Thursday, December 23, 2010

Enchanting Chez Wadi---Buzios, Brazil

Lush Tropical Gardens Surround The Swimming Pool

By Roy Heale

Every now and then during my travels I am fortunate enough to stay in remarkable accommodations that have their own unique and memorable features. Such was the case when I walked though the front door of Chez Wadi Pousada in Buzios, Brazil. The aura of peace and tranquility was instantly apparent, but perhaps more importantly I immediately felt right at home. Located just about 100 meters from the Manguinhos Beach, Chez Wadi is the perfect place to stay and enjoy all that Buzios offers the LGBT traveler. Gay-owned and operated by Waldyr Abifadel, Chez Wadi is dedicated to perfection and ensuring that every guest experiences a flawless stay at his home. Certainly Waldyr's amazing hospitality is the reason that his pousada stands out from the crowd of accommodations available in Buzios.

The luxurious, yet warm and cozy, furnishings are complemented by Waldyr's personal collection of original artworks, mementos and sculptures from his personal global travels, and an extensive book collection. All of this combines together creating a very “home-away-from home” spirit throughout the property. The bold and rich color schemes combined with beautiful natural stone floors and wooden or leather furniture constantly encourage relaxing pleasure.

Living Area

A kitchen and bar with an outdoor patio plus swimming pool in the lush tropical gardens complete the amenities for total vacation enjoyment. A full buffet breakfast is served every morning on the garden patio and drinks and light meals are available throughout the day. Waldyr will even demonstrate his expert culinary skills and plan a special dinner upon request, with sufficient advance notice.

The eight rooms are large, modern and complete with every personal convenience. Each room is unique and several small buildings located at the rear of the property house the accommodations. They are well appointed and tastefully designed to complement the lush tropical environment so as to appear unobtrusive.

Guest Accommodations

The lush tropical gardens are manicured daily by the staff gardener and they provide the perfect environment for relaxing in a chair or hammock plus lounging poolside. Or the short five minute walk to the expansive Manguinhos Beach allows for surfside enjoyment in the hot tropical sun.

Strolling along the beach for about fifteen minutes will take you to the small Porto da Barra village and gastronomical center where you will find the fishermen's wharf, a fish market, the old pier, and several gourmet restaurants with ocean views. This is also the original location where the first vacation homes were built on the Buzios peninsula.

Chez Wadi is located a short fifteen minute taxi ride from the center of Buzios. This means it is very easy to head into town and enjoy the shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars that are the main attraction in the small seaside village. It is also very easy to travel around the peninsula in a rented dune buggie and visit the numerous beaches for which Buzios is world renowned.

After purchasing the land Waldyr designed and built his dream home. Shortly thereafter he began receiving his many friends as guests in his new abode. Because of his generous, perfect hospitality his friends encouraged him to add more bedrooms and begin offering his services to everyone. Thus Chez Wadi was born a few years later and now enjoys a reputation as the perfect pousada in Buzios.

A great location, luxurious living quarters, close to the beach and gourmet dining---what more do you need for a completely relaxing gay vacation or honeymoon?

Manguinhos Beach and Jetty

Although Waldyr welcomes all guests to his home, he also demonstrates the true essence of the meaning of “gay-friendly” accommodations. He strives for perfection in every detail around the pousada and, in my opinion, completely achieves his goals. If you are planning a trip to Buzios be sure and check out the availability at Chez Wadi where you are guaranteed to receive a big gay welcome for a perfect holiday.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Penguins, Dolphins, and Welsh History in Patagonia, Argentina

Artist's Rendering of Penguin Colony
By Roy Heale

One of the most fascinating and enjoyable day trips from Puerto Madryn, Argentina is the journey south to visit the penguin reserve at Punta Tombo. With stops along the way for Dolphin watching and a traditional Welsh Tea in the historic town of Gaiman this is a full day of unequaled activities. The Flamenco Tour agency offers this day trip starting at about 9AM in the morning and returning to Puerto Madryn by about 6PM. With bilingual tour guides who are knowledgeable on the region and comfortable vehicles, this day trip is a must for those who enjoy nature and unique experiences.

Penguin Crossing

The small peninsula of Punta Tombo is on the Argentinian Patagonian coastline. Thousands of tourists gather here to be amazed, entertained, and educated by one of the most fascinating shows performed by nature at the Magellan penguin colony. Approximately half a million penguins come every year in order to breed. The first of them arrive in September and stay until about mid-March, but the best time to observe them is after November, once the babies are born. One of the greatest features of this Nature Reservation is the fact that you can actually walk among the penguins, follow them and learn their habits, see how they feed their babies, the rites of pairing, the fights for the defense of their territories, how they build their nests, and the unending walks they take to and from the ocean. This is a truly singular experience with wonderful photo opportunities. Penguins and their individual style of waddling and behavioral patterns are always entertaining.

Punta Tombo is also a paradise for other sea birds that have chosen this site to nest. Kelp gulls and dolphin gulls, skuas, two species of cormorants---the king cormorant and the rock shag---steamerducks, snowy sheathbills, and several species of terns and giant petrels all make their nests in this region. Be sure to bring your binoculars to enjoy the bird watching.

Dolphin Watching

At Puerto Rawson the boat tours head out to sea where the dolphin sightings are a major attraction.

Usually the Commerson's dolphins---called Toninas locally---and also known as bottlenose dolphins, can be observed year-round. This is one of the few places in the world where these dolphins may be watched in their natural environment. Semi-rigid boats leave from Rawson's harbor in the afternoon because in the mornings the dolphins remain feeding in the ocean depths. Theses dolphins are not at all shy and love to dart back and forth in front of the boats' bows and leap into the air performing a great show for the passengers on board. On one boat trip it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to observe numerous of these fascinating sea creatures having fun in their natural environment.

For a change of pace the next stop is a visit to the town of Gaiman where the first settlers arrived in 1865 by boat from Wales. These immigrants were escaping from the English domination of their homeland as well as from the attempt of the latter to impose their culture upon them. They were looking for a virgin territory to be able to establish the "New Wales" where they could follow their own rules and customs without being attacked. Patagonia offered this safe haven. Today much of the Welsh culture is still apparent in the historic buildings, architectural style, and street names. Even the Welsh language is still spoken and taught in the schools, and real Welsh Tea Houses are open for all to enjoy a traditional Welsh Afternoon Tea. The Welsh village essence and small farms retain the charm and character created by these original settlers even in today's modern society. This is a bona fide step back in time with historical overtones for an incomparable Patagonia experience.

Welsh Tea House Gaiman

From wildlife to local history this day trip from Puerto Madryn is a fascinating education of the local culture and yore. The gay and gay-friendly staff at Flamenco Tour agency will be happy to arrange this journey for your enjoyment and will also ensure that you learn from your time spent with nature and yesteryear.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sun, Surf, and Fabulous Beaches---Buzios, Brazil

Sarah Mar  Restaurant at Ferradura Beach

By Roy Heale

Just one hundred and twenty miles north of Rio de Janeiro lies a small peninsula known as Armação dos Búzios. It is only eight kilometers long and adorned with over twenty magnificent beaches which are bathed in brilliant sunshine year-round. Some beaches are small and accessible only by short hikes or water taxis and others are expansive, sandy stretches of shoreline with restaurants, cafes, and bars. The diversity and options which these beaches offer creates the perfect setting for vacations in the sun with fun outdoor activities. No wonder this small Brazilian paradise has already been discovered by numerous LGBT travelers seeking the perfect relaxing gay-getaway.

Buzios has a long history as a small fishing community and holiday destination. But in 1964, when Brigitte Bardot---super model, actress, and icon of the sixties---posed for photographs in Búzios wearing a bikini swimsuit, which was a new rage at the time, the peninsula gained a new reputation. Naturally a beautiful screen goddess in a skimpy swimsuit declaring this small fishing village to be an “aphrodisiacal wonderland” proved to be more than enough to launch an entire industry of tourism which is still thriving today. In her honor you can stroll along the Bardot Cove and on the Orla Bardot you will find a statue of her sitting on a suitcase and gazing out to the ocean. Sunset is the best time here to experience the magic of Buzios and understand the mystique which captivated Bardot in the sixties and lives on today.

With a resident population of about 25,000 people this is a truly international community. The locals have a long history in the community going back several generations. But many of today's residents came to visit Buzios on vacation and then returned later to make this Nirvana their permanent home. Perhaps this is the reason why the peninsula enjoys a reputation for tolerance and acceptance of all visitors including the LGBT traveler. Although this a very typical Brazilian cultural community there is also a strong European influence which leads to comparisons with the French Côte d'Azur towns like Saint Tropez. In the main center of Buzios the narrow cobblestone streets and unique architecture housing restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques emanates a sophisticated flair while the countryside offers rich tropical vegetation, rolling hills, spectacular views and, of course, sandy beaches.

Narrow Cobblestone Streets

Although the main attraction here is water sports and beaches, Búzios is also an ideal place for people who appreciate fine dining. There are French, Italian, Moroccan, Thai, and other restaurants to please the most discerning tastes. The influx of foreigners who relocated here is partially the reason for this diversity, having brought the recipes and spices from their native countries. Fish and seafood remain the favorite local dishes because Búzios is surrounded by beaches on all sides and an ocean plentiful with a variety of seafood. The popular Brazilian “Buffet By The Kilo” is well represented in Buzios by Boom Restaurant where the choices are incredible from salads, to local hot entrees, or meats cooked to order on the assado. At Chez Michou there is a wide range of sweet and savory crepes which are perfect at any time of the day. For gourmet dinning at night be sure to visit Patio Havana for great food and entertainment accompanied by ocean views. Almost every restaurant offers a Catch of the Day but the real delight is at the Fish Shanty on the promenade where the catch is literally direct from the ocean, to the grill, and to your table. Or perhaps some Argentine beef at Don Juan is an option from seafood delights. Whatever you are craving it is all available in Buzios and always with a different view.

Almost every accommodation on the peninsula is gay-welcoming but during my visit I was fortunate enough to experience two of the gay and lesbian owned pousadas. First I stayed at Chez Wadi where the gay owners strive for---and achieve---perfection in making you feel right at home from the moment you walk through the front door. Located just 100 meters from the expansive Manguinhos Beach, Chez Wadi offers ten air conditioned large rooms in a tropical garden with a swimming pool and artistically furnished common areas. This quiet location and carefully manicured lush tropical flora is the perfect place to relax and yet still be close to all the other attractions of Buzios. Secondly, I stayed at the lesbian owned Our House which is the only exclusively gay resort in Brazil. Located just a ten minute walk to downtown and about the same distance to the popular Ferradura Beach, Our House offers eight rooms with ocean views, a large swimming pool, a rustic cafe area where breakfast is served, an entertainment lounge, and more. Owners Maria and Giselle endeavor to provide a safe and comfortable place for gay vacationers to enjoy exclusive privacy and relax in a totally gay environment. They also offer a wide range of hiking or biking eco-tours along some of the peninsula's most beautiful trails and countryside. This is a great location, with great views, and perfect hosts.

Forno Beach
Naturally the beaches and water activities are the main attraction and Buzios offers everything imaginable including snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing, fishing, ocean kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, fishing, hiking, and more. Of course simply relaxing on the beach and swimming in the crystal-clear blue waters is a must! On one side of the peninsula the waters are slightly cooler with stronger waves for the surfers and the other provides calm, warm water for less strenuous sea sports. Whatever the preference for activities, the diversity of more than twenty large and small beaches offers beach-goers of all ages the perfect place to spend the hot sunny days.

No visit to Buzios is complete without at least one boat trip onto the Atlantic Ocean coupled with visits to the secluded beaches and scenery that is not readily accessible by land. I was fortunate enough to spend four hours at sea with BuziosNauta hosted by their experienced sailors and tour guides. During this cruise we stopped at four of the more secluded beaches where swimming and snorkeling or relaxing on the beach were enjoyed by all. The boat was well stocked with both alcoholic beverages---mostly Brazilian Caipirinhas---water and soft drinks. Plus in the afternoon our short stops included visits from kayak or boat deliveries of Pizza and fresh prawns. A truly blissful time in the sun on the oceans gentle waves with cool breezes.

Getting around Buzios is easy on foot, by inexpensive taxi, or you can rent bicycles or dune buggies to explore more of the peninsula's beaches and lush tropical scenery. However, make sure you have a map and good navigator as the narrow, winding and curved country roads require careful maneuvering.

With a close proximity to Rio and the very gay-friendly atmosphere I could easily understand why Buzios is rapidly becoming increasingly popular as a new favorite South American gay vacation destination. What could be more gay than amazing beaches, calm and clear ocean waters, gourmet dining, gay accommodations, and late night clubs, bars, and entertainment? All of this at reasonable and affordable prices with a tropical climate for surf and sun gay get-aways. Make sure you add Buzios to your upcoming vacation plans and you won't be disappointed.

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