Sipping cocktails from the roofdeck bar and restaurant, Fahrenheit in Charlotte, NC
Last weekend I flew down to visit my good friends David and Mark (a.k.a. Frenchie and the Yankee) who moved to Charlotte approximately 2 years ago from Boston. The trip was fantastic from start to finish. It didn’t hurt that the weather in Charlotte last weekend was sunny and in the low 70s and every tree seemed to be blossoming, filling the streets with the heady fragrance of spring.
Charlotte’s hip South End
For those who don’t know David and Mark, they are spectacular hosts. In the span of just one weekend we attended a Saturday morning mimosa party that raised funds for Time Out Youth; strolled through the incredibly picturesque Fourth Ward; visited The Duke Mansion in the posh Myers Park neighborhood; rode Charlotte’s light rail system to the 7th Street Public Market where we purchased a bottle of wine and cheese from local shops then sat down – enjoying an urban picnic of sorts in the cute little marketplace; and we even squeezed in a bit of retail therapy, going to their friend’s men’s fashion shop, SILVERFLY. David and Mark hosted a lovely cocktail / dessert party at their home so I could meet their friends before we headed out to the gay bar Cathode Azure Club for some dancing.
While I enjoyed all that I did, my favorite time was spent together walking through their neighborhood – the South End, chatting over numerous bottles of wine and meeting their friends who are a charming and handsome bunch.
Charlotte, North Carolina’s Fourth Ward neighborhood
Out with the boys at Cathode Azure Club
A couple years ago our friends “Frenchie and the Yankee” moved from Boston to Charlotte, NC for a new job opportunity. While neither Frenchie or The Yankee are from Boston, they certainly succeeded in making it their home and long lasting friendships. I know Sergio and I are not the only ones to miss this fun couple.
I’ve been remiss in visiting them in Charlotte and am rectifying that by flying down to visit them for the weekend. Frenchie (shown above with me) and I have talked a few times and it sounds like the weekend will be spent, eating, drinking wine of course, and getting caught up. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but “I’m really excited to go to Charlotte.“
Earlier this week Chicago Tribune journalist, Josh Noel, wrote, LGBT travelers face some of the biggest challenges, I think the article is worth reading so I wanted to share it, comment on it and get your thoughts.
The crux of the article is the fact that the LGBT community in the US travels both domestically and internationally more than the general population, but despite that fact there are many parts of the world that are so dangerous that many in our community would not visit out of concerns for personal safety. Noel points out that 78 countries (more than one third of all countries) consider “homosexual acts” illegal and is even punishable by death in seven of those countries. Now in fairness, I assume that many of those countries are probably unsafe for anyone (and especially Americans) but his point is noted.
Both abroad and in parts of the United States, Sergio and I have had to think carefully about our personal safety. We have also (at least for the time being) ruled out travel to different destinations because of either personal concern or the reputation those country’s governments have treating their gay population. Places of interest that I’d like to visit but have taken off the list for now include Jamaica, Russia (I would love to see the Hermitage some day) and Egypt to name a few.
Noel’s article got me to thinking. Have you ever felt unsafe because you are openly gay when traveling either here in the US or abroad? Have you ever taken a destination off your list of places to visit because of travel safety concerns or your frustration with their local laws making homosexuality tantamount to a crime?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts loyalty program known as SPG announced a global partnership with Uber earlier this week, allowing members to earn points with each Uber ride they take.
According to the program, within 24 hours of your first stay at a Starwood hotel you can begin earning points if you join your accounts; earning 1 Starpoint per $1USD; Gold and Platinum SPG members can earn up to 4 Starpoints per USD.
And in 5 select cities on Saturday, February 28th from 2PM – 7PM local time, SPG and Uber will be giving riders the opportunity to experience a #SuiteRide with a one-of-a-kind “Starwood car” in Dubai, London, Mexico City, New York City, and San Francisco.
Want to learn more or link your SPG account to your Uber account to start racking up points? Visit SPG.com/uber.
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island
Grand Cayman is a Caribbean Island located just to the west of Jamaica and south of Cuba. The tiny 20-something mile island in the Western Caribbean has plenty to offer but without a doubt its most famous attribute is its Seven Mile Beach.
Sergio at Stingray City
If you’re not a beach person, Grand Cayman offers decent snorkeling and an opportunity to play with wild stingrays at “Stingray City”. Stingray City is a sandbar a few miles off the coast of Grand Cayman where you can go and see and feed wild stingrays. We booked a trip with Captain Marvin’s, and I would happily recommend this company because of how much fun Sergio and I had there.
Camana Bay City Centre
If you’ve had too much sun or need to purchase something check out Camana Bay City Centre, which is a mixed use development that includes a handful of restaurants, clothing stores, cinema and bookstore (among other things).
For more tips on island activities check out Trip Advisor or contact me, and I’d be happy to share a few more suggestions suitable to your taste and near where you will be staying.
Calypso Grill’s deck in Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman has no shortage of great dining options and I would encourage anyone visiting to leave their hotel and do some exploring. Trip Advisor does a nice job of listing a wide selection of dining options. One of our more extravagant meals on the island was at Calypso Grill. If you decide to go, request a table outside overlooking the water. For this New Englander, dining outside by the water in February is a rare treat and added to my dining experience.
Bread and Chocolate French Toast
As much as I enjoyed Calypso and some of the other places, it was two of the more casual dining establishments that Sergio and I enjoyed the most. Neither of these places are by the water so if that is a must then simply bypass these options. For visitors coming by cruise ship the first option is within walking distance of where you will disembark and is called Bread and Chocolate. This tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves delicious (vegan) food and is a favorite among locals. I had no idea eating vegan was so delicious.
Casual dining at Cimboco in Grand Cayman
The other restaurant I wanted to give a shout out to is Cimboco. It is located just a few minutes by car from The Westin and Ritz Carlton in a small strip mall that also has a burger shack, smoothie store and coffee shop. Cimboco hosts a $5.00 breakfast Monday thru Friday from 7:30 – 11:00 am that is tough to beat. Additionally, they make delicious sandwiches and pizzas (I’d recommend trying the eggplant pesto pizza) all very affordable.
While there were many more options, I thought I’d limit this post to three of my favorites: Calypso Grill, Bread and Chocolate and Cimboco. For more dining tips check out Trip Advisor rankings or contact me, and I’d be happy to share a few more suggestions suitable to your taste, price range and near where you will be staying.
Gay travelers have good reason to be wary of the Caribbean Islands. While some islands are more tolerant than others, most are influenced by conservative Christian churches and many have a terrible track record with regards to LGBT rights. Affluent, gay North American and European travelers aren’t subjected to the same overt discrimination that residents are but it might be smart to read, Global Gay Boyz post for LGBT travelers if you have never traveled to the Caribbean before.
Despite its wealth, The Cayman Islands remains a conservative society and while they are more tolerant than most Caribbean nations, overt forms of PDA are not wise. There isn’t any gay life to speak of in the traditional sense of a defined neighborhood or designated gay bars. However, O Bar near Seven Mile Beach is a popular hang out where gay locals and travelers will frequent. For more details visit O Bar’s Faceebook page.
While there is no gay beach, some will meet by the Royal Palms (restaurant and bar) or Calico Jack’s along Seven Mile Beach. According to locals, Royal Palms “Industry Night” hosted each Wednesday, as well as Friday night and Sunday during the day are when Royal Palms will be busiest. Calico Jack’s best night is Saturdays.
Regardless of where you go, it is easy to have great time in Grand Cayman. There are many places to visit, dine and relax. Should you be planning a trip and have questions, feel free to reach out to me by leaving a comment below or email me.