Harissa: Where The Virgin Mary is Watching Over Lebanon – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , November 13th, 2017

Harissa - Alain

Lebanon is a predominantly Muslim country but it is the most open-minded muslim country I’ve ever been to. Beirut, as a capital, is littered with Christian churches and mosques. People of two different faiths live in harmony. It’s a city where I didn’t feel like I have to watch out what I do.

I never had that feeling of being paranoid. Sorry Dubai or Abu Dhabi but you still make me paranoid everything I go there (8 times in the past two years). There’s this constant feeling of being watchful – because you don’t wanna end up in jail by just accidentally touching a man’s hip, right? Beirut, on the other hand, has a carefree, relaxed air despite the horrible traffic in the city. The people are nice and the Lebanese men are – oh, boy, don’t get me talking about them. Let’s just say, they’re my type. LOL…

About Harissa. It is a small community on top of Mt. Lebanon where a huge statue of the Virgin Mary is watching down the city with open arms. To reach Harissa, you’ve got to go to Jounieh, a city just 27 kms outside Beirut. It would take an hour with the endless traffic. Or less. Once you reach Jounieh, take a 9-minute cable ride to the top of Mt. Lebanon. You can also drive up there by car but riding the cable would be more panoramic and satisfying.

Jounieh. This city is famous for its club and restaurants. In fact, it is the nightlife spot of Beirut. You can admire its stunning view of the bay when you’re up there in Harissa.

Biblical City. Do you know that Mary and Jesus used to live in Lebanon? It’s been said that Mary would wait for Jesus at a cave in Maghdouche while he preached in Sidon and nearby places.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Lebanon Gay Travel Resources

Our Last Day in Florence – Dolly Travels

Author: , November 13th, 2017

Florence - Dolly Travels

Buon amiche,

Yes, I have to leave Florence again. This is always a sad day for me, for I love Florence, but, alas, I have to go away from my fairy tale world, and go back home again, and live my real life.

So, in parting, I thought I would leave here by giving you some pictures and commentary about my favorite city.

The other day, I just had to get out and walk all over the city. Frank is such an understanding, compassionate soul. He told me to go and enjoy myself.

I set out from the apartment, down our street toward the Duomo. I did not go into the mob of tourists, but turned to the right, found my way to the Arno by going through side streets and little alleys.

I just had to walk down via Tornabuoni, which has some of the most expensive stores in the the city. I don’t even own clothes fine enough to go into those stores, but I wouldn’t go into them, anyway; with their black-suited doormen, and the elegant men and women who are shopping there, I would definitely be a fish out of water.

I continued on my way, and crossed the Ponte Santa Trinità into the Oltrano area, the more bohemian neighborhoods of Florence.

I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the Arno River, flowing underneath. It was such a lovely morning, I lingered a few moments to enjoy the serenity of that view, then I turned eastward, and followed the river for awhile.

I truly enjoyed being on the less crowded side of the Arno. Eventually, I turned south, walking through the Oltrano neighborhoods to get to the staircase that led up to the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Finally, at the top of the square is the bronze statue of David. He was worth the climb.

As I got to the railing, I could see so much of the beautiful city of Florence, with the Duomo in the background, the Church of Santa Croce behind the white buildings , the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, at the left. As I took in the view, church bells all over the city started chiming the noon hour. All those bells, resounding over the city and up the hill to me, sent a delightful shiver up my spine.

On my way down the east side of the Piazzale, I came to the grotto. It used to have turtles in it, but they are not there any longer.

Soon I came to the river again, and followed to eastward to one more bridge, the Ponte S. Nicollo and crossed back to the main part of Florence.

In the early afternoon, I arrived back at our apartment building, but the day was still so beautiful, I had to go into the piazza just beyond, the Piazza S. Annunziata, and take a picture of Duke Ferdinando on his horse.

I had enjoyed a delightful walk, seeing so many of the places that I love. I knew that soon I would return to the city of Florence, for it indeed has become my second home, and one that keeps calling me back.

Fortunately, Frank was waiting for me, and we ventured out for an afternoon aperitif, while I told him of my day.

I will say, “Arrivederci ” now, for I have to pack and get ready to leave. Tomorrow morning we go to Rome, and stay near the airport there, and fly home on Wednesday.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk through Florence with me. I also hope that, if you have not been to Florence, you will see it some day, for it is a magical place.

Ciao for now,

Chez Amis B&B Inn – Annapolis Gay Friendly Bed & Breakfast

Author: , November 11th, 2017

Chez Amis B&B Inn - Annapolis Gay Friendly Bed & Breakfast

Come stay with us in Maryland’s state capital for a day, weekend or even a full week, and explore everything Annapolis has to offer.

Our Annapolis B&B offers four guest rooms in the historic downtown, close to the State Capitol building, St. John’s College, the Annapolis waterfront, city dock, the US Naval Academy, antique shops and wonderful Annapolis restaurants and night life, all within easy walking distance.

Chez Amis in French means “Among Friends”. Come stay with us and enjoy a great breakfast, comfortable lodging and plain old fashioned relaxation.

Each of our guest rooms includes a private television. Our common area is perfect for reading, conversation, and playing games, including Bananagrams and Scrabble. We also offer refreshments and homemade cookies throughout the day and night – sneak downstairs in the middle of the night for one last cookie, if you want.

Our dining area is a wonderful piece of carpentry that was built by the previous inn owner. It comfortably fits all of our guests but we also offer supplemental seating if you want a more intimate table.

We have a big collection of books, DVD’s and CD’s for your enjoyment during your stay. Or bring your e-reader or ipad, and use our free wireless access.

Looking for a warm, friendly place to stay in Annapolis? We’d love to have you at Chez Amis!

See the Chez Amis B&B Inn Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

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

The Gay Philippines – Gay Star News

Author: , November 11th, 2017

Manila - Gay Philippines - Pixabay

The Gay Philippines is the most gay-friendly country in Asia, whose gay community has developed its own culture. ‘Bakla’ means homosexual in the Filipino language, while gay people are often considered a 3rd gender.

The LGBT community of the Philippines enjoys the majority of the human rights, especially compared to other Asian countries. Same-sex marriage isn’t legal there yet unfortunately, but it has been discussed several times by the Congress.

In addition to the good living standards of the country’s gay community, Philippines is an excellent destination for gay vacations. You could take your friends or your other half. Gay families are also welcome. The resorts are capable of giving you a full experience of the destination featuring a wide diversity of activities that you can do with your family.

Keep reading to discover some of the most popular gay destinations in the Philippines, and see some of the best gay-friendly hotels and resorts!

By Paraskevas Sklavos – Full Story at Gay Star News

Inside the Sistine Chapel – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , November 11th, 2017

Sistine Chapel

Inside Sistine Chapel are the well-known frescoes of Michelangelo. For many, seeing these stunning art preserved in a chapel is an experience of a lifetime. Gazing at the incredible masterpiece from the floor to the wall and unto the ceiling is an experience that would never go away. I felt like this is one of those experiences I’d consider and describe as, “You’ve got to see it to believe!”

I spent a full 45 minutes minutes here, in amble walk – from corner to corner. I had goosebumps while listening to the audio guide, describing in details some of the symbolisms behind the characters in the painting. When you’re under a phenomenal art like this, you won’t just be speechless but feel pain in your neck.

Before You Go Inside. I’d recommend you to watch this really informative, educational and inspiring TEDTalk detailing the incredible treasure of Michelangelo. After watching the video, I’d still want you to take an audio guide to make the experience more meaningful. You’ll have an incredible journey of finding one character to another, while looking back and forth; or up and down.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Ira Allen House – Vermont Gay Bed & Breakfast

Author: , November 10th, 2017

Ira Allen House - Vermont Gay Bed & Breakfast

The Ira Allen House is one of Vermont’s oldest inns and taverns, dating back to 1779. It is the historic home of Ethan and Ira Allen, colonial pioneers and fervent defenders of the Republic of Vermont during and after the Revolutionary War.

The Inn is situated on 10 acres of land abutting the Batten Kill River – one of the country’s premiere trout-fishing streams. We’re nestled in the heart of the Green Mountains, the perfect home base for hiking, skiing, canoeing, biking and other outdoor activities.

The town of Manchester with its fine dining and excellent outlet and boutique shopping is four miles to the north.

All of our rooms are 2-bedroom suites, each with its own bathroom – perfect for groups or families. Two of our guest rooms have private fireplaces. A full breakfast is served each morning, and our home-cooked dinner is available for a small charge with a day’s notice.

The beautiful lawn on the Batten Kill is a perfect spot for weddings, ceremonies, reunions, etc. The Innkeepers are delighted to help organize your event.

We aspire to be good local and global citizens. The Inn is heated primarily by wood pellets, a “green” and renewable resource. Much of our food comes from local farms.

The cozy, rustic inn/tavern is gay owned and operated, and welcomes all.

See the Ira Allen House Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Southern Vermont Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

24 Hours in Gay Vancouver

Author: , November 10th, 2017

gay Vancouver

Gay Vancouver is one of the world’s great cities. Its combination of architecture, ocean and mountains—not to mention its cosmopolitan citizenry—make it quite unlike any other urban center. The city has a very active LGBTQ community and is worth a long weekend visit—or even longer if you are able.

But what if you have a mere 24 hours to experience the city’s sights? Maybe you have a short stay on the way to an Alaska cruise or a long layover before a flight to Asia: How to spend your time in this sparkling metropolis?

Here are five things to put on your “must do” list, as recommended by Angus Praught, President of Gayvan.com Travel Marketing.

Davie Village

This is ground zero for LGBTQ+ Vancouver, where you can start off or wind up your visit. Have breakfast, lunch, dinner or a cocktail, and meet some of the locals. This area is a short taxi ride from the downtown hotels and is very walkable. Check out the famous rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Bute and Davie.

By Paul Heney – Full Story at Travel Pulse

Vancouver Gay Travel Resources

Arezzo, Anghiari, Monterchi – Dolly Travels

Author: , November 10th, 2017



Yesterday, we had the pleasure of finding some new towns in Tuscany, thanks to our friends, Massimo and Magda Carli. These people, as most of you know, are our Italian landlords and good friends for the past 16 years.

Massimo and Magda live in Viareggio, but they came to Florence, and took us on a driving tour to the more southeastern heart of Tuscany, to places where I had not traveled before.

First, we drove to Arezzo, which is a charming old town, but clean and most of the buildings were in good repair. The city itself dates back to Etruscan times, so it was first settled before 500 B.C.

We started our tour, guided by Massimo, to the Basilica of San Francesco. This church is dedicated to Saint Frances of Assisi, and he apparently traveled throughout this region, for one of his first followers and companions, is sealed in a sarcophagus with a glass lid, so visitors can view him. The primary attraction in this church are the restored frescoes of Piero della Francesca, a local boy, other well-known frescoes in churches throughout Tuscany. Michelangelo was also from this region.

The construction of this basilica was begun in the last half of the 13th century and finished in the early 14th century.


Inside the church, looking toward the Bacci chapel, with its fabulous frescoes, depicting scenes of Christ and the legend of the “True Cross”. I will leave that to you to research and understand the meaning, and why it is so important to Christians.

When we left the church, we walked through the town, up to the Piazza Grande. There were tourists, to be sure, but most of the tourists were like us: couples or small groups; none of the big tour groups we have encountered in Rome and Florence.

Another famous citizen of Arezzo is Robert Begnini, the director and star of the Italian film, “Life is Beautiful”. Some of the scenes of that movie were shot in this piazza.

We had lunch, then wandered around a bit. I don’t know why these oxen were in the Piazza Grande, but they were, with a wooden cart sitting nearby that they were to pull, I believe.

We got back into the car, and Massimo drove us to another hill town, much smaller than Arezzo, but such a lovely town. I started looking at real estate ads.

The buildings and the atmosphere of this small village reminded me of Montepulciano. I love these hill towns.

We did not want to walk up the steep hill to the church, so we left Anghiari and drove another half hour or so, through the lovely Tuscan countryside, where we saw people harvesting tobacco, which is the primary agricultural crop in this area. That was surprising to me, for I thought tobacco grew in warmer climates.

Finally, we reached the hamlet of Monterchi, which is further into the mountains, and further east. For in that small town was a museum that housed an important frescoe from Piero della Francesca, called “Madonna del Parto”, depicting Mary about to give birth, but in a setting attended by two angels. I am sorry that I could not get a picture of it, for it is well protected in a special room, and the attendants were watching the visitors very carefully. Do look it up on the internet, for it is a very lovely frescoe.

So there ended our tour of the three villages in Tuscany, none of which I had seen before. I was very pleased to see all the art work and amazed at the history of these villages.

We traveled back to Florence and the four of us enjoyed a late dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Ristorante di Mimmo, which was close enough for us to walk, after Massimo parked the car, for finding a parking place in Florence on a Saturday night is no easy task. Ciao for now,


Bologna From the Top – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , November 8th, 2017

Bologna - Keep Calm and Wander

Bologna is a city that still looks medieval from the streets to the rooftops. And thank goodness, it’s one of the off-beaten paths that tourists skip when visiting Italy. I’m glad I did stop here for two nights without expecting much on what to do and see. After two weeks of backpacking in Italy, I decided to slow down in Bologna. The city is pretty relaxed and there weren’t many tourists when I was there. The main square was a bit crowded but few steps from it, you’ll find a nice place to sit on for a drink or two.

Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. I didn’t know much about Bologna until I came here. In fact, the only clear knowledge I had for the city is its pasta bolognese – which I was pretty sure originated from here. And, of course, I gobbled down on it with much gusto. It tasted good with any kind of wine. Yes, I had three different wines before, during and after the meal.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

Emilia Romagna Gay Travel Resources

Taking a Holiday in Gay Malta – Gay Star News

Author: , November 8th, 2017

Gay Malta Pride - Gay Star News

For many in Europe, Malta has a reputation for being a rather genteel holiday destination for older holidaymakers. The island is trying hard to shift that perception, with youth-oriented music festivals and a growing awareness of the LGBTI tourism market. It’s also an increasingly popular spot for those with a passion for diving.

However, for many, gay Malta’s main attraction remains its tranquil, Mediterranean charm.
Most holidaymakers head for Valletta, the capital city. It’s also a major harbor which plays host to cruise ships throughout the year.

Malta is actually three islands. Malta itself has a population of 400,000, while the smaller Gozo has 30,000. Comino, the smallest part of the archipelago, is almost uninhabited.
Approximately 1.6million tourists swell Malta’s population each year. The UK accounts for around 450,000 of those.

The island nation has a fascinating history. It has been tussled over by various factions, including Arab invaders, the Normans, the Knights of Malta and French. It was a major British naval base between the early 1800s and 1964, and elements of Britishness persist, such as red phone boxes. What dominates greater is the Maltese limestone from which almost all the buildings are built. Valletta was built along a grid system. Narrow streets are lined with buildings dating back to the 1600 and 1700s. Figures of saints and the Virgin Mary abound.

By David Hudson – Full Story at Gay Star News

Malta Gay Travel Resources