Rainbow High Vacations's Blog

Now we have been to Barcelona a few times before. This gorgeous Catalan city is one of my favourite places in the world: the shopping, the food, the incredible architecture of Antoni Gaudi not to mention the sexy Catalonian men are just a few of the reasons why I love the city.

Located just north-west of the city-centre, Barcelona's gay area is called L'Eixample. The husband and I stay like to stay at the Axel Hotel, a gorgeous old Catalan building in L'Eixample with modern sexy rooms and a spa.  The Axel Hotel, which is a gay hotel but calls itself “heterofriendly”, also has one of the best restaurants in the city and is also only a kilometer away from sights such as Plaza Catalunya and Paseo de Gracia. The pool and hot tub on the roof of the Axel Hotel are worth a try too!

Some of the sights you will not want to miss in Barcelona are Arc de Triomf (quite different from the one in Paris), Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia (still not finished after almost a century), Las Ramblas (ourdoor market) and Park Guell (more Gaudi). But Barcelona really is one of those cities where you should just get lost in the streets. Spend the morning walking and when you get tired, stop for some coffee and enjoy your surroundings. Barcelona has an incredible subway system (yes, even better than Toronto’s) so it’s easy to find your way back to your hotel.

If you are looking for something a tad more gay than Gaudi (as if!), L'Eixample has tons of gay bars and discos catering to all tastes for you to choose from. Try the smaller bars during the early evening and move to the larger dance clubs at night. A little Catalan goes a long way so learn a few words before you leave home.

Just go exploring! We simply picked up a Barcelona gay guide and went strolling around town. In a few days you will have your own list of favourite bars and clubs.  Catalan people are quite friendly and willing to point you in the right direction.

The L'Eixample also has (so I am told) a few bathhouses. Alas, being married I only gleaned information from others but (so I am told) Sauna Casanova is the best place in the area for that sort of thing. However saunas are expensive in Barcelona (so I am told) and will cost you between 15 .00 to 20.00 €.

Another thing I love about Barcelona is that it is so close to Sitges.

Sitges is a beach resort about 35-kilometers south of Barcelona. And trust me, super-gay Sitges is worth the short train ride from Barcelona. Imagine, if you will, hundreds of near-naked gay men on the sand, eating coconuts sold by sexy attendants and splashing in the sea. Late at night, in the dark, the wooden boardwalk along the wall separating the beach from the road becomes full of men walking back and forth or coupling (or tripling) off into shady areas against the old stone wall.

Sitges also has a couple of nude gay beaches a bit of a walk from the main gay beach for anyone who wants to avoid those pesky tanlines.  As well (so I am told) Sitges has a couple of bathhouses (you will be given advertising postcards if you are lying on the beach). The daily foam party (I am told) can get hundreds of men wanting to get clean.

If you plan to stay in Sitges, find a hotel closer to the gay beach. We stayed at Hotel Calipolis right on the beach - a lovely place. Though there is some smaller gay guesthouse in the town as well. And try the paella while you are there. The best paella I had ever had was in Sitges. 

So will it be Barcelona or Gran Canaria for us?

Well I’m leaning toward Gran Canaria while the husband is partial to Barcelona and Sitges. We have to decide soon…

 

Jeffrey Luscombe is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of the award-winning novel, Shirts and Skins. He is also the creator and author of The Gay Groom blog 

www.jeffreyluscombe.com 

The name conjures up images of sangria, paella, old world architecture, and sexy matadors.  But as I write this in Toronto in January, what I am yearning for most are those sunny Spanish beaches. And as luck would have it, Spain is home to one of the most visited winter resorts in Europe – The Canary Islands. And Gran Canaria with its numerous sandy beaches and beautiful dunes is one of the most established LGBT holiday destinations in the world.

But before I tell you about Gran Canaria, let me back up a little and introduce myself.

My name is Jeffrey Luscombe, a freelance writer and novelist here in Toronto. Last Pride Weekend the husband and I were lucky enough to win a trip to Spain from Rainbow High Travel, Air Canada, the Tourist Office of Spain and Paradores Luxury Hotels.  Of course we were thrilled to win a free holiday but how lucky to win a holiday to one of our favourite travel destinations on the globe.

And for the next six months I will be writing this blog on Spain: places to go, things to do, our own planning for the trip etc.

My history with Spain goes back over twenty years. I toured the country (from Pamplona to Madrid to Barcelona and from Seville to Granada) in my early-twenties for six weeks, staying in hostels and drinking Spanish Rioja wine along the way. It was one of the best times of my life and I would return to Spain many times through the years.

Yes, I love Spain.

But though I have been all through the Spanish mainland, I had never made it down to The Canary Islands. This, I thought, had to be rectified! So the husband and I decided that – thanks to Rainbow High Vacations - this year (after spending a week in Madrid and Toledo), we would finally see the Canary Islands. 

As of yet the husband and I have not decided on our Gran Canaria accommodations but we are considering a couple of resorts including a gay resort called Villa Blancas in Maspolamas. Maspalomas and Playa del Inglés, in the southern tip of the island, are where you will find most resorts and where (I am told on good authority) you will find most of the gay action).

Though the husband and I are planning our trip to Spain for next September, the Canary Islands welcome sun-seekers all year due to the mild year-round temperatures. If you're going to the Canary Islands in February or March you'll be able to enjoy the spectacular Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This city, capital of the island of Tenerife, hosts one of the most exiting carnivals in the world. Music, parades, costumes and the crowning of the carnival queen attracts people from all over the world.  This year the carnival will take place from February 28 to March 9, 2014.

Another carnival celebration in the Canary Islands is the one in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. These folks take their Carnival seriously! For weeks leading up to it, the carnival queen contests are held, along with the processions and performances by the “murgas” singers and street dances. The Grand Parade in Las Palmas attracts more than 200,000 people every year.

One of the gayest and most-high-profile events during carnival is the Drag Queen Gala.  In fact so many candidates enter the competition that a pre-qualifying stage is held to decide which drag queens will enter the final. One of the most exciting nights sees live entertainment on the “Big Platforms Night” which has been described as “Carnival in its purest state. Gender transgression, audacity and a total lack of inhibition are combined in a display of new expressions.” This year the Drag Queen Gala will take place on March 7th, 2014.

Not satisfied with just one Gay Pride, Gran Canaria has two! The first is celebrated in the capital city of the island, Las Palmas, in May/June, while in the south of the island, celebrations are held from August 13th through 18th, when Gran Canaria welcomes its annual Dunas Festival, a week of celebrations, parades, parties, shows and boat cruises.

Looking for something a tad more risqué?

How about some nudity? There are a number of clothing optional resorts, both straight and gay, on the island for those looking for that all-over tan.  The gay beach is, of course, also clothing optional where you can rent umbrellas and lounge chairs to make yourself a bit more comfortable. The beach is easy to find. Simply look for the kiosk with the rainbow flag (but let’s be honest, most of us could find a gay beach without the flag).

Behind the gay beach is the (in)famous “Dunes of Gran Canaria”. With bushes peppered among the dunes this has become a hot cruising spot for guys looking for sex during the day.  Avoid them if you are easily shocked; enjoy them if you aren’t. And for those who had no luck in the dunes, you can always have a second chance at romance at the only bathhouse on the island, Sauna Heros in Maspalomas.  In the interest of good investigative journalism I may have to check out the dunes and sauna and report back to you.

Finally there are bars and dance clubs galore in Gran Canaria.  An unscientific check on the Internet found over thirty gay bars on the island. That’s a lot of choice for a small island!

Yes, the husband and I are looking forward to our Spanish holiday. And I am looking forward to sharing a bit of the Spain I love with you over the coming months.

Despedida!

Jeffrey Luscombe is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of the award-winning novel, Shirts and Skins. He is also the creator and author of The Gay Groom blog 

www.jeffreyluscombe.com 

 

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Anti-LGBT Laws In Russia: The Travel Industry Responds

The IGLTA, Rainbow High Vacations & tour operators weigh in

Terrilyn Kunopaski

!!! Anti-LGBT Laws In Russia: Travel Industry Responds

For over a month, Russia has been making headlines thanks to a new legislation prohibiting "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors." 

In 2012, the country welcomed nearly 56,000 Canadian travellers, and all eyes have been in its direction with the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 and FIFA World Cup in 2018. 

But the new laws – which are indisputably anti-gay, when you get right down to it – are sparking widespread reaction across the globe and while some are calling for a boycott of the Olympics, others are suggesting a boycott in travel. 

Read more...

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Pat at Sydney Mardi Gras This month's passionate traveller is Pat Barry, Destination Specialist. Find out why Pat is so passionate about Sydney Mardi Gras… read more
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Irene from PFLAG Toronto PFLAG Toronto (Parents, Familes, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is one of Toronto’s most influential Queer-relevant charitable organizations and a necessary LGBTQ resource in Queer communities across North America. In celebration of Toronto Pride, Rainbow High Vacations is thrilled to have Irene Miller, President of PFLAG Toronto, as this month's Passionate Traveller, and share a few of her thoughts about Pride Week in Toronto, and why attending Pride is so important. read more
Richard Toledo in Puerto Vallarta Richard Toledo, RHV's South America / Cruise Specialist, returned from his first holiday to Puerto Vallarta. Bears, twinks, body buffs, and even the occasional gal-pal joined him for a week in the gayest beachfront playground in Mexico. read more