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More on TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards (USA TODAY)

TripAdvisor unveils Travelers’ Choice best hotels awards

By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY

By Barbara De Lollis

TripAdvisor today announces the 25 hotels that have won a spot on its 10th annual Travelers’ Choice Awards lists for most outstanding hotels.

Hotel Check-In has assembled a photo tour of the Top 25 hotels in the USA. (Keep reading for the Top 10.)

PHOTO GALLERY: Tour TripAdvisor’s top 25 hotels in the USA
ALSO ONLINE: Stray cat drama at Loews resorts in Orlando

The coveted No. 1 ranking for best U.S. hotels goes to Chicago’s Elysian, the stylish, independent hotel that opened in 2009 and has won awards and accolades ever since.

By Barbara De Lollis

It’s a bittersweet award for the Elysian since it’s one of the last, if not the last, awards it will receive as an independent property. Next month, the Elysian will become part of Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria chain.

TWITTER: Follow Hotel Check-In’s BarbDeLollis
PHOTO GALLERY: Andrew Harper’s top luxury hotels for 2012

In fact, many of the winners on the Top 25 US hotels list are independent properties or part of small collections. You won’t find Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental, Starwood or any other hospitality giant on the list.

There are, however, two relatively small chains that stand out on this “best hotels” list.

San Francisco-based upscale boutique hotel operator Kimpton Hotels has three properties that made the list in Chicago, Portland, Ore., and Alexandria, Va.

And Toronto-based luxury hotel operator Four Seasons has two properties that made the list, both of which are resorts on Hawaiian islands.

You may notice that TripAdvisor this year has expanded the Top 10 winners’ list to Top 25 to give travelers more ideas for remarkable hotel stays.

The online review giant also expanded the number of categories its honoring. Travelers will find winners for hotel categories such as: Best Luxury and Bargain, Best for Service, B&Bs and Inns, All-Inclusive, Spa, and Trendiest.

Unlike most hotel awards lists, TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice winners are based on the millions of reviews and opinions written by TripAdvisor travelers around the world.

The average nightly rate for 2012 Travelers’ Choice Hotels award winners is $270, although there’s no need to blow your budget.

TripAdvisor says that 45% of the winners have an average nightly rate of $200 or less per night.

Here are select winners of TripAdvisor’s top hotel categories:

Best Hotel in the World: The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, Belize

Best Hotel in the USA: Elysian Hotel in Chicago

Best Luxury (4&5 star) Hotel in the World: Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo

Best Luxury (4&5 star) Hotel in the USA: The Grand Del Mar in San Diego

Best Bargain in the World: HueNino Hotel in Hue, Vietnam

Best Bargain in the USA: SeaCoast Inn in Hyannis, Mass.

Best for Service in the World: Arcadia Residence in Prague, Czech Republic

Best for Service in the USA: SeaCoast Inn in Hyannis, Mass.

Best B&B and Inn in the World: The Twenty One in Brighton, England

Best B&B and Inn in the USA: A.G. Thomson House: Historic Bed and Breakfast in Duluth, Minn.

Best All-Inclusive in the World: Garonga Safari Camp in Phalaborwa, South Africa

Best All-Inclusive in the Caribbean: East Winds Inn in Gros Islet, St. Lucia

Best Relaxation and Spa in the World: BollAnt’s im Park in Bad Sobernheim, Germany

Best Relaxation and Spa in the USA: Bella Monte Hot Springs Resort and Spa in Desert Hot Springs, Calf.

Trendiest Hotel in the World: Villa Zest Boutique Hotel in Cape Town, S.A.

Trendiest Hotel in the USA: Smyth Hotel, a Thompson Hotel in New York City

Top 10 hotels in the USA as rated by TripAdvisor reviewers:

  • 1.Elysian Hotel Chicago, Chicago
  • 2.The Grand Del Mar, San Diego
  • 3.Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Maui, Hawaii
  • 4.Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, N.C.
  • 5.Heathman Hotel, Kirkland, Wash.
  • 6.Hotel Commonwealth, Boston
  • 7.French Quarter Inn, Charleston, S.C.
  • 8.Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco
  • 9.Hotel Monaco Portland – a Kimpton Hotel, Portland, Ore.
  • 10.Inn at the Market, Seattle

TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice® 2011 Awards are in….and guess who made #4 in the top 25 list???

Casa Cool Beans takes 4th place in the TOP B&B and INNS in Brazil!!! We are still rated the #1 B&B in all of Rio de Janeiro as well!  Many thanks to all our guests who made this possible!!!

Top 25 B&Bs and Inns in Brazil

Vivenda Paraty

1
  • Paraty, Brazil
  • The perfect place and the perfect host. Spacious, luxurious and immaculately clean rooms, beautifully decorated.
  • — Nicole08, Basel, Switzerland
Cachoeira Inn 2

Solar do Santinho Pousada 3

Casa Cool Beans 4

Sambodromo rehearsal schedule for 2012 Rio Carnival Samba Parade

Now that we have celebrated a New Year; Revellion, here in Rio de Janeiro, it is time to turn our attention to Carnival!!!!  Below is the schedule for all the rehearsals at the Sambadromo; STARTING TONIGHT; January 8th:

These rehearsals for the Samba Parade take place on the samba runway itself in the Sambodromo. There are a few every weekend.

Go and watch them for free. You can try most grandstand sectors. It is a good opportunity to warm yourself up for the great party that will develop during the actual Samba Parade and see it all in preparation.

The very last rehearsal is the most spectacular show with lights and sound system already in place for final testing. The last champions’ parade is invited to. If you think that`s all, after that rehearsal, the biggest and most traditional street band (Cordão do bola preta) appears at beginning of the Venue, getting into  the samba run way with a lot of traditional samba songs, called in Portuguese “marchinhas”. Go, join in, dance and live Carnival with them! On this very day, Sambodromo lives it`s most crowded moment, as people can get there and watch for free! Don`t miss it!!!

January 2012
Date Day 7 PM 8 PM 10 PM
08th Sunday Opening ceremony Beija-Flor
13th Friday Imperio Serrano Uniao da Ilha
14th Saturday Paraiso do Tuiuti Rocinha Portela
15th Sunday Renascer Mocidade Unidos da Tijuca
21st Saturday Inocentes Porto da Pedra
22nd Sunday Santa Cruz Grande Rio Vila Isabel
27th Friday Cubango Imperio da Tijuca
28th Saturday Estacio de Sa Imperatriz
29th Sunday Viradouro Uniao da Ilha Salgueiro
February 2012
Date Day 7 PM 8 PM 10 PM
03rd Friday Vila Isabel
04th Saturday Renascer Sao Clemente Porto da Pedra
05th Sunday Mangueira Unidos da Tijuca
10th Friday Mocidade Salgueiro
11th Saturday Portela Imperatriz
12th Sunday Sound and light testing with Beija-flor

LAN launches new LGBT website…..http://www.landiversity.com

Have you ever dreamed about climbing Machu Picchu at sunrise, swimming with the giant turtles of the Galapagos, or experiencing any of the other wonders that can be found ‘Only in South America’? Today LAN Airlines brings those dreams one step closer for LGBT travelers with the launch of its dedicated, new LGBT travel website.

Visit LANdiversity.com and learn more about the many gay-friendly destinations throughout South America. Catch up on recent news and events of interest to LGBT travelers to South America, and read the latest articles written by LGBT travelers to the region.

For a limited time, we’re also giving you a special opportunity to save $50 on your next flight purchase on LAN.com when you sign up to receive our Diversity newsletter.

With frequently updated content, periodic specials, and a place to connect with other LGBT travelers, our goal is to make LANdiversity.com your one-stop source for LGBT travel to South America.

Diversity is in every corner of South America. Let LAN fly you there.

At LAN Airlines, we pride ourselves on the great diversity of our staff, our customers, and above all the great destinations that we serve. LAN has hubs in some of South America’s best current and emerging LGBT destinations, including Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima.

LAN also provides extensive serve to the most fascinating and exotic destinations for LGBT travelers throughout Chile, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and the rest of South America, including: Machu Picchu, Cuzco, the Amazon(Iquitos), Iguazu Falls, Easter Island, Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Bogota, to name a few.

In 2009, LAN became the first Latin American airline to develop an advertising campaign specifically targeting the LGBT community. The campaign highlights the importance of diversity, and showcases the great diversity found throughout LAN’s South America.

Xtra, Xtra…read all about it! (Gay Rio….)

Xtra, Canada’s Gay & Lesbian News, had a recent article written by Michael Luongo on Rio de Janeiro.   Read all about it….

http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/TRAVEL_Rio_de_Janeiro-11192.aspx

To my mind, there is no more beautifully situated city in the world than Rio de Janeiro. A beachside metropolis, my favorite kind of urban destination, it spreads up from the Atlantic Ocean into the dramatic mountains behind it. Many are oddly rounded in shape, like Sugarloaf (which takes its name from a time when sugar was shaped in cones) and Corcovado (“hunchback” in Portuguese), graced for more than 80 years by the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer, who blesses the city and her residents no matter what sins they get up to.

Rio dates back to the 1500s and was once the capital of Brazil, before the central government was moved in the middle of the last century to Brasília, in the wilds at the heart of the country. Still, even the designers of the new capital so loved Rio they refused to live in Brasília. The most famous architect of the new capital, Oscar Niemeyer, lives in a curvaceous ocean-view high rise on Avenida Atlantica. Niemeyer, who is more than 100 years old, is the perfect example of what locals call a Carioca de Gema, or native of Rio “down to the yolk.” Such people refuse to leave Rio; once you visit this seductive city with its mix of danger, sensuality and beauty, you’ll understand.

On Botafogo Bay looking toward Sugarloaf Mountain.
(Luis Rizo)

My first visit to Rio was in 2000, and I landed in the middle of Carnival. I was travelling with my friend Jim Green, a professor at Brown University and the author of the book Beyond Carnival, about Brazil’s gay history. I could not have had a better person as a guide.

We spent time in Copacabana, where the gay beach, marked by its own rainbow flag, sprawls from the famous Copacabana Palace hotel. We delighted in watching famous Brazilian pornstars order drinks from the gay kiosk on Avenida Atlantica, with its black and white swirled walkways.

The other gay beach is in Ipanema, a more upscale, less crowded part of the city where we watched well-toned men (often called Barbies for their beautiful, though distinctly male, physiques) play volleyball where the sands meet the Rua Farme de Amoedo, considered the main gay drag. I partied at the Banda de Ipanema street festival while getting rained on, surrounded by hundreds of Speedo-clad men whose feathery headdresses wilted to the pavement.

Rio de Janeiro from the Corcovado.
(Ramon)

Farther from the centre of Rio is the beach at Leblon, and during Carnival it’s home to the Gay Ball at the social club Scala, which for me was the highlight. I danced with a hunky Argentine tourist, a transgender beauty and a ball-gowned woman old enough to be my grandmother. All this special gay fun was in addition to the normal goings-on during Carnival, including the Sambadromo, where the parades of samba schools competing for the best themes and costumes all take place.

Carnival, which takes place just before Lent, is the party that put Rio on the map, but there are other great times to visit the city. One of the world’s biggest New Year’s celebrations is Réveillon, when millions of Cariocas dress in white and head to the beach, throwing flowers into the Atlantic Ocean as offerings to Yemanja, the goddess of the sea, celebrated in the Penelope Cruz movie Woman on Top. We all know what happens when white clothes hit water, so after the flowers are thrown, people find other ways to ring in the new year.

Young men celebrating during a Carnival street parade in Copacabana.
(Michael Luongo)

Any event will have a gay dimension in Rio, but if you want to visit during Pride itself, head to Rio in October, just as summer is beginning. This year’s Pride had nearly a million participants. Clovis Casimiro, the commercial director of the gay tourism promotion group ABRAT GLS, says that during Pride or any time, “Rio is so fun because of the local people and the combination of nature and metropolis — and also because Rio means the Brazilian way of life — relaxed, happy, colourful, with music and great hosts!”

Casimiro reminds us that while beaches made Rio famous, the city is so much more than just that. Within the old downtown, you’ll find fantastic colonial churches, like São Bento, with its interior awash in gold, or the space-capsule-shaped Catedral Metropolitana. I love the old plazas here in the centre, often devoid of tourists, who stick to the beaches. The downtown is full of imposing early-20th-century classical structures, along with mid-century moderns built under dictatorships, which seem almost Pharaonic in scale.

No gay person worth his or her salt will want to miss the neighbourhood of Flamengo, with its Carmen Miranda Museum. Gay artist Ulisses Rabelo sculpted many of the mannequins that hold the brilliant clothes this Brazilian star wore in numerous Hollywood musicals of the 1940s.

Overlooking Rio is the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, which has undergone a revival and is full of artists and galleries. At the bottom of the hills, below Santa Teresa, is a famous aqueduct, the Arcos da Lapa, in the area known as Lapa. This neighbourhood, now full of clubs and music bars, is a little seedy and was once the haunt of the legendary Madame Satã, whose real name was João Francisco dos Santos, an infamous gang member and drag performer in the 1920s and 1930s.

Madame Satã is just one example of Rio’s gay history and her always-lurking dangers. The city has dramatically improved in the past decade in both cleanliness and safety, as all of Brazil’s economy has uplifted and with the city preparing for the Olympics. Still, night is a time to be cautious. I was once attacked by young kids with knives in Copacabana. In the end, I was relatively unharmed, just a little shaken, but I was left with one of my favorite Rio stories. I flagged down the police, explaining to them what had happened, but we could not find the suspects when we did a drive-around. The police asked me where I was heading, which was to a new gay bar (since closed.) The policemen did not know of it but said they would instead take me to Le Boy, Rio’s best-known gay club. They turned on the sirens and the flashing lights and sped me through the streets. In front of Le Boy, I hugged and kissed the policemen goodbye and stepped out of the patrol car into the club, skipping the long line, with everyone thinking I was a celebrity or a gay cop.

There is no city in the world quite like Rio.

***
Getting there
You’ll most likely fly into Galeão International Airport, about 45 minutes northwest of the city. Santos Dumont Airport, closer to the city, is where the Rio–São Paulo air shuttle touches down. Pay-in-advance airport taxis can be found at both of these gateways.

***
Getting around
Rio’s Metro is an excellent subway and rapid transit system. Tourists can connect between Ipanema, Copacabana, Botafogo, Flamengo, Glória, Central Station in downtown, and beyond, then hop a taxi for streets around the stations. Buses are everywhere, but unless you’re a local you probably won’t figure them out before it’s time to board your homeward-bound flight. Taxis are easy to hail on the street, but if you want an air-conditioned cab, you might have to have your hotel call one for you. They are more expensive but worth it on the hottest days.

***
Neighbourhoods
Ipanema and Copacabana are the centre of Rio de Janeiro’s gay nightlife. Nights out for locals usually begin at friends’ houses, in cocktail lounges or over dinner before they hit the dance clubs after midnight. Though Ipanema has no big dance clubs, it has plenty of small and chic clubs. Watch out for circuit parties, too. They might be anywhere — from the beach to an old industrial building or on a farm outside the city — but most take place in the downtown district.

Men on the beach playing volleyball in Rio de Janeiro.
(Michael Luongo)

***
Currency
The Brazillian real (meaning “royal”) is the local currency. The coins are divided into the same denominations as most currencies, so getting to know the local money is easy. Online websites like XE provide exchange rates that are close to what credit or debit card scales will be. Plastic is widely accepted, so you won’t need to risk carrying a lot of cash. As always when going abroad, inform your bank of your travel plans (to avoid anti-theft protocols), find out if they have local partner banks (to save on ATM charges), and get phone numbers other than 800 codes — which sometimes won’t work outside the US and Canada — just in case.

Rio Tourism’s official gay website: rioguiaoficial.com.br/lgbt
Carnival: rio-carnival.net

Parakeet for breakfast?

We had some parakeets, four to be exact, fly into our kitchen and visit us for breakfast!  Below is a photo of one of the parakeets just above the beverage area.  Fortunately, no messes were created and the guests were delighted!!!

parakeet for breakfast

Clowns Protest Santa Teresa Bonde Plan; Want it returned NOW!

By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter; The Rio Times

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Dozens of comic artists yesterday donned red noses and baggy pants to stage a good-natured protest at the Arcos da Lapa, demanding the return of the traditional bonde (tram) in Santa Teresa after the system was suspended indefinitely following a fatal derailment earlier this year.

Clowns protests at Rio's Arcos da Lapa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil NewsClowns protesting at Rio’s Arcos da Lapa demanded the Santa Teresa bonde be returned to its former glory, photo by Vladimir Platonow/ABr.

“Santa Teresa without the tram is not Santa Teresa. The tram is about simplicity in the face of a more technological world and this is a symbol of poetry, as are clowns,” explained 60-year-old professional clown Leo Bassi.

For the balance of the story, please click on the link below:

http://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-daily/clowns-protest-santa-teresa-bonde-plan/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheRioTimes+%28The+Rio+Times%29