Tag Archives: amsterdam

Destination Taste: Wedding Dykes

Today on Destination Taste: Tips on Amsterdam nuptials for GayWeddings.com

On my recent trip to Amsterdam, locals were quick to point out to me that they have one marriage law that applies to gays and straights alike. They are rightfully proud of the fact that Holland is on the cutting edge of marriage equality—for Dutch citizens. Unless you are marrying a permanent resident of the Netherlands, don’t expect to hop the next KLM flight and tie the knot the next day. But with a little planning, there’s no reason you can’t pull off a memorable, and tasteful, gay destination wedding in the city of canals.  Click here for some of my tastey tips for gay-friendly wedding planner, locations like Sofitel’s The Grand, even nightclubs for bachelor/ette parties.

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GayWeddings.com: Amsterdam Emotion.Bread

In my latest post for GayWeddings.com, I uncover a clever addition to your gay (or straight) wedding.  Here’s an excerpt:

Swans mate for life as captured in this emotion.bread

Just like fashion designers are often inspired by overseas travels, my wedding and event planning tips are informed by my tastey gay getaways. Amsterdam was no exception—and no, I’m not talking about the infamous coffee shops and Red Light District. In the revitalizing neighborhood of Westerpark, I met up with artist-chefs-innovators Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing at their De Culinaire Werkplaats, a design studio, restaurant, store and more for food concepts.

CLICK HERE to read more about Marjolein’s concept of making bread the centerpiece of sharing for life’s sweet and savory moments like “always together breads”—for (gay) weddings.

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Green Globe Trekker: Gayer in Amsterdam (Part 2)

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul reveals the gayest spots in Amsterdam to be mary—Shop, Drink, Party, Sex.  Viewer Discretion Advised.

If you read Gayer in Amsterdam Part 1, you’ll probably remember that after three nights in the canal city courtesy of the Holland Tourist Board, I returned gayer than ever.  Well, buckle your KLM seatbelts because this post takes it up a queer notch.  Here is Part 2 of my travel tips—for both gays-by-nature and gays-in-spirit: Be Mary—Shop, Drink, Party, Sex.

For Stay, Move, Eat, See—visit Part 1.

Shop.  Thanks to the Inside Design Amsterdam 2010 fair sponsored by Elle Won happening at my groovy green hotel Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, I got a preview of H&M’s newest home store concept that will debut in Amsterdam’s Dam Square this Fall.  Instead of loading up a shopping cart with shower curtains and pillows, customers grab a magnet with an image corresponding to their chosen item and attach to their hand held magnetic shopping cart.  At checkout, the magnets are traded for the actual items.  The result is a streamlined shop that is greener in that it doesn’t require wasted floor space and unnecessary packaging.  Also courtesy of the design show, I was introduced to Holland’s leading eco-luxe blogger Annouck Post of Hiphonest.com.  Check out her blog before heading to Amsterdam for her recommendations on designers and shops that blend luxury and sustainability, like the don’t miss store Charlie + Mary.  For those with a little darker, heavier tastes with a splash of fetish, head to Mr. B flagship leather store on busy Warmoesstraat near the Red Light district.  No need to be embarrassed if you’re like me and just indulge in fantasy from time to time, the staff was incredibly friendly in helping me choose and fit my newest harness.  Hey, I’ve lost weight and pumped up my chest, so a girl’s got to look good at The Eagle, right?

Drink.  Escape the madness of the nearby Red Light District and duck into The Queen’s Head for a drink and a friendly chat with owners Don and Arjan—who celebrated quite the gay wedding recently.  The lush red interior with palm plants and disco balls has a view out to a canal, and had an easy mix of gay and lesbian locals and tourists.

Party.  Curiously for such a rocking city, Amsterdam lacks big dance clubs.  But one gay hotspot that is packing them in to a rather small venue is Club Church.  The only worshipping going on here is of the male form—besides the dance floor there are several dark areas where the boys are getting busy.  Check the website for theme nights—the underwear party I went to on Friday was packed, in multiple ways.

Colin Farrel as Oliver Stone's "Alexander" with Jared Leto playing gay lover

See.  While the ad campaign may be true that Everyone’s Gay in Amsterdam, someone forgot to tip off city’s branch of the Hermitage Museum.  Their exhaustive exhibit of artifacts related to Alexander the Great—one of the world’s most successful arguments against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy—there’s not one word scrawled about the famous warriors longtime male lovers Bagoas or Hephaestion.  I couldn’t help thinking the omission was related to homophobia in Russia—where the original Hermitage is based.  Still, the building itself is

Amstelhof's restored kitchens

worth a look for its historic importance.  Built in the late 1600s, the enormous complex served over the years as a home for the old, infirm, and finally a nursing and medical home known as Amstelhof.  After two years of renovations, the building reopened in June 2009 as a branch of the famed Russian museum, and separate from the exhibits, guests can get a glimpse of the old kitchens and restored church hall.

the airline fit for a queen

Go.  I think it’s fun to fly the international carrier of the country you’re visiting—so the journey begins even before arrival.  Well, I’ll admit to some exceptions for a few countries in the Asia-Pacific regions and Africa (not mentioning names).  But I was in luck flying to Amsterdam on KLM.  The extra 80 Euro I paid to sit in their Premium Coach area with extra legroom and bigger seat pitch was definitely worth it.  The on-demand in-flight entertainment system kept me happily occupied coming and going watching the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove (run, don’t walk your fingers over to your Netflix cue to order this gem—I’ll be meeting the director Louie Psihoyos at this month’s Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress in Singapore).  J. Lo’s Back-up Plan was entertaining only from the perspective of marveling at how the filmmaker stretched a razor thin plot into 90 minutes of froth mostly by requiring Alex O’Loughlin to remove his shirt.  And I’m not sure I should even begin to discuss what possessed me to sign up for the two and half hours known as Sex and the City 2.  All I have left to say is Really?

For You Gays Only.  Speaking of sex in the gay city, let’s get down and a little dirty.  So if you’re just gay-in-sprit and offended, then move on.  But if you’re titillated, then by all means, read on.  For the most part, this is not a city where gays are going to find it hard to hook-up.  Many of the bars and clubs have back rooms for sexy encounters (see Club Church, above).  A bevy of international gays descend on Thermos Sauna—one of the nicest, cleanest, and most happening gay sex palaces I’ve had the pleasure of visiting around the world.  In addition to the usual set-up of steam room, sauna, dark room, private cabins, porn theater, there’s a bar and restaurant, clothing shop and beauty salon.  Clearly, the Dutch have a welcoming and unshameful attitude when it comes to gay sex.  Except, oddly, if you’re staying at Lloyd Hotel.  Weirdly, the hotel’s Internet provider blocks access to popular hook-up sites Manhunt and Adam4Adam.  So if that’s your chosen method of meeting locals, you might just want to check with your hotel in advance about their policies.  For the most part, Grindr worked fine, although occasionally it would tell me that every horny boy in Amsterdam was 0 feet away.

Well, on second thought, maybe that was true.  After all, Everyone’s Gay (and green) in Amsterdam.

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Green Globe Trekker: Gayer in Amsterdam (Part 1)

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul comes back from Amsterdam gayer than ever, with Green Globe Trekker tips on where to stay and eat, how to move, and what to see.

After three nights in Amsterdam, I am definitely gayer.  As hard as that is to imagine, it’s true in that happy, festive, content sense of the word.  At the conclusion of the Alphabet City Book Tour, the Holland Tourist Board offered me the opportunity to find out if their cheeky ad campaign is true—Everyone’s Gay in Amsterdam.  Didn’t have to ask me twice.  So I packed up my new Marc Jacobs notebook with the cover “The Gay Gatsby” and off I went to discover how easy it could be to go gay and green.  Luckily, there was no shortage of cute and friendly Dutch boys willing to show me around the canals.

Here is Part 1 of my travel tips—for both gays-by-nature and gays-in-spirit.  Today: Stay, Move, Eat, See.  Later: Be Mary—Shop, Drink, Party, Sex

Stay.  Many hotels talk a big game about each of their rooms being unique, but Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy (a mouthful to be sure) in the revitalized Eastern Docklands area delivers on that promise.  Named to the 2005 Condé Nast Traveler Hot List, the hotel’s building dates from the early 1920s and has housed a migrants’ boarding house, a detention center as well as a youth prison—talk about gay fantasy.  The 116 rooms are now a showcase for clever Dutch design—ranging from “one-star” rooms for around 100 Euro with original tiled paneling and shared baths to a “five-star” room for around 350 Euro with a bed that sleeps eight.  The central restaurant Snel with a dramatic soaring ceiling serves as a gathering place for the mix of guests, many of them artists.  And the hotel isn’t kidding about the “Cultural Embassy” part—when I was there, the hotel was the centerpiece of a three-day Inside Design Amsterdam 2010 fair sponsored by Elle Wonen.  Almost half the rooms were given over to cutting edge and sustainable designers to completely reinterpret the interiors in whatever way they saw fit—and thousands of Dutch with toddlers in tow were streaming in to see the results.

Move.  There’s no better way to see Amsterdam—and go green at the same time—than doing like a local and biking everywhere.  With bike lanes everywhere, this city is made for two wheels.  I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face as I scooted home late from the bars through the lit up canals—I’m sure they thought I was creepy weird.  Although how the locals have mastered pedaling while holding an umbrella and texting I will never understand.  Lloyd’s has bikes for rent for 12 euro/day or alternatively check out one of the 3 locations of MacBike, and pick up a self-guided Gay Bike Tour that they call both “historic” and “hysteric.”  I’ll admit that I did have a little bike accident my last night there—a combination of pouring rain and distraction of a hot pedestrian’s wet t-shirt.  My knees are a little scraped up, from the accident that wasn’t my fault, I promise.  So for those of you a little nervous, the alternative is to pick up an “I am Amsterdam” card that includes a public transport ticket as well as card for entry to 40 major tourist attractions.  The tram system is terrific and takes you most everywhere—but runs very limited after midnight, so if you are out at the clubs, a bike might be your better gay/green option for your pedal of shame home.

Discover.  First stop should be the Gay Tourist Information Center housed in the cheeky store Gays and Gadgets on Spuistraat.  In addition to meeting hunky Hans who looks like he stepped out of a Tom of Finland Holland picture and runs the center and shop, you can pick up your pre-ordered packet of all the gay goings on happening while you are in Amsterdam so you’re not searching through every bar and disco for info.

Reflect.  Just around the corner from the gay info center is the Homomonument, memorializing the gay men and women who were victims of the Nazi regime, and honoring those everywhere who have battled for freedom and human rights.  The three equilateral triangles made of pink granite symbolize the past, present and future—and are a simple and powerful reminder of ongoing struggles.   For an extra dose of history and reminder of the power of one individual to change the world, head just down the block to the Anne Frank Museum.  Despite the crowds, I am always moved by a visit here—and an insider tip from Hans is to go late at 7pm when the crowds have dispersed and the building stays open until 9pm.

Eat.  Thanks to the adventurous Dutch and their history as traders, Amsterdam is a crossroad of cultural influences—so you can find all types of cuisine.  But the best and most innovative dining I had was at De Kas a world class restaurant focusing on local, sustainable produce.  Housed in a city park in a renovated greenhouse that once grew trees for Amsterdam, the elegant restaurant now grows all its own herbs on site and has a farm just outside of town where it harvests its produce.  Menus are made about a week in advance and are also dependent on the herbs that the chefs gather that morning.  The day I visited for lunch I had a cold veal with pesto sauce over green beans served with a delicately fried stalk of fennel seeds that gave the whole dish an exotic spice island flavor.  This is an absolutely can’t miss stop for great design, flavor and green attitude.

Learn.  For an interactive sustainable food experience, make a reservation at De Culinaire Werkplaats, a design studio, restaurant, store and more for food concepts.  The owners Marjolein Wintjes and Eric Meursing are trying to inspire people to eat more grains and fruits through innovative and tasty ways.  You can watch and learn as they cook for you—it’s like being in a friend’s kitchen—only these friends are artists who like to cook to a theme like “black.”  They use black potatoes or dark tiger tomatoes.  I was there for “water” and delighted in a watermelon cocktail soup that Eric created by marinating the whites of a the watermelon (usually discarded) in a mix of spices for one week and then plopping in watermelon juice and topping with honey and mint foam.  Their concept cooking has become so successful that they often work with fashion and interior designers—right now they are creating an edible dress out of strawberry paper.  Reservations are a must before you trek out to the Westerpark neighborhood—an area that reminds me of New York’s East Village fifteen years ago.

Stay tuned for suggestions on where to drink (like a queen), dance (in your underwear), shop (for home-wares and homo-leather-wears), what to see, and frank talk about sex spots.

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Green Globe Trekker (Series Premiere)

Today on Alphabet City: JP premieres the new series Green Globe Trekker—a personal look at stylish & sustainable travel; first stop gay & green Amsterdam

Sometimes it’s easy for me to overlook the seeds of my interest in green travel, because my bookshelf is filled with pre-teen travel journals that include these hilarious pronouncements:

Age 12, 20 February 1981, London Journal “Today was so exaspirating! (sp)  We got on the plane o.k.  But, they put us in the smoking section!  So, we traded.  The movies were Hopscotch & Raise the Titanic.  The food was awful!  It was a great trip!”

Age 12, 24 December 1981, Canadian Adventure “I was not as impressed with the Four Seasons in Calgary as I was with others.”

Age 13, 16 June 1982, Rhein (sp) River Adventure “I say, you seen one palace, you seen ‘em all”

Dad holding me down

But next to these riveting written accounts of my early life as a travel critic, there’s an old black binder of pictures from a family eco-adventure I will never forget.  Instead of our usual cushy stay at Point Clear, Alabama’s Grand Hotel, my family spent six days white water rafting down the Grand Canyon.  At the time, I was six years old and one of the youngest kids allowed to undertake the semi-dangerous excursion.  Because I was so light in weight (and probably the loafers), my father had to sit on top of me in order to hold me down when we passed through treacherous rapids.

Bio-soapy fun with my sisters

The thing I remember most about the trip is not my mother wrapping her legs around my sister Pam to save her from going overboard—but soap.  Biodegradable soap, mind you.  I was fascinated with the concept that there were special, glycerin cleaning products for use in the muddy waters of the Colorado River.  My sister Paige, a budding environmental advocate who now works for Whole Foods Market, explained to me how important it was to try and leave as little impact on the surroundings as we could—and that included sensitive detergent that didn’t harm the ecosystem.

Queen Rania pumps it up at World Savers Congress

It’s been 35 years since my first taste of green travel, and now I am right back in the thick of it.  For the past four years, I have been advising Condé Nast Traveler on issues of social responsibility and the travel industry, including the planning of the magazine’s annual World Savers Congress.  The conference is a gathering of over 200 leaders of the travel industry designed to celebrate, promote and encourage a range of efforts—from poverty alleviation and health initiatives to environmental and cultural preservation.  Speakers have included everyone from noted economist Jeffrey Sachs to musician-activist Wyclef Jean, from Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times to Queen Rania of Jordan (talk about stylish—staring at her Versace pumps almost got me in security trouble).

At this year’s conference on October 20 in Singapore with keynotes by Academy Award-winners Mira Sorvino (UN Goodwill Ambassador advocating against human-trafficking) and Louie Psihoyos (environmental activist and Director The Cove), I will be moderating the panel  “To Preserve and Protect: Can Going Green Coexist with Luxury?”  Joining me will be Debra Erickson, Executive Director of the Kerzner Marine Foundation; Hans Pfister, President and Co-owner of Costa Rica’s Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality; Adine Roode, Managing Director of South Africa’s Camp Jabulani; Gary Stickland of Melbourne’s Alto Hotel on Bourke; and Brigitta Witt, Vice President Environmental Affairs, Hyatt Hotels Corporation.  I’m excited to dig into some important questions like how can big corporation scale up the amazing green advancements made by small hotels and lodges.  And perhaps, more importantly, how does (or should) a company communicate to consumers their commitment to these causes?

Some question whether the travel industry, thanks to its expansion, is responsible for killing the planet.  But visionary Virgin mogul Richard Branson tackled this thorny question rather well at a recent luncheon hosted by Condé Nast Traveler at the Council on Foreign Relations.  “I don’t think asking people to hold back progress is the way to deal with global warming.  Rather, we should all invest a percentage of our profits in energy that is clean.”  Whatever my feelings about Branson’s braggadocio, he is an innovator that is leading the way on clean aircraft fuel development.

Fellow Brit Tony Blair backed up Branson’s belief in the tourism industry being a positive force, albeit from a completely different standpoint.  Mr. Blair made a very powerful and forceful argument for tourism development as being critical to the Middle East peace process in helping Palestine achieve a viable economic state.  Blair in-person has that Bill Clinton-effect of mesmerizing an audience.  I hung on his every word.  At times, I wondered if maybe I had seen Love Actually too much, equating the real Blair with Hugh Grant’s version.  Regardless, by the end of his impassioned plea, I was ready to write a check and become an investor in a hotel in Gaza—for the sake of the planet.

Given my interest and knowledge of sustainable travel issues, I thought maybe it was time to start writing about it on ABCityblog.  So when the Holland Tourist Board asked me if I’d like to find out if it was true what their ad campaign proclaims—Everyone’s Gay in Amsterdam—I queerly said yes.  I have had some memorable, sexy times in Holland’s eco-friendly capital.  So what a perfect place to combine gay style and green travel in my new series of columns I’m calling “Green Globe Trekker—a personal look at stylish & sustainable travel.”

So stay tuned while I try to prove Kermit the Frog wrong—in this day and age it should be easy and fun and chic being green.

Let’s just hope that throughout this journey there are copious amounts of biodegradable soap.

The dawn of the Green Globe Trekker

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