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ISSUE #28 | FALL 2019

_____ PALM SPRINGS _____

SAINT AUGUSTINE

PUERTO RICO

SIRENS PARADISE

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Connexting CONTRIBUTORS

Connextions Magazine issue #27 Pride: Then & Now takes a closer look at the meaning of LGBTQ Pride. Many people feel LGBTQ+ Pride is a time to get drunk and party hard. “Pride is like God or religion - it means something different to everyone” - Ryan Schae. One must not judge and instead try to understand the deep-rooted hatred from where Pride was born.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Manny Velasquez-Paredes CREATIVE DIRECTOR Xioger Sandoval FEATURED WRITER David Duran CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Lilly Chris Ross Christianson Clark Harding H. Luiz Martinez Carlos Mayorga David Perry Ali Rothlizzi JJ Vega Manny Velasquez-Paredes Sarah Stanley-Evan

Cover Photo courtesy of: Tres Sirenas Boutique Bed & Breakfast Redefining beauty, elegance and reinventing the bed and breakfast experience, Tres Sirenas, is a beachfront boutique property bringing simple luxury to the quaint surf town of Rincón in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and Tres Sirenas suffered much damage, but the owners, knew they had to rebuild bigger and more beautiful!

Read Connextions Magazine online: ConnextionsMagazine.com Write to us: Have a question or comment regarding this issue or future issues of Connextions Magazine? We would love to hear from you! E-mail responses and press releases are always welcomed. mvp@connextionsmagazine.com All submissions become the property of Connextions Magazine. The views and opinions stated throughout this magazine are not necessarily the opinions of staff at Connextions Magazine. Connextions Magazine, LLC publishing mailing address: PO Box 242 Calverton, NY 11933 Connextions Magazine and Connextions Magazine en Español will not knowingly publish or advertise text which is fraudulent or misleading. The publisher reserves the right to edit, limit, revise, or reject any text without cause. Connextions Magazine assumes no financial responsibility for typographical errors. If any errors are found, please notify Connextions Magazine immediately. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

Read more on page 8 Find us, Follow us, Like us, Tweet us, Pin us, Share us on all Social Media sites @ConnextionsMag #ConnextionsMag

International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association

ISSN 2160-4347 (print) ISSN 2160-4355 (online)

Connextions Magazine, the Travel & Lifestyle magazine for the LGBTQ Traveler since 2010, is a proud member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Gay European Tourism Association & National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, as well The travel Media Sponsor of HRC Greater New York.

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Letter from the Editor

LIVE | TRAVEL | CONNECT

Connextions Magazine issue #28: Sirens Paradise examines life near the ocean or water. As summer comes to an end, we want to be able to take advantage of every little bit of sunshine and the beach. It is normal for wanting more beach time, or sun time and for some of us who live in places where it snows in the winter, we are not looking forward to summer ending. But what happens when you live in a place where the sun shines the majority of the time? This is the life we explored in this issue of Connextions Magazine. We visited Puerto Rico, where the sun shines and the people dance. We explored what it would be like to visit places outside of San Juan, which most tourists focus on. We went off the beaten path and ended in a place called Rincon, where we found sirenas (mermaids). Maybe they are mythological figures, or maybe they just migrated to this piece of heaven on earth. Los Angeles was the perfect setting for our next adventure, where The W Hotel opened its doors and welcomed us with several events leading up to Los Angeles Pride. Palm Springs has it all, water, desert, snow and sun. But most of all, the people of Palm Springs are so welcoming and the never ending array of rainbow flags which seem to adorn every storefront is magnificent. Lastly, we stopped in St. Augustine, Florida. Where the sun shines bright and the salty life takes on a whole new meaning. We loved this ancient city so much, that we may become its new residents very soon! We hope you enjoy our work, we love to read your letters and emails. Don’t forget to find us and connect with us on our social media channels under the handle @ConnextionsMag. MVP

Editor In Chief

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Contents

Fall 2019

LIVETRAVELCONNECT Sirenas Paradise: Tres Sirenas B&B Rincon, Puerto Rico

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A Moment in History Palm Springs, CA

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Greater Palm Springs Pride

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Out at The W Hotel Los Angeles, CA

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Family Outings: Celebrating the Past Saint Augustine, FL

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Big Little Gay Town Saugatuck, MI

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History and Beauty FAMILY OUTING: SAINT AUGUSTINE ConnextionsMagazine.com

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WE HAVE YOUR

Fort Lauderdale Marriott® Pompano Beach Resort & Spa, a beachfront hotel located in a charming quintessential South Florida harbor town, invites you to relax, unwind and experience life at its best. Say your vows with the warm sand between your toes or on the second floor outdoor Ocean Terrace with the Atlantic Ocean as your backdrop. 194 spacious guest rooms and 25 suites, a full-service spa, elegant dining options both indoors and out will enable you and your guests to celebrate in elegant Atlantic style. And with Certified Wedding Planners ready to make your dreams a reality, the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa is the ideal location to begin your happily ever after. FORT LAUDERDALE MARRIOTT POMPANO BEACH RESORT & SPA

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120 0 NO RTH O CE AN BO ULE V ARD, P OMP ANO BEACH, FL Connextions Magazine 954 .782.0100, PO M PANO M ARRIOTT.C OM

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SOMETHING BLUE

YOU’VE WAITED LONG ENOUGH. TO START PLANNING THE DAY OF YOUR DREAMS, CALL 954.782.0100 OR VISIT POMPANOMARRIOTT.COM

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7 © 2016 Marriott International, Inc.


Photo courtesy of: Tres Sirenas

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RINCON, PUERTO RICO

Sirenas Paradise TRES SIRENAS BOUTIQUE BED AND BREAKFAST

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R

edefining beauty, elegance and reinventing the bed and breakfast experience, Tres Sirenas, is a beach front boutique property bringing simple luxury to the quaint surf town of Rincรณn in Puerto Rico. With an ideal and peaceful location overlooking the ocean, private balconies on every room and

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TRES SIRENAS FEATURES FIVE WATERFRONT ROOMS WITHIN THE TWOSTORY VILLA, EACH WITH ELEGANT SPANISH-BOHO STYLE

poolside cabanas, Tres Sirenas is Rincón’s only vegetarian boutique hotel. Tres Sirenas is Spanish for Three Mermaids, it is not only the name of this fabulous and serene b&b, but it is also predominantly displayed throughout the property. Just a short flight from JFK airport in New York City, Tres Sirenas is close enough for a weekend getaway. Fly into San Juan Airport and take a scenic two and a half hour ConnextionsMagazine.com

car ride to Rincón. Or take a charter flight to Rafael Hernåndez Airport in Aguadilla, which is about 45 minutes from Tres Sirenas. Hurricane Maria devastated La Isla del Encanto, and Tres Sirenas suffered much damage, but partners in business and in life, Lisa Brown Masters and Wanda Acosta, who are the owners, knew they had to rebuild bigger and more beautiful, and their mission was accomplished!

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Travel: Puerto Rico The Siren Life Tres Sirenas features five waterfront rooms within the two-story villa, with terra cotta tiled floors, plush bedding and private white-washed balconies, each room is luxurious, spacious and inviting. Appealing to the sophisticated traveler and the local creatives, in-room amenities include West Indies inspired furniture, plush white upholstery living areas and crispy white beds along with Archive rosehips and lavender bath products and waffle weave textured bathrobes. Each room has a kitchenette complete with French press, a flat screen television and front facing sliding glass doors opening to a covered private balcony with rattan seating. Tres Sirenas offers a complimentary gourmet vegetarian or vegan breakfast each morning served on your private balcony or in the outdoor lounge including banana pecan pancakes, zucchini frittata, avocado toast, fresh tropical fruit and toasted baguette with fresh tomato salsa.

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Upon arriving, you are greeted by the warmth and positive energy radiating from Tres Sirenas. The ocean, which can be easily admired from each private balcony, invites you to witness the magical movements of the sun. Take a short stroll down to the common areas, where the property’s Tiki Bar invites you to savor classic craft cocktails and an enchanting ocean view, much like the melodies from the magical mermaids. Sit by the pool sipping your favorite cocktail or simply relax in one of several cabanas, while your mind quickly drifts away with the sounds of the waves and the warmth of the fresh air.

The view from your private balcony

La Vida Sirena or The Siren Life is the b&b’s boutique, which features beach wraps and kaftans by Handloom and Abrazo, beach bags by Shiraleah, gift Items by Jonathan Adler and organic candles and ayurvedic soaps from Made By Yoke. ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Sirenas Paradise

Dreams Are Made Here

We arrived to San Juan via a Disney Cruise earlier in the day and arranged to spend a few days in Puerto Rico. We drove directly to Tres Sirenas and realized that driving from San Juan is a great way to see the island.

Much of the island’s economy depends on tourism, and because many hotels and attractions were closed, the tourists were not visiting and spending money. Therefore, the already weak economy, experienced an even bigger setback.

For two and a half hours, we drove through many towns in Puerto Rico and admired the beauty of the island, despite its recent devastation. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria was an even bigger blow to the economy in Puerto Rico.

However, little by little tourists have been returning and quickly find out that Puerto Rico is open for business and it is more welcoming than ever. There are even tours available, where visitors can help to rebuild homes and businesses.

Top 3

M UST-DO

1 . While visiting Tres Sirenas, you must enjoy the beach. There is even a secluded area right next to the inn to take a dip, build sand castles or simply admire the sunset and the waves. It will transport you! 2 . Be sure to take part of the yoga sessions, paddle boards, surf boards, massages or kayaks. Charter a boat and go on a fishing expedition or whale watching, or perhaps horse-back riding is in your itinerary. 3 . Just a short drive from Tres Sirenas is one of the towns squares, where you can enjoy dining, shopping and nightlife.

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YOG A

A E R T T S E R

Start your day with an invigorating yoga session and meditation. Immerse yourself in a Caribbean adventure with daily private yoga instruction with certified Jivamukti Yoga Instructor, and Ashtanga Vinyasa style teachers. The inn can prepare a fully special cleansing and detoxing diet to help you achieve your emotional and physical goals. Food nutritionists are on hand to create vegetarian, vegan or raw juice

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meals. Spend the afternoon recharging and re-energizing with an exfoliating body salt scrub cleansing facial and full body massage. Relax, restore and renew, and experience the siren life! You may choose to experience this exhilarating adventure in paradise while vacationing together with a loved one, bffs or colleagues. Stand Up Paddle board tours, pampering spa treatments and healthy vegetarian and vegan cuisine or specially designed healthy detoxing diets compliment and are included.

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Sirenas Paradise CALLING ALL

Practicing yogis, sirens, avid paddle boarders, surfers, horse riders, artists, travelers, adventurers, couples, singles, throuples, families and committed vegetarians

ROMANCE IS ALIVE

Imagine the perfect wedding venue and Tres Sirenas comes to mind, everything from the perfect scenery to the breathtaking sunsets. F E E D YO U R SO U L

Time to unwind, leave your electronics in the room and enjoy the views, enjoy each other and make memories that will last you a lifetime.

Written by: JJ Vega Photos by: Tres Sirenas & Connextions Magazine JJ Vega (JJ) is an award-winning Travel Journalist & Executive Editor for Connextions en EspaĂąol. With a degree in Health & Wellness, JJV loves nature and has been an avid traveler since he was a kid, when his family moved from New Jersey to Puerto Rico. Growing up in Puerto Rico, he remembers waking up at the crack of dawn to climb down a huge mountain to go to school. His passions are history, reading, his husband, their children and their fur children.

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The Photographer’s Portrait

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United States - United Kingdom - Canada - Brazil - Germany - Kenya - Indonesia - China - Russia - France Japan - Italy - Netherlands - Australia - Spain - South Korea - Mexico - Turkey - India - Philippines - South AfWe are your Connextions rica - Pakistan - Malaysia - Poland - Argentina - Beltravel- Finland & new- adventures. gium - to Sweden Norway - Denmark - Israel - TaiwanWe - Singapore - Thailand - Portugal - Ukraine are your Connextions Algeria - Ireland -readers Austria - Switzerland - Vietnam - Puerto 350,000+ in 135 countries. to Rico - Venezuela - Romania - Bangladesh - Czech Republic - Egypt - Colombia - Greece - Peru - Estonia - Hong Kong - Saudi Arabia - Slovenia - United Arab Emirates - Chile - Latvia - Yemen - Sri Lanka - Nigeria - New Zealand - Hungary - Iran - Lebanon - Morocco - Qatar - Serbia - Bulgaria - Côte d’Ivoire - Dominican Republic - Ecuador - Jordan - French Polynesia - Turks & Caicos Islands - Bahamas - Kuwait - Macedonia Oman - Slovakia - Syria - Tunisia - Bosnia & Herzegovina - Bahrain - Costa Rica - Cyprus - Georgia - Guatemala - Croatia - Sudan - Trinidad & Tobago - Uruguay - Albania - Angola - Bolivia - Botswana - Jamaica - CamWe are your Connextions bodia - aLibya - Martinique - Mozambique - Namibia to 20,000+ social media followers. - Paraguay - Senegal - Uganda - Kosovo - Afghanistan We are your Connextions - Aruba - Barbados - Bermuda - Belarus - Belize - Cuba to the - Djibouti - Ethiopia - Fiji world! - Grenada - Guinea - Bissau - Iraq - Jersey - Cayman Islands - Kazakhstan - Lithua@ConnextionsMag on all social media channels nia - Luxembourg - Mongolia - Macau - Malta - New ConnextionsMagazine.com Caledonia - Nicaragua - Panama - Somalia - El SalvaConnextions Magazine | SIRENS PARADISE | Fall 18 2019 dor - U.S. Virgin Islands - Venezuela - Vanuatu - Zambia


Capturing Your Love

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Photo courtesy of: Visit Palm Springs

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Connextions Magazine | SIRENS PARADISE | Fall 2019 22 Photo courtesy of: Kim Utley for Visit Palm Springs


Palm Springs A Historic Moment WHERE TO STAY WHAT TO DO WHERE TO EAT

Written by: Manny Velasquez-Paredes Photos by: The Willows Inn, Visit Palm Springs & Connextions Magazine Manny Velasquez-Paredes (MVP) is an award-winning Travel Journalist, a social media junkie, motivational speaker on LGBTQ issues and Diversity, and an avid traveler, who brings the traveling LGBTQ family’s perspective to Connextions Magazine. MVP has visited 5 continents, lived and studied in three of them. MVP and his family enjoy traveling and creating memories. MVP travels for work and works to travel!

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PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA

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THE WILLOWS HISTORIC PALM SPRINGS INN

This luxury inn, which used to be the home of silent screen star Marion Davies, dates back to 1925. The Mediterranean style hideaway was and continues to be the best place for guests to enjoy a peaceful stay, in a serene, private and fun environment. Designed by William J. Dodd, whose portfolio included such landmark buildings as the Los Angeles HeraldExaminer and The Pacific Center, this once private home sheltered famed New York attorney Samuel Untermyer as well as silent screen star Marion Davies, remembered as much for her 30 year affair with William Randolph Hearst as her movie roles.

WHEN VISITING PALM SPRINGS, THERE REALLY IS ONLY ONE PLACE TO CALL YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME, THE WILLOWS! ConnextionsMagazine.com

If these walls could talk, they would tell fascinating tales of celebrated figures that ranged from legendary actress Billie Burke; British media mogul Lord Beaverbrook; former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Frank B. Kellogg; New York Governor Herbert H. Lehman; Hollywood superstar Shirley Temple; famed director Ernst Lubitsch; Jacob Raskob, builder of the Empire State Building; the high flying and deep diving Piccard Brothers; Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy; Senator William Gibbs McAdoo; New York’s fabulous playboy mayor, James J. Walker and one of the most iconic figures of the Twentieth Century, Dr. Albert Einstein.

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Dr. Albert Einstein was considered a staple at The Willows, there is even a suite named after him. Einstein’s Garden Room, where the famed genius often stayed, cradled in Art Deco elegance with French doors that swing open to reveal a private balcony overlooking a waterfall. Einstein would often return to bask in the sun and gaze out at the stunning panorama visible from The Willows and its acres of terraced gardens. His favorite spot, a covered bench set upon a rocky outcropping, may still be visited by guests today. Einstein was a bit of a naturist and where the bench is located, is where

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Einstein used to stand proud in all his glory. The Willows remained a private estate for nearly 70 years until the mid-1990s when it was purchased by Tracy Conrad and her husband Paul Marut, who fell in love with the property and decided to restore it in 1996 returning it to its original splendor. All suites are a master course on the meaning of elegance. The king or queen-size beds beautifully adorn the suites and work in perfect harmony with the plush linens and hand-selected antique furniture reminiscent of the 1920s. Tracy Conrad herself has gone on many adventures around the globe

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looking for the perfect pieces of antique furniture that perfectly fit with the vibe and energy of each individual suite and shared spaces. Each individual piece, no matter how miniscule in size or magnitude, has been thoroughly thought out and refurbished to match the era. But don’t be fooled, every suite has plenty of modern amenities to please the socialite within you or the demanding traveler. High-speed Internet, iPod docking station, individual climate control, flat screen television with cable access and DVD player, ConnextionsMagazine.com

en suite coffee maker and refrigerator plus plush robes for lounging and so much more are the norm in every suite. “The Willows is definitely a return to a more glamorous era. It’s like being an invited guest to some privileged estate where every whim is fulfilled, every need attended to, and privacy is paramount. We leave nothing to chance. When our guests arrive and enter through the private iron gates we want them to feel as if they’ve left the outside world behind.” Innkeeper Harmony Garcia

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Travel: Palm Springs Each suite has a different personality, much like an orchestra where each instrument works beautifully separately, but together they make timeless compositions, so is The Willows: •Library Room – This grand-sized book-filled haven features a spectacular coffered ceiling, hand-carved fireplace crafted from dark cherry wood, elegant vintage tiled bath with walk-in shower, and a secluded garden patio. Of special note is a magnificent Florentine-style desk, one of the exquisite antique pieces to be found in this restful retreat.

Einstein’s Garden Room

•Marion Davies Room – Named for its famed resident, this room captures the Art Deco elegance of 1930’s Hollywood with its creamy color palette, grand fireplace, private Juliet balcony overlooking the sparkling pool and mountain vistas beyond; and a bathroom fit for a movie star featuring a two-person clawfoot tub and separate marble-floor shower. •Einstein’s Garden Room – One of the most iconic figures of the 20th Century, Dr. Albert Einstein loved coming to The Willows during the 1930’s for much needed rest and relaxation. Decorated in soft, soothing tones complimenting the rich woods of the fine antique pieces, this charming space features a king-sized bed and elegant tiled bathroom with claw foot tub and walk-in shower. A pair of French doors opens out to the room’s own private sun terrace.

Palm Room

•Waterfall Room – With its breathtaking view of the 50-foot waterfall, private staircase entrance and inviting queen-size sleigh bed, this room embodies the Golden Age of travel. Vaulted ceilings, a pair of cozy chairs positioned near the fireplace, and hand-

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The Rock Room

made Spanish tiles adorning the bathroom are just some of the wondrous amenities found beyond the threshold. •The Rock Room – A magnificent boulder protruding up from the corner of the oversized shower gives name to this large private oasis. A one of a kind space in an already unique setting, the Rock Room features its own elegantly furnished separate sitting area and private bedroom alcove with king-sized bed, all within a few short steps to the Willows pool. •Loft Room – One of the Inn’s best kept secrets, a winding staircase leads to this delightful hidden chamber featuring Italian burled walnut furniture, a vaulted ceiling, fireplace and stunning views of the mountains. The bathroom features limestone wainscoting, a two-person claw foot tub and the ConnextionsMagazine.com

added ambiance of the Inn’s waterfall splashing down the hillside just outside the window. •Palm Room – Built for romance, this secluded sanctuary with its own private, poolside entrance has a separate sitting room leading into a gracious bedroom alcove, which features an antique cast iron bed and the uniquely charming ambiance of a two-person claw foot tub, meant for soaking and sharing with that special someone. •Acanthus Room – A jewel box of charm, this hideaway features cream-colored walls and fabrics with wooden floors salvaged from an early 20th-century church. Located on the pool level, the room is bathed in natural light and illuminated in the evening from the glow of a 1925 alabaster chandelier. A private bathroom features handlaid tiles and an ample-size bathtub.

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The heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi are surrounded by a paparazzi-proof wall draped in colorful bougainvillea and foliage. Enjoy every inch of The Willows, including the beautiful gardens amidst the background drop of Mt. San Jacinto. Guests can enjoy a three-course, freshly made gourmet breakfast served in the dining room with an adjoining verandah overlooking the inn’s stunning 50-foot waterfall. The Willows is a timeless work of art, where every little detail has been vetted to take its proper place in this luxurious symphony of visual art and utter comfort and satisfaction. In 2018, it was announced that The Bishop House, the adjacent property, which is a mirror image or “fraternal twin” of The Willows, was also acquired by Tracy Conrad and Paul Marut. This acquisition doubles in size the number of suites available, from 8 to 16. “This is an exciting time around here,” said Tracy Conrad. “It’s been a dream of ours for many years reunite The Willows and The Bishop. When the opportunity presented itself, we immediately met with the owner to make an offer. We’re excited to create an historic compound in the heart of Palm Springs.” The new luxury compound will be linked by a verdant footpath sharing a secluded pool deck for relaxing. Guest will be privy to a plethora of complimentary amenities, including a three-course chefdriven breakfast, evening wine and hors d’oeuvres, poolside snacks and beverages, complimentary parking with charging stations and guest-only access to the compound. ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Originally, the two homes were built to accommodate friends and prominent Angelenos, William and Nella Mead and Roland and Dorothy Bishop. The couples selected their barren swathes of desert land in 1924 and made plans to build a pair of grand estates for their winter getaways. William Mead was a prominent banker and philanthropist who played an instrumental role in the Owens Valley Aqueduct project helping to transform Los Angeles from a dusty outpost to a major metropolis. Roland Bishop was a founder and head of Bishop & Co., the region’s premier confectioner and baked goods manufacturer, which he sold in 1930 to the National Biscuit Company –better known as Nabisco. Both homes were designed by William J. Dodd, a Los Angeles architect who created iconic dwellings for the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. De Mille. Dodd arranged the two villas to

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complement the surrounding terrain and sloping hillside anchoring both structures to the desert floor and mountainous backdrop. Dodd deliberately designed The Bishop House and The Willows so that they shared similarities of style—a pair of grand, vaulted entrance terraces and a great room for gathering--but he also ensured that they had their own architectural identities. Once the homes were complete in 1925, the two couples made the pilgrimage from Los Angeles to Palm Springs as often as possible. The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, a AAA Four Diamond property, is located on West Tahquitz Canyon Way just one block south of famous Palm Canyon Drive and within walking distance from a plethora of casual-to-elegant restaurants, unique shops, boutiques and even Vegas-style casinos.

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WHAT TO DO NEAR THE WILLOWS

Tour the Historic O’Donnell House

Although Palm Springs is basically adorned with rainbows, The Arenas Street, considered to be the “gayborhood,” is just a few blocks away from The Willows.

The O’Donnell House, used to be known as the Ojo Del Desierto (Eye of the Desert), and it royally sits on the sheer mountainside above The Willows. As if floating above the desert floor, this 4,200 squarefoot home was constructed on 15 acres of land leased from the Desert Inn.

In here, visitors will find lots of gay bars and shops. From your sign-along piano bar, to your dance club, or your neighborhood bar. Visit the leather shop for harnesses, a cute cropped top, or stylish shirts and gorgeous jewelry for every part of your body, The Arenas is your shopping spot. After a day of shopping, golfing, tennis or lounging by the inn’s intimate pool, guests can gather on one of the outdoor terraces or inside the reception area for evening wine and hors d’oeuvres. Fresh fruit, seasonal edibles, iced tea and other refreshments are available throughout the day. ConnextionsMagazine.com

By 1925, the Eye was completed. The house was intended to be private for the family. The kitchen was small and major meals were taken at the Inn. Evening entertainments were plentiful and dinner was generally followed by bridge with guests or friends from the village. This gorgeous and rich in history property, boasts a breathtaking backdrop and is one of the most magical spots in Palm Springs for hosting a romantic wedding and reception or a corporate retreat.

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Photo courtesy of: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for Visit Palm Springs The Legendary Las Palmas Tour Every corner of Palm Springs seems to have a story, and there is only one way to find out all the stories, get the most out of your Palm Spring experience and exercise at the same time – a walking tour! A leisurely, highly engaging two-mile stroll with stops at thirty points of interest along the way learning about this historic district, all curated by Tour Guide, Jade Nelson, a native and resident of Palm Springs, California. Over the years, Jade’s travels have taken him from the monkey forests of Bali and the vineyards of Penticton, BC to ancient ruins on the Greek Isle of Delos and the Buddhist monastery of Po Lin in Hong Kong as well as exotic and cultural destinations in between. His latest travel adventure includes finding the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi

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that inspired Pearl McManus to build similar rock walls in Palm Springs’ Tennis Club area. He has taken the time to seek out and explore many unique places during his travels and to volunteer for organizations dear to him. Jade’s respect for history has fostered a penchant for research and a passion for preservation. Through giving us a glimpse into our past, his tours create a more interesting present that informs our future. Website: Palm Springs Walking Tour Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Not for those who fear heights, climb aboard the world’s largest rotating tramcar. A 10-minute breathtaking journey up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon and rise up to 2,643 ft., transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San

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Jacinto State Park. The tram cars rotate slowly as it climbs up, allowing every person to fully enjoy the majestic and picturesque views. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters, a gift shop, over 50 miles of hiking trails and campsites. Bring a jacket with you because the weather at the Mountain Station is typically 30-40 degrees cooler than on the desert floor. A permit is required and may be obtained in person at the Long Valley Ranger Station or in writing. Website: pstramway.com Desert Adventures Jeep Tour, San Andreas The San Andreas Fault, probably the most famous of the faults, extends roughly 1,200 kilometers (750 mi) through California. The San Andreas Fault ConnextionsMagazine.com

is where two tectonic plates touch, the North American and Pacific Plates. These plates are continually moving, and when they touch each other, they cause an earthquake. Red Jeep Tours is the original, largest, and most respected outdoor adventure and eco-tour company in the California desert. They offer an array of tour and activity choices and they took us on a trip to the San Andreas Fault and it was out of this world. Take a ride through a labyrinth of geological cuts and canyons of the San Andreas Fault Zone as your naturalist guide entertains you with stories about the plants, animals, geology, and history of the California desert. Experience the twisted and tortured landscape of an active earthquake fault system as your guide describes the geology of the area and you explore the skeleton of the earth. Walk between

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Palm Springs the steep walls of deep canyons created by the powerful forces of plate tectonics, water, wind, and time. Explore a natural palm oasis where crystal clear water bubbles up from the underground aquifer. Learn about the culture and lifestyle of the Cahuilla Indians and how they used the desert’s plants for food, medicine, tools, weapons, shelter, and more. Learn about the plants and animals of the California desert. Discover the fascinating history of the Coachella Valley and much more. Website: red-jeep.com WHERE TO EAT NEAR THE WILLOWS All of these restaurants are within walking distance from The Willows or within a 10 minutes drive. Kaiser Grille Palm Springs 205 S. Palm Canyon Drive Website: kaisergrillepalmdesert.com A favorite downtown destination for casual upscale dining, offering seafood, steaks, chops, pizza, salads and an unbeatable Happy Hour. Fresh, top quality ingredients make each dish flavorful and healthy, including favorites like wild ahi tuna poke, filet mignon quesadillas, all natural grass-fed beef burgers, and our famous prime rib sandwich. Offering music in the evenings, with a full bar, with draft beers, extensive wine list and specialty cocktails and margaritas. They offer all natural and hormone-free PRIME USDA beef, free range organic chicken, sustainable/wild seafood, and fresh, local produce. They use organic products as much as possible, and make desserts, dressings and sauces in-house. Founded by Kaiser Morcus

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A Historic Moment in 1992, Kaiser Grille quickly became a hotspot for locals and visitors alike. After a ten year hibernation in Palm Desert, his son, Eric took the helm in this new restaurant. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante 440 S Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, CA, 92262 Website: johnnycostaspalmsprings.com Johnny Costa, the founder, has been a chef and restaurant owner in the Palm Springs area since 1976. Frank Sinatra himself was a regular at this Italian restaurant, where the chairman’s two favorite dishes – the steak Sinatra and linguine clams – are still on the menu. Steak Sinatra and linguine clams are still one of the favorites of our diners. Celebrities and locals love the Johnny Costa experience and you will too! The restaurant is known for its authentic delicious classic Italian food, a warm nostalgic atmosphere with dark wood, soft lighting, candle lit tables, romantic booths and classic Italian music playing in the background. Johnny’s son, Head Chef Vince Costa, continues the family tradition, perfectly executing the family recipes and delighting customers with a dining experience that is amazing. Voted Best Italian Restaurant by Palm Springs Life Readers! Grand Central 160 La Plaza, Palm Springs, CA, 92262 Website: grandcentralpalmsprings.com Grand Central restaurant is located in the heart of Palm Springs vibrant downtown area. The historic building, formerly known Desmond’s department store, was built in 1936 and left vacant for 12 years. Renovation and restoration was both challenging and exciting. The majority of the original design elements have been lovingly protected and maintained. Architecturally, Grand Central combines preConnextionsMagazine.com

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Photo courtesy of: Gregg Felsen for Visit Palm Springs Modernism with 21st century styling. The blue accent color, found throughout the building was the height of couture fashion in 1936. The brick walls and original stamped concrete floors are an invitation to travel back in time to 1936 Palm Springs. Zin American Bistro 198 S Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, 92262 Website: zinamericanbistro.com A sophisticated but casual dining spot that’s still as hot as ever, Zin continues to be “a destination for foodies” in the heart of downtown Palm Springs. From the Seasonal Specials featuring fresh local ingredients to the “Zin Classics” this Bistro consistently over delivers for the money and leaves you feeling like you must go back for more. Patio dining offers great views and an ideal spot for people watching at any time. Open for

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Lunch and Dinner Daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday starting at 10am featuring endless champagne and mimosas. LuLu California Bistro 200 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs Website: lulupalmsprings.com At Palm Springs newest and hippest restaurant, Lulu California Bistro, talent, expertise and a passion for great food combine to produce a captivating California Bistro dining experience. The menu options are many, varied and value-priced, and the quality is always high with generous portions prepared with the freshest ingredients available and a dash of innovation from the award-winning chefs. Freshly baked bread and decadent desserts are made in-house daily, and are perfectly complimented by a cappuccino or latte. There’s always a party at LULU!

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Palm Springs Pride

TLC Heather Small Kristine W Maxine Nightingale & BETTY top the lineup of the 2019 Palm Springs Pride Festival. The festival will take place November 1-3 in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Dr and on Arenas Rd.

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TLC sets the stage for an unprecedented and diverse group of LGBTQ+ and allied performers featured in the Palm Springs Pride lineup. Regardless of genre, this year’s performers will come together on the Festival’s four stages to embrace the theme, Millions of Moments of Pride.

The Arenas District Merchants Association presents a weekend of Pop, Drag, and Rock ’n’ Roll, performances including M People singer Heather Small who joins MultiGrammy-Award-Winning International DJ Lee Dagger of Bimbo Jones, and pop, disco Grammy-nominated legend Maxine Nightingale. The Arenas lineup includes the all-female Black Sabbitch, and the highenergy 80s Rock show, That ‘80s Band, among others.

Other acts appearing will be New York City’s premier queer femme pop music duo Sateen along with the female pop band BETTY from The L-Word, dance diva Pepper MaShay, Ayline Artin, Torrey Mercer, Los Angeles-based comedian Jessica Inserra and London based Lucy Whittaker all perform on the new Pride Stage on Palm Canyon Drive at Amado presented by Effen Vodka.

Enjoy live performances by Josh Zuckerman, MARY, pop singers Tara Macri and Isabelle, Ted Fox with Joe Musser and the Roadhouse Rebels, Dj Aaron C, Luka and closing headliner OneUP Duo - LGBTQ “Finalist’s” from NBC’s The VOICE ‘18. ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Palm Springs Pride ADA VOX pop singer, drag queen & top 8 “Finalist” from American Idol ‘18 returns to the desert to anchor the free Friday night Palm Canyon Street Party with Prince Poppycock - Fan favorite from America’s Got Talent. The party includes special performances from LA’s Z LaLa and the acoustic duo of James Sings… Olivia.

Three days of dancing in the street will take place at the intersection of Tahquitz and Palm Canyon Drive. The new KGAY “Pride of the Valley” stage presented by Gay Desert Guide will host Djs all weekend. Recording Artist DJ Kidd Madonny, Drew G, Ray Rhodes, Paul Cowling, Ryan Skyy, Vaughn Avakian, and Eric Ornelas will feature their signature dance mixes at this outdoor street party.

The US Bank stage at Palm Canyon and Belardo features many entertainers who volunteer their time and talent to give back to the community and support Pride in Palm Springs. On one stage alone, over 50 local and breakthrough LGBTQ artists as well as some strong, talented, vocal allies, will perform during the festival. Look out for Keisha D, Cat Lyn Day as Marilyn, Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, Modern Men, Marina Mac, Steven Michael Dance Machine, Steven Fales, and Drag Kings Jesse Jones and Johnny Gentleman, and many more.

The festival will showcase emcees Bella da Ball and Alexander Rodriquez and feature special performances that include the fresh drag show Now Serving the Chilldren featuring Ongina, the flamboyant and fabulous ladies of Risqué, Happyforyou, Djs Jeffree, LA-based Autumn Leilani, Peter Barona, Michael mAr, Probe 7, as well as Krave and Culture’s fashion show.

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“ W e ’ r e proud to present a diverse group of LGBTQ+ and allied performers taking the stage at the 2019 Palm Springs Pride Festival in downtown Palm Springs and the Gayborhood on Arenas Rd.,” said Ron deHarte, President and CEO of Greater Palm Springs Pride. “This unprecedented lineup has been made possible by the support from the City of Palm Springs, PS Resorts, Effen Vodka, Arenas District Merchants Association, ConnextionsMagazine.com

and Bud Light.” Festival highlights include a Youth Zone, Children’s Garden, Senior Cool Zones, LGBTQ artists, multiple HIV testing sites, health resources, 200 backto-back exhibitors, food and beverage stations. You can also take your photo with Diva, the 20’ tall pink poodle. There’s something for everyone. The streets will be filled with Pride revelers, dancers, and open-air beverage lounges. Residents and visitors are invited to discover (and re-discover) all that Arenas Road and downtown have to offer.

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Join the conversation online ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest @ConnextionsMag Connextions Magazine

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Travel: Vieques

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OUT AT THE

W

LOS ANGELES

W E S T B E V E R LY H I L L S

W

Hotels are the luxury brand of Marriott International, disrupting and redefining the hospitality scene for nearly two decades. Trailblazing its way around the globe, W is on track to reach 75 hotels by 2020, defying expectations and breaking the norms of traditional luxury wherever the iconic W sign lands. One of those acquisitions is the W Hotel Los Angeles.

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Out at the W Los Angeles THE LIVING ROOM

At W Los Angeles, guests can enjoy the ultimate W lifestyle: relax in a private cabana on our WET deck while enjoying cuisine from the adjacent restaurant, The Hideout by STK Los Angeles; and indulge in cool, sophisticated nightlife at The Living Room Bar. T H E W E L C O M E PAC K AG E

Centrally located within minutes of the famed Sunset Strip, Hollywood, and the Santa Monica coastline, W Los Angeles is a sanctuary within the bustling city, located at the foothills of Bel Air and Beverly Hills with easy access to key interest points such as the Getty Museum, Rodeo Drive, the Armand Hammer Museum and the Geffen Playhouse.

Located in West Beverly Hills, the W Los Angeles is the modern brand that set the standard for other lifestyle brands. With its overly modern, fun and elegant design and fashion forward design choices, this property has 297 suites including an Extreme WOW suite that comes equipped with a state-of-the-art screening room. The W is not just a hotel, it is one of the LA scene’s hottest spots known for its evening DJ scene at The Living Room, which boasts a sophisticated nightlife scene with inventive cocktails and nightly DJ’s. On our first night there, The Living Room was hosting a Queer Me Out Panel, which was created to give a bigger platform to connect and inspire the LGBTQ+ community in every W destination. ConnextionsMagazine.com

E V E R Y D AY I S P R I D E

W Hotels’ are extremely proud to experience over 20 years of supporting the LGBTQ+ community and the brand’s commitment to inclusiveness is easily found at the core of the W experience.

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W LOS ANGELES

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EXTREME WOW

FA B U L OU S SUITE

S PE C TAC U L A R K ING

You gotta see it to believe it. The amenities seem endless, from your king size bed to your own private screening room, perfect for the LA vibe.

Spread out and make yourself at home in this 2 bedroom suite: 1 King pillow top bed & 1 queen. Perfect for work days and playful nights.

Relax into a gorgeous & sleek sectional sofa. The fresh and modern design will surprise your senses, including a stylish glowing art ledge.

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Savor dishes that ignite your imagination at W Los Angeles - West Beverly Hills. Home to three dynamic restaurants in Westwood: STK Los Angeles Spark your appetite at STK Los Angeles with a steak that’s cooked to perfection, complimented by your cocktail of choice. Featuring a highfashion dining room and DJ-spun soundtrack, our signature restaurant is a gem in the Westwood culinary scene. STK Los Angeles is reinventing the tried-and-true steakhouse in Beverly Hills, CA, with a hearty dose of modernity. Step inside our ultra-stylish dining room for flawlessly cooked steaks, paired with seafood starters, decadent sides and an array of toppings and sauces. Happy Hour in The Hills is weekdays from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm, and never hesitate to get up and dance to DJ-spun tracks ConnextionsMagazine.com

if the mood strikes you. Featuring an effortlessly glam and carefree ambiance, STK Los Angeles is where diners come to see and be seen, so keep your eyes open. The Hideout Find a tropical oasis in Westwood at The Hideout, our poolside restaurant where guests dine al fresco. Order from a contemporary, Californiainspired menu of sharing plates, dreamed up by Executive Chef Robert Liberato, and revel in LA’s endless summer. Living Room Bar Mix and mingle inside Living Room Bar where light fare is served in a glam setting of mod-style booths and marble-top tables. Retox after your Los Angeles weekend at Mix It Up Mondays by collaborating with mixologists to design your own trademark drink.

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Get FIT & Get WET The weather in LA always cooperates with plenty of sunshine and some rains to cool you down. But there is no better way to cool down or to ditch work for a couple of hours than by getting FIT® and then getting WET®. The iconic WET® Deck, which is the name of the pool area, features poolside cabanas where you can sit beside the glittering outdoor pool. Before jumping in the

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pool, you can first earn your relaxation time in the hotel’s 24/7 FIT® center, home to state-of-art fitness equipment for cardio and lifting, from elliptical cross trainers, free weights and high-tech machines, FIT® is your state-of-the-art way to stay in shape. During the summer, W Los Angeles hosts DAYDREAM– a series of complimentary fitness classes open to guests and Angelenos taught every Sunday by some of LA’s hottest instructors. Connextions Magazine

Written by: Manny Velasquez-Paredes Photos by: W Hotel Los Angeles & Connextions Magazine Manny Velasquez-Paredes (MVP) is an award-winning Travel Journalist, a social media junkie, motivational speaker on LGBTQ issues and Diversity, and an avid traveler, who brings the traveling LGBTQ family’s perspective to Connextions Magazine. MVP has visited 5 continents, lived and studied in three of them. MVP and his family enjoy traveling and creating memories. MVP travels for work and works to travel!

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Travel: Vieques

Photo courtesy of: FloridasHistoricCoast.com Tres Sirenas

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FAMILY OUTING

Saint Augustine CELEBRATING THE PAST & LIVING IN THE MOMENT

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T

he oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, was founded on September 8, 1565 by Spanish explorers. The city was named “San Agustín” and the city served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years, before it was given to the United States in 1819. Its unique scenery and history set this city apart from any other.

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Written by: Manny Velasquez-Paredes, JJ Vega, Jaslene & Maximus Photos by: FloridasHistoricCoast.com & Connextions Magazine

This old city became the setting for a LGBTQ Family Outing! Its brick-lined streets, the old buildings, the horse drawn carriages create a setting of old Europe. But don’t let this fool you, although the city boasts an old soul, St. Augustine has a lot of life in the form of restaurants, bars and activities. The visitors and locals flock to the streets and enjoy the nightlife, as well as the local beaches. ConnextionsMagazine.com

In addition to its impressive roster of top-rated hotels, resorts and bed and breakfasts, St. Augustine is known for its excellent and innovative restaurants serving a variety of dishes reflecting the town’s multicultural heritage, from the hottest Chefs. Add to that the city’s world-class art galleries, boutiques and outlet shopping, theater and live music, and 42 miles of gorgeous beaches, and it’s easy to see why more than 6 million people visit each year.

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We arrived to Jacksonville International Airport, which is just about an hour away from St. Augustin. We drove from the airport straight to St. Augustin via A1A, which took us right through the picturesque town of Ponte Vedra, lined up with gorgeous water-facing mansions on each side. Our first stop was The Reef, one of few remaining true Oceanfront restaurants in Northeast Florida commanding the most spectacular views from any table inside or enjoy the expanded deck where you not only look out at The Ocean, you listen to it too as the waves break and the birds sing. Live music can be heard during happy hour and brunch can be enjoyed on Sundays. After checking in to our hotel, we hopped on the Old Town Trolly to take a tour of the

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city and stopping along major attractions like the Old Jail, Spanish Quarter to see the Oldest Wooden School House, The Castillo de San Marcos, The Fountain of Youth and so many other instagram-ready attractions, use #StAugustine #PonteVedra #FloridasHistoricCoast #ViajaSanAgustin for a chance to have your pics featured by the city’s Visitor & Convention website and social media channels. The fort castle, Castillo de San Marcos, is one of the first and most commandeering attractions you will see. The oldest masonry fort structure of its kind in the continental United States was originally built to guard the coastline against invasion. Walk outside the castle and enjoy the oceanview observing the fort’s walls that are made of limestone and broken shells. The walls were an important

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safeguard for the Spanish colony citizens or walk through the numerous rooms that once housed war soldiers and prisoners. If you have the luck to find parking in front of the fort, you can leave your car and roam around the Colonial Quarter, which is right across, by the way parking after 5pm is free. It is also the best spot to park and to remember where your car is resting. We actually got lost one night and couldn’t find our car, which was parked in one of the dark alley’s of the city. After we discovered the Castillo parking lot, it became our spot for our entire trip. The Colonial Quarter, also known as the Spanish Quarter is where many shops can be found: from bakeries, to jewelry stores, to souvenirs and restaurants, all are open throughout the historic streets of St. Augustin. ConnextionsMagazine.com

Witness the unique, ancient buildings, that you can’t miss, as you enter the city, like Mission Nombre de Dios, the site of America’s first mission. Take a walking tour of the majestic grounds and find the 208 ft. stainless steel Great Cross built in 1965, as well as a small, Spanish-style chapel of Our Lady of La Leche (the milk). If you are the adventurous type, St. Augustine offers one of the most haunting experiences featuring the city’s past. The Ripley’s Ghost Train Adventure has earned the prestigious “Best Ghost Tour in St. Augustine” award for three years in a row. Each person receives an EMF Ghost Meter to seek haunting beings. The adventure begins at Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, where you meet your ghost host and hear stories of spirits, tales of murder, mayhem, ghostly apparitions and hauntings.

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Photo courtesy of: Tres Sirenas

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Travel: St. Augustine MY LIGHTHOUSE STORY By Jaslene The lighthouse is 219 steps high. It consists of historical artifacts and many facts written on the walls, which were useful to remember and also to catch your breath while reading them. Once you get to the top, there are breathtaking views and a nice breeze. Make sure to take lots of water breaks and lots of pictures!

Photo courtesy of: FloridasHistoricCoast.com

Historical Data The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is 145 years old this October. A collection of 19,000 objects, archival documents and archaeological specimens is held in trust for future generations at the Museum. Over 216,000 visitors including thousands of school age children enjoy educational programs and tours. Visitors can step up to help the non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum save maritime history. The Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate that was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 2017. Climb the 219 steps to the top for a spectacular view of the nation’s oldest city, the Atlantic Ocean and the entire area.

Photo courtesy of: Connextions Magazine

ST. AUGUSTINE ALLIGATOR FARM By Maximus We got in to the Alligator farm early in the morning. We saw a lot of alligators and crocodiles, even a few snakes, which scared my Dad. We had a fun time. I took a picture of a turtle climbing the back of a white alligator. My Daddy says they are called albinos, because they are all white. It was funny to see the turtle was not afraid of the alligators.

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Photo courtesy of: Connextions Magazine ST. AUGUSTINE AQUARIUM Let your wild side come out by feeding the sharks and rays. Feeling extra wild? Then snorkeling with hundreds of Florida reef fish and rays is in your future. We were ready and eager to go snorkeling, unfortunately due to one of those famous Florida thunderstorms, we were not allowed in the water. While waiting for the rain and thunder to stop, we had a very long feeding session, which our kids loved. We also learned all about seahorses and starfish, we actually got to touch many sea creatures. So, although we missed out on the snorkeling part, the rest was extremely delightful and our tour guide was the coolest and most patient person we met. He even ran under the storm to grab an umbrella so we could go back to our car. Since we got stuck in the rain, there were only a few of us left in ConnextionsMagazine.com

the aquarium, which worked to our advantage, because we received individualized attention. WHETSTONE’S CHOCOLATE TOUR Chocolate tour - need I say more?!?! Well, we took a behind-the-scenes look at chocolate making in the Whetstone Factory, we were introduced to its history, plus we got to sample many of delicious local sweets and distinguish the characteristics of the dark, milk and white chocolate, cocoa nibs and more. Henry and Esther Whetstone are Florida natives and lifelong residents of northeast Florida. Operating from their kitchen each night, Henry and Esther first opened their small ice cream store on St. George Street in the historic business district of St. Augustine in 1966. They opened their first chocolate factory in the 1970s.

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Travel: St. Augustine S T . AU G U S T I N E D I S T I L L E RY C O M PA N Y

What happens when a group of locals share a dream to bring the national movement of distilling super premium, small batch spirits to the local St. Augustine community? And they want to do it better than anyone in the world. This is the story of the St. Augustine Distillery Company and how they brought some of the world’s best distilling experts to this small city in America. THE PIRATE

They wanted to bring something special to St. Augustine; something that could take root and grow. Craft distilling was happening all over the country, but not in Florida. So the group talked to some people who shared their vision. After 18 months, 28 brave, beautiful locals signed on to make this dream a reality. The group was fascinated with the idea of making craft spirits. Utilizing local ingredients to produce whiskey, rum, vodka and gin challenged the way they thought about cocktails. The group talked to the smartest people in the industry they could find: Farmers, distillers, engineers, bartenders, consumers—they talked to them all. Armed with great advise and insights, they designed and built the most beautiful and well-designed craft distillery in America, which I was able to enjoy on my birthday!

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& TREASURE MUSEUM

Pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles who frequented the nation’s oldest city and the Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, played a major role in the history of pirates and Colonial America. The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.

One of our most popular features is the Discovery Drawers marked with a skull and crossbones and hidden throughout the museum. Our kids had a lot of fun looking for the clues and then received their reward for completing the map. We walked all over and fully enjoyed everything the museum had to offer.

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PADDLEBOARD AT ANASTASIA STATE PARK One of the coolest things I have ever done has got to be paddleboarding. With 1,600 acres including four miles of perfect white sandy beaches, tidal salt marshes and hammock preserves, Anastasia State Park has almost everything for everyone: sunbathing, surfing, swimming, camping, fishing, sailboats, paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking hiking and sailboarding. Driving is prohibited on the beaches of Anastasia State Park, and dogs are not allowed on the beach or inside the park’s facilities. Visitors can walk/hike the nature trails that wind through the dunes shaded by maritime hammocks and examine a variety of birds, turtles, and other wildlife. Campers can spend the night in Anastasia State Park’s full-facility campground, with showers, ConnextionsMagazine.com

bathrooms, and a store near the beach selling camping necessities. There are over 139 campsites to choose from, all located beneath trees and palms. Anastasia Watersports has a rental shop for canoes, sailboards, paddleboards, and kayaks. Lessons are also available and on this July day, we took these lessons. It took a while for me to get the hang of standing, and I fell 3 times. My kids were doing somersaults on the paddleboards and I could barely stand up. My husband enjoyed just sitting on the paddleboard, until he decided to take pictures from the shore. We needed to capture the perfect shot of me standing with the rainbow flag around my neck – see above for proof that I did it! Not going to lie and tell you that I stayed upright for a while, I was just thrilled that I stood up and achieved the perfect pic and lifelong memories.

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Travel: St. Augustine WHERE TO EAT The culinary experience in St. Augustine is first rate. Local world famous Chefs have built a camaraderie and have created a foodies paradise in St. Augustine. Catch 27 40 Charlotte Street Website: catchtwentyseven.com Catch 27 believes in preparing and serving fresh, locally caught seafood from the nation’s 27th state. Everything is cooked from scratch with seasonal ingredients and local produce, which is why Catch 27 is a superb choice. Freshly caught fish, shrimp, and clams right off the Florida waters and delivered daily, from snapper to sheepshead, mahi mahi to triggerfish, and flounder to black drum. From barbecue alligator ribs, to crab cakes and tacos, not to mention the delicious desserts and cocktails. Everyone will surely find something to cure those cravings. Salt Life Food Shack 321 A1A Beach Blvd. Website: saltlifefoodshack.com The phrase “Salt Life” stands for a sub-culture amidst avid divers, surfers, fishermen and everyone who loves the sound of surf, sand in their shoes and beautiful seas. It’s a way of life. Salt Life Food Shack is designed to be a natural extension of the values and lifestyle exemplified by Salt Life. Salt Life Food Shack was developed with the commitment to provide a community driven restaurant that compliments the brand, where “living the Salt Life” is a part of everyday life. Take a lunch break from the beach and enjoy great dishes, cool drinks and the opportunity to catch up with family and friends.

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Celebrating the Past Columbia Restaurant 98 St. George St. Website: columbiarestaurant.com Founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the Columbia Restaurant is Florida’s oldest restaurant, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Although the St. Augustine location is not the original restaurant, all Columbia locations are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family. Our dining experience satisfied everyone at our table, from tapas featuring Croquetas de Langostas (lobster croquettes), to Cakes de Cangrejo (crab cakes), and entrées varying from seafood, to meats, paellas and everything in between. Make sure to leave room for dessert: from guava cheesecakes, to churros and flans – your taste buds will beg for more. Smoked. Southern BBQ 11 Magnolia Avenue Website: smokedsouthernbbq.com At the entrance of the world-famous Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, Southern Smoked BBQ has carved its spot and claimed its dominance. Smoked. Southern BBQ cooks only the freshest local and sustainable food. Chef & Owner, Brian Whittington, who was on hand to greet us, supports the farm-to-table sustainable concept of running a restaurant. The award-winning Chef explained to us that Smoked. Southern BBQ proudly serves fresh, local ingredients from Black Hog Farm and Congaree & Penn. Chef Whittington has an extensive background in preparing the finest meals as the owner of sister restaurant, Preserved, and having worked with Restaurant Orsay in Jacksonville, Zhanras of St. Augustine, Rhett’s Piano Bar, South Beach Grill, and Coquina Beach Surf Club in St. Augustine Beach. ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Travel: St. Augustine

Photo courtesy of: FloridasHistoricCoast.com The Floridian 72 Spanish Street Website: thefloridianstaug.com The concept of farm-to-table is huge in St. Augustine, and The Floridian does it beautifully, tasty and classy! They call it ‘Innovative Southern Fare for Omnivores, Herbivores and Locavores.’ Regionally-inspired and fresh from the source, a perfect synergy of down-home southern comfort foods, and lighter, healthier, vibrant and creative dishes and many vegetarian options. Supporting local growers and producers is in their DNA because “it makes sound, sustainable sense.” The menu changes according to the seasons to reflect the freshest ingredients. Enjoy great appetizers, entrées and cocktails ranging from Fried Green Tomatoes, to Citrus Beet Salad, to the Shrimp and Sausage Maque Choux: house creamed corn, peppers, poblanos, cherry tomatoes and Lil Moo

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cheese, cooked down with aromatic rice into a rich Creole ‘risotto.’ Served with sautéed shrimp and local sausage, topped with Heirloom Tomato Salsa and Parsley Gremolata. This is a must eat spot for all visitors and locals. A1A Ale Works 1 King St., Ste. 101 Website: a1aaleworks.com Located in historic St. Augustine, overlooking the scenic Matanza Bay and The Bridge of Lions, which is a double-leaf bascule bridge that spans the Intracoastal Waterway, we find A1A Ale Works. Following the local tradition of food made fresh, from scratch, this restaurant is unique because of its grand selection of rotating craft beers. The relax atmosphere of the restaurant and the people offer an inviting, friendly and fun place to dine or simply enjoy live music and drinks.

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The Photographer’s Portrait

Your What, When & Where For NYC LGBTQ Events, Arts, Entertainment, Culture & More!

NYCUpAndOut.com ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Photo courtesy of: FloridasHistoricCoast.com Tres Sirenas

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Big Little Gay Town WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHY BY: DAVID PERRY

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f Saugatuck draws a blank, it does not date you; it positions you. This village just up the Kalamazoo River from the lapis expanse of Lake Michigan is the gay destination par excellence of the upper Midwest, the go-to for gays from Chicago to Indianapolis. It has the gay hotels, the gay bar, the gay boys, even the gay coffee shop. What it lacks is the gay PR. Connextions Magazine

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It is one of the great mysteries of the Universe: Incredibly obscure towns in the most unlikely places morphing into fabulous gay Meccas. Saugatuck is practically a case study; come summer, the mild-mannered hamlet of 925 residents Incredible-Hulks into a booming resort of 3000; Halloween hauls in 10,000 alone. For a town I could miss in a fog, it has a headlock on mysteries of the Universe. Beach Boys Like Carmel-by-the-Sea in California and Provincetown in Massachusetts, Saugatuck began life a century ago as an artist colony; it was gay-friendly at a time when the term didn’t even exist. Creative types still play a big part of town life, the Ox-Bow School of Art, just across the river in a shaded glen hosts everything from traditional painting to glass blowing; its biggest claim to fame is as the birthplace of Kermit the Frog. ConnextionsMagazine.com

But today, the town owes its gay cred to The Dunes, a hotel-pool-bar-loungedancefloor(s)-cabaret spread across 20 acres (seriously, if this thing had a full-time restaurant, you would never see me again). Owners Danny Esterline, Greg Tryzbinski, and Mike Jones bought one of the many cinder-block hotels dotting the landscape and gave it the full bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, turning a stopover into a gay-owned and operated icon. People cross time zones just for the Saturday pool parties. Yet as more locales come to embrace gay travelers (Taipei, Buenos Aires, Waikiki) and hotels tout their gay-friendly policies (JW Marriot, Hilton, Caesar’s Palace), a very ironic question arises: If I can get the same treatment as anybody else at the Ritz, why do I have to hunt hither and yon for gay-stays?

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Travel: Saugatuck

Easy — they remain ours. We go to gay bars, gay clubs, gay cruises. Why not gay hotels? It sounds tribal, but a case in point is the Oscar Wilde Bookstore in New York, brimming high and low with literature high and low for LGBTQs about LGBTQs with LGBTQs on their minds. When it closed in 2009, many in the community gave a collective shrug since the nearby Barnes & Noble had long ago included gay and lesbian titles. On one partial aisle. In the back. That’s not progress; that’s capitulation. The Undiscovered Country Saugatuck, and the nearby town of Douglas, get it. In fact, they fully acknowledge gays put much of the region, like Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, on the map (it used to be the gay beach; not so now) and run a good chunk of

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the businesses. Douglas, the crystal-collecting hippie chick to more stately Saugatuck, went so far as to put down a rainbow crosswalk. But don’t get the idea this corner of the Great Lakes State is an undiscovered party waiting for its viral moment. Saugatuck, Douglas, and even The Dunes, is where I go to escape that. The atmosphere is decidedly un-stuck-up. Its shady streets lined with Victorian clapboard houses, Saugatuck invites dilly-dallying among art galleries, retro cocktails at The Old Boathouse by the marina, fishing on Kalamazoo Lake, or taking a dune-buggy ride along the shores of Lake Michigan and learn about the ghost town of Singapore, swallowed by the shifting sands. For the really prosaic, just people-watch with good dose of caffeine and conversation at the Uncommon Ground coffee house, the daytime gay hub

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Photo courtesy of: Tres Sirenas

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Travel: Saugatuck of town. Owner Guy Darienzo defines the benevolence of the gay dollar, investing heavily in sustainability and his suppliers. The transgender-friendly bathroom is a nice touch, too. Put simply, you have all the perks of the country with very little in the way of drawbacks. Local wunderkinds take full advantage of eastern Michigan’s rural plusses, from fruit-growing to ethnic heritage; Melissa Corey, executive chef at the Pennyroyal Cafe and deemed one of Chicago’s top female chefs by Thrillist, taps local Netherlander recipes for her menus where sausage, cured meats, and Dutch Babies, a kind of custard popover, dominate. The locally sourced cuisine at Coast 236 and Salt of the Earth, arguably the prestige eateries of Allegan County, is as seductively sophisticated as the wines grown practically in their backyards. Wait. Michigan makes wine? Fun fact: Give a Michigander a grape and a hard frost and wonders happen. Ice wine, a thick dessert wine, is notoriously hard to make, but the vintners at the homespun-sounding Crane’s Pie Pantry and Winery pull it off to award-winning results. And while purists will faint at the sight of wine in cans at the Fenn Valley Winery, try it before you decry it (Classiest. Six-pack. Ever!). It’s not just vino Michigan aces; Virtue Cider is virtually alchemical when it comes to their apples. When last did you hear of cider aged in French oak bourbon barrels? It’s a good thing the whole region has its own bus line, the Interurban; there was no way I was driving after a full booze tour.

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Fall 2019


Big Little Gay Town Ain’t It Grand Often mentioned in the same sentence as Chicago, Saugatuck is actually tied far stronger to Grand Rapids, only 40 miles away (and where I flew in). Itself a very pro-gay town, “Beer City USA” proudly flies the rainbow flag from its churches, includes gay history at the Public Museum, and a huge rainbow mural adorns the asphalt in front of The Apartment, the oldest gay pub in the city. In fact, the city can be so gay-friendly it throws the gaydar; the SpeakEZ Lounge has a gay flag in the window but is in fact not a gay bar, which led to a slight “oopsy moment” on my part. The cocktails still rocked. Saugatuck (and Douglas and Grand Rapids) epitomizes the under-the-radar destination. Fire Island, Palm Springs, and Key West dominate the gay collective consciousness, but they don’t tell you how high prices can get, or how cliquey the crowds really are. It’s enough for me to look for other destinations. Found one!

Written by: David Perry Photos by: David Perry As an accomplished journalist, writer and editor, David’s work appears in 19-and-counting publications, Instinct Magazine, The Huffington Post, the Edge Media Network, Connextions Magazine and Out.com among them. Covering travel, luxury, style, and adventure (with tech and science thrown in for color), David is a humor writer with a really, really, really well-used passport. Follow David @GhastEald on Twitter

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