

The ban will cover 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches, and also major pedestrian areas such as Times Square's new plaza.

It's unclear who will enforce the ban, and how rigorously, but in the meantime, if you're the type of visitor who flies to NYC, that flight will be a good test of how long you can go without a puff, ahead of a visit to the park.

Thai Airline's Ladyboy Hostesses


Why did no-one think of this before? A soon-to-be-launched Thai airline has selected three ladyboys in its first round of picks for cabin crew.

Peter Chan, boss of PC Air, told reporters: "I think these people can have many careers – not just in the entertainment business – and many of them have a dream to be an air hostess."

"I just made their dream come true. Our society has changed. It's evolution. I'm a pioneer and I'm sure there will be other organisations following my idea."

One of the three is a previous winner of the famed Miss Tiffany "katoey" beauty pageant. "At first I thought they would just take applications but not actually recruit us, as happened at other places before," said Thanyarat "Film" Jiraphatpakorn (pictured above), one of the trio.

PC air didn't demand proof of sexual relignment, merely asked that candidates possessed the requisite skills. Some 100 transexuals applied for the three places set aside for what Thais call "The Third Sex", and will join 17 other winners who identify as men or women.

The trans hostesses will wear specially designed gold-colored Third Sex badges to assists passengers and immigration staff to identify the gender of the person they are talking to.

Rabbie Burns Night, Without The Need to Go To Scotland

Tea towel Haggis

If you've never been to a Burns Supper, where the Scots' loves of the great bard, fine malt whisky and unmentionable animal parts cooked in a sheep's stomach are all combined, then you've not lived.

And while we normally regret that most such nights are held in the old country, and therefore a touch on the expensive side to attend, a tipster passed on details of a gay and lesbian association in NYC that's holding their 2011 event on February 26.

Clann An Uabhair (Family of Pride) are selling tickets to the kilted event, which will feature songs, poems, bagpipes, fiddling (ie, people playing the fiddle...we know how your minds work), dinner and dancing.

If you go, then have fun, and raise a glass to Rabbie Burns on our account. And if you decide to wear a kilt, then remember that it's knees together when exiting a cab.

Ps, the image shown is just a particularly eye-catching and bold Rabbie Burns teatowel, and in no way indicative of the classy event Clann An Uabhair are planning, we're sure.

The World's Most Exotic Male Beauty Contest


The usual ingredients are all there, more or less. There's lots of makeup, dazzlingly fancy outfits, an inordinate amount of strutting, and lots of perfect teeth on display. But there's also exaggerated eye-rolling, and a stunning dance routine that mimicks the poise of the egret. Oh, and all the contestants are men, who may, if picked by the women judges, get a wife, or just a fling.

The Gerewol, practised on rare occasions in the Niger, on the drought-prone fringe of the Sahara Desert, is an old ritual celebrating the fertility the hoped-for rains bring every year.

One such gathering was captured in glorious film by the BBC and will be screened in the UK and available on the BBC's iPlayer here this week, if the tech works properly.

The Wodaabe people are nomadic and only gather like this when there's sufficient water for a few hundred people. The all-male dancers follow a precise set of rules on their appearance: ostrich plumes and pompoms emphasise height, black eyeliner and eye-rolling exaggerates sexual appeal, faces are painted with ochre, black and yellow patterns, and white regular teeth are bared against black lipstick.

As a spectacle, there's little to beat it. And who cares if the ladies get the prizes...not us. Well, not too much.



Architecture We'd Travel To See. #1: The Shard, London



Any ambitious new building is welcome, whether designed to invoke civic pride, provide jobs or just be the tallest/fanciest/poshest in the neighborhood.

And when a landmark building also marks the reinvigoration of a run-down neighborhood, it's doubly welcome. So, a round of applause please for The Shard, which is due completion in 2012, and already towers over the kinda run-down Southwark ("Suthark") area of London.

When done, the jagged building (which was previously to be known as London Bridge Tower, but because of its shape, was soon christened something way more appropriate by those cheeky Londoners, who also gave The Gherkin its name) will rise 1,017 feet above foundations built on a demolished 1970s eyesore tower block, and loom over the previously pretty sketchy London Bridge Station.

The top will contain a public viewing gallery and the structure as a whole will reflect the changing patterns of the sky in a manner designed to change its appearance depending on the weather and season.

The Shard's architect, Renzo Piano, was of course jointly responsible for Paris's lauded Pompidou Centre. His inspirations for The Shard reportedly include the maze of railway lines visible from the site, the masts of tall ships on the river Thames in days gone by, and the London spires of Venetian painter Canaletto.


Service Without A Smile


When we visit Britain we know not to expect certain things, such as blue skies, straight teeth or particularly friendly service. But that last thing, a surliness immortalised in the Brits' own hit tv series Fawlty Towers decades ago (and included above, for nostalgia's sake), is seldom mentioned outright, for fear of causing offence.

Not any more: legendary Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr has broken the taboo and complained loudly about service that is "surly, slapdash and dreadful". He says, in an interview with the BBC: "It's not just in restaurants, you get bad service anywhere," he says. "Even buying a newspaper you can find that you're not even acknowledged. There's no eye contact, no greeting or anything. Bad service is unforgivable and it's everywhere in the UK."

And official findings back him up: the UK came 14th in the 2010 international customer service rankings from the Nation Brand Index, and only one place higher for its "welcome" by visitors.

So why does a country so generally preoccupied with not causing a fuss, fail so badly at manners? "The issue of service in Britain is, maybe, a class problem with service seen as subservient," Roux says. "The old Upstairs-Downstairs syndrome, where it is only for the lower classes."

Whatever the cause, and the Brits' oft-quoted defence that they'd rather have genuine staff serving them than falsely courteous ones, don't expect the same BFF treatment you might get here, when dining in London.


Why Your Pen MUST Look Like Your Plane


If you're a really fancy traveler (and we know we all want to be one), then you KNOW you really need to be filling out your immigration forms with a pen that looks like the Airbus you're flying on, right?

Well, it so happens there's an airline that thinks as fancy as you do, and is enticing passengers to invest in a Montblanc Starliner A380 pen (that last word, "pen", sounds really cheap after the rest of the title, so we'll go along with the official description of it as a "fineliner writing instrument") on a flight, and be entered into a draw to win another, even more fancy pen worth over $19,000 (for pen afficionados it's the Limited Edition Montblanc Skeleton A380 Pen).

The Emirates contest also includes a prize of round-trip tickets to Hambug, Germany, where you will be allowed/made (depending on how much you love pens) to watch craftsmen put the finishing touches on your own pen, then whisked off to see an Emirates Airbus being built.

The offer runs through June, so get busy ...



Biker Beware ... And Nine Other Vacation Scams


You deserve your vacation, you worked hard for it and we're not about to let some lowlife spoil it for you, ok? So we're pleased to report on the ten most common scams/cons/tricks that ruin innocent holidaymakers' trips overseas.

The list, courtesy of Lonely Planet and the BBC, details some cons that are pretty obvious and fall into the category of "If You Fall For This One You Clearly Should Not Leave Home Ever", such as the rickshaw driver (substitute any local vehicle depending on region) who recommends a hotel/gem store/carpet dealer and then proceeds to take you WAY out of your way to a really dodgy shop where you're pressured/bullied/scared into buying something worthless.

Others have been around forever but can be hard to resist unless you're expecting them: the timeshare tout operates on charm and nonstop persistence to entrap you into wasting an afternoon watching a video presentation for a probably-legit but undesirable property deal. You need to instantly refuse their approach, and don't stop to argue!

More cunning are the motorbike scams, which are all variations on the theme of you deciding to see the island/city by hired scooter, and then the machine breaking down through some earlier sabotage by the supplier, or being "stolen" when you leave it for a moment, on account of you having been followed and the spare keys being utilised. In both cases, and all the other slightly different versions, you're bullied into handing over a lot of cash for needless repairs or compensation. Don't rent from small indepenents attached to guest houses or hotels, and take photos of the bike and the owner before you head off, as proof of the state of the machine. Oh, and never ever hand over your passport as security.

There are more, and another 90 NOT listed, but if you keep your wits about you, you'll not fall prey, and you'll have the time of your life!

Bora Bora? More Like Boring Boring, says Sharon Osbourne


"Ozzy and I went to Bora Bora and we hated it so much we renamed it Boring, Boring. It was so dull! We were staying in one of those little huts that are built into the ocean with a glass bottom. It was so boring even the fish didn't bother to swim by." So says our favorite celeb tv reality star, in the "Hell" part of an interview in The Telegraph's excellent  "Heaven and Hell" travel series. Sharon adds: "There was nothing to do, everyone spoke French and the food was c***, too".

Ozzy's long-suffering and ridiculously lovable wife Sharon says that the worst hotel the pair ever stayed in was when they first got together and on tour all the time: "We used to have to stay in hideous bed-and-breakfasts all the time. I remember we arrived at one and our room had eight single beds in it and the walls were damp."

Sharon says she avoids cruise ships like the plague: "One of the worst trips we went on was taking the QE2 to New York. It was hideous. You had to sit at the same table with the same people for every meal. There was no bloody escape."

And says their best ever vacation was when the whole family went to Hawaii in 2010, and names the Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc at Cap d'Antibes in France as the best hotel ever. "It's right on the edge of a cliff, so you can look out on the ocean. The pool is amazing, the food is divine and it's really romantic, too."

Should We Be Afraid of Flying?


Well, the bad news is that 2010 saw 828 people die in air crashes. That's a wee bit more than two a day, and a scary 13 per cent more than in 2009. And what's the good news, you anxiously ask, whilst Googling "vacation +steamboat"? If you look at the stats over the past decade, they show 100 fewer fatal accidents than in the 1990s, that's 10 less than that decade.

And really, you need to look at the big picture: the fatal accident rate may have gone up, but it's still one in 1.3 million flights taken. So, if you flew to work and back every day, you'd be on course for a crash around the year 3790AD.

The stats come from the Ascend consultancy, which produced the figures for the avation industry, and are covered in The Guardian. They show that flights in India, Pakistan and the Middle East accounted for more than 60 per cent of those figures, the worst being the Air India Boeing 737-800 which overran afer landing in Mangalore, killing 158 crew and passengers in May.

Aircraft insurance claims in 2010 reached $1,1bn.

The video above, to cheer us all up, is the happy emergency landing in the campiest of airline movies, Airport, and yes, that is a slightly chub Dean Martin looking embarrassed in the cockpit.

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Few nights are as stressful in the planning as New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay, as the Scots call it. All year, we think it will be the biggest, funnest, wildest party, then suddenly Christmas is here and we realise we've not actually booked anything for Dec 31, and panic sets in.

If that's you, and you don't mind flying by the seat of your pants, then consider Edinburgh, Scotland, the home of Hogmanay. The pocket-sized city's celebrations have always been staggering, and this year, with all the snow, IF you can get there then the place has a fairytale look and feel. Except colder, and way darker.

A lot of sites are pointing last-minute party-goers in Edinburgh's direction: this nice little roundup is from The Telegraph. It suggests parties to attend, places to stay and tips.

But vitally for us, the city's LGBT scene is thriving and exciting, with some very serviceable websites for the partygoer.

And if you're looking to avoid hotels, there are some great websites such as Dickins, offering top-notch local owners who let out their places during holidays.

If you do go, have fun, wrap up warm and learn the words to Auld Lang Syne, which you WILL be singing, tears running down your cheeks, at midnight!

Books We Love: "The Air World"

Air world

On this most awful week for flying (especially to snowbound Europe), what better way to remind ourselves that air travel used to be something special and lovely, than browsing through one of our favorite books on the subject.

The gorgeous publication The Air World: Design and Architecture for Air Travel takes us back to the glory days, with a sumptuous celebration of all that was once great about taking a flight in an airplane. There are essays on the history of air cabin design, uniform fashion, the graphics of air travel posters and the oft-overlooked role that aviation played in inspiring art, architecture and design today. There are also 400+ illustrations.

Best of all? At 10" long each side, and an inch thick, it fits in your carry-on. From