Gay dream hotels

By Darren Frei

Originally published on Advocate.com November 01 2006 1:00 AM ET

Check-in time can
be the most exhilarating moment of your vacation. No
matter how much drama is going on in your everyday life,
when you make your grand entrance into a hotel lobby
you enter another world— and can even become
another person if you so desire.

In every sense of
the word, you have arrived. We hopped around the globe
to scope out hotels that offer distinctive experiences that
we can't help but love. Now let's go jump on some
beds!

Where We Go For a Roll in the Hay
Farmer's Daughter (800-334-1658;
www.farmersdaughterhotel.com) Los Angeles

Some of L.A.'s
more hipster-ridden boutique hotels take themselves too
seriously -- with burned-out models masquerading as hotel
staff members. We love the country-themed Farmer's
Daughter, not only for its fabulous new restaurant,
Tart, but for its tongue-in-cheek blend of hip and
wholesome, catering to a healthy mix of gays, straights, and
wannabe Price Is Right contestants (located across
from CBS Studios, the hotel lobby features a Polaroid
shrine to contestant guests of yore).

A face-lift
in 2000 took the 40-year-old property from a run-down
whore of a motel to her current incarnation as sassy
blue-ribbon beauty queen. The No-tell Room -- with its
mirrored ceiling and full wet bar -- is a nod to her
sordid past. (Psst…the busiest bars in West Hollywood
are just a mile away.)

Where We Get Down (To Business)
Great Eastern Hotel (+44-20-7618-5000;
www.great-eastern-hotel.co.uk) London

"You make my
heart go boom-boom," reads the red neon sign above the
reservation desk at the Great Eastern Hotel. Situated within
the square mile of the city (the main financial
district within greater London), this Victorian-era
gem, polished up in 2000 with subtle modern touches
like, oh, a six-floor atrium is ideally suited to satisfy
the business-meets-pleasure demands of the gay or
lesbian business traveler.

Private
turn-of-the-century dining rooms are equipped with
state-of-the-art teleconferencing systems. And although all
267 bedrooms come with an ergonomically designed
workstation wired with two-line telephones and
high-speed Internet access, no two rooms are alike. The
four (count 'em!) bars and restaurants are also refreshingly
distinct—from the Fishmarket, a sea-green room
decorated with plaster cherubs, to the Temple, a
former Masonic temple with mahogany-paneled walls and
an overhead zodiac.

The giddy gilded
age comes alive—drowning out all thoughts of merger
deals, buyouts, and other bothersome business
transactions—when Immodesty Blaize, dubbed the
"queen of British burlesque," hits the stage.
Boom-boom, indeed.

Where We Go to Cozy Up to the Slopes
Adara Hotel (604-694-2139; www.adarahotel.com)
Whistler, Canada

We love that
Adara Hotel has taken the quirky-minimalist boutique hotel
aesthetic found in major urban centers and transported it to
the heart of Whistler Village, just steps from the
Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain gondolas. (Instead of
a trophy deer hanging from the wall, antler insignias
are etched into the mirror in the elevator vestibule and
stitched into gray wool throw pillows.)

During Whistler's
gay ski week in February, you can count on Adara
attracting a style-conscious queer crowd looking to up the
ante on the ultimate ski-trip fantasy. Rooms contain
Werner Panton desk chairs, huge walk-in showers, and a
"floating fireplace" that seems suspended in midair.
Preloaded iPods and laptops are available for complimentary
use if guests demand a reality check.

Where We Go After a Gondola Ride
Corte Gherardi Bed & Breakfast (+41-523-7376;
www.cortegherardi.com/ Introduction.html) Venice,
Italy

If you ask to see
a map at most hotels and inns, the concierge will whip
out a dumbed-down brochure. Ask for a map at the Corte
Gherardi and you'll be pointed toward a detailed
9-by-41/2-foot 16th century De Barbari map of Venice.
"It's amazing to see how little that Venice has
changed over the past 500 years," says owner Sosthen
Hennekam, who lived in this 13th century palace with
his boyfriend for 12 years before converting it into
one of Venice's grandest B&Bs. Built in 1260, the
roof, wooden beam ceilings, and early Gothic windows are all
original. Inside, the vibe is more contemporary, with free
wi-fi, modern furnishings, and a Mac Mini computer in
the hallway for making Skype calls or downloading your
photos onto a CD.

Breakfast is
served in your room or on the wooden roof terrace that
overlooks the famously sinking fairy-tale city. "Giving
special attention to our gay and lesbian clientele was
only natural," Hennekam says. "Venice hasn't got much
gay life going on, and it's about time that changed.
We have only three rooms, but there are other gay
couples who offer spare bedrooms." He didn't name names. For
gay nightlife, take a 10-minute stroll to St. Mark's
Square for Aurora, a cute little bar with a gay night
every Wednesday. Of course, true romantics will just
keep walking, getting lost in the magical maze that is
Venice.

Where We Go For Bathhouse Chic
Standard Hotel (305-673-1717;
www.standardhotel.com) Miami

Far removed from
the cacophonous buzz of Collins Avenue, Ocean Drive, and
Lincoln Road, the Standard Hotel Miami offers a million and
one ways to relax and rejuvenate. Everything seems to
be geared around the healing properties of water in
all its various states. We love the Roman waterfall
hot tub, the arctic plunge pool, the cedar sauna, and the
"wall of sound" shower, which pumps a rotating selection of
global DJ sounds into the H2O.

Instead of a
cheeky bar or pool scene, the hotel's lavish Turkish hammam
is the real centerpiece of this spa playland, encouraging
marathon social sessions with its heated marble seats
and late-night operating hours. With all this
hydrotherapy, you'd think booze would be banned from the
premises. Think again. This is Miami.

Where We Go to Rough It
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
(+66-53-652-189;
www.fourseasons.com/goldentriangle) Chiang Rai,
Thailand

Guests arrive at
the Four Seasons Tented Camp in an exquisitely crafted
long-tail boat, floating down the Ruak River in the remote
Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos,
and Burma meet. The camp's 15 cream-colored canvas
tents, inconspicuously perched on stilts amid a lush
bamboo jungle, have all the amenities of a five-star hotel:
fully stocked minibars, wi-fi, air-conditioning, and
hand-beaten copper bathtubs for two.

The all-inclusive
rate, though certainly not cheap, covers everything
from wine and spirits to excursions down the Mekong River
and a day of elephant riding taught by a fraternity of
extremely friendly and helpful mahouts (elephant
handlers). Dressed in cute blue uniforms, the mahouts
tend to the camp's six enormous pachyderms.

After a jostling
elephant safari, followed by afternoon tea, make your
way across the suspension bridge that leads to the spa and
luxuriate in a traditional Thai healing treatment
while you overlook the magnificent San Valley. You'll
probably think to yourself, This is hardly
camping
.

Where We Go For Siesta
W Hotel (+52-55-913-81-899;
http://www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels/property/
overview/index.html?propertyID=1444) Mexico City

You're sprawled
out in a hammock as warm drops of water rain down across
your body. This could be your own private island, but it's
actually your deluxe bathroom at the W Mexico City. No
matter how hard the Aztec sun sizzles outside, the two
showerheads in your bathroom ensure on-call inclement
weather. Opened in late 2003, the first W Hotel in Latin
America is a colorful oasis of cool comfort in the heart of
the Polanco neighborhood, just five minutes from the
newly restored Chapultepec Park and a few blocks from
the best new boutiques, restaurants, and bars in the
city.

But the
temptation to stay inside the hotel is intense, not only
because of the spectacular bathroom but because of the views
(the enormous Terrace bar opens up over the Polanco
area; the gym is surrounded by glass walls that put
you above the bustle) and the spa treatments (go for
their modern version of the traditional Mayan temescal
treatment). Need another reason to linger?

W's latest
"Pride 365" package, aimed at gay and lesbian
travelers, encourages guests to sleep in -- offering late
checkout at 2 p.m. (in addition to a copy of the
Brokeback Mountain soundtrack and two
complimentary cocktails, through October 2). W knows
us well. We love that!

Where We Go Grand
Waldorf-Astoria (212-355-3000;
www.waldorfastoria.com) New York City

Despite its
recent condo conversion, the Plaza Hotel may still be
regarded as New York City's quintessential hotel, but the
Waldorf-Astoria is the hotel -- for the entire planet.
When it opened on Park Avenue in 1931 the imposing
Waldorf-Astoria was the world's largest and tallest
hotel. It still feels like a city within a city. We love
this New York art deco icon for obvious reasons. It
exudes exclusivity, each room is decorated
differently, and all feature marble bathrooms.

But the hotel's
history and traditions are even more endearing, including
its cuisine (the Waldorf salad, Thousand Island dressing,
and eggs Benedict were all invented here); its glamour
(shot on location, Weekend at the Waldorf starred
Ginger Rogers and Lana Turner); and its status as a
second home to heads of state. According to legend, a
caller once phoned the Waldorf Towers (the lavish
boutique hotel that occupies the 28th through 42nd floors)
and asked to speak to the king. The operator replied,
"Which king?" Royal pedigree or not, the concierge can
score reservations at the top restaurants in
Manhattan. Now that's grand!

Where We Go Just Because
Onyx (617-557-9955; www.onyxhotel.com) Boston

It's not because
of its Britney Spears suite (a replica of the star's
childhood bedroom, designed by her mother). It's not because
of the Atomic Fireball, in lieu of a mint, on the
pillow. It's not even because of the hangover-busting
Big Fat Cheeseburger at the Ruby Room restaurant and
lounge (at right).

No, while
we certainly appreciate the delightful idiosyncrasies and
bonus services offered at Onyx, we really love it because
its corporate parent, San Francisco–based
Kimpton Hotels, is so ambitiously (and unabashedly)
pro-gay. Kimpton's InTouch loyalty program provides special
attention to gay members. Queer guests can identify
themselves and receive special offers, a quarterly
newsletter, and access to gay-themed events. The
company's annual Red Ribbon Campaign generates funds for
local HIV service agencies.

This
community outreach, combined with a strong commitment to its
gay employees, earned Kimpton a 100% score on the Human
Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index in 2005.
Hit me, baby, one more time! (OK, we do love the fact
that it has a Britney suite.)