LGBT Issues tagged posts

Two and a Half Days in Johannesburg – Apartheid Museum, Neighbourgoods Market, Soweto Township Tour

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This is part 17 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I really had no idea what to expect of Johannesburg. Lots of folks had suggested it was skippable, or the kind of city you can breeze through in a day.  I ended up having three nights and two full days there, but I actually wish I’d had a day or two more — especially since one of my days was a Sunday.   Overall, the city is completely different from Cape Town.  Whereas Cape Town feels like a touristy version of San Francisco, Johannesburg is more like L.A., with an urban core, extremely spread out, and not walkable at all.  It also was far more racially integrated than Cape Town.

My hotel stays, as covered in other posts, were split between Sandton and Rosebank, two of the mor...

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Exploring Cape Town: Part 2: District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket Square and Cape Town Pride

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This is part 7 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

After the disaster of my Cape of Good Hope day and early bedtime, I was committed to make the most of my two days left in Cape Town – which I think I did.  By total coincidence, the weekend ended up being scheduled as Cape Town Pride, which is much smaller than other prides I’ve to in cities like Vienna or Sydney Mardi Gras, Although the whole week was Pride week, the only real big events were on Saturday – which worked out great for me, as it allowed me to explore the other aspects of the city without feeling I was missing out.

District Six Museum


I got an early start and took an Uber to the District Six Museum...

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Trip Report: Three Days in Wellington

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This is part 5 in a series about my November 2016 trip to New Zealand, booked off a $215 mistake fare.

Wellington bills itself as “the coolest little capital in the world.”  Although the urban area has a population of 400,000, it feels a lot smaller.  The feel to me was like a smaller San Francisco or Vancouver.  The whole downtown is very walkable, and it is extremely safe.  Consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities, it’s easy to see why.   I had gotten different advice on how much of my time to spend in Wellington, but I knew the first day wouldn’t be very full, so I decided on 3 days, which was a good amount, though I could have done longer if I ventured farther outside the city.

Wellington Harbour

Wellington Harbour

I resisted the urge to go right to sleep upon checking into my hotel.  The Intercontinental is right on the waterfront, and it was a beautiful day – sunny in the mid-60s — so I wandered in that direction.   One thing that I loved that afternoon was seeing so many people out on what seemed to be lunch or afternoon breaks, sitting on the many plazas and reading or chatting or taking a coffee.  The weather in Wellington stayed beautiful my whole time there, so I was really fortunate.

Queen's Wharf, with Wellington Museum on the right

Queen’s Wharf, with Wellington Museum on the right

Right across...

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Reflections on Orlando, Pride, and Bars

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Some may say this isn’t a travel post.  Some may say it’s “personal.”  But for me, travel is personal.  And more importantly, there’s an important message I want to share, and this is one of the platforms I have to do so.  I’m exhausted and have been writing a lot, so this is a bit stream of consciousness-y.

I woke up early on Sunday morning.  I was already feeling like I was missing my gay “family” a bit, as I was missing DC’s Pride weekend in order to be with my family in New York.  And as soon as I checked my phone, I saw the news of what happened in Orlando.  50 dead, 50 injured. Out on a Saturday night at a gay party, like I’ve been on dozens of nights, like I was on Friday night.  As I read the stories, I felt the tears in my eyes.

I don’t know anyone in Orlando who was at Pu...

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Exploring Mykonos, the Geranium Hotel, and Scooter Shenanigans

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And then I was in Mykonos and the vacation could truly begin!

There’s a whole range of hotels in Mykonos. There are many beachside resorts on the island, which can go for upwards of a thousand dollars a night. There are also hostels and small inns in Mykonos Town. The resorts are not convenient if you want to spend the evenings taking advantage of Mykonos’s night life. When I went to Mykonos in 2011, I had decided to stay at Geranium, one of two gay hotels about a 15 minute walk up a hill from the town. The other one is Elysium, which is more expensive and more of a party hotel, which hosts a nightly drag show and sunset happy hour. Geranium is a short walk up the hill from Elysium, so it makes for a good alternative.

Poolside at the Geranium

Poolside at the Geranium

Geranium is not a luxury hotel, but the staff is super friendly and, most importantly, the pool is phenomenal. There is a range of rooms, including more apartment-style rooms, and I went with a mid-level room for150 Euros a night, which included all taxes, a welcome drink, and transfers to and from the airport.

It was a super short ride from the airport to the hotel, and I checked into my room on the second floor. The room was basic, but clean, with a double bed, chair, and a small private balcony facing away from the ocean. There was also a shared balcony in front of the room, which had spectacular views of the water – particularly at sunset! And of all the hotels I’ve stayed in, this was one where I spent the least amount of time in the room. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was out and about, or at the pool.

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Exploring Sydney and Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

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I did too much in Sydney to capture well in a blog post, but I really enjoyed the city. The weather was just gorgeous the entire time I was there, made even better by the fact that it was snowing back home. But I figured I’d provide some highlights of the city itself, and its Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade and Party, which was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.6

As a city, Sydney very much reminded me of Toronto and Vancouver, but with better weather. It was spotless, with mostly 20th century architecture but a smattering of lovely colonial buildings. The central business district, where I spent most of time, emptied out a fair bit in the evenings, though there were some areas like “The Rocks” that had more vibrant nightlife. All told, it was one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever been to.1 2

Downtown Sydney

Downtown Sydney

When I first arrived at my hotel, the Radisson Blu Plaza (to be reviewed in a separate post), my room wasn’t ready. I ended up spending about an hour trying to find a Vodafone shop, as I was having trouble activating my sim card, only to find that it was already activated. But over the course of my search, I got to see the central business district during a busy weekday, with lots of businessmen at food courts, people shopping, street performers, the works. I picked up some food for breakfast at Coles, and some wine at Liquorland, and headed back to the hotel for a proper check-in.

Once checked in, I went back out to walk along Circular Quay on the harborfront, just blocks away from the hotel. From here, you get lots of the money shots of Sydney. The Opera House is perched on one end of the Quay (and uglier up close), and the Harbour Bridge on the other, rising above an older area of Sydney referred to as “The Rocks”, which is basically now a yuppie/hipster place with cute bars and restaurants in historic buildings.   Public ferries were coming and going to areas all over the metro area, and hawkers were selling and playing Didgeridoos. It was a great vibe, though hot.

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Thoughts on Abu Dhabi, Part 2: Ethical Travel, LGBT Rights in the UAE, and Why One Blogger Should Be Ashamed of Himself

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I have spent most of my professional life thinking about issues of injustice and inequality. When I travel, I try not to let these concerns dominate my thinking. I remember a speaker I heard in college, some noted activist whose name I can’t recall, who made the point that people working in social justice fields should not feel bad about taking vacations or indulging themselves outside of work, because you need that stress relief and recharging in order to be your best in your justice-related work. Nonetheless, I think I do think about injustice and inequality in the places I visit a bit more than the average traveler while vacationing, and it would be weird if I didn’t.

As I mentioned in my introductory post on this trip, I had a lot of ethical concerns about traveling to the UAE. These fall into three categories. The one that likely concerned my mother the most was the relationship between the UAE and Jews. The UAE does not recognize the existence of the State of Israel. I am very moderate on my views of Arab-Israeli relations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, favoring a two-state solution, and wishing that both the left and the right outside Israel learn that there is nothing mutually exclusive between (1) supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist and (2) being willing to criticize specific policies of the current government in Israel. As I frequently explain many times, I support the existence of the USA, yet am opposed to specific policies of even the current government, which I voted for (twice). I think refusing to recognize a nation’s existence is silly, but that alone is a foreign policy decision that didn’t cause me much sturm und drang. I also checked online, and the UAE has made clear that all US passport holders are admitted, regardless of what stamps are on their passport, so my Israel stamp from 2012 wouldn’t be an issue.

The other two areas were of much greater concern. First, the UAE runs on inequality. The luxurious premium cabins that bloggers fawn over either don’t make money, or just get money from the richest of the rich. Yet the airlines get massive subsidies to provide these services just for the sake of image. As I learned first hand, as a coach passenger, there really isn’t anything special about Etihad coach travel. The airlines are held as the gold standard because they put showers in planes and fancy menus in their lounges, but the majority of people you meet in Abu Dhabi are poor. Very poor, and working hard. Some may say that they have a better standard of living than they would if they hadn’t left their homes and families to come work for rich Emiratis, businessmen, and spoiled brat bloggers who come to stay at luxury hotels, but that echoes the arguments that have always been historically made to defend what is essentially wage slavery. It also isn’t necessarily true; the laws to protect migrant workers are not very good. It apparently is common for domestic servants to come and work in the Emirates and surrender their passports to their employers immediately, being stuck inside the country. The society is not one “melting pot.” As I learned from reading the classified newspaper, racial and ethnic segregation is alive and well, and tolerated in rental ads.

Legal segregation in Abu Dhabi

Legal segregation in Abu Dhabi

The other area that gave me huge doubts is the human rights situation broadly. The UAE is a terrible place for free speech, for women, and for LGBT people. It is not a democracy, but pretty much a totalitarian theocracy. If there’s any doubt, photos of the Sheikh and his family dominate the landscape.

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Croatia Trip Report: Rovinj: The Disappointment Capital of Croatia

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Rovinj Sunset

Rovinj Sunset

Putting aside my horrific hotel stay, Rovinj was disappointing overall, and I ended up regretting making the schlep to that part of Croatia as opposed to just going to Split or Slovenia.  It started out poorly when I arrived at the airport, and my pre-arranged transfer was nowhere to be found.  I went with the 40-minute, 40 dollar ride, as opposed to a bus into downtown Pula, followed by a second bus to Rovinj.  I waited about ten minutes and was about to hire a new transfer when a disheveled man came running over to me, “Mr. Adam!” He explained there was terrible traffic, oh, and he couldn’t help me with my luggage into the car because he was all bandaged on his face and hands from a fall. He was actually quite entertaining in his messiness...

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Trip Report: Trying to Ring them Bells, or Two Days in Dubrovnik

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Trying to Ring them Bells, or Two Days in Dubrovnik

Please forgive my absence from the blogosphere.  I’ve been dealing with a difficult personal situation that puts travel, points, and blogging in their proper perspective.  But I’m hoping to catch up and churn out posts from my August trip to Croatia this week.

Pile Gate, entry to Old Town

Pile Gate, entry to Old Town

Dubrovnik has long had a reputation of being a gorgeous waterfront escape, with a rich and historic old town.  Unfortunately, that reputation has gotten out, and, at least in August while I was there, Dubrovnik’s Old Town resembled the Coliseum in Rome, or the Parthenon in Athens – wall to wall tourists.  The city is still beautiful, though.

Old Town Dubrovnik

Old Town Dubrovnik

The Old Town itself is very small, and very walkable.  I did a walk around the entire area in about 15 minutes in the afternoon after arriving.  Even the smaller side streets were non-navigable, as tourists from Europe and several German cruise ship excursions flooded the streets, with their shops of overpriced tourist shlock and underwhelming pizza places.

The side streets of Dubrovnik

The side streets of Dubrovnik

The streets of Dubrovnik

The streets of Dubrovnik

On my second day,...

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Trip Report: Exploring Vienna and Vienna Pride: Regenbogenparade!

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Exploring Vienna

(Yes, there’s more to travel than hotels, airplanes, and airplane lounges; and unlike some other bloggers,  I’ll share LGBT attractions of  interest I’ve seen from the road.)

It was a gorgeous day in Vienna when we arrived, and we figured we’d wander and explore the neighborhood around our hotel.   As we approached the Hofburg Palace, the Habsburgs’ Winter Residence, we learned that not only was it Pride Weekend,  but it was Fashion Night Out in Vienna, and the Hofburg was actually serving as the home of a runway show, which was an interesting sight.  We didn’t actually go into any of the museums of the Hofburg, but the complex itself was majestic and beautiful.

Hofburg entrance

Hofburg entrance

Vienna Fashion Night Out Runway Show

Vienna Fashion Night Ou...

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