Postcards From An Italian Adventure: Onion Domes & Autumn in Firenze

Author: , September 23rd, 2010

Gay Friendly Tuscany Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on an extended adventure in Italy. She has graciously agreed to let us republish her travel logs. Enjoy!

September in Italy

Wednesday, September 22nd

Hello, Everyone,

Onion Domes in ItalyI must write a blog note, as I received a question on the onion dome churches in the Dolomiti area. I was told I had not explained them, and I must respond to that.

Throughout this area of northern Italy, which, as you recall, is an area where the people do not consider theirselves Italian, but Austrian. Throughout southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy, you will see these beautiful onion dome churches. While the concept of the onion dome originated in Russia, with the Russian Orthodox church, the Russian domes are usually gold plated or colored in beautiful designs.

Onion Domes in ItalyThe domes, however, in Germany, Austria and northern Italy are usually just black, with a gold cross at the top. These domes are a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire, and are placed on top of Catholic churches. These areas I have just described are predominately Catholic; therefore, the main church of each village will usually be Catholic with the black onion dome.

I hope I have answered the question. Looking back, remembering this trip, the picture in my mind of the church spire with its onion dome, rising out of the middle of a small village, in the middle of these green fields, meadows, and hills, will always be one of my favorite memories.

Autumn has come to Italy. We were rained out of our Cinque Terre trip last weekend, so we returned to Florence, and Sunday night we had a glorious thunder, lightning and rain storm here. The next day, although the day was sunny, there was definitely a crispness to the air, we had to put on our sweaters, and soon I shall have to go shopping, as my short sleeved t-shirts are not going to keep me warm much longer.

The kids are back in school, the scooters are racing up and down the streets, taking the students to their classes. Life is becoming quieter, except in the middle of the day near Piazza Signoria and Santa Croce, the cruise ships and tour groups are still disgorging hundreds of tourists daily.

September in ItalyIf you are predisposed to claustriphobia, do not venture down Via Calzaiuoli between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. We try our best to avoid that area in the middle of the day, due to so many tourists there. However, Florence being the beautiful city that it is, has so many other great places to visit, that avoiding one area only gives us the chance to see some other piazzi, mercati, restaurante… there is never an end to finding one more lovely place to either sit on a bench and watch the bambini, or sit at an outdoor cafe and enjoy a caffe or a glass of wine. I will never get tired of this city….

Now our friends, Ron and Jo, have to return to California tomorrow. Greg and Patty Garcia, with their darling daughter, Aja, arrived yesterday, but today left for Venice to spend two nights there. They promised they would be back in time for “aperitivi” on Thursday. We are looking forward to spending some travelling time with them. Aja has already learned to say “buongiorno” and “grazie”. I wish I had her learning capability (she is 4 years old and wise beyond those years, let me tell you!)

So. ciao for now.

PS: The pictures are some we took in the Dolomites, and the sea pictures are from the storm on the harbour at Vernazza on our recently rained-out expedition to Cinque Terre.

Some idiots were actually swimming in the sea and letting the surf wash them up to the promenade… crazy.

Dolly

Want to Follow Bella’s Adventure Directly? Check Out Dolly Travels

B&B Survey: 13% Say Gay/Lesbian Couples Should Not Sleep Together at Their Inn

Author: , September 20th, 2010

In a poll on the website Bed & Breakfast Owner, 13 per cent of respondents said it would be unacceptable for a gay or lesbian couple to share one of their double rooms.

The survey follows the case of Michael Black, 62, and John Morgan, 56, a gay couple from Cambridgeshire, who were turned away from a guesthouse in the Berkshire village of Cookham last March.

The couple claimed that the incident was motivated by homophobia, and filed a complaint to Thames Valley Police. According to research, 75 per cent of gay travellers worry about the welcome they will receive at their holiday accommodation.

Full Story from the Telegraph

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Featured Property: Touch the Sky B&B, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Author: , September 20th, 2010

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Gulf Islands Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Touch the Sky B&B - Salt Spring Island, British ColumbiaWelcome to Touch the Sky, our Salt Spring Island Bed & Breakfast in beautiful British Columbia.

Touch The Sky offers one private suite, (fully wheelchair friendly) on five sunny acres, adjacent to a forest near the end of a ridge. Touch the Sky B&B just five minutes south of Ganges, in the heart of Salt Spring Island.

Come and relax, read, meditate on life, nourish your soul in my private luxury suite that is full of urban sophistication. Add some Salt Spring charm and you have Touch the Sky B&B.

From here, it’s easy to explore the entire island! Drive a rental car acount the island, or take the bus south to Fulford, go north to Ganges (5 minutes away), and beyond.

Explore Salt Spring’s Saturday Market, Galleries, Shops, Eateries and Park lands of Salt Spring Island.

We’re also happy to help you plan day trips and explore other islands in the Strait of Georgia.

See the Touch the Sky Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

It’s Hotter in Phoenix: Arizona’s Capital As a Gay Travel Destination?

Author: , September 18th, 2010

Gay Friendly Phoenix Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Arriving by air in Phoenix, visitors note a vast, sprawling city – the nation’s fifth largest – a collection of palm tree-studded cities and towns ringed by mountains, where a car is in indispensable necessity.

The similarities to Los Angeles are striking, right down to analogous municipalities, including exclusive Paradise Valley, Phoenix’s Bel Air, and tony Scottsdale, its Beverly Hills. It’s markedly different from most American cities with its almost eerie lack of litter – hardly a scrap of paper on highways, sidewalks and heavily trodden park trails.

Located in south-central Arizona at an altitude of 1,100 feet above sea level, this desert Southwest city is blessed with 330 days of sunshine a year. From May through September, this relentless barrage of solar power may seem unbearable to visitors and even locals who occasionally grumble about having to remain housebound during the day to avoid oven-like temperatures of 110 degrees. At these times, residents get their exercise in malls and other heavily air-conditioned environments. October through April is the best time to visit, and spring showers produce a patina of green in the surrounding desert with flowering cacti enlivening the burnt-red rocks with a burst of vibrant colors.

Full Story from SDGLN

Purple Roofs Travels: Three Nights in Gay Las Vegas

Author: , September 18th, 2010
by Scott & Mark, Purple Roofs

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Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

Caesars, Las VegasIn early August of this year, we visited Las Vegas once again. Frequent readers of this blog will know that we go to Las Vegas typically several times a year – and we especially love it in the summertime – perfect for lounging by the pool with a handsome waiter bringing cool fruity drinks. :::grin:::

The Venetian, Las Vegas

We got lucky with the weather this year – the temperatures were only in the mid – 90s to low 100s for the three days we were there. However, we were not so fortunate with the prices.

Not the hotel prices, which were fantastic – everyone seems to be hurting economically here, just like the rest of the country.

But everything else seem to be more expensive. On the cab ride in, our driver told us that many fares now ask him to stop at a grocery store before taking them to their hotel. It’s cheaper to buy groceries and make breakfast and lunch at the hotel and go out to a restaurant in Vegas these days.

Venetian, Las VegasHe told us the story about a passenger who went to Caesar’s for a drink, bought a beer, and when the bill came, the charges $18. For single beer. And another story about a casino with an ATM that charged a $14 ATM fee.

Everyone’s scrambling here. Real estate prices in the area are half what they were at their peak, and many homeowners are underwater.

Apparently the casinos have not been immune to downturn. While there were many people here, the pool area at the Venetian was less than a quarter full. And because of the low hotel rates, the casinos seem to be charging more for everything else to try to make up the difference.

Venetian, Las VegasWe discovered this personally on several occasions. The first was at lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Postrio, at the Venetian. I ordered what looked like a wonderful ravioli dish – typically, I’d expect to pay $12 – $14 for this dish at a nice restaurant. The menu offered the dish for $19. The raviolis were very good, although there were only a few of them, but when the bill came, we were charged $21 for this dish.

We called the manager over and asked about it–two dollars isn’t that much, but it’s the principle of the thing. He apologized, and said that they had just raised the price, but the menus are not yet been changed. So was already overpriced dish went up in price by 10% while we were sitting there.

The other example was the gelato prices. I remembered gelato being expensive here from previous trips but this time, when we ordered two single scoop gelato’s, with waffle cones, the price was $15. We thought this was highway robbery, but had already accepted the cones, so we went ahead and paid this outrageous price. Being gelato lovers, we spent the rest of the trip pricing gelato at other places, and it turns out that this price is not so out of line, at least for Vegas. The best we found elsewhere for a comparable size was $6.50 each, or $13 total.

So this is a great time to go to Las Vegas, because you can get some fantastic deals on lodging, but be aware that restaurants and other “luxuries” may cost you more, and plan and budget appropriately.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasWe always like to take in a show while we are in Las Vegas, and this time was no exception. We really wanted to see Frank Marino’s new show at the Imperial Hotel, but Frank, you start too late! When Frank was at the Riviera Hotel, they used to have an earlier show, and hey, I know it shows my age, but 10 o’clock is just too late.::: sigh:::

Hitzville, Las VegasBut we did go to the (earlier) show “Hitzville” at Planet Hollywood. Hitzville is a fantastic Motown review, covering hits from Gladys Knight, Mary Wells, the Drifters, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops, and Tina Turner. We got VIP tickets, which got us in at the front of the line, and got us a copy of the soundtrack at the end of the show.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasHitzville was full of songs that everyone knows, and the cast was fantastic, as was the backup band. The four male leads did a great job with songs from the Temptations and the four Tops among others, and the girls were fantastic as the Supremes.

Hitzville Show, Las VegasBut the standout performer in the show was Jin Jin Reeves. Ms. Reeves was great as Diana Ross at the head of the Supremes, but when she returned to the stage to sing primary, this woman was Tina Turner. Full of boundless energy, blessed with an amazing, rough voice, she was perfect for the role, and brought the audience to its feet for a rousing standing ovation at the end of the show.

Hitzville is unusual in that it you are allowed to take photographs throughout the show, and we took full advantage of this. We hope you enjoy the pictures, and we highly recommend the show for your next trip to Vegas.

City Center, Las VegasWhile we were in town, we also did little shopping, returning to a few of our favorite places and to one new place.

The new place, city center, is supposed to be the jewel of Las Vegas’s crown. Rising a large parcel of land adjacent to the Bellagio Hotel, Crown Center is truly in the heart of the strip.

City Center, Las VegasWhen it is finished, it will include a casino hotel, condominiums, office space, and shopping–the whole shebang.

Part of city Center is now open, and from the outside, the place looks fabulous. The architecture is funky, from the chunky blocky building that faces the strip, to the two Towers that lean toward each other at odd angles. There are geometric lines, beautiful curves, and a playground of fanciful architecture here.

Aria, City Center, Las VegasGetting to it, however, is another matter. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope this will be improved in the near future, as more of the center opens up. But for now, to get into the shopping center, you have to wind through a bewildering series of stairs, walkways, and alleys, and there seems to be only one way in and one way through.

Restaurant, City Center, Las VegasIf you’ve ever been to an IKEA store, you know exactly what I mean.

The shopping center here does feature what has to be one of the most spectacular looking restaurants in the world – it’s surrounded by this amazing, beautiful, organic, curvy structure that starts at the ground floor, wraps around the restaurant floor like a pod, and extends up into the heavens. Can’t tell you if the food is any good there, but it looks fantastic.

The Forum, Caesars, Las VegasWe hope to get things ironed out here, because city center has the potential to be a fantastic addition to the Las Vegas strip.

While we were in Vegas, we made several trips to our favorite shopping center on the strip, the Forum at Caesars Palace. Talk about an IKEA floorplan!

Caesar's Palace, Las VegasHunting for a new place for dinner one night, we walked the forum, and it just reached the end when the cheesy Atlantis show began, trapping us between the show and the cheesecake factory.

Aquarium at The Forum, Caesars, Las VegasSo we made the best of it and enjoyed the beautiful aquarium wraps around the center of this plaza. My favorites here were the rays, and we got a few great pictures of them gliding serenely back and forth in the aquarium.

Trevi Restaurant, The Forum, Las VegasOn the way back, we settled on the restaurant in the main plaza, behind the large, gaudy, yet somehow beautiful fountain that dominates the space. The restaurant is called Trevi, and has “outdoor” seating that’s perfect for people watching.

I had a margherita pizza here that was absolutely divine, the perfect combination of mozzarella, basil, and sauce. As an unexpected bonus, the paper this restaurant uses its bread baskets is a mockup of an Italian newspaper.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you may know that Mark and I are studying Italian, and have been for two and half years, so this opportunity to read a bit of Italian at dinner was welcome.

The waiter was kind enough to give us a clean copy of this “newspaper” to take with us to our Italian group. Although this newspaper was dated 2010, the waiter told us they’ve been using the same ones since sometime last year, and he joked that he should have made a bet on one of the sports games listed in the paper – he might’ve won a lot of money.

Max Brenner, The Forum, Caesars, las VegasSpeaking of Italian, and sort of roundabout way, we’ve got a fantastic chocolate shop here as well.

Chocolate Pizza, Max Brenner

The place is called Max Brenner, and Mr. Brenner is an Israeli chocolate maker who is starting to open restaurants here in the States.

It’s a full – service restaurant, but focuses on chocolate, and even had a chocolate pizza in the case at the front of the store, which looked amazing, but a little scary too.

Italian Hot Chocolate, Max BrennerBut I say Italian because this is the first place, outside of Murano, where I found a true Italian drinking chocolate. For those who’ve never tried it, this Italian drink is a fantastically thick version of hot chocolate that is so thick that it skims over, like pudding, if you don’t drink it quickly enough.

Drinking a cup of this rich, decadent, beverage took me back years to when we were sitting in a café in Murano, a small island in Venice where they make the famed glass, after a ferry trip from the main Venetian Islands, when I first discovered this wonderful drink.

Canonita, Venezia, Las VegasWe also visited three great restaurants in the Venetian/Palazzo complex–one of the largest if not the largest hotels in the world.

First, we returned to Canonita, a Mexican restaurant along the canal in the Venetian’s beautiful shopping area. Canonita has always offered wonderful food, and this time was no exception, with the skirt steak dish that was simply divine.

Grand Canal, The Venetian, Las VegasContinuing the theme of a quieter than usual Las Vegas, we had no trouble getting a table right by the rail overlooking the Grand Canal–this is a great place to watch and listen to the gondoliers as they pass by, usually pausing to turn their boats and sing a song in Italian.

Every time we’ve come to visit the Venetian, there have been more female gondoliers, and we recently heard but the first woman gondolier was just accepted in the real Venice, Italy.

The only downside to our meal here was the unexpectedly slow service – service in the past has always been exceptional.

Entertainers, The Venetian, Las VegasAnother favorite, the aforementioned Postrio, is one of Wolfgang Puck’s many restaurants here in Vegas. We like this one because it’s in the heart of St. Mark’s Square at the Venetian – ask for a table by the rail facing the raised entertainment platform, and you may be treated to music, dance, juggling, or even a living statue.

The food is usually very good, and this time was no exception, whether only hesitation at recommending this place being the rising prices.

Table 10, The Palazzo, Las VegasWrapping up our restaurant reviews, we revisited Table 10, one of Emeril’s restaurants.

If he hadn’t been to Las Vegas for a while, you may be surprised at how many celebrity chef restaurants there are here. There are probably more celebrity – run restaurants here per square foot than there are Starbucks in Seattle.

Table 10, at the Palazzo, has a casual welcoming atmosphere, and the lunch food there is light, well seasoned, and wonderfully flavorful. We haven’t tried dinner here, but highly recommend it for lunch.

He is GayFinally, a few “things that make you go hmmm” photographs. This first one we captured at a store window in the Venetian–not quite sure what this means but it might be a new take on the old “I’m not gay but my boyfriend is” shirt. But the mannequin sure scared the hell out of us.

The second one was taken outside the theater where we saw Hitzville, and is for both a lesbian friends and our gay friends who appreciate oversized kitsch. We think she speaks for herself.

Vegas also has one gay bar on the strip, also at Planet Hollywood – called Krave, it’s supposed to be quite a scene, but once again note the late opening time. ::: big sigh:::

So if you’re careful, it’s possible to get some great deals in Vegas these days. There is a gay resort hotel just off the strip called the Blue Moon Resort–if you’re looking for a gay friendly environment with a fantastic pool, check this place out.

And of course, the hotels on the strip are offering great deals as well.

But budget carefully and pay attention to the prices when you’re eating out or shopping, and above all, have a great time!

Featured Property: Laguna Cliffs Inn, Laguna Beach, California

Author: , September 17th, 2010

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Laguna Beach Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Laguna Cliffs Inn - Laguna Beach, CaliforniaLaguna Cliffs Inn, formerly By The Sea Inn, is a modern, stylish Laguna Beach hotel just a block from the beach and beautiful Heisler Park, which travel magazines call “Perhaps the most beautiful park on the California coast.”

At Laguna Cliffs Inn you can plan the perfect beach getaway, or get in a little culture with our incredible art galleries or art events. Each of our 36 deluxe guest rooms at the Laguna Cliffs Inn has been recently remodeled and offers an array of amenities that help you relax and feel refreshed.

The guest rooms of Laguna Cliffs Inn Laguna Beach are all nonsmoking, and are elegantly appointed in a Mediterranean theme with rich fabrics in warm colors. The spacious guest rooms have plenty of room for relaxation, including a sitting area with chair, ottoman and a flat screen TV.

Each of our rooms has an open-air pool/courtyard view, Beautyrest® beds, hardwood floors in the bathrooms, balconies in some rooms and wifi Internet access.

When you check in, you’ll receive a Welcome Basket full of snacks to enjoy and breakfast items for your in-room coffee in the morning – all compliments of the hotel – pastries, muffins, snack bars and fresh fruit.

Nestled between the sparkling blue Pacific and majestic Laguna Canyon, Laguna Beach stretches seven miles down the Orange County coastline. Fantastic views, secluded coves, soft sand and the sound of the surf make Laguna Beach one of the most spectacular destinations in California. You’ll find tons of art galleries, as well as an eclectic variety of shopping and dining choices in Laguna Beach.

See the Laguna Cliffs Inn Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Lesbian Travelers Change Hearts and Minds on Lesbos

Author: , September 16th, 2010

Gay Friendly Greece Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

It’s September and for a 10th year, the village of Eressos on Greece’s Lesbos island has drawn lesbians from across Europe to a unique international festival for women. In a country strongly influenced by the Greek Orthodox church and where roughly half the population is against same-sex marriage, the lesbian-run event has been quietly growing in this corner of the Aegean Sea.

Over the past decade, attendance at the two-week International Women’s Festival has jumped from 30 to hundreds of women — mainly German, British, Dutch and Scandinavian, but also Greek and Italian.

Women lay on the beach of the village of Eressos on Lesbos island. Lesbians make up 90 per cent of the villages visitors in September. Photo: AFP
The busy programme of events includes women-only walks and sunset cruises, breathing and drumming workshops, Greek dance classes and lesbian film screenings.

“I’ve been blown away, there’s no unease at all,” says Lauren Bianchi, a Scottish woman in her early 20s who is at the festival for the first time and who had read articles about difficult relations between locals and lesbians.

Full Story from SMH.com.au

Featured Property: Casa Rana Villa – San Pedro, Belize

Author: , September 15th, 2010

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Gay Friendly Belize Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Casa Rana - San Pedro, BelizeIt began with a vacation. But when we arrived on Ambergris Caye, Diana and I were mesmerized by the beauty of the water, the sky and the island.

The week was filled with snorkeling, fishing, exploring and simply observing the majesty of nature. We cooked fresh fish, lobster, and ate succulent fruits and vegetables; truly delicious food.

And by the end of the week, we knew we wanted to be here. Within a couple of months we found property in the most exclusive part of the island, Mexico Rocks. Utilizing the principles of Fens Shui, our we planned to build one of the most beautiful homes on the island, a place that would be in harmony with nature, a place of spirituality, and a place where one could nourish the soul.

Casa Rana offers 4,000 sf just 65 feet from the Caribbean. There’s a private beach with a dock and palapa for shade, as well as a Ffresh water plunge pool.

Inside, you’ll find a fully equipped gourmet kitchen, with purified water and an ice maker, and there’s also an Ooutdoor BBQ area.

The bedrooms are air conditioned, and the beds feature pilow-top mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets, and down pillows. There’s also an IiPod station in each room, as well as a flat-screen TV and internet access.

Casa Rana is a living, breathing, piece of art – full with energy twenty four hours a day. At night the unique light transforms the house into another dimension. Bring your family and friends and share with us a most incredible Belize vacation.

See the Property Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

From Athens to Singapore 8 of 12: Abu Dhabi

Author: , September 15th, 2010

by Mike Shaughnessy, Traveler

Email Mike

Purple Roofs is happy to welcome back an old friend. Last time, Mike regaled us with tales of his trip through South America. This time, he brings us details from his two month trip from Greece to Singapore. Enjoy!

Abu Dhabi

Abu DhabiAfter another day at sea we called on the city of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In this case “Emirate” means like a city-state. There are seven different city-states making up the UAE and each one is ruled by a different Royal Family. In 1971, after Britain withdrew from the region, the seven city-states joined together to create the country of United Arab Emirates.

The two most famous of the UAE seven cities are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai gets most of the attention in the press but Abu Dhabi by far has much more wealth and is also the capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi estimates that it has at least 100 years more of oil production in the ground whereas Dubai will run out of oil very soon so they are concentrating more on tourism dollars for their future.

Abu DhabiEach city of the UAE is ruled by a different Royal Family so there are seven Royal Families in the UAE. The current ruler of Abu Dhabi has 19 brothers and 2 sisters, no one knows how many wives he has but by law each UAE National man is allowed a maximum of four wives. Few men here can afford more than one however because each wife must be treated equally; for example, if he buys a Mercedes car for one wife then the other three must get an equal value new car.

Abu DhabiThe entire UAE is tax free and there are no import duties. The concept of taxes does not exist here, no income taxes, no sales taxes, no city or state taxes. This, coupled with zero import duty, means that fancy new electronics, hot cars, and all consumable goods are much less expensive to purchase as everything is duty-free and tax-free. Nothing is manufactured here; oil is pumped and exported, everything else is imported. Gasoline here is cheaper than drinking water which has to be desalinated from the sea.

I saw a Lamborghini here today. The highways are jokingly referred to as low flying zones; there is no speed limit so they do not drive, they fly those fancy cars. There is no public transportation in Abu Dhabi so everyone needs a car. I went to a little mall today and it was a bit funny because you could by your groceries, your flat screen TV and your new car (in cash) all at the same place.

Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi is a very new city created by the local discovery of oil in 1969 and the resulting wealth. In land mass Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE with 87% of the countries land. The main part of Abu Dhabi city is actually built on an island much like New York City/Manhattan is an island.

Abu Dhabi is a modern city with tall skyscrapers, much different from neighboring Oman. Here in Abu Dhabi they are trying to outdo Oman and have built now an even larger mosque, holding an amazing 40,000 worshippers at one time.

Abu DhabiThis new Sheikh Zayed Mosque also contains the world’s largest chandelier, imported from Germany. From a distance the Mosque looks like a big painted white building, but there is no paint anywhere, it is all white marble and the sheer scale of the complex is impressive. The mosque has finally just recently been opened but they are still putting the finishing touches on it and still are planting all the greenery that will surround it.

In addition to being Muslim EID it is also UAE National Holiday, this is the 38th anniversary of the creation of the UAE so they are celebrating with a big parade and huge fireworks…with a full week long holiday. We went to the museum here today and even though the door was open and we went in and walked around there was not a single employee inside the museum.

Abu DhabiThey say there is no crime here and Abu Dhabi is the safest capital city of any country in the world. All that you see here has been created in just the past 38 years mostly by foreign laborers. Of the population of UAE 80% are foreigners and only 20% UAE Arab Nationals. In order for a foreigner to live in the UAE he by law MUST have a work visa and a job. If the foreigner is laid off or loses his job for any reason then the visa is immediately revoked and he must leave the UAE and go back home.

Salary is also lower for foreigners doing the same job. A UAE National is always paid higher than a foreigner for the same type of work regardless of whether he has any education, experience or abilities. This 80% foreign population are mostly all men performing the various construction and other labor type jobs in this city under development. It is hard to believe that only 40 years ago the UAE was not much more than a big desert inhabited by nomadic tribes…then liquid black ‘gold’ changed all of that.

Abu DhabiThe ruling family receives all the money from the sale of oil and gas and then it decides how much of the money they will spend on improving the city infrastructure and living conditions for its citizens. So much wealth is garnered by the ruling family that they can build this entire wonderful infrastructure to keep the people happy.

There is also provided free health care, free education and social security but all this is only for the UAE Nationals. Foreigners and ex-pats working in the country under the visa work program get none of this social security or free health care or education, they must provide for it all out of their own salary savings. Abu Dhabi is very proud that for the first time it has hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix race last month on November 1, 2009.

The major Abu Dhabi landmark is the self-proclaimed “Seven Star: hotel, the Emirates Palace Hotel. It is massive and majestic with extravagance of gold plating and at every turn Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Rooms here start at $1,000 per night and go up to $25,000 per night…each room comes with three servants. The entire top floor however is off limits, having just seven huge suites, reserved 100% of the time, one for each of the seven Royal Families of the UAE who may pop in at any moment when in town and use their suite for free.

Postcards From an Italian Adventure: The Dolomites in September

Author: , September 15th, 2010

Gay Friendly Italy Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on an extended adventure in Italy. She has graciously agreed to let us republish her travel logs. Enjoy!

Dolomites, Italy

Tuesday, September 14th

Dolomites, ItalyIf I had the capability to send you 1000 pictures or 10,000 words, I would still not be able to describe the beauty of the Dolomites. Everywhere I go, as I am photographing my travels I have the opportunity to see lovely landscapes, and I try my best to describe these, but this area, the Seiser Alm, or Alpe di Suisi, is indescribably beautiful. I can stand here and try to think of enough words to describe what I am seeing, but words are inadequate. It has to be seen to realize the beauty.

These mountains rise above the meadows, providing the most dramatic landscape imaginable, from the peaceful meadows, the cows grazing, the meadow flowers, so delicate under our feet, that we are going out of our way to avoid stepping on them, to the soaring towers of the stark, bare, dolomite mountains, with small patches of snow still hiding in the crevices.

Dolomites, ItalyOn the shoulders of some of the bare peaks are narrow ridges of green trees, looking like epilauts on the uniform of soldiers. The weather had been cold and rainy in this area the day before our first hike, and there was a dusting of new snow on some of the mountains; it seemed as if a giant baker had sprinkled powdered sugar over the peaks. Fortunately for us, the weather was sunny, with just a touch of autumn in the breeze that was blowing, making great hiking conditions.

There are so many hiking trails here, that one could spend an entire summer, or a Iifetime, trying to hike all of them. The magnificent mountain plateaus, so far above us that we know we can never hike that high, but, oh my, do we want to do that. To be able to hike those upper trails and spend the night in a rifugio would be so awesome! I am just sorry that I waited until this stage of my life to go hiking up here.

Dolomites, Italy - CattleOn our first day of hiking, we took a relatively easy trail; nevertheless, we had the opportunity to see the cows up front and personal, we were able to visit a few of the “hutte” , where we were able to get food and drink, visit with the locals, and get ourselves refreshed for further hiking.

I do highly recommend this area for anyone who is planning to visit Northern Italy. Be advised, that the primary language spoken here is German, although many people also know English. Not very many speak any Italian. It is difficult to remember this is Italy, because the people here definitely are Austrian.

Dolomites, ItalyThe region is called Sud Tirol, which is in effect, South Austria, rather than Northern Italy. Culture shock, no, as these people became Italian due to political changing of territorial boundaries between World War I and World War II. It is a great culture, with the Tirolean food; schnitzel, bratwurst, great beer, very good white wine, apple strudel, dumplings. On festival days, people dress in the finest Austrian jackets, hats, dirndls for the women. Their music is Tirolean, with alpenhorns and yodeling. No Italian operas up here.

While we are hiking, there are bicyclists going past us. This is a magnificent area for mountain biking, and some of these people are as crazy as the biciclitti personi that I know in USA…(no names, but you know who I am referring to.)

Bella and Franco in the DolomitesSo, whether you want to hike or bike, take photos, or just enjoy the beauty, come to the Dolomites and see it for yourself!

In the meantime, I will continue to absorb all the beauty of this area that my mind can hold, and I hope, that somehow, I can relay what I am seeing to you. I want everyone to see the wonders that I am seeing, and I can only hope that I have the means to convey this by my writing.

Mountain Goats in the DolomitesWe are staying in the town of Castelrotto, just a few kilometers from the Seiser Alm. After our hiking one day, we were just exploring this little town, and came across a path that wanders along a ridge at the west end of town.

From this ridge we were able to look down, across some green meadows, to another little village, that looked like a picture postcard. Again, one beautiful view after another.

After a one night stay in Bolzano, we will be heading back to Florence. So I will finish this note now, so that you have the opportunity to savor the sights I have described, and get just a glimpse of the Dolomiti from my pictures.

Ciao for now…

Dolly

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