PALM BEACH

GT (UK) - - TRAVEL - WORDS ryan butcher

Come for the In­ter­na­tional Gay Polo Tour­na­ment, but stay for an ad­ven­ture in the Flor­i­d­ian sun that’s some­thing truly unique…

Now, we know more than most the dan­gers of re­ly­ing on a stereo­type. But in­dulge us in this one, if you will. If there’s one thing we know – as out, proud gay men – it’s how to yield to deca­dence and ex­trav­a­gance. And that’s where the In­ter­na­tional Gay Polo Tour­na­ment comes in – held in the US, of course. The In­ter­na­tional Polo Club at Florida’s Palm Beaches, to be a lit­tle more ex­act.

Don’t get us wrong. It MIGHT be the case that there are in­ner-city kids play­ing polo these days, try­ing to work their way out of the ghetto with noth­ing but a horse, a stick and a dream. We don’t think that’s too likely. This is very much a sport for the elite, for the up­per crust, for the, well… maybe not just the oneper­centers… but the ten-per­centers, at least.

But be­fore we get onto how awe-in­spir­ing it is to watch ded­i­cated ath­letes mounted on thor­ough­bred horses, thun­der­ing up and down a polo pitch in the name of hon­ourable com­pe­ti­tion, we have to talk about the crown jewel in The In­ter­na­tional Gay Polo Tour­na­ment – the tail­gate com­pe­ti­tion.

Tail­gat­ing is very much an Amer­i­can thing – it’s ba­si­cally a so­cial gath­er­ing from the back of a parked ve­hi­cle, out­side a sta­dium or some kind of sport­ing event. You’ve prob­a­bly seen it hap­pen on US sit­coms and not quite un­der­stand what’s been go­ing on. But of course, we gays have a cer­tain rep­u­ta­tion for like to through a few ex­tra ac­cou­trements into the mix. While the NFL prob­a­bly has sip­ping warm beer from the back of pick-up tricks, at the IGPL, it’s all about half-naked lum­ber­jacks bulging out of jean shorts, bak­ing in the glo­ri­ous Florida sun, and makeshift hair sa­lons where 50s-es­que pin-up drag queens shoot su­per-soak­ers of vodka into your mouth while you await your faux-blue rinse.

Like we said, in­dul­gent. But it’s one of the friendli­est and most laid-back en­vi­ron­ments we’ve ever been in. Ev­ery year, the tail­gate com­pe­ti­tion be­comes more ex­trav­a­gant and most en­thu­si­as­tic theme, best dressed and, nat­u­rally, the all-en­com­pass­ing best in show.

Af­ter wip­ing the vodka from our mouths cour­tesy of our visit to the afore­men­tioned sa­lon, we’re soon be­ing hoisted into the air by said-lum­ber­jacks, be­fore shar­ing jello shots with more drag queens, and even bar­ing wit­ness to a same-sex union cer­e­mony at the aptly-ti­tled Chapel of Love. We don’t use this word of­ten, but ‘fab­u­lous’ just about cov­ers it.

just for the polo. We went to dis­cover for our­selves what’s be­ing de­scribed as “the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence Florida” – the Palm Beaches. Span­ning 47 miles of pris­tine At­lantic Ocean beaches – from Boca Ra­ton to Jupiter – 145 miles of trop­i­cal wa­ter­ways, and in­sur­mount­able at­trac­tions across more than 2,000 square miles, it’s easy to see why the Palm Beaches are known as Amer­ica’s First Re­sort Des­ti­na­tion – with 38 di­verse cities and towns wo­ven to­gether into the fab­ric of the ul­ti­mate wan­der­lust’s ex­pe­ri­en­tial ex­pe­di­tion.

the Sea­gate Ho­tel & Spa, just a stone’s throw from the beau­ti­ful white-hot sands of Del­ray Beach. Stay­ing cool, calm and com­fort­able the lux­ury of a re­sort ho­tel with the in­ti­macy and at­ten­tive care of a more bou­tique re­treat – fall­ing some­where be­tween is­land ease and ur­ban chic, where the nearby ocean soothes you and the city on your doorstep stirs you. Sea-in­spired fea­tures and a 7,000-gal­lon aquar­ium evoke trop­i­cal tran­quil­ity, while

the lux­u­ri­ous guest rooms have ev­ery­thing you need to re­lax, un­wind and get over any un­for­tu­nate jet lag.

We’ve long agreed that the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, so the best way to fall in love with Del­ray Beach – and the ad­ja­cent, equally-charm­ing neigh­bour­hoods of Boca Ra­ton and Palm Beach Gar­dens – is the Sa­vor Our City Culi­nary Tour (sa­vorourcity.com, info@sa­vorourcity.com). This is one for both novices and more ex­pe­ri­enced food­ies a like, as lo­cal tour guides drive you around in a golf buggy to meet with small busi­ness own­ers and restau­ran­teurs, to hear their culi­nary sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ence their tour of Palm Beaches, we tasted some of the the most de­li­cious pop­corn of our lives – se­ri­ously, a trip to The Orig­i­nal Pop­corn House (orig­i­nalpop­corn­house.com) should be on every­one’s bucket list.

And re­gard­less of where you’re rest­ing your head at night, a visit to the Eau Re­sort and Spa is an es­sen­tial ad­di­tion to any itinerary. Sit­u­ated on a pri­vate beach across seven acres of ocean­front with lush trop­i­cal gar­dens, there’s breath­tak­ing ocean views, guest rooms de­signed by the es­teemed John Adler, and the award-win­ning Eua Spa which en­cap­su­lates the very essence of re­lax­ation, tran­quil­ity and Palm Beaches’ own brand of lux­ury.

res­i­den­tial sec­tion of Palm Beach. De­signed in the man­ner of a Euro­pean bed and break­fast, this ho­tel was built as The Lido-Venice in 1926, ren­o­vated in 1937 by lo­cal ar­chi­tect John L Volk, and later be­came reg­is­tered with the Palm Beach Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion as a his­tor­i­cal land­mark. Now with its eyes mem­ber of the Red Car­na­tion Ho­tel Col­lec­tion and Small Lux­ury Ho­tels of the World, mak­ing it a one-of-a-kind stay in one of the Florida’s most his­toric ho­tels.

Be­fore dash­ing to the air­port, we spend our at the Ta-Boo restau­rant (taboorestau­rant.com), which has hosted the likes of John F Kennedy, Frank Si­na­tra and Rod Ste­wart since it opened its doors in 1941. When it comes to a smörgås­bord of for­mer guests, it’s about as un­usual and un­ex­pected as you’re go­ing to get. But to us, the un­ex­pected whether it’s do­ing shots dur­ing a polo match with a drag queen, or sip­ping mi­mosas at thing you’re guar­an­teed at Florida’s Palm Beaches; some­thing truly unique.

“It en­cap­su­lates the essence of re­lax­ation and Palm Beaches’ own brand of lux­ury.”

LEFT

JUPITER, PALM BEACHES FLORIDA

ABOVE SEA­GATE BEACH

CLUB

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