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SPRING 2008 | Rooms With the Write Stuff

SPRING 2008 | Rooms With the Write Stuff

Check into stylish lodgings where celebrated gay authors once rested their pens.

Willa Cather: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City, Canada
History and literature intertwine at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (418-692-3861;; from $199), where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather stayed in the late '20s and '30s while working on her Quebec-set historical novel "Shadows on the Rock". Built in 1893 with Scotch bricks and copper roofing, the multitowered 618-room property rises above the city from Cap Diamant like a Renaissance castle. A portrait of Count de Frontenac, the hotel's namesake and an influential Cather character, hangs in the lobby. Upgraded Fairmont Gold rooms on the 14th-17th floors of the central tower overlook the 400-year-old historic district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the glistening St. Lawrence River -- views that mirror Rock's opening scene on rocky Cap Diamant: "Directly under his feet was the French stronghold -- scattered spires and slated roofs flashing in the rich, autumnal sunlight; the little capital which was then the subject of so much discussion in Europe, and the goal of so many fantastic dreams." More novel delights: Take the Funicular from Dufferin Terrace in front of the Frontenac to Lower Town to visit Notre-Dame-des-Victoires with its castle-shaped altar, then amble back uphill, stopping at the Quebec Seminary, whose courtyard sundial inspired the book's title. When history lessons end for the day, the gay bars on Côte Sainte-Geneviève are a short walk from the landmark hotel.

The Beat Writers: Relais Hotel du Vieux, Paris
Boho bibliophiles who embrace literary edginess but don't want grungy accommodations to match can get a fix at the Latin Quarter's Relais Hotel du Vieux (Metro stop: Saint Michel; 866-376-7831;; from approximately $274), the 1991 upgrade of the legendary Beat Hotel. "I view life as a fortuitous collaboration ascribable to the fact that one finds oneself in the right place at the right time," said gay Beat poet-novelist Brion Gysin in "The Third Mind." "For us, the 'right place' was the famous 'Beat Hotel' in Paris, roughly from 1958 to 1963." In that 42-room dive, built in 1480 and known only by its Beat nickname, the resident artists shared one shower, sheets were changed monthly, and queer inspiration filled the air: Allen Ginsberg polished "Kaddish" and William Burroughs tweaked "Naked Lunch". Today, the transformed boutique property -- located a block from the Seine on narrow Rue Git-le-Coeur -- provides visual poetry with original 15th-century exposed beams and marble bathrooms in its 19 individually decorated rooms, some with Parisian rooftop views. Photographs of the Beat Generation guests grace the lobby, and the café culture of their heyday continues to thrive outside the doors. (Don't miss nearby bookstore and Beat hangout Shakespeare and Company, opened in 1951.) Should the urge for a modern-day queer experience strike, stroll across the river to the très gay Marais district for beats of the disco variety.

Tennessee Williams: Crowne Plaza La Concha Key West, Fla.
"We arrived in Key West and occupied a two-room suite on the top of the hotel La Concha [800-745-2191;; from $199] and it was there that I really began to get ["A Streetcar Named Desire"] into shape," Tennessee Williams wrote in his memoirs. "It went like a house on fire." Sixty years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning gay playwright's pivotal stay, the spiritual home of Stanley and Stella still presides over Duval Street, the resort town's main drag and site of a half-dozen gay bars. A 1986 renovation returned the seven-story pale yellow property, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, to the splendor of its 1920s debut: think marble floors, art deco fixtures, period antiques, and historical photographs -- including shots of fellow guests Ernest Hemingway and Harry Truman. Set the stage for a memorable stay by booking the Tennessee Williams suite (from $349) and then taking in one of Key West's applause-inducing sunsets from the hotel's rooftop bar, the highest vista on the island; The Top's wraparound observation deck delivers panoramic views from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico with the town's handcrafted conch houses nestled in between. Another queer literary must-do: the Saturdays-only Gay and Lesbian Historic Trolley Tour meanders past the house Williams purchased post-"Streetcar" success.

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