San Francisco: Pride Weekend kicks off
Rainbow flags are already flying along Market Street in anticipation for San Francisco's Pride celebration, one of the largest in the country. And with an estimated 200,000 people from around the world expected to take part, the parade is one of San Francisco's biggest—and most famous—events.
The official celebration happens at the Civic Center on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., with live music (the Backstreet Boys (!) are on the playbill this year), food and drink, and exhibitors, like the famous S&M; spanking booth ($5 voluntary donation.) On Sunday, the parade travels down Market Street between Beale and 8 street, starting at noon. But we all know the real party happens at hundreds of clubs, bars, and restaurants around the city.
The prime spot to be for Pride weekend is the Castro, of course, the epicenter of San Francisco's gay scene. There is no shortage of places to party, and the streets will be packed—even the sidewalks are places of revelry.
But this year, some of the hottest parties are happening outside the Castro. Our short list follows, so that you can take part of this 40-year-old tradition.
Kelly Mission Rock Cafe
This year, famed drag queen Juanita More is moving her pride party (perhaps the most epic of the weekend) far from the Castro, to Kelly's Mission Rock Cafe on 3rd Street near the water. Mission Rock is usually a hetero spot, but the large outdoor space and floor to ceiling windows with views of the bay, makes it ideal spot for this huge night of revelry. Moore's party will not disappoint: the drag show will feature Glamamore, Miss Rahni, and Diamond Daggers, and DJs will include Will Automagic and Sean B of NYC's SPANK, and more. Sunday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m., 817 Terry Francois Blvd. at 3rd and Mariposa. $25. Shuttle service from Market and Franklin streets. Advance tickets strongly recommended.
The Eagle Tavern
One of the city's famous gay hot spots in SOMA, the Eagle Tavern is a dive bar with a motorcycle edge and a huge backyard patio. It's packed here any sunny weekend, so expect a mad house for Pride. Saturday is a special party before the women's march starts at Dolores Park at 7 p.m.—expect a Burlesque show, a motorcycle wash, and tons of women who belong to the in for the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle contingent not to mention all-you-can-drink and eat for only $10 (from noon to 5 p.m.). Who knows? You could even convince one of the bikers to take you on a ride during the parade. 398 12th Street, at Harrison, 415/626-0880. There are other events throughout the week.
The Lexington Club
The Mission's Lexington Club has enough going on that you could stay all weekend: Thursday's Bad Reputation kick-off party will have DJs and go-go dancers, Saturday's free party starts at 3 p.m. with live bands and DJ Bunnystyle, and Sunday brings a hangover-curing mimosa brunch. 3464 19 Street, near Valencia.
Aunt Charlie's Lounge
If you're looking for a good drag queen performance, head right to Aunt Charlie's in the Tenderloin to check out the absolutely fabulous Hot Boxxx Girls on Friday and Saturday (starting at 10 p.m., $5 cover) One of the city's hottest dance parties for the hipster crowd happens on Thursday night with the Tubesteak Connection dance party featuring DJ Bus Station John's '70s and '80s discofunk that packs the dance floor. 133 Turk, SF; 415/441-2922
Note for party hoppers: Don't even think about driving this weekend. Instead take the L, K, S, or M Muni Trains. For late-night/early morning cabs, be sure to book in advance, since you won't be the only one looking for a ride.
France's new impressionism festival makes for a fun day trip from Paris
Take a train about an hour outside of Paris this summer, and the trip is sure to leave a lasting impression. Normandy, the region in northern France that was home to Claude Monet and a hotbed of impressionist activity in the latter half of the 19th century, is hosting its first-ever Impressionist Festival. From June to September, over 150 events celebrate the arts and culture influenced by the impressionist movement—not just painting (with 15 major exhibitions), but also music, dance, theater, photography, architecture, and more. The centerpiece of the festival is the exhibit "A City for Impressionism: Monet, Pissarro, and Gauguin in Rouen" at the Rouen Fine Arts Museum (through Sept. 26). The collection of 100 paintings, many never exhibited in public before, explores the city of Rouen's impressionist-era scene (admission $15). Make sure you stick around the museum until nightfall: Each evening, the façade near the Esplanade Marcel Duchamp is transformed by a light projection show called Impressionist Nights. In Giverny, visit Claude Monet's House and Gardens (admission $7.50), where you can see many of the natural elements that inspired his work, including the Oriental water garden with its Japanese bridge and a pond brimming with—what else? —water lilies (see them blooming at their best in August). Giverny is also home to the Giverny Impressionism Museum, which is hosting an exhibit of 50 paintings entitled "Impressionism on the Seine: From Renoir and Monet to Matisse" (through July 18) that retraces the history of impressionism through the use of scenes captured along the Seine (admission $8). Starting July 13 and 14 and continuing throughout the summer, guingettes will be revived throughout the region. The lively open-air cafés were popular among—and immortalized on canvas by—impressionist artists; often set on the banks of a river like the Seine, the guingettes were characterized by carefree music, dance, games, drinks, and food. One of the festival's final events is the Great Impressionist Ball in Rouen on September 24. The public is invited to the indoor/outdoor ball, under only one condition: They must come dressed in white. As the crowd dances, it will serve as a blank canvas, on which a light artist will project splashes of color—like brushstrokes—an effect that will be captured on video and displayed on a wide screen so that the audience can watch themselves become transformed into a work of art. For a full list of events, including Seine cruises, picnics, painting workshops (learn to paint in one of Monet's actual studios!), cooking classes, and special itineraries, visit impressionism-normandy.com. Getting there: Much of Normandy is easily accessible by train from Paris. Rouen is as short as a 70-minute trip (but you'll pay more for the faster trains), with one-way fares starting at $26. To reach Giverny, take the train from Paris to Vernon (45 minutes, from $17). From there, you can travel the remaining four miles to Monet's house by bus, bike, taxi, or on foot. MOREPlan your trip at The Impressionism Normandy website
London decoder: Rugby
London is abuzz about soccer right now because of the World Cup, but the city's other favorite sport is rugby, most recently given the big screen treatment in the Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman movie Invictus. For those Americans who haven't seen a game, rugby is far closer to football than soccer, and easier for Americans to understand. In fact, football evolved from early rugby through modifications made by Walter Camp in the 1880s at Yale. Like football, rugby is a running and passing game. Scores are made by scoring a touchdown or shooting between the goalposts in the end zone (called a conversion). Unlike in American football, the ball can only be passed backwards in British rugby. "Rugby Sevens" is a form of the game that's becoming ever more popular. In Sevens, just seven players per side compete for 15 minutes on a full-size pitch, guaranteeing free-flowing games with plenty of touch-downs (tries) and fast-moving tournament action. Ticket prices for rugby are a fraction of those for a soccer game and the atmosphere is terrific. Check a local listings publication like Time Out London for times and prices. Ladies looking to encounter some local rugby players off the field should check out the following spots: Pitcher & Piano (Fulham location), The Sun in Twickenham, and the tiki-themed Mahiki. MORE Find Budget Travel's picks for affordable and stylish hotels in London
Belize: Amazing summer fares
We're always happy to tout new cheap airfares. So when Michael Singh, Belize's Minister of Tourism, recently mentioned to me that U.S. airlines had slashed the cost of visiting his gorgeous country to as low as $500 roundtrip, it was hard to tell who was more excited—him or me. It has taken dedicated lobbying on the part of Belizean officials to get airlines to add flights despite the recession, but their victory is now ours. Throughout the summer, fares are noticeably lower this year than last. Based on the new fare structure, a round-trip ticket between Miami and Belize that used to be approximately $670 is now about $590 (most taxes included). Special sales can slash prices further. Today, for instance, we see American is running a $204 one-way fare sale (plus taxes) for travel early next week from Miami or Dallas. Looking ahead, the Latin American country is trying to persuade JetBlue to add service as well, which would push ticket prices even lower. It was only a few months ago that we were answering the question on this site in a Belize Vacation FAQ: Why are airfares so expensive? Guess we can pull that page down—at least temporarily.
San Francisco: 4 new Mission District hotspots
Even in the global recession, the Mission District is flourishing. Known for its arts and music scene, this huge neighborhood in the central city is the new home of small boutiques and restaurants that have been opening on a regular basis. Here's a selection of our favorite spots that opened their doors just this month. Part art gallery, part boutique, Wonderland SF features only local up-and-coming designers and artists. For instance, browse MittenMaker's jewelry, made from found objects, or luxurious draped-style clothes in neutral hues by gr.ando. The store's selection is small but offers only the creme-de-la-creme of indie artists. 2929 24th Street, between Florida and Alabama Streets, 415/641-4600. Afterlife Boutique offers a selection of vintage clothing and accessories, ranging from high-end to kitschy items like cowboy boots, reconstructed vintage dresses, ironic T-shirts, and sterling-silver earrings. Stop in for a fashion fix. 988 Valencia Street, between 21st and Liberty Streets, 415/ 796-2398. The 48-seat Heirloom Cafe serves a small menu of organic food like orechiette pasta with sausage, rapini, and yellow eye beans ($14) and PEI mussels with roasted tomatoes, shallots, and sherry ($10.) But the real draw at this farmhouse-style eatery is the wine. In fact, Los Angeles wine importer Matt Straus opened Heirloom specifically to showcase his impressive wine cellar full of rare vintages, which will cost you $100 a bottle. But other wines start at a more-reasonable $29 a bottle; glasses go for about $8. The restaurant is open for dinner early, but lunch service is expected soon. 2500 Folsom Street, 415/821-2500. Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, Napa Valley's highly acclaimed and Michelin-recommended Venezuelan restaurant, just opened a Mission location. The famous cornbread arepas ($8) are filled with a range of ingredients such as tofu, avocado, sweet plantains, black beans, and spicy sauce, or pulled pork with tomato, avocado, and aioli. 401 Valencia Street, 415/ 400-5453.