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I traveled to Vienna this year to attend the Life Ball, the largest fundraiser for AIDS research in the world. The event is televised on Austrian TV and is notable for the procession of elaborately costumed partygoers walking the red carpet to the ornate City Hall. This year’s event included President Clinton, Ricky Martin, and Conchita Wurst, the Austrian drag queen who won this year’s Eurovision song contest.
British Airways has just launched its discounted “daytripper fares” for travelers flying from London to a handful of European cities. The catch? (Or, perhaps the benefit?) You have to return to London in the same day. Round-trip tickets, including all taxes and fees, will cost £79 (about $130) to Dublin and Geneva, £89 (about $149) for Edinburgh and Rome and £99 (about $165) for Vienna and Munich. You can only travel with carry-on luggage from London’s Heathrow airport, and only on Saturdays or Sundays.
These fares are tailor-made for travelers who want to cram in a second destination with their London trip — a fairly common strategy, especially considering how easy it is to get to Paris, Scotland, or other parts of England by rail. Flying expands your options even more.
Of course, taking into account check-in, transfers, and flight time, this doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy that second destination. But if you really have the urge to pop across the Channel (or Irish Sea) for a few hours, here are some suggestions for quick, interesting itineraries you can accomplish in a day.
Coffee, one of the world’s most universally beloved drinks, offers a taste of local culture with every sip, in whatever form it’s served (small but strong, organic and Fair Trade Certified, topped with whipped cream, or spiked with whiskey). Inspired by cool fall temperatures and a recent #TTOT (that’s Travel Talk on Twitter, a hashtag travelers should definitely check out if they’re not familiar with it), here we spill the beans on five destinations where caffeine-craving travelers can get their fix.
Vienna: The coffeehouse, or Kaffeehaus, is as much a staple of Viennese culture as the waltz and opera. In recent years, the number of traditional coffeehouses has dwindled as owners face competition from modern chains (yes, Starbucks has several locations here) and increasing real estate costs, but enjoying a cup is still a must-do during a visit. From decades-old institutions with soaring ceilings and immaculately dressed waiters to boho-hip joints that draw a young crowd, you can find the perfect spot for any sipping style.
Can’t-miss spots include Café Sperl, a gorgeous architectural gem that has been around since 1880; Café Sacher, known for its decadent Sacher-Torte; and Café Landtmann, with live music, a celebrity clientele, and live music.
As far as 2012 travel trends go, river cruising is right up there, so there’s no surprise that the gays are all over it. And although it may be one of seven LGBT tour operators chartering groups aboard European riverboats this summer, newly founded Brand g is the only one that wants you to experience it for free. Contest time!
Launched just in time for Valentine’s Day, as well as the heartening strides made for gay marriage in Washington State and the repeal of Prop 8 in California, the “Share The Love” contest is encouraging adventurers to share their same-sex love story, or for friends to nominate their favorite LGBT couples, for the chance to win two spots on its 10-day Danube River Cruise, which includes a 2-night stay in Prague and port calls in Nuremberg, the Bavarian forest, Salzburg, Linz, Melk, Vienna, Slovakia, and Budapest. Read more
It may only be entertainment, but the settings of movies and TV shows do have the power to transport. So it made me think that with the Oscars just a few weeks away, I should share my picks for the top 10 movies that capture both the romance and beauty of a place – and are actually fun to watch.
Bora Bora: Couples Retreat Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau may be the stars of this 2008 comedy, but Bora Bora steals almost every scene. Filmed at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort (doubling as the fictitious Eden Resort – and shown above at left), the movie is not as winning as Wedding Crashers, but it will make you want to raid your bank account and fly off to this ridiculously romantic paradise.
New York City: When Harry Met Sally I live in New York City and this 1989 romantic comedy nails what I love most about my hometown – winter, spring, summer, and fall. With scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Central Park Boathouse, Yankee Stadium, and Katz’s Delicatessen (a sign still hangs above the seat where Sally showed Harry how to fake it), this Nora Ephron-written, Rob Reiner-directed classic is like calling a dear friend who lives here each time you watch it.
Besides signalling a joyous end to the aughts, the new year brought much to celebrate for gay and lesbian lovebirds in Austria when a new civil union (techinically “registered partnership”) law went into effect January 1, granting legal recognition and rights such as alimony and pension inheritance. According to Michael Gigl, Director North America of the Austrian Tourist Office, while much of the country has long been welcoming to gay and lesbian tourists despite its heavy Catholic population, it’s something to celebrate that a coalition of the conservative Austrian People’s Party and more liberal Social Democratic Party agreed to officially sanction same-sex unions.
What better way to celebrate than with an LGBT tweak on another traditional institution: the Viennese ball.
For a glamour-clad waltz with diversity, the Rainbow Ball (January 30) offers up a formal alternative to the codified trappings of traditional heterosexual offerings. Less formal affairs with drag-ball matrons include the The Rose Ball and The Wallflower Ball, both held the night of the famed Opera Ball (February 11). While the Rose Ball is more a glitzed-up nightclub spectacle within the framework of a ball at the Palais Auersberg (indeed, many come here as an afterparty to the Opera), The Wallflower Ball is more a homegrown party for an alternative mixed set at Club U within the Art Nouveau Otto Wagner Pavilion. Organized by H-a-p-p-y, one of Vienna’s gay community organizations, the dress code is mousy and beige and the most inconspicuous ball-goer is awarded a prize at midnight. Read more
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