Valhalla Women’s Week 2011
What happened in Puerto Rico won’t stay in Puerto Rico! The inaugural Valhalla Women’s Week took the island of Vieques by storm— and hundreds of women will never be the same.
“We wanted to make women’s fantasies come true by providing the unique opportunity to enjoy the Vieques W Retreat and Spa, one of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean,” said Yesi Leon of the Miami-based event producers Pandora Events. On October 20, 2011, that’s exactly what happened: More than 200 lesbians embarked on a voyage to the idyllic island of Vieques, eight miles off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Dubbed “Valhalla” after the ancient Norse word for heaven, this was a luxury girls’ getaway that lived upåç to its name.
Vieques is an unspoiled land of azure waters, white sands and untouched tropical forests. With a warm climate year-round, Vieques made the perfect vacation spot for native New Yorkers looking to get out of the impending, dreary cold of the city.
Even the Jersey girls had good reason to rejoice: with more than 40 beaches and not a single traffic light in sight, many bikini-clad lesbians found the island to be prime tanning turf. And who would have ever guessed that Vieques is often nicknamed "Isla Nena" or "Island of Girls" by the natives? Historically, it seems something other than its world-famous bioluminescent bay gave visitors a reason to gawk here.
Valhalla was co-founded by Maggie Collier of Maggie C Events, known for her upscale Manhattan parties Crème de la Femme and Stiletto; and Alison Burgos, Amy Alonso and Yesenia Leon of Pandora Events, producers of the Aqua Girl, The White Party and Pensacola Women’s Week in the southeast U.S. With support from GO Magazine, these dynamos created nothing less than a true female paradise at the extravagant beachside resort.
Valhalla’s guests enjoyed incredibly gorgeous and comfortable surroundings at the W Vieques, with generous ocean views from their private terraces. With 155 eclectic and vibrant rooms designed by Italian architect Patricia Urquiola, the W’s lavish accommodations were reminiscent of the exotic locales in Sex and the City 2. Each room came equipped with 42-inch LCD TVs, cotton spa robes and enough Bliss bath products to leave every woman feeling pampered and pretty. The W Vieques spared no effort in gratifying its guests with the signature “Whatever, Whenever” room service, boasting the ability to deliver candy bar sundaes, stress-reducing lavender eye-masks and hand-prepared meals for the fanciest of pets at the touch of a button.
For the truly stressed (or those simply looking to primp), Valhalla offered specialized discounts at the W's Bliss Spa, including the "Refresh" spa package which included a facial and a full-body coconut scrub and massage. The W's spa took great care to attend to every guest's need, and even buttered up a few by bringing them tea and fruit as they relaxed at a scenic ocean overlook in luxuriously-soft bathrobes.
Multiple Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse’s menu for the weekend included Provencal-influenced small plates and an exquisite four-course dinner designed exclusively for Valhalla girls, which began with a heavenly lobster bisque. Featured guests at the celeb dinner included Valhalla's promoters and performers as well as a few of Manhattan's socialites, including former HBO producer Patty LaRocco and politician Yetta Kurland (who opted for Ducasse's vegan interpretation of the night's menu.)
Valhalla’s producers spared no expense in flying in the top lesbian DJs from across the U.S., which included New York’s Whitney Day; Brynn Taylor, the resident at the The Abbey in Los Angeles; and Lisa Pittman from Tao, Marquee, Lavo and BootyBar in Las Vegas. A-list musical talent met A-list comedy with performances by Julie Goldman of LOGO’s Big Gay Sketch Show and Poppi Kramer of The Bill Cunningham Show. Celesbians mixed and mingled with their fans when they weren’t on stage as part of the week’s lineup of world-class entertainment.
“My favorite memory during vacation was sitting close to the pilot on the tiny passenger plane that flew to and from the island. That mother texted as he flew the plane!” said Goldman, who headlined the Out for Laughs comedy show at the hotel. “Also, seeing lesbos wearing many hats including, but not limited to, fedoras. And baseball caps.” She particularly enjoyed the energy of Valhalla’s guests, confirming, “The crowd was great! They were absolutely amped and ready to have a good time. Valhalla was extremely fun—such a beautiful hotel on a gorgeous beach.”
With “over 20-plus years of life experience growing up in a New Jersey Jewish household,” Poppi Kramer “jumped at the opportunity to do a show for more than 200 lesbians. Having performed at many of Maggie [C]'s parties, I was eager to see if my material translated on an exotic island,” she said.
“I traveled a day later than the rest of the cast and crew, and I walked out of the airport to find a Mariachi band playing and shouting at my arrival. I thought to myself, ‘Now this is the kind of treatment I'm talking about!’” she laughed. “Then I realized they were playing for the travelers behind me who apparently won some sort of competition in New York. True story.” Despite that initial disappointment, the Valhalla crowd ate up her act.
For both witty women, Valhalla’s playful atmosphere lent itself to more work—the dynamic duo received multiple requests for recordings of their show, and they’ve planned to collaborate to film another (A Very Jewish Queermas) at The Stonewall Inn on December 19.
Two of Valhalla’s official touring companies provided off-campus excursions for some of the more daring guests. Vieques Adventures offered tours of 160-acre-long Mosquito Bay, the world’s only non-seasonal bioluminescent bay; while the Esperanza Riding Company took Valhalla girls on romantic horseback rides through the forests of Vieques.
“I feel very fortunate to be one of four providers in the world with the rights to show off the wonders of the bay,” said Vieques Adventures’ Garry Lowe, whose company was the first on the island to utilize proprietary clear canoes on cruises of bay. As they paddled, guests could glimpse the miraculous bioluminescence—called one of the seven natural wonders of the world—coursing beneath them as marine plankton reacted to movement in the water by lighting it up with an almost ultraviolet glow.
“The bay is a very powerful place to meet people. The wonders of nature help the walls drop a bit, so folks open their eyes, hearts and minds; they understand and appreciate something which for most will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Lowe added.
Elizabeth Buyrn of the Esperanza Riding Company showed the girls another view of Vieques—from atop a magnificent steed. There’s just something romantic about riding a horse on the beach, said Buyrn. “The sweetness of night blooming jasmine is abundant on our trails and delights the senses on our morning and evening tours,” she said. “[New riders] can’t believe how well I know [the horses] and how much personality each horse really has. Why do you think I call them my kids?” she joked.
Ladies who stuck closer to the resort enjoyed beachside shenanigans while ensconced in the well-stocked poolside cabanas, from the suggestively named “Wet” pool party to the informal, playful tug-of-war gatherings to nostalgic ‘90s hip-hop on the beach.
Lisa Pittman and Whitney Day rounded out the musical offerings by serving up Top 40 and Latin sounds, aided by two remarkably attractive, scantily clad, hand-selected go-go dancers hailing from Isla Nena itself.
Women from all over the U.S. gathered to network and share drinks both on the dance floor and at a blazing fire pit surrounded by a drum circle, where everyone took turns dancing to the beat of their own drum, so to speak.
Valhalla 2011 was a landmark lesbian vacation experience—want to be a part of future Valhalla events? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.