Traveling In Gay Europe - Final Destination: Cologne

Our European travel series for gay men concludes. First we showed you Vienna, Austria. Then we took you to Munich, Germany. Now Instinct is pleased to present you with a tour of culturally rich and historical Cologne.

The fourth-largest city in Germany and former Roman colony has the famous Rhine snaking through it and a robust gay culture. Cologne’s annual Pride festivities draw about one million people from all over Europe.

Bars are located in two areas just about two metro stops apart. Old Town, closer to the river, caters to men 50+ as well as leather and fetish. More popular, attracting a younger crowd, is Bermuda Triangle, near Rudolfplatz. The intersection of Schaafenstrasse and Mauritiuswall is where one finds lively watering holes of many types. ExCorner has a casual beer-loving vibe and I saw birthday parties and Oktoberfest celebrated in equal measure. One thirtysomething had multiple glasses of beer lined up on a window sill. At only two Euros per glass, I suppose he could afford it.

IRON is more sophisticated featuring an all-black interior accented with purple neon lighting. Here I spoke with an American (who didn’t want to give me his name for this article) living with his husband in Germany. When I commented on how mixed the crowd was, he told me it is normal for gay men and women to hang out together in Cologne. His identity preserved, we both smiled at the handsome Iranian (and straight) bartender who felt embarrassed his German wasn’t “good enough.” Who was I to judge? I ordered my second drink in English.

Saunas are popular in Cologne too. Badehaus Babylon, a gorgeous Italianate villa made of red brick, offers three floors of fun including an outdoor pool (allowing office workers to be voyeurs from their skyscrapers surrounding the facility). Drawing a diverse clientele, there were men of all ages and types, from thin, pimply teenagers (the age of consent is 14) to white-haired older men. In contrast to years ago when I first visited, this time I noticed many Middle Eastern men (Cologne has a sizeable and growing Muslim population). One reason they stood out was the swimming trunks they wore. Most men wrap a towel around their hips, or wear nothing at all. And in comparison to the US, condoms are a big deal in Germany. PrEP is not yet widely available in Europe like it is in the States, so one finds condoms everywhere, as well as posters stressing safer sex.

Lastly, there are two absolute cultural musts in Cologne. Museum Ludwig, with its permanent and visiting modern art exhibits, features Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns. Cologne Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began in 1248 and wasn’t completed until 1880. Both are located on the Domplatte, not far from the main train station.

If You Go – Cologne


Cologne Bonn Airport is a regional one so it is difficult to fly direct to or from the USA. Connections via Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin should be expected. Cologne is served by high-speed rail if you travel in and away by train. Deutsche Bahn offers Sparpreis saver fares for booking in advance online and one-way tickets can cost as little as 19 euros.


Hotel NH Collection Köln Mediapark, Im Media Park 8b; +1 212 219 7607


Bei Oma Kleinmann, fantastic traditional German food popular with locals – get the schnitzel with a pint of Kölsch, the signature local brew; Zuelpicher Str. 9; +49 221232346

Bastian’s, charming bakery café serving jaw droppingly-good rolls and pastries; Auf dem Berlich 3-5; +49 221 25083412


Badehaus Babylon Cologne, one of the most beautiful and popular saunas in Europe; Friesenstraße 23-25; +49 221 4207 4577

ExCorner, Schaafenstraße 57-59; +49 221 233 6060

IRON, Schaafenstraße 45; +49 221 2764 9614

Museum Ludwig, Heinrich-Böll-Platz; +49 221 22126165

Cologne Cathedral, Domkloster 4


Travel Thursday: Traveling In Gay Europe - Say Hello To Munich

Welcome to the second installment of Instinct’s three-part gay travel series looking at a trio of Europe’s most charming locations. Yesterday we gave you a glimpse into gay Vienna, and tomorrow we take you to historical Cologne. But today let’s visit the capital of Bavaria: Munich.

English-speaking residents have a nickname for this city: Toytown (apparently due to its great quality of life, which I can vouch for). I first visited in 2007 and fell in love, with both the city and a resident. Jochen and I were drinking beer at an outdoor community table, at a café that no longer exists, when I addressed the waitress as fraülein. Major faux pas. He leaned over to educate me. “We don’t use that word anymore,” he said. “It’s considered sexist.” Always one for political correctness paired with an accent, a long distance romance lasting a year-plus was born.

Die Deutsche Eiche (“the German oak”) is home to a restaurant, hotel and sauna all in one. A former epicenter of gay culture for decades, glass-enclosed wall displays present a brief history lesson evidenced by photos and video of German drag queens fighting for social change. Continue to the back and either check into your room or hit a buzzer to be let into the sauna, a massive four-story facility complete with locker rooms, showers, mazes, cubicles, movie theatre, Jacuzzi, saunas and steam room. The hotel has been renovated and the rooms are very comfortable (if expensive) with tasteful wood floors, double-paned windows, new beds and modern bath fixtures. I prefer rooms in the back, away from the street, for their peaceful urban garden setting.

The restaurant’s charm makes you feel you are in the Bavarian countryside. The food is fair, the service professional, and the draft beer delicious. Jochen, now 46, and I remain friends after all these years and we met for dinner. Besides being a landscape architect, he is also a talented water colorist and has been married for six years to a Frenchman who works for Cartier. When asked about Munich’s current gay culture he said, “I’m not sure that there is one anymore. I think there are these places called ‘subs.’”

Indeed, we walked along Müllerstrasse, once the gay boulevard of Munich. Stopping in front of a sterile-looking building, on the street level was a bar/cafe doing its best not to look like a gay community center. A green neon sign flashed “Sub,” as in subculture. Roughly twenty people under 35, men and women, chatted, drank and played pool. Continuing down Müllerstrasse I saw former LGBT clubs – including one I once saw filled with soap suds for an all-night sex party – now gone, either empty or now simply mainstream businesses.

Having been to Germany so many times now, I’ve seen Munich change. Gärtnerplatz, once the LGBT Ground Zero is now a fashionable neighborhood notable for its roundabout mini-park, historic theatre, trendy eateries and moms pushing strollers. You may also spot German soccer superstars and celebrities lunching at the charming Café Cotidiano, though it helps to have a national with you to appreciate the honor.

Tomorrow’s destination: Cologne (via train from Munich: 5-6 hours)

If You Go – Munich


Munich Airport is served by all major airlines, with nonstop flights from a number of U.S. cities. You can also travel by train when already in Europe.


Hotel Cocoon Sendlinger Tor, Lindwurmstraße 35; +49 89 59993907;

Hotel Deutsche Eiche, Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0;


Deutsche Eiche, traditional Bavarian cuisine; Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0;

Restaurant Cotidiano, fashionable atmosphere, fresh pastries and teas; Gärtnerplatz 6; +49 (0) 89 2420786-10


Gärtnerplatz, charming circular park and neighborhood in the middle of the city, former center of LGBT Munich; Eiche Sauna, Reichenbachstraße 13; +49 (89) 23 11 66 – 0;

Sub, Müllerstr. 14; +49 0 89 8563464-00;

Munich Gay Oktoberfest, annual beer-loving event for LGBTs. Plan ahead!


On The Prowl In Gay Europe – First Stop: Vienna

Welcome to Instinct’s three-part travel series giving you a peek into modern gay culture in Vienna, Munich and Cologne – three of Europe’s most amazing cities. Tomorrow and Friday we’ll delve into two of Germany’s hottest destinations for gay male travelers – but today it’s all about Austria’s capital, Vienna.

Along the banks of the Danube, The City of Music feels like a European Washington, DC, with wide avenues, city parks and “wedding cake” architecture to match. Chock full of diplomats, NGOs and English-speaking professionals from all over the world, a distinct Gay Village lies ensconced between the Mariahilf and Wieden neighborhoods, not far from the center of this gorgeous and sophisticated metropolis.

Using and the tourism office’s Gay & Lesbian Guide (on paper and as an app), I unsurprisingly had a host of bars, clubs, restaurants, and saunas to choose from. I visited the Eagle first. Featuring a retail counter selling t-shirts, poppers, and leather/BDSM accouterments (like cockrings), it’s marketed as a cruise bar. Men can drink and flirt before having sex in a dimly lit back room. Nowhere close to sanitary, it provides an effective taboo vibe patrons aged mid-20s to 60-plus clearly enjoy.

For a no less social, but definitely less sexual vibe, Village Bar is a great choice. Cozy, modern and welcoming, with little red glass lanterns hanging from the ceiling, I heard several Americans talking about their careers in the States. Handsome and friendly bartender Andrew (“That’s my artist name.”) speaks perfect English and will recommend you imbibe the local Viennese beer, Gösser, vom fass (on tap). Nearly every region in Austria and Germany has brewed its own signature beer for hundreds of years. When I travel I sample as many as I can – they are like cultural fingerprints.

One evening a fake Grindr profile lured me to Ken Club, a monthly LGBTQ dance party playing deep house. Perhaps best left for the young (I am 51), I found a dark, crowded, smoky bar with deafening music and a lot of rude, inebriated twenty-somethings stumbling down stairs leading to a packed dance floor. Not a lost cause, however. I found respite near the main bar when I kissed a cute Brazilian diplomat working on nuclear policy for the United Nations. Unable to walk since a young age, he confessed, “You wouldn’t believe how many guys buy me drinks just because they see this wheelchair.” Actually, I could; I had become one of them.

Finally, there are four saunas in Vienna, with the crown jewel being Kaiserbründl. Unlike the dank, unclean sex clubs found in American cities, saunas in Germany and Austria are highly social places where friends arrive in groups, particularly on Sunday afternoon, share a beer, coffee or cigarette before and after finding distraction. At Kaiserbründl you may choose a Jacuzzi surrounded by North African-themed arches decorated with mosaic tile, basic sauna or steam room, or a dramatic solarium dominated by a crystal chandelier hovering above you. They also have a large restaurant on the street level. Penne all’Arrabbiata was the special the day I was there.

Tomorrow’s destination: Munich (via train from Vienna: 4 hours)

If You Go – Vienna


I flew from LAX nonstop on Lufthansa. VIE, the city’s international airport is served by all major airlines.


Rent a great apartment for $100 per night or less;


Lugeck, a delicious modern twist on traditional Viennese cuisine; Lugeck 4; +43 1 512 50 60;


Eagle Vienna, Blümelgasse 1; +43 1 587 2661;

Village Bar, Stiegengasse 8; +43 676 358 4842;

Kaiserbründl, Weihburggasse 18-20; +43 (0) 1 513 32 93;




Handsome Fashion Exec Comforts Gayle King During Flight

On a recent flight from LAX to JFK, Oprah’s BFF Gayle King seemed to have a bit of a panic when the flight encountered some more than usual turbulence. The journalist seemed to be frantic when a nearby first class traveler turned to Gayle and held on to her hand to comfort her during her breakdown.

Gayle took to social media to acknowledge the traveler for supporting her during the scary flight. It turns out that the traveler is Ralph Lauren executive, Dennis Adler, who was on his way home. Adler is ADORABLE and a gentleman—and did I mention he and his husband make a handsome couple?!

Just look at this coverage in Vogue from his BREATHTAKING wedding to husband David Gevurtz last year! I can't even function after absorbing all that beauty.

Where is the Dennis Adler on all MY cross-country flights? Maybe I should fly first class more often?

Along with Adler, Gayle received a lot of relief from a flight attendant who gave Gayle some reassurance that they were safe high in the clouds.

Sit back and relax, Gayle! You’re in first class—have a drink! And be sure to have sexy fashion guys around to hold your hand every time you travel. That counts as a carry-on right?

Travel Thursday: Guanajuato's Magic, Surrealism and Romance

Travel Thursday: The Magic, Surrealism and Romance of Guanajuato

I recently traveled to the state of Guanajuato in Mexico for a friend’s destination wedding. While many people may imagine of sandy beaches or redwood forests when they think of the ideal destination weddings, Guanajuato, one of the most historic regions in Mexico was one trip I simply could not miss.

Located in the Central region of Mexico, Guanajuato has always been on my bucket list of places to visit because of the richness in culture and history that I knew I would find. It offers incredible architecture, beautiful art, food that even now my mouth waters for, and so much to experience for the traveler who is looking for the authentic Mexican experience in a surreal and magical destination.

There was so much to see, do, eat, drink, enjoy in Guanajuato that it is so hard to share it all. Although we were there with a larger group, my partner and I had already put together an itinerary of things we had to hit on our journey. While I have not included everything here, I’ve given the MUST SEE/DO locations that will make your trip to Guanajuato a fulfilling one.

Food and drink was plentiful so to recount my gastronomical escapades would be eternal. But I will share one or two spots per destination where you can feed your taste buds and wet your whistle.


Upon arriving to Guanajuato’s capital city, Guanajuato, I was immediately taken aback by the immense colors of homes sitting atop the hills of the town that grew larger as we approached. We drove into the city’s center via Guanajuato’s calles subterráneas (underground streets) that weave in and out of each other and magically transport you through its arteries of passage from one side of the city and opens into the heart of the city’s plaza. Like nothing I had ever seen before, these catacomb-style streets are one of the city’s most iconic sites and are nothing short of an eerie scene from a horror movie. But they’re amazing!

We checked into the Hotel Edelmira Boutique a beautiful hotel situated in Guanajuato’s main plaza that dates back to the nineteenth century. Our group enjoyed the historic architecture mixed with modernity of the hotel’s indoor pool, exposed brick, and incredible sites overlooking Guanajuato’s grandeur.

El Pípila

Located atop a hill overlooking the breathtaking site of all of Guanajuato, this giant statue of a miner who was one of the first heroes in the struggle for Independence. Standing at the foot of this statue really lets you take in the essence of Guanajuato with its rainbow of houses, churches, and tiny roads.



El Callejón del Beso (Kiss Alley)

Without a doubt Guanajuato tapped into our romantic side with its illustrious alleys and colorful streets. But quite possibly the most famous and legendary street in all of Mexico is a tiny alley where two buildings are just less than 5 feet apart from one another. Legend has it that two unfortunate lovers shared a romance that ended in death at the alley. Kissing on the third step of the callejón promises to bring a couple 15 more years of happiness and love. So of course…we had to!

Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato (Mummy Museum of Guanajuato)

This oddity is one of the trip stops that is most popular on any visit to Guanajuato. As we entered this museum, we were immediately overcome by a morbid curiosity turned churning feeling in our stomachs. The dozens of bodies that are now preserved in the museum tell a historic tale of Guanajuato’s government and struggles with class. Spanning over 150 years since the first mummified body was extracted from the Santa Paula Pantheon, this museum will leave you wincing even though you won’t be able to look away.

Museo Casa Diego Rivera

For the art-lovers out there, the home of Mexican painter Diego Rivera is located not far from Guanajuato’s central plaza. We toured Rivera’s childhood home and experienced lots of his early works that were undoubtedly inspired by his hometown.

Eat & Drink

La Clave Azul – Some of the greatest mezcal I have tasted outside of the state of Oaxaca. This hidden gem in Guanajuato is at the end of an alley that becomes a three-story cantina decorated by eclectic artifacts and memorabilia. We drank here until the wee hours of the morning and even closed down the bar. Right before wandering off to the Callejón del Beso.

Enchiladas Mineras (miner enchiladas) – This street food will make you utterly happy! After a long day of touring (or a night of drinking) this twist on regular enchiladas is something typical of Guanajuato and whose name comes from the many silver mines located in the state. Enchiladas smothered in sauce, queso fresco, potatoes, carrots and served with a side of equally delicious chicken. You are bound to find these anywhere while you are in Guanajuato—but the best places are called fondas, which is a restaurant right out of people’s homes. Don’t be afraid! This is some of the best food around and at a very small fraction of what you would pay at a regular restaurant. If you can get some recommendations from locals or your hotel, take them up on their suggestions. You’ll be dreaming about those enchiladas for months to come.

Dolores Hidalgo

On a day trip toward San Miguel de Allende, we stopped at the town of Dolores Hidalgo which is known to be the town where the battle for Mexican independence was born. Here is where the famous Mexican cry for independence was first shouted by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla—a shout that is often heard in regional music from Mexico.

Tumba de José Alfredo Jimenez (Resting Place of José Alfredo Jimenez)

Prior to reaching the town’s plaza, we arrived at resting place of José Alfredo Jimenez, who is the godfather of Mariachi music. Hundreds of people gathered the colorful sarape mosaic to pay their respects to the man who gave birth to a Mexico’s most popular genre of music. Believe me, it’s like what Graceland is for Elvis fans.

Plaza Principal – Jardín del Grande Hidalgo (Main Plaza)

Dolores Hidalgo is one of Mexico’s primary producers of ceramics, which we saw in every single storefront. These hand-painted pieces of art

Around the town’s central plaza we were welcomed by homemade ice cream vendors that offered unconventional flavors. Flavors such as butter, cactus, beer, tequila, avocado, shrimp cocktail and more--this definitely is not your typical Baskin Robbins.

Eat & Drink

Nieves (Ice Cream) – Anywhere around the main plaza in Dolores Hidalgo you will find these vendedores de nieves (ice cream vendors) where you will have your pick some obscure ice cream flavors. This is the livelihood of these vendors and they take pride in making visitors smile. Take advantage of the endless samples they provide and try yours in a cup or in a cone.

San Miguel de Allende

A great appeal to traveling to Guanajuato for me was the possibility of visiting San Miguel de Allende. This colonial-era city is known for its vibrant cobblestoned plaza, baroque Spanish architecture, colorful artwork, lush parks and some of the finest dining in Mexico. Just this year, San Miguel de Allende was voted the Best City in the World by Travel + Leisure. But before all the hype, this city had been on my bucket list because of the bohemian lifestyle that ex-patriots find endearing. Many foreigners travel to San Miguel de Allende and decide never to leave because they fall in love with the city’s charm. While there are many foreigners inhabiting San Miguel de Allende and essentially gentrifying neighborhoods and businesses, you need to venture out into the city to see the magic and witness the surrealism of the architecture.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

This hauntingly stunning baroque-style cathedral is the focal point of San Miguel de Allende as it broods before the city’s central plaza. The pink hues church’s towers are iconic around the world. A must see stop on a trip to San Miguel de Allende, this church dates back to the late 19th century. Whether from afar or close up, the neo-gothic parroquia makes for a perfect backdrop for your travel photo album or Instagram (no filters needed – cuz if it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it!)

Biblioteca Pública (Public Library)

None of my trips are complete without visiting at least ONE library—what can I say? It’s a librarian’s dream! After walking around for over an hour hitting itinerary spots, I couldn’t help making a B-line for the Biblioteca Pública. The library is located at the converted 18th Century Convent of Santa Ana (even cooler!) and has incredible reading rooms with murals touching every inch of the ceilings. The library has a café and bookstore and serves as a community center for the foreigners who have become residents of San Miguel de Allende. The library was started in 1954 by a Canadian, Helen Wale, who wanted to bring books and literacy to the children of San Miguel de Allende…and over six decades later I got to geek out in all its glory.

La Esquina: Museo del Juguete Popular Mexicano (The Corner: Museum of Popular Mexican Toys)

Located on a converted building on a corner (for which it gets its name) is a museum dedicated to the traditional toys of Mexico. From masks from the turn of the century to the modern-day curiosities, La Esquina provides a historical and beautifully artistic look at the craft of toy-making. Each gallery space is setup to feature toys by theme which include toys around the regions of Mexico, friendship, play kitchens, playing house, fairs and carnivals and more. This was a quick stop in our trip to San Miguel de Allende, but I quickly reverted to an 8-year-old version of myself when I saw the life-sized luchadores (wrestlers) taking up a corner of the museum. La Esquina is just another aspect of the whimsy that you will find in San Miguel de Allende.

Eat & Drink

San Agustín Chocolates & Churros (Do I need to translate this one?!) – If you’re looking to fill that sweet tooth, this café specializes in churros and other confections. It’s a great sign when you see a long line out the door—don’t run away! It is worth the 10-15 minute wait. When you’re ready to order, I suggest you try their combination order and try a churro filled with chocolate, cajeta (caramel), or condensed milk. You’ll thank me later!


After a weeklong of incredible adventures exploring the romance, mystery, magic and surrealism of Guanajuato, we arrived in the city of León, the state’s largest city. León, whose name means ‘Lion’, is the state’s (and possibly the country’s) largest producer of leather goods and most populous. This leg of the trip to León resulted in a different experience. We checked into the Hotel NH Collection León Expo, a recently constructed, modern hotel full of amenities that our group really enjoyed—including breakfast every morning, a spa, and a pool that I’m sure we would have enjoyed had it been in full repair. While we had spent lots of time exploring rural and traditional areas of the state of Guanajuato, León provided a more urban, bustling and thriving city.

Plaza de Armas (Plaza of Arms)

Like many of the plazas you will find around Mexican towns, the Plaza de Armas in León is the watering hole experience. Couples, families and people of all ages gather to enjoy ice cream, food, and entertainment. The Plaza de Armas is located right before Municipal Presidency Hall of León where outside of its front doors clown performers entertain children and laughter ensues in the afternoons.

Arco Triunfal de la Calzada de los Héroes (Triumphant Arch of the Heroes)

Constructed in 1883, this arch symbolizes the pride of the people of León. It is dedicated to the heroes of the Mexican independence. Atop the arch is the statue of a mighty lion which welcomes all who visit the arch to the zona centro, the city’s downtown area. The arch, reminiscent of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe is a focal point of the city and the most visited location in León. Fountains and a tree-lined promenade make for memorable pictures and Instagram posts.

Zona Piel (Leather Zone)

No, it’s not what you think! While León is the highest producer of leather items in Mexico, you won’t find EVERYTHING leather there—but you can find just about everything. From shoes to wallets to bags to hats and jackets—everything is crafted in the state of Guanajuato and is way more affordable than anything in the states. I spent an afternoon browsing around shops and ended up picking up some gifts—haggling is pretty fun!

Eat & Drink

Panteón Taurino (Taurus Cemetery) - If you eat ANYWHERE in the city of León you have to try Panteón Taurino. This restaurant resembles a bull ring where the images of deceased bullfighters decorate the walls, bullfighting is on the televisions, and the tables are tombstones with defunct the names of bullfighters. While you wait for your beer or parrillada (personal barbecue) you will witness the servers jump on the bar and simulate a bullfight that commands audience applause and participation. This restaurant is a staple in the city of León and located just outside of the zona centro.

Like I mentioned—there is so much I could have included here about travel to Guanajuato, but from what I have shared are some of my favorites moments and places of this trip. The greatest thing about this trip, however, was that we went with a group of people who were easy going, fun, and up for exploring. We met some great people on this trip that we would like to travel with again. Without those memories, Guanajuato would have not been the same. So find yourself a group of friends who are up for some city exploration and take yourselves to the city of magic, legends, and mummies and I dare you to not fall in love.

Travel Thursday: Four Delicious Restaurants to Try While in Manhattan

Manhattan is synonymous with a lot of great things still (not including Times Square, which I believe was created to infuriate New Yorkers), and one of them of course is the ability to produce a variety of amazing food from every type of cuisine imaginable.  The city may have changed a lot over the years, especially with the amount of gay bars decreasing in our neighborhoods, but one thing that has truly remained relevant and spectacular are the restaurants that inhabit this amazing concrete jungle.  With that being said, we are highlighting four amazing hotspots that you should definitely RSVP to the next time you are here in NYC.  Keep making this city special and think local when it comes to how you dine, especially with these fantastic places.

Best Late Night Grub: Coopers Craft & Kitchen (Chelsea and East Village)

Coopers Craft & Kitchen is located right next to one of the most popular gay bars in Manhattan: Gym Sportsbar on 8th Avenue in Chelsea.  Both their East Village and Chelsea spot are fantastic to head to after a long night of drinking (although they are a craft beer place so you can stop there as well), and try some amazing sharable items with friends including my all time favorite... POUTINE!  Their late night menu also features grub worthy items including Fish Tacos and Fried Chicken Wings.  More here.  

Best Fast Casual- Latin Beet Kitchen (Flatiron)

Manhattan has really stepped up its game in terms of going beyond the boring burger, salad and soup options that so many of us have stopped by for a quick lunch before heading back to work.  Latin Beet Kitchen takes the idea of fast casual and elevates it to a whole new level with their take on nutritious and delicious Latin cuisine all in one bowl.  You take five different meat/fish options including Organic Chicken or Salmon Ceviche, build your base with items like Zucchini Noodles or Arugala and then top it off with some of the best veggies I've ever had including Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Carrots and Purple Cabbage Slaw.  Then top it off with one of their signature dressings.  This spot is perfect for the summertime and beyond.  More here

Best Spot to Eat in the Gayborhood: 5 Napkin Burger (Hell's Kitchen)

The gayborhoods in Manhattan run the muck, and include everything from the West Village to Chelsea and now the newest... Hell's Kitchen.  Hell's Kitchen has become the new LGBT playground of sorts, with 9th Avenue taking the lead in the amount of gay bars you can inhabit.  Of course, this also means great restaurants to try, and if you are a burger head like I am, then 5 Napkin Burger will do the trick.  This place is always popping whether its for lunch, dinner or everything in between.  Their customizable burgers are diverse in its selection, with some great appetizers and shakes to compliment your entire experience.  Highlighted burgers to try: Ahi Tuna Burger with wasabi mayo and tempura onion rings, and their Bacon Cheddar with Cheshire Heritage Bacon, Tomato, Vidalia Onion and Lettuce.  Prepare for the meat sweats, y'all.  More here

Best Italian Spot: Adoro Lei (South Village) 

You have a bajillion places to go to in Manhattan for all things Italian, but relative newcomer Adoro Lei should be a spot that you must try while visiting here. This place has been ranked as one of the top 35 pizza spots in the country, and rightfully so as they split their pizza options between the reds and the whites.  Both have magnificent results when it comes to the flavors you get out of each, including their Boozy Betina (Vodka Sauce with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil) and their scrumptious Fried Pizza (Fried Pie with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Ricotta).  Go there.  Just go.  More here

Bonus!  Best Dessert Spots: Becky's Bites (East Village) & Huascar & Co. Bakeshop (Midtown West)

You always have to leave room for dessert, and Becky's Bites and Huascar & Co. Bakeshop are phenomenal for highlighting key items in this section of the menu and delivering on each morsel you try.  Becky's Bites just opened in the East Village and is tackling all things cream cheese and how to excel with this sort of delicacy.  This includes her Beckaroos (fun take on a Dunkaroo), Sweet and Salty with a Pretzel and Cream Cheese Dip, and her own line of a Bacon, Egg and Cream Cheese option on a fresh bagel.  More here

On the flipside, Huascar Aquino already has fame on a national level as he won an episode of Cupcake Wars a couple of years back. And rightfully so, as his cupcakes are some of the best I've ever had in my life, not to mention his insanely yummy cookie options (stick with the classic and try his Chocolate Chip).  Highlights in his cupcake items are PB&J and Scarlet Velvet, the latter of which is his own take on red velvet.  More here


Travel Thursday: Your Childhood Reimagined at Club Getaway’s Camp Out LGBT Weekend

Even though Pride month is officially over, that does not mean the events celebrating it should be.  You have thousands of ways to showcase the Pride spirit that is within you, and one of them (oddly enough) happens to be roughing in the middle of nowhere.  Sound weird?  It’s not, because Club Getaway, which is located in the tiny town of Kent, Connecticut, put together its first ever LGBT weekend called “Camp Out” where a variety of members from our community head to the woods for two days of fun activities that include mountain biking, archery tag, color wars and so much more that not only gets out the pride in each of us… but also bring us back to our childhood where camping is a nostalgic feeling that brings a smile to our face.

Club Getaway has been around for about forty years now, and encourages the city dwellers to get out of the concrete jungle for a couple of days and be surrounded by the beautiful nature that it inhabits.  Located about 90 minutes away from New York City, this spot is 300 plus acres of beauty that visually is beyond appealing with its lush greenery and beautiful lakeside views that allow you to slow down and really enjoy what’s around you.

Outside of this being their LGBT weekend, they essentially take the ideas of a childhood summer camp but with an adult twist that will allow you to appreciate both ends of the spectrum.  This pretty much means that there are copious amounts of alcohol, naughty double entendres hilariously belted out by the performances throughout the weekend and sexy men and women in revealing outfits that will please the eye for all that are involved.

The journey began for me on the bus ride up to Kent via Hell’s Kitchen.  The bus primarily had a ton of other gay guys on there, yet that number evened out with the lesbians as we got to Club Getaway.  Also, there was booze on the bus which my friend took advantage of to where he was adorably giggling after one and a half cups of white wine.  Girl.

The first night doesn’t delve too deep into the whole “camp” vibe outside of checking into our cabins which gives you all the feels of what it is like to be in the woods as you have your basics of a bed, shower and nothing else.  No television or DVD player of sorts, which I think is appropriate as they want you to have an authentic camp type experience.  There is still WIFI, thank god, but this sort of a weekend shouldn’t really require you to be on your phone or laptop too much. 

After we checked in, we all headed over to their Mountain House (each building has its own name), for a lavish dinner where they truly hooked us up with an assortment of amazing food and drink to enjoy.   When our bellies were full, we stopped by next door for a fantastic dance party that I myself particularly loved as the DJ played songs from my high school years that included Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv?” and Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On”.  Yasssssssssssss.  The night concluded with some fun karaoke, but I was exhausted and headed in for the night as I knew the next day would be chock full of excitement and fun.

Where Club Getaway really does excel is the variety of activities that they have planned for each and every person attending.  The assortments are for ones who want to be active to ones who prefer to chill a little bit but still find fun in everything they do.  I preferred the former, and after breakfast started with a hip-hop class where our muscle bound & sexy instructor taught us choreography that we did to DJ Khaled’s “I’m The One”.  Other activities prior to lunch that you could try included everything from a Mountain Scream Canopy Zip, Wall Climbing, Zumba, and my personal favorite… Bloody Mary Bingo. 

The rest of the day saw another variety of activities play out with ones like their Cosmo Hike, where you hike around the campgrounds with a Cosmo or Martini, Keg Softball, Archery, and a relaxing yet hysterical game of Cards Against Humanity.  This brings back the earlier point of this having all the fundamentals of summer camp but with a fun adult twist to it. 

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that Club Getaway is a great place to dip your body into lakeside.  This was very evident during the Gaywatch part of the weekend, which is a gayer version of Baywatch (although the movie really isn’t much of a difference given Zac Efron’s Bel Ami type body), where you get a bunch of super-hot men in red speedos watching over you as you flop throughout the water while jumping into a foam slip n’ slide and playing an intense game of Flip Cup.

After a long day, the only thing that really is on your mind at that point is eating and relaxing which we did at yet another amazing spread at dinner with a comedic performance by the hysterical Christine O’Leary.  Christine did a great job of doing jokes about both gays and lesbians, while going after the straight bachelorette party that was there at the same time.  I was called out for being one of the only bears there, which I accept, and she was on point with how all we do is eat and wear cargo shorts. 

The highlight of the weekend was their Mad Hatters Tea Party, where they designed one of the halls to look exactly like something out of Alice in Wonderland.  It was truly a sight to see, and their entire staff dressed up as characters from the iconic story to add to the wonderment of this part of the weekend.  The DJ did a bunch of great throwback tracks mixed with today’s hits that made the party that much more fun.

It's sad that this event was only two days, I could’ve done another day or two as there was still so much to be seen and done.  The last day was spent brunching it up as every good gay should do, with two drag queen performances done while dining on mimosas and eggs.  One of the performers, Pissi Myles, had us in stitches with her twisted jokes about Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson just to name a few.  I smell a Season 10 Drag Race contestant in our future! 

We had to start leaving around 3:30 PM, so the rest of the day had other fun activities like dodgeball and bungee trampoline.  For this being their first LGBT weekend, I have to say that Club Getaway really did a good job at bringing all of us all together and unifying this community in a really beautiful way.  We find ourselves so much at odds with each other internally sometimes that it is really refreshing to see the exact opposite and have everyone enjoy each other’s company in such a gorgeous location.  If glamping is your sort of thing to do, then Club Getaway can easily be your next destination for fun.

For more information about Club Getaway, click here

Of Movies And Men: Our Provincetown Film Festival Retrospective

One of the best times to visit Provincetown is during their international film festival (it was held June 17-21 this year). June is a great month, as it’s just ahead of the summer madness that the July 4th always brings, and is a week that’s void of the dated, sometimes silly, conspicuous, and fetishized themes that dominate the rest of the summer. 

For a few weeks in June, people are in Provincetown because they want to explore the United States’ original art colony, eat at some of the best restaurants in the region, mingle with both burgeoning and highly-established writers, buy a drink or three for a young painter heading to grad school in the fall, and see some really good films. 

Nothing beats the energy in June, as the locals get fired up for another season—they’ll be burned out and jaded in a matter of weeks, but in June, they’re genuinely excited for the high season around the corner.

This is a legitimate film festival, routinely attracting submissions from top talent.  Films that play in Provincetown may have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, or Cannes. Unfortunately, the people running the festival are programming for an older, local audience, looking for a pre-season diversion and the result is a slate of films that feels like it’s mostly been curated for an over-50 crowd.

Granted, this formula works perfectly for the attendees. Homeowners in Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet make a point to buy tickets or passes, arrive early to screenings (especially anything during the day), and genuinely enjoy the opportunity to hear someone marginally involved with the film introduce it at the charming Town Hall venue. Then they file out, shuffle down the street to buy fudge, and go home for the night.

But young people are conspicuously absent from the festival, which is a real bummer.  (I’m 39, and was, definitely, one of the youngest people at most of the screenings and parties that I attended.) When I asked a few younger guys around town if they were seeing any films, they had no idea there was even a film festival happening, and they had no plans to see anything.  

Few films would have appealed to them, anyway. The “celebrities” attending were at least twice their age, and the crowd at screenings is over 50, straight, or—gulp—lesbians. But there were a few films that definitely would have appealed to them, like Tangerine, the deliciously fresh and edgy Sundance standout that brilliantly explores the crazy world of trans hookers in L.A., with an incredible cast, writing, and directing. And Those People, which premiered at the festival, with a smart, sweet, contemporary story of young love in the rarified world of Upper Eastside Manhattan.   

Unfortunately, the festival didn’t do a great job of getting the word out on films like these. On the other hand, a midday screening of Tab Hunter Confidential, the documentary about the iconic ‘50s crooner and matinee idol, was completely packed. In many ways, it’s a metaphor for the town itself: getting older, still revered, but losing its edge. 

The festival could be a tremendous asset for Provincetown, but it’s unfortunately playing to the crowd it already has, rather than working hard to attract one for the next 10 years.

Here are the 10 Best Things about our week at the Provincetown International Film Festival:

1.) Fag Bash
​​ Following a cute opening film (Sleeping With Other People) and a nice reception at The Crown & Anchor, we hit the legendary Wednesday night pop-up club, Fag Bash.  It was absurd, sexy, and fun—exactly what you’d expect of a trip to PTown.

2.) Larry Kramer in Love and Anger (…and in real life)  
Watching the powerful documentary about the iconic gay activist and playwright was even better, having met the man himself at the festival.

3.) Tangerine
Hands down, the coolest film in the festival. This manic Hollywood romp follows a couple of “tranny hookers” on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. The filmmaker shot it almost entirely on iPhones, with a shoestring budget, and the result is rad. 

4.) Garden Party
At this press event we were able to meet the few filmmakers who attended the festival and see honoree Jennifer Coolidge…and ponder why Stifler’s mom was getting an award (although they did screen Best in Show). We also got to chat with the always-awesome John Waters, and take in the incredible view from the lawn at Land’s End Inn, followed by…

5.) Happy Hour(s) at The Red Inn
At the water’s edge, just across from Land’s End it’s hands-down, the most gorgeous spot in town, and $1 Wellfleet oysters start at 2pm on the weekends. The cocktails are perfect, and are best enjoyed in an Adirondack chair on the deck, sitting with a cute guy, as the tide goes out. 

6.) The State of Marriage
The screening for this smart documentary on the fight for marriage equality now feels like a prescient precursor to the long-awaited SCOTUS decision, that arrived just days later (June 26, 2015 shall go down in history!).

7.) Those People
This contemporary, complicated story of young love made for one of the better films of the festival. Imagine if three of the guys from Gossip Girl were in a love triangle, and you get the gist of what (and who) goes down here.

8.) Tab Hunter Confidential and Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict
Two outstanding documentaries that were entertaining, educational, and perfectly programmed for this festival.

9.) The End of the Tour
This smart, subtle, intimate story of a wildly successful author and the cynical Rolling Stone writer covering his book tour surprised us, and was one of the better films of the festival.

10.) I Am Michael
Based on Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ New York Times Magazine article about a friend who’d flipped from gay activist to crazy Christian, the James Franco film closed the festival with flare, before everyone strolled down Commercial Street to buy a drink at The Boatslip.

Here are 5 Things That Were Not So Great about PTown’s film festival week:

1.) Cash Bars
Apparently no one thought to get a liquor sponsor.  Next year, we’ll bring one. Unless the event venues won’t agree to pour free drinks?  Hmmm…

2.) Town Hall
While delightful in its own right, this venue has the most uncomfortable seats ever—so bad, they give you cushions, but that doesn’t help. Sadly for sponsors, we sat on their logos all week.

3.) The Crowd
The people at the screenings are perfectly nice, but it’s not the peeps of PTown you’d like to be spending all your time with.  Where are the guys from out of town that love films? And if they’re young(er) and hot(ter), so be it; we won’t complain.

4.) The Wolfpack
This was the most disappointing film of the festival, somehow coming off serious Sundance hype. It was a 90-plus-minute reality show sizzle reel about a kooky family, with no point, whatsoever. Waste of time.

5.) Clambake
If you’re looking for a doc that covers 30 years in the journey of PTown and its lesbians, this one’s for you. If you’re covering the fest for Instinct, it turns out, it wasn’t meant for us. Point taken.

All in all, it was a fabulous week, and we’re already looking forward to going back next year. Hopefully, we’ll see you there.

Learn more about the Provincetown International Festival and prepare for next summer now!

Matt Heller is a writer, film fanatic, media professional, and PTown regular who prefers to do all things with at least one cocktail in hand. Follow him @Millennialsinfo

(PIFF Photos by Brett Plugis)

1st Annual Lake Tahoe Gay Ski Week Announced

Who says Utah and Colorado should have all the fun? Promoter Tom Whitman has just announced the inaugural Lake Tahoe Gay Ski Week is set for Feb. 6-9, 2014.

Rounding out his popular Elevation series of events, Elevation:Tahoe will feature seven parties over the four-day event, not to mention plenty of slope time. DJs Casey Alva, Pornstar and Blacklow are already confirmed, and host hotels Resort at Squaw Creek and the Village at Squaw Creek are accepting reservations now.

More info on Elevation:Tahoe can be found here. Elevation:Utah is set for Feb. 20-23, with Elevation: Mammoth set for March 12-16, 2014.

Cuban Curiosity

By David Duran


My fascination with Cuba was finally realized this past year when I visited the small island country for the first time in 32 years. The last time I was on the island was when my mother was pregnant with me and had returned to visit friends and family and, of course, show off her belly. My mother left Cuba shortly after graduating university and was fortunate to be granted permission to enter the United States legally with my grandmother. It was years later, while in my early teens, that I began to ask questions about Cuba. My mother worked so hard for years to legally bring her sister and her family over from the communist country by sponsoring them each and petitioning both governments, which she finally succeeded in doing in 1992. All I would hear was the negative about the government but sprinkled within the hatred, there was always beautiful stories of how life use to be.


My grandmother was in love with the U.S. She got to live out her fantasies of dressing up, putting on makeup, wearing perfume and just being a woman. I would always tell her as teenager that I wanted to visit Cuba and she would quickly dismiss my curiosities. Later in life, after my list of travels expanded beyond two hands, my family opened up to the idea of me visiting their homeland. I had put in two years of living in Bolivia, my father’s place of birth, so in their minds, I had passed the test of the third-world living conditions. I then had full support from my overly cautious family to plan a trip. The only problem now was getting through the long visa applications.


Just six months before my trip, was when my fascination became an obsession. In a rare and controversial occurrence, Mariela Castro,  daughter of the Cuban President Raul Castro, came to the U.S. to speak on a two-week press tour of New York City and San Francisco. This was the niece of Fidel Castro, the man responsible for all of horrible stories my grandmother and mother would tell me about growing up. I jumped at the opportunity to hear her speak; especially when I found out her topic of discussion was LGBT rights in Cuba. I was also fortunate to be able to attend a private reception with her the following night where I met her and candidly spoke with her about her efforts in Cuba.



From the stories my family told me about growing up in conservative Cuba, I was shocked at what Mariela was preaching. Looking back, my Cuban family didn’t take my coming out as harshly as I thought they did at the time. It was mostly just denial and not talking about my life in front of family members.  After hearing how Cuba was changing, I finally felt a deep connect that I had been longing for to go and see for myself where my family was from. One month before my flight, my family decided to shock me with news that I still had a cousin left in Cuba, two to be exact. I couldn’t believe the news because I am very close with most of my family and the fact that I had cousins I didn’t know existed was painful but quickly changed the purpose of my adventure.


The moment the plane landed in Havana and everyone around me began to clap their hands, I shed a tear. I had finally made it. I walked down the stairs of the aircraft toward a relatively new Chinese-made airport shuttle bus, and my sensory overload was in full effect. The Havana airport was crowded and I immediately felt like I had stepped into a time warp as I peaked outside the doors into a cloud of cigarette smoke. Through the thick air of tobacco, I saw what I had only heard of but never imagined would be the reality I was seeing with my own eyes; vintage cars.  The ride to my hotel was mostly me crying and looking at old cars while my traveling partner would grab my shoulder and pinch me every 20 seconds or so because he was in complete culture shock. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he should be pinching himself, instead of me. But for me, it wasn’t just the old cars and the lush green we were driving by, it was the interest from the van full of foreigners who were all so inquisitive and intrigued in everything they were seeing. I knew from that moment that I was in for something that would change my life.



Cuba was everything I had dreamed of. The old cars, the gorgeous mansions that were now converted to office space or museums, and lots of music accompanied by some of the best mojitos I had ever had. The beautiful coastlines of Havana were breathtaking. It’s made up of an extended sidewalk that stretches the entire span of the city and each night the “malecon” would be full of life as mostly locals would socialize, drink and just hang out all night.  All that was missing was the quality food that I grew up eating all my life. When I asked my mother after returning why her food tasted so much better, she quickly pointed out that she had spices and condiments available to her in the states but that in Cuba salt was pretty much the most flavoring one would get; the food in Cuba is as good as they can possibly make it.


Havana has to be one of the most picturesque cities I had ever visited. I found myself snapping photos of cars, superb architecture and just people living their life. Early in my visit, I had set up a time to meet with my long lost cousin and drop off a backpack full of clothes I had brought him. It was the least I could do after not even knowing he existed. I walked into the hotel lobby and there he was. I had no idea what he looked like, or a description of what he was wearing, but somehow, our eyes met and we just knew. It was one of the most important embraces in my life. I forced him and his uncle to eat at my hotel restaurant buffet and was so confused to only see them pick up one tiny potato and a piece of toast. I insisted that it was a buffet and that they should fill up on all they wanted. Now that I think about it, what they had on their plate was a good representation of what would most likely fill up their unaccustomed stomachs.



The attitudes of most every Cuban I met on the streets were ones of joyfulness and interest. Everyone had so many questions about the United States and the world. People were so nice as to offer private tours and show you their Cuba. And it’s not all about the money they want from tourists. I encountered folks who at times just wanted someone to talk to and show their city off to. I would commonly ask the question, “If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” The overwhelming response was always, “Cuba.” Most pointed out that Cuba is so beautiful and its people are naturally happy, loving people. Of course, they wish they didn’t live the way they did, but they tolerated it, not because they had to, but because what else where they to do? Cubans in general had made the most of a rotten situation and were thankful for what they had. In the end, I still gave them money but it was hard not to when you realize there are two types of money; one for tourists and the worthless one for them. My cousin worked independently as a mechanic to earn more money than he would be getting working for the government. The average Cuban, whether a doctor or a plumber, makes anywhere from $10-14 per month. Many Cuban’s have side jobs or work privately to make more money instead of being employed by the government. Luckily, that option is now available to them. Lots of changes had happened in Cuba in the last few years. People were now able to sell their property and own their cars, as well as attend gay pride events if they so chose to.


Cuba’s gay scene is alive and active. Although it’s not normal to see two people of the same sex walking around holding hands, there are areas in Havana that are now considered gay cruising or meeting spots. It’s a large area in the city where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are and find out where the gay parties are happening that particular night. On our first night we went to the Yara Theatre, the best of the best cruising spots to learn about any parties that night. We were immediately approached by two younger boys who quickly started up conversation and complimented insistently. It’s not uncommon to find male escorts in these areas. (They are actually the best sources for these gay parties.) We happily offered to pay their taxi and party entrance fee if they would take us and made certain that our deal ended immediately afterwards. We still somehow ended up paying their bar tab, but we didn’t care, we were in Cuba! Later in our trip we discovered a private cabaret built on the roof of an old home in the outskirts of Havana that seated about 50 and put on one amazing show. “El Show de las Estrellas,” was a highlight of the trip.



And it’s not only in Havana. Even in the small town of Trinidad, I met gay men who couldn’t wait to tell me about the monthly drag show where the entire town comes to watch. Cuba wasn’t nearly as repressed as I had imagined. In Trinidad, we met a young man who, together with his cousin and mother, ran a gay bed and breakfast. We stayed at a nearby hostel and our young hostess was so eager to introduce us all to each other after finding out we were gay. When speaking to him and his mother about gay life in Trinidad, he quickly opened up and confirmed everything I was experiencing. He even openly told me about being HIV-positive and how the government paid for all his medical care. But it was his mother who was so proud of him and supportive of her son that opened my eyes to the love that exists there. When asking gay Cubans about Mariela, there was an overwhelming support of love, respect and gratitude toward her. I couldn’t find one person that had anything negative to say about her. I even went out of my way to meet strangers on the street who appeared to be heterosexual couples of all ages and somehow bring up Mariela just to get their input. Again, nothing but praise for the woman who helped change the minds of so many in her country.


Mariela, who is the Director for the National Center for Sex Education in Cuba, decided to take her fight in strides, focusing on one issue over the course of a year. She went on national television and educated the population first. With the support of the people, she then took her fight to her father and his government, where surprisingly enough, she got through to them. First focusing on transgender rights, Mariela broke ground by helping pass legislature to allow gender reassignment surgery to be covered under the basic government healthcare system. The following year she took on causes championing gay men, followed by bisexual men, and most recently she focused her efforts on HIV services. After talking to many of her activists and volunteers, it’s possible that her next move will be to fight for equal benefits for same-sex couples as those that are afforded to married couples.


I never had the “talk” with my cousin and his family about me being gay, but I knew that they knew from the topics of conversation I had brought up from my travels. It wasn’t until I returned home and received an e-mail from him where he told me that he and his family loved me no matter what and they too support Mariela’s efforts in Cuba. What I took away from my visit was not only the beauty of the Cuban people, architecture, rundown cars, bland food or up and coming gay scene. Instead what I learned was to appreciate my life and where I came from.


There are currently strict visa requirements for American’s entering Cuba. Unless you are on a humanitarian mission, religious excursion, a member of the media or come from Cuban decent, entry is not legal and comes with potentially severe consequences if apprehended jumping borders to enter. The U.S. embargo on Cuba is hopefully within eyesight’s view of ending and when it does, American’s will be able to experience something they could only have dreamed of.