OUR REVIEWERS| helping us to find gay friendly accommodation
MANNI COE: ANDALUCIA, SPAIN
Andalucia has been my home and passion since 2000. Sharing my knowledge of local culture, language and history is my driving force, and in 2010 I set up Toma Tours which offers bespoke tours to small groups travelling in Andalucia, Spain and Morocco.
I love helping people get the 'under the skin' of the real Spain away from the stereotypes of some aspects of Spanish tourism. Spanish art, history and gastronomy are my big things but finding great hotels for my guests is very important too, so I am always on the look out.
SEAN NAUGHTON: STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
Ok so my name dosn’t sound exactly Swedish. That’s because my father is American and my mother is Swedish. I have lived in Stockholm for 20 years and consider myself Scandinavian to the bone. I love snow - what more proof do you need?
Stockholm is a very gay friendly city and I am proud to call it my home but I also love to travel across Scandinavia and internationally. My background is in customer service in hotels so I am always on the look out for places to stay which reflect the values of caring owners who go the extra mile. It is often the little things that guests remember – the helpful restaurant recommendation, the kindnesses and the personal touches.
Kathy & Sharon: London
We just can’t stop exploring. Over the last 15 years we have racked up over 95 countries, camped in the wild’s of Iceland, nightbused in Latin America, crossed the Amazon in a motorized dug out canoe, slept under the stars in the Middle East and been chaffeaur driven in Southern India. We’ve done our fair share of back packing, youth hostelling, sleeper trains - and to be honest we now do like a little more luxury which we really appreciate. In between our long haul travel we are also discovering much more of Britain and Europe’s cities.
We work in Investment Banking Marketing & Communications in Canary Wharf (Kathy) and Customer Service Manager for a construction company (Sharon). Spare time is precious and holidays are too important to get wrong, so finding the perfect place to stay with genuinely welcoming hosts is key to us.
PETER FRIEND & MARK BARBER: FRANCE
Most people celebrate their 40th birthday with a party but not us. We bought an eight bedroom period “maison bourgeois” in need of massive renovation in SW France from where we now operate one of the country’s most successful guest houses – VILLA DE MAZAMET. The whole process of finding the right property took us from Cornwall to Andalucía, to Brittany and then to SW France. A huge journey - metaphorically and literally – taking three years before we found our dream renovation project.
When time permits we like to travel and explore across our adopted home country. Running a guest house gives you a keen eye on what to look for in a great place to stay and one of the most important aspects is genuine hospitality and a warm welcome for all.
SOPHIE HARTMAN: INDIA AND THE WELSH BORDERS
It would be very hard for me to say exactly where my heart resides, having spent half my life flitting between the UK and India. My love affair with the subcontinent took a professional turn a few years ago when I happily took on a part time job helping to run a small travel company in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
During my travels I have discovered some wonderful, often fairly remote, places to stay and built many strong deep friendships. I speak Hindi (and am studying for an MA in Hindi and Bengali Literature at SOAS) which has enriched my experience of being in India immeasurably. It has also helped me to connect with hotel owners and their staff which has proved invaluable when assessing the ethical values and credentials of any hotel or guest house.
Stuart is a writer and publicist. He was deputy editor of LGBT lifestyle magazine Fluid, and has contributed to numerous titles including America’s #1 gay travel magazine Passport as well as writing copy for the likes of VisitBritain and VisitWales.
A regular contributor to health and sex magazine FS, he was nominated for the Rosemary Goodchild Award for excellence in sexual health journalism at Brook’s SHUK Awards in 2014. As a publicist, he’s worked on events and festivals including London’s East End Film Festival, Pan Asia Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Branchage Jersey International Film Festival, the British Independent Film Awards and Nelson Mandela’s 46664 concerts.
He’s also worked on personal pr for Diana Ross, Queen, Liza Minnelli and Jane Birkin, West End musicals including We Will Rock You, Jailhouse Rock and Our House, and unit publicity for films including Mrs Henderson Presents. He lives in London and Suffolk.
John and Joseph: Dublin
John and Joseph divide their time between a city centre apartment and a house by the sea on the Atlantic coast in County Donegal, so they are equally at home in the buzz of the city and the peace of the countryside.
John owns a contemporary home accessories business with a shop in an historic 18th century building in the centre of Dublin and Joseph is a Clinical Psychologist working in youth mental health.
They both like the mix of old and new, at home and on their travels and enjoy exploring new places. Neither of them like roughing it! They like clean, smart and friendly rather than formal, somewhere you can relax in peace but with good attentive service when it is needed - and free wifi so John can keep in touch with his business if he needs to!
Going away is a real joy for me – grabbing a night or staying awhile. Either way, I love packing a bag and staying somewhere new. Exploring while feeling treated and being inspired are the things that urge me on, it’s addictive. My journeys abroad excite me but finding treasures closer to home bring great pleasure too. Britain is a superb place to live with endless diverse opportunities for journeying and holidaying.
When I travel I look for places to stay that radiate personality, focus on design and detail and are run by people who care about what they do and how they do it. Having run my own food and drink business, Soko Coffee, I understand the importance of valuing customers and providing great service. It can make the difference between a mediocre experience and a truly great one so I am always on the look out for somewhere that exudes loveliness, warmth and an authentic welcome to all their guests, whoever they may be.
Rob and Richard: Suffolk and London
Rob and Richard are both fiendish about design and have a passion for antiques and 20th century collectables. Their car and house are regularly stuffed to the gills with treasure found on their travels which then populates their latest venture - a regular pop up shop at their cottage in Suffolk - www.indacottage.co.uk
They divide their time between London and Suffolk. Rob also designs hotels and restaurants around the world for boutique and international brands. Richard, who started his career at Sotherbys is now an antique dealer on the Pimlico Road in London, and also runs a unique website selling hand-picked antiques for dealers who don’t have a shop www.ffenss.com
They are frequently on the move and can often be found in the remotest corners of the UK rooting out more treasure trove and visiting hotels for us.
Sue Bertram aka “Bertie”: Melbourne (right)
Born in Edinburgh, but like so many Scots, my taste for adventure set me off on my travels a long time ago! More recently my partner Anne, our dog Billie and I relocated to Australia with Anne’s job.
Co-owner of The B+B Collection in the UK, all our properties are gay friendly, pet friendly... in fact “everything friendly” within reason! I’ve always had a hankering to be the next Alex Polizzi – I have the legs but just can’t do those heels! So until I can balance on stilettoes, we continue our travels in “sensible shoes!”
The most exhilarating helicopter flight was over the Grand Canyon; we learnt to respect the significance of sacred places from the Anangu Elders at Uluru. Best Lobster Thermidore was Fort Aguada, Goa; the most accurate reflexology was had in Kuala Lumpur. New Year’s Eve on Sydney harbour is the ultimate! Never try to navigate a big car through the medieval streets of Carcassonne. A black Labrador stole my golf ball off the fairway at la Quinta, Marbella, honest! We got engaged on top of the Empire State Building.
Our spiritual home is Corfu; the wildest parties were Fire Island and I nearly got arrested in Provincetown... (something to do with topless sunbathing..!) Our next adventures are to explore Asia. My father used to say to me, “travel is the best education in the world” and he is so right!
MARK & ROBERT : MANHATTAN
Long-term New Yorkers, Mark Thompson and Robert Doyle (aka MRNY) photograph where they travel. They are particularly happy in an establishment where they feel immediately at home (and where the furniture does not need rearranging).
The author of the novels Wolfchild (2000) and My Hawaiian Penthouse (2007) and a member of the New York Travel Writers Association, Mark has a Ph.D. in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. Robert is the producer of the documentary "We Are All Children of God"(1999).
Founded in 1998, MRNY has been one of the leading sources for LGBT nightlife entertainment and photography. For photography, Mark and Robert use a Canon 60D, a Canon 20D, and a Leica D-LUX 3. Their work is available at: www.mrny.com and www.mrnystyleandtravel.com