Volume 4, Issue 8
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Welcome to the August edition of the Purple Roofs newsletter. :)
Late Availability/Special Offer Accommodation Notices
See this month's Late Availability & Special Offer notices (157 offers in 16 countries/regions) all at http://www.purpleroofs.com/lateavailability.html, or just check your favorite destination page - these notices are also right there on the regular listings.
San Francisco Travelog
We spent four or five days last month at the city across the bay - we'll show you some of the great things to do in San Francisco, and places to stay in the Castro area.
Thanks to our columnist this month - we have a new article on Chicago, reprinted with permission from Donald Pile and Ray Williams, a couple of great travel writers whose articles appear in magazines and newspapers all over the place. Thanks, guys!
Innkeepers - write us an article about your area, and we'll include it in a future issue of this newsletter with credit and links to your website and email addresses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Innkeepers: Expanded Listing Special
We're running a new special on our full page Expanded Listings - get submitted to up to 25 GLBT and mainstream search engines and directories, and get your new page hosted for a year - all for just $99. Details at http://www.purpleroofs.com/expandedlisting.html, or email us for more info at email@example.com.
That's it - see y'all next time!
Mark & Scott
An interesting thing has happened in San Francisco, long the heart and soul of the gay civil rights movement. People have been disappearing. Not that theyre really missing, mind you instead, theyve been slowly moving out to the suburbs, off to other parts of the state, and even out of California.
Surprisingly, what this means for travelers is that its a great time to visit the city. While many folks have moved on, there are still a lot of us here, and theres more parking for the rest of us and for all the visitors that still descend on the City by the Bay.
Were fortunate to be close enough to The City (as we Northern Californians invariably call it) to be able to visit for a day at a time, so weve taken several trips over the last month to get the scoop on what there is to do and see in San Francisco. First, though, we do have to address one thing.
Yes, the city is a bit shabby around the ankles. The current mayor seems to be more interested in style than substance when it comes to the nitty gritty issues of running a city, but there is hope on the horizon.
The city is finally making some moves toward cleaning up the homeless problem for years, we just gave them money, and no one seemed to have accounted for it, or done any studies to see if the money actually did harm or good.
But this fall, theres an initiative on the ballot to copy New Yorks largely successful program for cleaning up city streets, in large part by giving the homeless folks services, not cash, and tracking the progress of the many individuals who call the streets home.
The local hotel industry has also started an unprecedented campaign to get the city to clean things up.
But enough about local politics youre here to have fun, right?
There are, of course, the usual tourist traps Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf, that crazy drive down Lombard Street, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the cable cars, and yes, we expect you to do each one while youre here after all, thats part of the fun of being a tourist. But we wont cover those in this travelog.
Instead, we want to show you some other things to do that you might miss out on otherwise, and of course show you the places where you can stay while youre here. So here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite San Francisco Haunts.
Things to Do:
Exploratorium this hands-on museum near the Presidio is great fun for kids and adults.
Top of the Marriott called the Jukebox ever since it was built several decades ago, this hotel in SOMA has a great bar on the top floor, with panoramic views of the city. A great place to end the day.
The Metreon just across from MOMA, this Sony entertainment center boasts a great arcade, one of the only Sony stores on the planet, and a huge theater, complete with an IMAX screen. A great place to kill a couple hours.
Yerba Buena Gardens Right next to the Metreon (and behind Moscone Convention Center, handy if youre in town for a convention) is this urban park a splash of green in the middle of the city. Come here at lunchtime on a summer weekday, and youll likely hear a free concert. This is a terrific place to relax and while away an afternoon.
Museum of Modern Art In this same area, the MOMA always has something interesting to show you. The contrast of this modern building against the old Pacific Telesis building as a backdrop was intentional, and is stunning.
Coit Tower The story has it that a wealthy San Franciscan woman was so appreciative of Firefighters that she had this huge tower erected in the shape of a fire hose nozzle. You may think it resembles something else as well. Coit Tower also boasts some of the best views in the downtown/North Beach area.
The Filbert Steps although there are stairs throughout the North Beach area, one set is especially impressive. You can find these from the east side of Coit Tower (though parking is very limited there) or you can catch them from the bottom right behind Levis Plaza (yes, the jean maker) in the Fishermans Wharf area. The gardens are amazing, and the views spectacular (and remember, folks that live here have to carry all their groceries up the stairs).
The Castro the heart and soul of gay San Francisco more about this below in the Cruisin the Castro tour section.
Baker Beach San Franciscos nude beach, but too cold most of the year to spend much time at. Get there from the Cliff House at the end of Geary.
Embarcadero Center Independent movies (including many gay-themed ones), great restaurants, and the Sky Tower, for great San Francisco views. Come here in the winter, and you can ice skate in Justin Hermann Park.
Firewood - Our new favorite in the Castro. A local chain, this is the place Trevor takes her tour groups its on 18th, about 2 blocks west of Castro St. The prices are great, the tortellini is terrific, and we love the salads with candied walnuts. The place is also bright and comfortable, a great stop to slow down after a manic morning on the Castro.
Café Flore - On the corner of Noe and Market, this well-known café has great pastries, muffins and coffee, and is ideal for a quick stop in the morning before setting out.
Starbucks - Ok, so it aint local. But some folks cant get enough of this addictive place, so if youre looking for it, youll find one on 18th just a few steps east of Castro St.
Chevys - ok, so it's another chain. But they have great fresh Mexican food, and there's one in SOMA near the Metreon, MOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens, and another in the Embarcadero.
PlanetWeavers - This local chain has a couple stores in the city, one right on Castro Street, just north of 18th. They have lots of interesting things from textiles to glass items, but none of the standard rainbow/pink triangle goods you find in most of the other local stores.
Under One Roof - This stores sales benefit local AIDS charities and in addition, the stock is always changing, so you never know what kind of odds and ends you may find here.
San Francisco also has some other great shopping districts:
Union Street up in Pacific Heights has a lot of small, boutique stores, and its five or six blocks are easily walkable in an afternoon. There are lots of little restaurants here too, for lunch or dinner.
Union Square - the Square just reopened after a several-year renovation, and looks better than ever. This area is still the grandaddy of the SF shopping scene - Macy's, Nordstrom's, Neiman-Marcus, and FAO Schwartz are all here, along with a Virgin mega Store, Blondie's pizza and scads of other great shops and restaurants. A great place to go at Christmas-time, too.
Parking & Getting Around
If you can avoid driving, do. San Francisco has a good public transportation system, and you can get to most of the major spots with relative ease.
From the Castro, the F line down Market Street will take you to Union Square, SOMA, the Embarcadero, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and even the edges of North Beach for $1, but be sure to check operating times if you plan to stay out late.
From the Civic Center on down Market, you can reach BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) at 5 separate stations. BART is the way to go if you plan to see the outlying areas (Berkeley, Oakland, Walnut Creek, etc) that have BART access. Minimum fare is currently just over $3 - you buy a paper ticket, insert it at the gate, take the train you want, and then run the ticket through again on the other end, where your fare (based on distance traveled) is deducted. You can add additional money to any ticket at any BART station; most machines accept cash only, though, so be prepared.
If you have to, or just plain want to, drive, there's a great garage just a few buildings up from market on Noe - turn right onto Noe from Market (coming from downtown) and almost immediately another right into the garage. While not well known, this garage does tend to fill up before mid-day. Parking here is $12 max for the whole day.
Downtown, you can park at the one of the Embarcadero garages and taxi or walk many places from there; on Sundays, parking there is free with validation from the movie theater or any of the restaurants at the Embarcadero Center.
When parking, remember to curb your wheels so you don't roll down the hill. And when stopped on a steep hill, put your emergency brake on, then rev your gas before letting it go so you don't slide backwards.
Finally, whereever you stay, ask your host about parking ahead of time, and get clear directions on where it's ok to park.
We stayed at one place, and visited four others, all close to Castro Street. Any one of these would be a great place to stay while in the city; the main differences are price, style, and the exact locations of each.
Sam & Joel, the owners of Castro Suites, kindly invited us to stay with them overnight in the city.
This intimate accommodation is not a bed and breakfast, but it has everything youll need to make your own sumptuous meals morning, noon or night. Or you can go to any of the Castros fine restaurants and save yourself the trouble of cooking on vacation.
Castro Suites stands out from its neighbors this stately victorian is painted in bold purples and blues. Sam and Joel have an eye for color, and youll find bright colors used extensively (and well) throughout the house.
The front of the main (ground) floor has two sitting rooms, decorated (as is much of the house) with Joels art.
These canvasses are reason alone to spend some time here Joel captures bright gardens, beautiful arched pathways and buildings, and much more in his oversized paintings.
These guys set a beautiful table, and then fill it with interesting guests, conversation, and gourmet food we never turn down an invitation for dinner at Castro Suites,
The back of the house has a private garden a peaceful palce to while away an hour or two away from the rush of the city outside.
Castro Suites has two suites we stayed in the upstairs flat at the back of the building.
From our window, we could see out across the southeast to the San Francisco Bay, and from the back balcony (something like three floors up) we had stunning views of the hills, the incoming fog, and Sutro Tower.
The suite has a washer and drier, a dedicated bathroom (with the fluffiest towels youve ever seen), a CD Player and stereo with a selection of CDs, mostly big band, a smattering of gay fiction paperbacks, and lots of sun.
The suite also features a sitting room with cable TV, a large kitchen (painted purple, of course) with a seating area for meals), and a bedroom with a large, gilded umbrella hung upside down over the bed to diffuse the light from the ceiling fixture.
Theres plenty of room to spread out and be comfortable, especially important if you plan to be in town for more than a day or two.
Sam and Joel are consumate hosts, and know all about the area.
Youre just a couple blocks away from the heart of the Castro. And if you want to try the tourist haunts (Pier 39 and Fishermans Wharf), walk 2 blocks to Market and catch the F Line historic street cars that will take you all the way down through town to the wharf for just $1 each way.
Castro Suites is a great place to spend a couple days (or a couple weeks) in San Francisco - close to everything, but quiet an secluded from the hectic pace of the city.
On the eastern side of the Castro, Church Street B&B sits just 2 blocks up from Market St., convenient to the very cruisy Market Street Safeway.
The building itself is hard to miss - decorated in day-glo green and yellow. But inside, it's quiet, comfortable and beautifully furnished. The b&b has five rooms (1 with large fireplace), and a large guest area with kitchen, table and sitting area where breakfast is served, great for meeting other travelers.
All rooms share bathrooms, but according to Julie, the host, this is rarely a problem. Two of the top floor rooms have a spectacular view balcony (Mission, Downtown and bay views), with lots of room to lounge and read for an afternoon.
Julie has run the b&b for three and a half years, and offers great accommodations at very reasonable rates.
A little farther up Church Street, the Parker Guest House has 10 rooms in a circa 1909 Victorian Mansion, and is adding 11 more - Bill and Bob recently acquired the building next door, and when we visited, renovations were quickly approaching completion. The house has beautiful common areas, including a cozy sitting room with fireplace, and an expansive (by SF standards) back yard. Small touches included tiffany stained glass windows, regal dark wood paneling, and a grand piano for guest use... all giving the place an Old World charm.
The house has large bedrooms, tastefully furnished - 19 of the 21 planned rooms have en-suite baths.
The Guest House also has some off-street parking - an extreme rarity in the City. You're close to both Dolores Park and to the Castro here, with an easy walk to Market Street to catch the historic cars on the F Line. We met several guests on our tour here, and all were gay or lesbian. A great place to stay and mix with other GLBT folks.
While not techically in the Castro (actually, it's on the edge of the Mission District), Trevor's Place is in the heart of what was a very Lesbian district - the Valencia Corridor. Just a couple blocks from Dolores Park and a decent walk into the Castro itself, Trevor's Place (circa 1876) offers a simple studio, en-suite unit with a private entrance on a quiet, tree-lined street.
The unit is clean and sparsely furnished, and makes a great place to crash after a day out on the city. Trevor does the Cruisin the Castro tour, and can regale you with tales of the district all the way back to the early seventies, when she first moved here.
If you want a great host and a good deal of privacy, and especially if you want to explore the Mission District while in town, this is a great place to start.
Our last (but not least) accommodation is Whelan House - perched on the top of the hill just above the main part of Castro Street, in what's called Corona Heights. Whelan House is just north of Market by a block, out of the bustle but right next to everything. Built in 1862 by a local developer, the house survived the 1906 fire. The clientele here tends to be mature - couples, especially, and families of gay folks who live in the area.
The house is amazingly beautiful, decorated by Andy, the owner, with a gorgeous touch. But the backyard garden is the house's best feature - plants everywhere, stairways leading to hidden nooks, and even a hammock to relax away the day. This is a great place for small commitment ceremonies.
The upstairs room has no door, but a curtain across the stairs ensures privacy, and the city views from the adjoining deck are well worth it.
Consider Whelan House when you want a quiet, romantic stay right next to the Castro, or when you have family coming to town.
We took two gay tours while in the City - Cruisn the Castro and SF Gay Tours' Tales of the City. Each covered different ground.
Cruisin the Castro is the definitive Castro Tour. Trevor's been giving these tours for years, and has lived in the Castro since the early seventies, watching it change from a working class straight neighborhood to the world's best-known gay mecca.
Trevor sets a comfortable pace, taking you in an unexpected direction - down Market Street.
She aims to show you parts of the Castro you might miss otherwise, including the small neighborhood park where she holds court like a queen on all things Castro and Gay San Francisco.
You'll learn the whole history of gay SF here - why the city came to be such a liberal town in the first place, with the arrival of the goldseekers who were often folks who didn't fit in at home and were off seeking adventure.
And again at the end of the second World War, when thousands of single men and women from the armed forces flooded the City, many of them who hadjoined the army to get away from small towns where they felt different.
After this enjoyable interlude, Trevor leads you back out into the streets, and around the back side of the Castro, up the hill from Castro Street, where you'll learn about the local schools where diversity is a part of the curriculum.
Lunch at Fireside (paid for as part of the tour) is excellent - everyone gathers at the back of the restaurant to chat and get to know one another, and the food is terrific - we especially loved the tortellini and salad with Candied Walnuts, and enjoyed spending time with the other folks on the tour from around the country. We had a gay firefighter from the midwest *and* the parents of one of the TAG (Travel Alternatives Group) guys on ours, along with a number of others.
Finally, Trevor takes you down the Castro's main Drag - starting at 19th, you'll walk down Castro Street, past many of the shops and restaurants, stopping to look up at Harvey Milk, whose portrait has been painted in the window above the place where his Camera Shop once was.
For folks not familiar with his story, he was San Francisco's first gay Supervisor, and also often called the Mayor of Castro Street, and was shot by another supervisor, Dan White, who then used the infamous Twinkie Defense.
After a private tour of the Castro Theater, Trevor sends you on your way.
This tour, a generous four hours, is extremely well paced - you walk for awhile, then sit at the park and relax while Trevor spins stories of Gay SF and the Castro.
Then it's up again to see some more, followed by a relaxing lunch at Firewood. Then the tour wraps up with another walk.
This is a great way to see the Castro - even if you live in the area. You'll find out a lot you didn't know, and see places you'd never get to otherwise.
SF GAY TOURS - TALES OF THE CITY TOUR
For an entirely different tour experience, try taking SF hay Tour's Tales of the City Tour. This is a great tour for both folks who know and love these Armistead Maupin books about life in SF in the '70's and '80's, and for others who know nothing about the books at all, but just want to see a lot of San Francisco without the hassle of a lot of driving.
Like Cruisin' the Castro above, this tour is extremely well paced. It takes 2-2 1/2 hours, and includes several great walks through hidden parts of San Francisco.
Unlike the other tour, this one goes all over the city, though it concentrates on the Northeast side, where most of Maupin's books took place.
Sountru, your tour guide, takes you to places featured in both the book and the TV series, including Coit Tower, Washington Square, and the Filbert Steps. You'll see:
These steps start at Coit tower, and descend down Telegraph Hill all the way to water-level. This is one of San Francisco's most beautiful hidden secrets - terrace upon terrace of gardens, all linked by the wooden stairs, with amazing bay views below.
And the wonderful part about this tour is that Sountru drops you off at the top of the stairs, and picks you up at the bottom, so you don't have to climb all the way back up to your car.
Your host also knows a lot about San Francisco history - he was telling us about the Time article of 1964, which called SF the Gay Capital of the World, and was followed by an influx of 20,000 gay men in just two weeks.
There's lots more here to enjoy - this is a great way to see the hidden San Francisco with a friendly, knowledgeable host, and is a perfect companion to the Cruisin' the Castro tour. Sountru also has a new gay and lesbian matchmaking site for folks looking for a long-term relationship - click here for more details.
The main gay paper in San Francisco is the Bay Area Reporter - this has news, personals, events and more. Pick it up anywhere on the Castro, and at lots of other places in the city.
There are a number of other bar rags and small publications as well... we found most of them at the exit from the Noe Street Garage, but again, most gay bars and stores will have them.
So that's it - have a great time on your next trip to the City by the Bay!
We have many new Expanded Listings this month - please take a look at these new Featured Properties.
Thanks to our columnists this month!
OUT ON VACATION: Traveling in the Gay-Friendly World
CHICAGO, the wonderful Windy City that is great for the gay traveler. So much to see and do.....the shopping, the museums, the restaurants, the Lake, the bars, the Halsted area and so much more. With the country's seventh-largest gay and lesbian population, the city by the lake is the Gay capital of the Midwest. Gays and lesbians from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa , Kansas and all over come to indulge in the city's open gay and lesbian life.
After arriving in Chicago whether by plane or car, take the public transportation everywhere. The El and the city buses make it very easy to get around the entire city. Shopping downtown and on Michigan Avenue is a real treat. Besides the fabulous stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bally's of Switzerland and the like they also have designer stores like Versace, Armani and Hermes of Paris. The restaurants in Chicago are awesome and they literally have hundreds to choose from. Our favorites include Berghoff's for great German food, the Russian Tea Time and the Signature Room on the 95th floor at the top of the John Hancock Center. Chicago is a city with many fine museums with the Art Institute of Chicago first on the list. Also be sure and visit the Field Museum of Natural History, and of couse the Museum of Science and Industry. Architectural landmarks include the Sears Tower, John Hancock Center, Wrigley Building and the NBC Tower plus lots of others to visit.
We highly recommend staying at the ARDMORE HOUSE B & B. Your hosts, John and Chris have made this one of the finest gay B & B's in the entire midwest. Located just north of the Halsted area and just a short walk to the gay area at Hollywood. Beach. Extremely immaculate and well decorated rooms and a delicious breakfast served every morning. Ammenities include a hot tub, sun deck, complimentary cocktail hour and even bikes for their guests. The rooms are furnished with guest robes, vcr/tv with a video library for guests to use. John and Chris certainly know how to cater to the gay traveler. Check out their web site at: www. ardmorehousebb.com.
Most of the gay bars in Chicago are conveniently clustered on a stretch of North Halsted Street in the Lakeview area, making it easy to sample many of the bars quite easily. While men's bars are predominate, there are a few places in Chicago exclusively catering to lesbians and a few gay bars that have a good mix of lesbians and men. The local gay newspapers give a list of most the bars and their daily specials. There is really any kind of gay bar you want here. And the wonderful thing is that you can walk from one to another so easily. Please note that a proper ID is required to enter any and all bars in the city. Whether you are 21 or 81, they card everyone. In the Halsted area you will also fine plenty of gay restaurants and stores catering to the gay traveler. Book stores, leather stores, card shops, clothing stores are among the many different stores you will find there. Movie theatres, video stores, gyms, and a large variety of really great shops are in this area.
If you have time when in Chicago be sure and take the "El" and visit some of the other areas of the city. They have their own Chinatown, Little Italy and lots of other areas where the old countries still have their great shops and restaurants.
Chicago of course sits right on Lake Michigan and the beach is wonderful. The Hollywood beach is the gay area where hundreds of gays can be found sunning themselves on any given weekend. Cruises are available for afternoon sight-seeing and dinner cruises out onto Lake Michigan.
Before going to Chicago be sure and check.out their web site at: www.glchamber.org. They will be glad to send you a free visitor's packet which includes a lot of free offers and a complete list of gay establishments. A map of the city is included as well as a letter from Mayor Daley, welcoming all gay and lesbians to visit their city. Other great web sites to see before traveling to Chicago are: www.northalsted.com and www.gaychicagomag.com.
Gaytravelers@aol.com is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, a gay couple of over 31 years of "togetherness" who live in the greater Kansas City area. They are also Antique Dealers and have toured the entire United States traveling in search of antiques and for fabulous "gay meccas" of which they have found several.
On their 25th Anniversary, Elizabeth Taylor wrote, "Congratulations to the two of you on your 25th Anniversary! You have surely reached an important milestone in your lives together, and I send you my best wishes as you celebrate tonight". Candice Gingrich wrote, "Your enduring relationship is another shining example of what "family values" is and should be about... trust, security, love commitment. Continued success in your togetherness".
Don and Ray write articles for pridevisiontv.com, Liberty Press (Kansas & Missouri), Gayly Oklahoman, and who do reviews for Zagat. You can email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their web page at: www.hometown.aol.com/gaytravelers.
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