Q My girlfriend and I are planning our first vacation together. We’re attending a wedding in L.A. this spring, and we’ve decided to tack on a beach vacation in Southern California. I love to camp and want to experience the outdoors with her, but she is reluctant, saying that she must have a comfortable bed. She stays only in nice hotels when she travels, and she refuses to sleep in a tent. I dislike luxury hotels, and I really want to camp. What should we do–spend the rest of our lives taking different vacations? TERE H. Albany, N.Y.
Don’t give up yet. There’s a small but growing segment of the lodging industry that accommodates eco tourists, who don’t want to get their nails dirty. North of Santa Barbara you’ll find a place called El Capitan Canyon, which bills itself as a luxury campground. Guests stay in a cabin with bath or in a safari-style canvas tent with central bathing facilities. All accommodations have superb mattresses and high-thread-count sheets; some cabins even have Jacuzzis, Hike, swim, or lounge on the adjacent beach by day and, come supper time, if you’re too tired to barbecue on your private grill, drive 20 minutes to Santa Barbara for a white-tablecloth meal and a good bottle of wine.
Q I’m traveling to Argentina with my father. Can you recommend a trendy, hot restaurant in Buenos Aires? I’ll be looking for sexy boys, while my father looks for good wine and delicious food. Can you also recommend any good bars that get hopping earlier than 11 P.M.? I have a hard time staying awake after 1 A.M. STEVE OPPENHEIMER Palm Springs, Calif.
Buenos Aires has no shortage of fabulous restaurants. For contemporary style and culinary innovation, check out Bar 6 (Armenia 1676, phone 11/4833-6807) in the Palermo district, one of the city’s gayer neighborhoods. Make reservations and–like everyone in Buenos Aires–dress to impress. As for the time restriction, you may be out of luck Most restaurants don’t open until 9 o’clock, and it’s not unusual to eat at midnight. If you want to hit a bar or club, you won’t find any “hopping” scenes until after midnight–though some places open as early as 7. Fret not: between 2 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, if you take a siesta like everyone else, you’ll be able to twirl through the night with nary a yawn.
Q My husband and I live in the Virgin Islands. We would like to swap homes on our next vacation. Is there a service that focuses on gay travelers? DON B. Virgin Islands
There are several newly sprung agencies that specialize in house swaps for the gay community–though their listings are still relatively limited. Would you rather work with an established agency with lots of listings from straight people and families, or would you prefer fewer choices but the reassurance that you’ll be swapping with someone who won’t be alarmed by your collection of Justin Timberlake photos? Regardless, be sure that you trust the other party before committing to the trade. Establish a correspondence. Most swaps include the use of your car as well as your house, so craft an agreement letter for both parties to sign in advance, specifying who pays for insurance, gas, utilities, etc. It’s not the agency’s responsibility to write contracts for its members. As for insurance, there is no policy specific to house swaps. Check your homeowner and automobile policies; you can usually purchase short term coverage.
Gay agencies: Mi Casa Su Casa charges $60 for a three year membership. At Home Around the World is based in London and charges 39 [pounds sterling] (about $65) for a five year-membership. One World One Family is free and focuses on house swaps and “hospitality” exchanges, whereby you trade a room in a house or apartment. General agencies: Intervac (800-756-4663) charges $50-$105 annually. HomeLink International (813-975-9825 or 800-638-3841) charges $40 $110 annually. Check out Web sites for these at www.outtraveler.com.
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