Tag Archives: Gay

Sometimes you just have to make the most of

any precious free time that any of us have, even if that means hopping on a plane (or even taking a short drive) and cramming as much as you can into a 48-hour vacation! And you’d be surprised at just how much you can do with that time!

Montréal in 48

This year is Montréal’s 375th anniversary and also, Canada Pride.  We were fortunate enough to have been invited to celebrate, and it was amazingly fun! I have enjoyed Fierté Montréal nearly every year for the last couple but moved west one year and spent some well deserved time away at Montebello and Kenauk. I hadn’t been back to Montréal until this weekend! I hadn’t returned to Montréal until this weekend!

A Montréal Landmark

The famous Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth welcomed us after a year long renovation, and just in time to celebrate Montréal’s 375th this summer. It's spanking new design blends contemporary décor with a vintage flair, preserving her historic legacy with a nod to the future, encouraging guests and locals alike to enjoy her gracious new public lobbies and spaces. The lobby area now includes Rosélys Restaurant, a gastropub-type restaurant, a mixology bar called Nacarat Bar, a cute café called Krema Café where you can enjoy your coffee and relax by the fireplace, a “business campus” where you can work, relax and be inspired! Early fall will will see the Hotel open an urban market, offering guests seasonal products while supporting local artisans.

 

Give Peace a Chance in Montréal

Did you know? John Lennon and Yoko Ono held separate two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one here at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth. This nonviolent protest against war, in particular, the Vietnam War, is where the song “Give Peace a Chance” was composed and recorded. You can still rent this suite and enjoy many of the mementos of that time. We, unfortunately, did not stay in that suite. The beautifully renovated room overlooked Montréals famous Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral and I felt taken by a “this feels and looks like a New York hotel” inspiration of our room; a sense of urban sophistication and luxury. The bathroom was small but well appointed with the perfect light for selfies! The historic hotel's renovation included a state of the art, redesigned gym, a fantastic indoor pool, and many unique meeting spaces. And when I say unique meeting spaces, I am not kidding around. Just check out these pictures!

In what was one of the best parts of the weekend, the Fairmont hosted a pride party on the 3rd-floor terrace, to which we were happily invited. It was the perfect venue with a great view of the parade.

We managed to pack in a weekend filled with activities!  We hiked up Mont-Royal where you can enjoy some great views of the city below. We shopped on Rue Sainte-Catherine, explored the “underground city” connecting downtown core, enjoyed Montreal smoked meat, and checked-out the pride events in the gay village. We also walked around the cobble lined streets in Old Montreal where you feel like you are in a Canadian version of a romantic European city. We didn’t have enough time this trip, but make sure you check out Scandinave Spa Vieux Montéal or Bota Bota spa if you are in the Old Port area.

We even managed to squeeze in a short trip to Quebec City! You can do a lot with 48 hours! The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is conveniently located right above the rail station, so we took Via Rail from Montreal to Quebec City taking just over 3 hours. I know, it sounds like a lot when you only have 48 hours, BUT there’s something about taking the train that makes a trip feel extra special, especially enjoying the gorgeous views of the rocky, rolling Quebec countryside from the comfort of your train seat. We had 5 hours in Quebec City, and we made the most of it. We checked out the breathtaking Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, understandably one of the most iconic buildings in Canada and one of the most photographed hotels in the world. We strolled the ancient streets and grabbed a quick bite at Lapin Saute, offering cozy, comfort amazing Quebecois country food.

Our trip ended with a short hop back to Montreal for a connecting flight to NYC. The weekend went by fast, but it was amazingly fun. Already, we can’t wait to go back!

 

 

Few countries hold as much 1000 and 1 Nights fascination as Morocco does

and it seems ev­ery­one, gay or straight is plan­ning a visit to this dreamy, fabled country where behind every medina wall an adventure awaits, awash in rainbow colours, art, architecture, and cuisine. Morocco has a romantic reputation as a great destination for mostly French and German tourists, but not necessarily known for being a gay-friendly destination. However, that doesn’t mean that it completely lacks in LGBT tourism. Travel and tourism is strongly supported by the current monarch, Mohammed VI, who hopes to double the tourist visits to Morocco to 20 plus million annual visits in the next five years. Recent developments concerning the imprisonment of a British citizen for 'homosexual acts', two Spanish lesbians appearing topless and tattooed outside a mosque in Rabat and a British couple who had their hotel booking cancelled by British Airways upon discovery that they were Gay, has the LGBT community calling for an all out travel boycott to Morocco. So how much gay travel is there in Morocco? We sat down with a couple of travel experts, one gay, one straight to get the gay scoop on travel in Morocco.

"Morocco is an exceptionally safe country and more liberal than any other Arab state but has strict yet silent social rules about being Gay, especially when exposed to other Moroccans. Concerning planned gay travel tours coming to Morocco, there are no other LGBT-focused travel companies except OUT Adventures arranging group tours of Morocco and there are several gay individuals who prefer to hit the back roads and do their own thing," says Toronto-based OUT Adventures founder Robert Sharp. OUT specializes in small group adventure travel for gay men, their friends, and family and organized our 11-day journey through Morocco. 'The concept of gay is a difficult one in Moroccan culture where family, marriage and having children are pretty much the focus of an individual's life. The idea of not having a wife and kids is alien to many Morrocan gay men. Hence the many closeted men, searching for sex on the down low on hookup apps like Grindr."2015-04-22 at 14-05-00

40% of Morocco’s population is under 25 and is a country where men and women were until very recently, completely divided and sex amongst men not considered gay (Any man assuming the passive role would be regarded as being gay). Although times have changed, it should be noted that homosexuality is still illegal in Morocco. However, the country is very tolerant, and people live and let live and what happens behind closed doors remains there. "Being gay in Morocco is illegal and can be punishable by up to three years in prison, although how much this is enforced varies from region to region. And it should be noted that the law does not apply to non-Moroccan gay and lesbian partners traveling or staying together on their vacations" says Thomas Hollowell, founder of Journey Beyond Travel, one of Morocco’s most renowned in-country tour operators, organizing customized travel itineraries throughout Morocco. 'LGBT travelers to Morocco should use discretion when traveling through the country. In fact, public displays of affection should be avoided by anyone, as the country’s mostly Muslim population are quite conservative in this regard. As this applies to the gay and straight community alike, the gay traveler through Morocco need not take offense with this reality as it is simply a sign of cultural respect."

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Is being gay more acceptable with younger generations versus their parents or grandparents?  "The lack of education and high unemployment amplify potential discrimination. With high levels of unemployment and no welfare state, many young men, straight and gay are turning to prostitution to make a living" says Robert Sharp.  Obviously this activity is illegal, with cases where gay travellers have been blackmailed, robbed or murdered by Hustlers simply on the take. And if the Hustler is a minor, one can expect a lengthy prison sentence.  Sharp continues: “It is common to see Moroccan men holding hands and dancing together in discos, but my understanding is that one should not imply that they are even the slightest bit gay."

With globalization and social media engagement exploding, many young Moroccan men are no longer engaging in these simple, day-to-day, long-held masculine customs. They are now acutely aware that in Western culture such behaviour is considered gay and do not wish to be associated with such a perceived stigma.  Except for our first night in Casablanca where our double bed was split into singles, all of the Moroccan-owned riads that were booked by OUT Adventures upgraded us to their best suite of rooms without question. No hassle. No bother. They even made wine, beer and liquor available with a simple call ahead by our guide. As experienced travelers, we simply needed to be aware of the extreme cultural differences and respect local customs and sensitivities. Gay male and lesbian couples will not find any problems in major hotels in Marrakech, Agadir or Casablanca or any of the major tourist destinations throughout Morocco.  In fact, while no gay scene is evident, Agadir reportedly has a major European gay community that meets in various cafes and bars along the Boulevard Hassan II, enjoying the Moroccan sun, cheap living and the abundance of handsome looking men.

When the sun goes down over North Africa, the terracotta walls of ancient Morocco turn a rich, red hue. Little wonder, then, that as a gay travel destination, this captivating country has been the inspiration for so much art, literature and music. The best advice to gay travellers to Morocco is to be streetwise and bear in mind that you are in a Muslim country where being gay is against the law. Developing relationships with the locals, understanding their views and comfort levels (some areas of Morocco are more religious than others) will serve you well as you travel the dusty back roads and souks of this melting pot of European, African and Arabic influences, where Gay travellers can savour the food, observe the architecture and awake to the mournful call to prayer as it echoes evocatively down narrow, winding streets and over rough and tumble tiled rooftops of this 1000 and 1 Nights, most romantic of countries.