Tag Archives: cayuga sustainable hospitality

23 Reasons to Love My Readers

Today on Alphabet City: As the countdown to the new Poptimistic blog begins, Jon Paul looks back at the 23 Most Popular Alphabet City Posts of 2010.

Thank you to the thousands of readers from around the globe who have spent time in Alphabet City.  You’re a diverse bunch with varied tastes—from eco-friendly travel to gay hook-up apps—there’s been a little bit of something for everyone in 2010.  And you’re always surprising me—I mean who knew there were so many Glee fans in Brunei?  In case you’ve missed some of the favorites, I’ve pulled together the Top 23 for you—a little primer on what your fellow Alphabet Citizens have enjoyed.  Why 23?  Because it’s a funny number.  Let me know—did your favorites make the cut?

#1 40, Love: Glee Bargain I’d like to think that my take on Fox TV’s hit show Glee and the producer’s difficulty in portraying Kurt in a more realistic light hit a nerve with the blog-o-sphere.  But judging from the Google searches that linked to the post, I honestly think folks were searching for pictures of cute gay high school student Blaine.  Maybe a channel dedicated to my thoughts on the show is in order?  I think I’d call it KurtiousGLEE.

#2 40, Love: Hello, Meat Grindr No surprise that sex sells, especially to gay boys on the prowl.  My humorous take using the hook-up site during jury duty is one of ABCityblog’s perennial favorites.

A chance encounter with photographer Jamie Beck lead to my favorite Alphabet City publicity shot!

#3 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: From Me To You Out of a chance encounter in the blogosphere—courtesy of Whole Foods—blossomed a fun friendship with phenomenal photographer.  The result has been spectacular pictures of me, Chef and our home.  This post gives a peek behind her stylish blog.

#4 Alphabet City’s Episode 1: Whoopi A crazy cat and a mishap with her Oscar, make my encounter with Whoopi a perennial favorite—and the perfect opening to Alphabet City.

#5 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: PerrinPost.truth.travel For years travelers have been religiously following the advice of Condé Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin.  In this post, I get my longtime friend to dish about how her print job keeps her from blogging 24/7 and what that means for PR folks.

Another Jamie Beck captured moment

#6 40, Love: Tattoo Police I’m an exhibitionist at heart, so I take every chance to show off my tattoos—even on the blog.  According to Google, many people are worried about being “booked” in this tattoo database.

#7 Alphabet City’s: One Night in Bangkok Okay, I’ll admit that I was pandering to my readers with, shall we say, more prurient interests by posting this scandalous excerpt from Alphabet City about a gay sex palace in Bangkok.  But it has one of my favorite comic lines, ever.

#8 Green Globe Trekker: Blue Bahama Mama Thankfully, my readers have rather diverse tastes—especially for eco-travel.  In advance of my panel at Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Congress in Singapore, I get the green scoop on The Atlantis.

#9 Kitchen Knightmares: Something Fishy Moroccan Halibut and Carrots from a Bon Appétit recipe is the star of this post—the top viewed recipe related story.

#10 Alphabet City’s Alpha-Beltway This entry is the most-read post related to the Alphabet City Book Tour. While in DC, I get an insider perspective courtesy of old friends, have nauseating John Boehner sighting, and wonder what happened to my favorite Rosalynn Carter outfit.

#11(tie) Tex and the City: Lela & BA Café MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts makes a guest appearance in this post, sharing a picture of his taxi driver’s name Ram Amandeep.  Read it aloud.  That name has become the #2 Google search directing traffic my way.  The first?  “Glee Blaine.”  There’s a joke there, but for now, I’m going to refrain.

AND

40, Love: Virgin Queen My first time with a woman—first time getting a tattoo, of course.  Next to sex, tattoos sells.  I guess they are related in a way.

#13 Kitchen Knightmares: Kiss My Grits After meeting Chef Marcus Samuelsson at a Kraft-sponsored event, I’ll admit developing a little crush.  Will his next restaurant be in Washington Heights?

#14(tie) Alphabet City’s Even Jesus Had a Publicist A rejection from a literary agent who thinks the general public won’t know what a “publicist” does provides an opportunity to excerpt from Alphabet City.

AND

Alphabet City’s Episode 4: Tyra, And Nothing But the Truth Before she was America’s next top media mogul, she was grazing the breakfast buffet and quizzing me about my sexuality.

#16 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 13: Happy Soul The online encounter that changed my life.

#17 40, Love: Justice Jo(h)n Paul Unearthing a letter from his father’s papers, I pay tribute to Supreme Court Justice John Paul.

#18 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 14: And Baby Makes Three A heartbreaking farewell to a special cast member.  Pet lovers won’t be able to read without crying.

Outside Hanoi's Golden Cock

#19 Green Globe Trekker: iPho Vietnam—Motorbikes & Golden Cock While I’d like to think it’s my lovely description of Viet Nam that makes this post a standout, I believe the name of Hanoi’s gay bar is what calls out to many in their Google searches.

#20(tie) 40, Love: Share, and Cher alike AND Kitchen Knightmares: The Premiere The launch of my cooking show with a nightmare of rancid pork is as compelling to readers as my fighting with neighbors and their kids at the local CSA food pick-up spot.

#22 Tex and the City: The Parent Trap Confronting the question of “are you guys going to have kids?,” I turn to theater reviews for help.

#23 Green Globe Trekker: Costa Rican Eco-Luxe Many of the travel industry’s most pressing sustainability questions have been answered by the Costa Rican trendsetting company Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality.

Jicaro property

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Green Globe Trekker: Costa Rican Eco-Luxe

Today on Green Globe Trekker: A preview of upcoming Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress panelist—Hans Pfister of Costa Rica’s Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality.

A few months after Chef and I started dating in 2000, we went our separate ways for winter holidays—family in Mexico City for him; beaches of Costa Rica for me.  It was my introduction to Chef’s overactive imagination.

“Ay, just be careful,” he worried as I kissed him goodbye.

“Costa Rica is a pretty stable, safe country,” I said.

“I’m talking about the dinosaurs!  That’s where the Jurassic Park Island is!”

“Honey, that’s fiction.  And the movie was mostly filmed in Hawaii.”

 

No dinosaurs at Cayuga's Lapa Rios property as far as I can tell

 

On the ground in the very busy Manuel Antonio area, I couldn’t figure out how to get a phone card to work and dial Mexico.  So when I finally did reach Chef, he had been stewing for days—convinced my puddle jumper plane had crashed and I’d been killed by velociraptors.  But I had other things to worry about.  Besides the challenge of reading the tide tables so I could figure out when to climb over the rocks to get to the secluded gay beach (of course), it was one of the first times I remember being worried about tourism development ruining the pristine environment.

If only I’d known about the wonderful small hotel chain company Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality.  The group of six eco-hotels in Costa Rica and Nicaragua is the winner of a Condé Nast Traveler 2010 World Savers Award because they are implementing break through social responsibility initiatives in everything from environmental preservation to education programs.  Recently, I have gotten to know so much about them because the President and Co-Owner Hans Pfister is part of the panel I’m moderating at the upcoming Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress in Singapore on October 20.  The title of our discussion is “To Preserve and Protect—Can Going Green Coexist with Luxury?”  And I posed that question to Hans in a pre-interview.

We do have to make certain compromises—we’re not purists.  If you want to attract $500 per night there are certain amenities and comforts that a guest wants.  The challenge is to provide it in a way that’s sustainable and not go overboard.  More importantly, we educate the guest about why they don’t need this luxury thing they might be used to.  We explain to them how we are trying to give them the best of both worlds, and the best way we do that is through our “sustainability tours.”  We offer our guests complimentary tours through our installation—back-of-the-house tours of employee quarters and laundry.  Once they see how much effort goes into reducing water use, decreasing waste, increasing recycling, their appreciation of their stay increases a lot.  The best thing is they take back a lot of ideas that they can implement at home.

 

Jicaro property

 

In the travel industry world, Hans’ belief in talking to guests is more controversial than you might imagine.  Some companies don’t want to engage guests in these discussions for fear of offending or being accused of preaching.  Hans disagrees.

It’s crucial to talk to guests about sustainability; we have to get guests involved.  There should be times when you open that window and let the guests ask questions and get answers that they can use.  Obviously it has to be something interesting—you can’t show them light bulbs and changing sheets.  Show them how you create bio gas, or plant nursery, or take them to a local school to show them your education programs.  Sustainability becomes relevant, entertaining.  You don’t impress anyone by showing them how you change light bulbs.

Bio gas?  A light bulb went off in my head.

At our resort in Lapa Rios we create a lot of organic waste.  It’s in the middle of a rainforest, so hauling it back to a landfill was very inefficient.  One of the employees suggested we could do a simple set-up to create bio gas—so we let him build it.  Basically, the system takes the pig excrement, washes it in a cement area covered with plastic, and the methane gas gets trapped.  It’s connected to PVC tube to the employee kitchen that we use for cooking.  It saves us about $3000 per year in methane gas and we don’t have to transport organic waste to the landfill.  Employees appreciate it.  And believe me, the pigs love it—they eat all organic, like gourmet pigs!

One of the questions I hear over and over in conversations is “Will guests pay more for an eco-friendly luxe experience?”

I think yes, but the other stuff has to be right too.  If you have two equally attractive hotels, right in front of beach and they’re both on the Condé Nast Traveler Hot List or Gold List.  But one of the hotels is telling  guests that it’s doing things right environmentally, and for the community, then I think people are willing to pay more.  I’ve heard that in conversations from guests who visited our property in Manuel Antonio.  That in the end, they decided to stay with us because of our sustainability programs.  But I hope it becomes a different decision—that if you’re NOT sustainable you don’t even play.  Maybe the magazine could create The Black List—the World Trashers Awards.

I promised Hans to take that idea back to the magazine, and I know where Chef and I will be staying on our next visit to Jurassic Park.

 

Arenas del Mar Staff

 

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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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