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 Barnett on Business Travel for 2007

chris December 20: THE RIGHT PLACE FOR THE RIGHT BAR IN EAST BERLIN
Tyranny rules at many hotel bars, where boring cocktail lists are concocted to trim "pour" costs and fatten the owners' profits. But not at Sir Rocco Forte's Bebel Bar in Berlin's uber-modern, steel-and-glass Hotel de Rome, which is fashioned from the grim, gray stone edifice that once housed the head office of Dresdner Bank. It's the perfect bar for the "new" Europe.

December 13: THE ST. LOUIS BLUES, AIRLINE STYLE
The perfect storm for holiday travelers has come fast this season: packed planes, high fares even if you book ahead, more people vying for fewer flights and nasty winter weather hitting weeks before the official arrival of winter. But sometimes you can get lucky. I did recently, sort of. But I ended up with the business traveler's version of the St. Louis Blues at an Admiral's Club at Lambert.

November 29: THE BUTLER DID IT (AND I'M GLAD HE DID)
The butler did it--and he saved me from getting completely lost in chaotic, exciting Mumbai. He also saved me a half hour of high-powered haggling and at least $40 in rupees. The convenience was worth ten times that and made me think about how much value butler service brings to the business traveler.

November 15: MARTINIS IN MISSISSIPPI
Transplanted Los Angeles Valley Boy Skip Nessel claims that he designed Elixir, his martini bar and restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, "to feel like I was at a very cool cocktail party with my friends." He apparently has lots of pals.

October 25: THE NEW PASSAGES TO INDIA
For decades, Air India and its indifferent service dominated the market between the United States and India. But with the subcontinent growing at a record pace, the air market is booming. Led by Continental Airlines, there's a raft of new flights from U.S. carriers and the innovative private Indian airlines. And even government-owned Air India is innovating now.

October 11: EMBASSY SUITES HAS A POWERFUL NAME AND SOME SMALL ISSUES
If Madison Avenue ever opens a Catchy Name Hall of Fame, Embassy Suites has my vote. Each word conjures up visions of power and elegance, a private sanctuary for the well-heeled and well-connected. But an overnight stay at the Embassy Suites in downtown San Diego recently was disappointing. No, make that very frustrating.

September 27: PHILADELPHIA IS HOTTER--AND COOLER--THAN GOTHAM
Fair warning for travelers to the City of Brotherly Love. Don't call Philadelphia the "next New York" just because the saloon and restaurant scene here is suddenly smokin' hot. Locals cringe. In fact, for libation lovers, Philadelphia may be even cooler than Gotham, albeit on a smaller scale.

September 13: SUMMERFIELD SUITES ARE HOMEY, NOT SLICK
The $89-a-night hotel deal sounded like one of those too-good-to-be-true come-ons. Not quite a Caribbean cruise for two for $200, but just as alluring if you're a road soldier on limited travel dollars. But the Summerfield Suites, now a Hyatt brand, did a more than acceptable job of delivering on its promises of more room, more perks and more comfort.

August 23: IN HOUSTON, A BAR INFUSED WITH A CHEF'S SENSIBILITIES
You've got to love a place where the owner is the city's top chef yet names her restaurant after a house wine that's infused with local fruits and veggies. In fact, Houston's Monica Pope, as comfortable elbow-bending on a barstool as she is bending over a stove, has turned T'afia into a bastion for shockingly original food and drink.

August 9: OUR MAN IN KABUL
Mark McCord has a gift for understatement. He claims that he doesn't feel unsafe working in or traveling in and out of Kabul, Afghanistan. How he does it, his hotel and dining tips and his experiences in one of the world's most dangerous business-travel cities.

July 26: FOUR FLIGHTS AND NO JOY ON US AIRWAYS
The two-year-old merger of US Airways and America West has become a joyless mess punctuated with turf warfare, labor battles and ludicrous cost-cutting. This is not a judgment issued from the columnist's perch, but a hard-won lesson I learned after flying four test segments on US Airways.

July 12: FINDING SOUL AND ALE IN ASHVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
I consider a good local bar a barometer of a town's soul, a key index for business travelers who see life as more than dealmaking and a commission on the close. I think I found one in Asheville, North Carolina. Jack of the Wood serves great, locally brewed beer and offers insanely reasonable prices on single-malt Scotch or top-shelf Bourbon.

June 21: FORTY YEARS AFTER THE SUMMER OF LOVE
San Francisco is drum-beating the summer-of-love anniversary all summer long, promoting a "homecoming for hippies, hipsters and historians." Dozens of hotels have deals and Golden Gate Park will again be alive with music. Will another generation of kids come to the party like the 1967 Be-In? Probably not, but their sushi-eating, Chardonnay-sipping, BMW-driving parents might make the scene to relive the memories.

June 7: BAGS MADE IN MONTANA, MADE MILITARY TOUGH
Long before he jumped into the travel-bag business, Jim Markel Jr. packed parachutes in the U.S. Marines. "The rigger's motto is, 'I will be sure. Always.' It's a matter of life and death," he explains. He builds Red Oxx bags the same way.

May 24: BACK TO THE GOOD OL' DAYS AT HAWAIIAN AIRLINES
Is Hawaiian Airlines a throwback to the "good old days" of air travel? I'm not a regular, so I can't go that far. But if a recent first-class roundtrip from San Francisco to Kauai with an inter-island connection in Honolulu is any barometer, the gate-to-gate experience is outstanding.

May 10: TWO MYSTERIES SOLVED IN PARIS
Here are two mysteries that have long puzzled worldly business travelers and students of libational history: "How many of the many Harry's Bars around the world are authentic?" And, "What was Hemingway's favorite cocktail?" The answers are here in Paris and the hunt for truth can be a delicious and unforgettable adventure.

April 26: TWO FAIRMONTS, NO WAITING
Fairmont Hotels has been working on two of its classic properties, the original in San Francisco and the Olympic Hotel in Seattle. He sees a lot to like, some service to admire and some work that still needs to be done.

April 12: FINDING BARGAINS IN MADE-OVER HOTELS
In New York, where a bargain-priced room is $300 a night, there's a newly renovated hotel where rates start at $89. A renovated Los Angeles boutique hotel offers rooms for about half the price of its competitors. Is it a trend? Good rates at newly renovated hotels in big cities?

March 29: NEW IN NEW ORLEANS, THE WELCOME MAT IS OUT AGAIN
More than a thousand bars have their welcome mat out in post-Katrina New Orleans so you don't have to look hard to find a friendly place with a smiling face. There are many ancient saloons in the French Quarter and more modern places with a heavy pour of nostalgia.

March 15: NEW BAGS AND NEW GEAR FOR THE ROAD WARRIOR
Let's be honest: We're all obsessed with our luggage and our gadgets. It's probably because we spend more time on the road with the stuff than we do with our friends and families back home. So without further apology for our focus on the minutiae, here's a look at what's new in bags and road warrior battle gear.

February 22: A BLAST FROM THE PAST IN THE OC
Ron Salisbury, who invented the El Cholo restaurant chain, is a purist and his dedication shows at his classic bar and dining room in Orange County. "Every bar is trying to outdo each other with funny martinis," says Salisbury. "We're bringing back the great old traditional drinks, mixed properly and not dressed up."

February 8: FOOD AND AN IFFY FUTURE AT MIDWEST AIRLINES
Midwest Airlines has once again put a limited-menu restaurant in the skies. The question, of course, is how long can this culinary concept last. Midwest Air Group, Midwest's parent company, is embroiled in a hostile and increasingly nasty takeover battle launched by AirTran Airways.

January 25: JETBLUE AT SEVEN: MORE SPACE, OCCASIONAL SLIPS
JetBlue Airways has been the darling of the American skies since its maiden voyage in early 2000, wooing travelers with a seductive perfume of low fares, free live TV in every seatback and more legroom than its bigger, pricier competitors. Now, it's getting even roomier, removing a row of leather seats from its all-coach Airbus A320s. But there are some service problems, too.

January 19: A CHEF ON THE ROAD
hef Marc Vogel is not a saucepan-tossing prima donna and Lord of the Stoves. He doesn't suffer the indignities of travel today by cloistering himself in first-class cabins and five-star hotels. Instead, he's a genial sort who easily chats up security staffers and airline check-in agents and he doesn't make waves during a business trip.

January 4: DREAM ABOUT BASEBALL, BUILD A BAGGAGE EMPIRE
Elliot Saks is a first-generation New Yorker and a second-generation merchant prince who purveys travel bags to A-list entertainers. But he'd give up his fame and fortune in the baggage business in a heartbeat for a baseball uniform and a spot in the starting rotation of the New York Mets. "Baseball," claims Saks, "is more important than luggage." Maybe so, but the Saks luggage empire pays the light bills.

Copyright 2001-2007 by Chris Barnett. All rights reserved.
A note to editors: This column is available biweekly through Copley News Service. Contact: Glenda Winders.