Boutique masterpiece Hôtel des Académies et des Arts pays homage to Left Bank artistry.
Near the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris's sixth arrondissement, where art students roam in the footsteps of former regulars Gauguin, Man Ray, and Picasso, the Hôtel des Académies et des Arts shows modern love for local creativity. A five-story, late-19th-century boardinghouse where Modigliani once slept has been reimagined as a 20-room luxury boutique property, accented in dramatic plum and crimson. Street artist Jérôme Mesnager used the wallpaper as canvas for his signature paintings -- white bodies that cavort joyfully through the small but stylish rooms and lobby like string-free marionettes; their sculptural counterparts scale ladders throughout the building, and video art installations play 24 hours a day in a screening room. Nonstarving artsy types will appreciate the scrumptious breakfast (fresh fruit and pastries, served with piping hot café au lait), Chez Charlotte Tea Room (serving chef Pierre Hermé's legendary macaroons), massage treatment room, and a personal shopper service that holds the key to the city's best-kept retail secrets. The hotel is an easy 20-minute metro ride from Le Marais, Paris's gayest neighborhood and site of the city's pride festivities June 27. Hotel-des-academies.com
Q&A Q : I've never stayed at a gay guesthouse, and I'm a little hesitant. How cruisy are they? I'm not sure I want to be in a sexually charged environment while on holiday.
A : While some gay resorts, guesthouses, and B&Bs do have a sexual focus, the primary purpose of most is to let gay travelers feel comfortable and be open -- why be in the closet when trying to relax on vacation? To gauge a resort's sexual temperature, call before booking a room there. Ask what the sexual environment is like at the resort and what the clothing policy is in public areas. The property's website offers additional clues. How sexually charged are the images? Are there guest or media reviews on the site that mention the atmosphere? Are the highlighted amenities the 600-thread-count sheets and gourmet breakfast or the 16-man Jacuzzi and outdoor sling? Check TripAdvisor.com or similar sites for additional member reviews, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
HOT LIST Take off with one of these top-notch Euro airlines
BMI The second-largest carrier serving London's Heathrow, BMI serves an extensive network of destinations within and beyond Europe. The airline offers a roomy premium economy class that is similar to other carriers' business class. The service is crisp, polite, and efficient. FlyBMI.com
Vueling One of the newer Euro airlines, this small Spanish carrier began as an easy option for traveling between gay-popular Barcelona and party-till-you-drop Ibiza. Since then the airline has expanded service throughout Western Europe with its fleet of new aircraft (which are as eye-catching as the flight attendants). Vueling.com
Air Berlin Air Berlin's website features the best-organized booking map system and flights to more than 120 European destinations. Prices can be a tad steeper than on the other airlines, but the difference in price is more than made up for with great in-flight dining options, extra legroom, and Teutonic adherence to schedules. AirBerlin.com