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 The Brancatelli File

joe WHERE TO GO NEXT
THIS SUMMER


BY JOE BRANCATELLI

June 9, 2005 -- We should be talking today about American Airlines and the rest of the Big Six slowly converting themselves into commuter carriers.

We should be talking today about Northwest Airlines trying to provoke a mechanics strike so it can lay off most of them and farm out their work.

But go to Tactical Traveler for that stuff because today, right here, I am going to honor what has become an amazing, if neglected, post-9/11 reality.

What am I talking about? Well, what are you thinking at this very moment? I can virtually guarantee that what's top of your mind is getting a holiday before you lose your sanity. There aren't enough frequent-flyer miles in the world to make you think about another business trip, concentrate on another deep philosophical discussion of life on the road or listen to me babble about work.

I know this because, like every first week of June since 9/11, the tenor of your E-mails has changed dramatically. As if by magic, virtually all of your communiqués are plaintively casting about for a vacation suggestion and almost none have anything to do with business travel. And I conclude that this is one of the least-discussed lifestyle changes since 9/11: We hit the emotional and physical wall around Memorial Day and then immediately and spontaneously decide to plan a holiday before we explode.

So, like last year, allow me to present what I guess we might as well canonize as the annual Where to Go Next This Summer report.

Why next? Well, it is my considered opinion that you don't need me to tell you that Italy is great, Hawaii is wonderful, you can be a free man in Paris and Hong Kong has energy to spare for business travelers who are running low. You know how to get to all of the obvious holiday candidates. My job should be helping you think about a few destinations that you might not have considered.

So, without further discussion, ready, set, vacate…

HAMBURG, GERMANY
Americans know nothing about Hamburg, the charming northern German city neatly built around two lovely lakes. But American ignorance may change now that Continental has launched a nonstop Hamburg flight from its Newark hub. There are hopping and famous nightlife districts (St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn), great museums, a charming harbor, lots of stunning architecture and incredible shopping. The wonderful balance between old and new is perfectly exemplified by the name of the airport's access road: Zeppelinstrasse (Zeppelin Street). Hotels? The Park Hyatt is all modern luxury. The Vier Jahreszeiten (Four Seasons) is traditional luxury. And then there is the Kempinski Atlantic, on the banks of the lake, with hallways so wide that you used to be able to simultaneously maneuver a phalanx of steamer trunks.

TAHITI
Tahiti is not the quaint, picturesque fantasy of Gauguin's paintings anymore. It's not what Captain Cook once called "paradise on earth" anymore, either. But there are many unspoiled places, especially if you get away from the main city of Papeete. Air Tahiti Nui, the surprisingly good national carrier, flies nonstop from Los Angeles. Beginning next month, Air Tahiti Nui launches nonstops from New York, too. So now that you can get there relatively quickly, you can focus on beauty and beaches and not transportation. The InterContinental hotels in French Polynesia seem to be the properties of choice if you're looking to cash points.

KRAKOW, POLAND
If you book in the next few days, you can fly to Krakow this summer via Lufthansa's Frankfurt or Munich hubs for just $1,899 roundtrip in business class. Krakow has the best-preserved Medieval core of any city in Europe. Wawel Castle is miraculous. You can visit the classroom where Copernicus studied. There's a lively restaurant and nightlife scene, too. And Cracovians are eager to prove that they are as Western Europe as the next Eastern European. Hotels? The Radisson SAS is excellent, a good blend of international style and Polish hospitality. It goes without saying that no visit to Krakow could possibly be complete without a visit to the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberating of the camps.

SINGAPORE
Singapore Airlines' nonstops from Newark and Los Angeles--and Singapore's excellent Executive Economy service with 37 inches of legroom, 20-inch wide seats and 2x3x2 configuration--make the 18-hour ride a genuinely enjoyable experience. If you sleep nine hours and watch videos and played CDs for nine hours (there are 60 movies, 80 television shows and 200 albums on the in-flight entertainment system), what would be so terrible? Singapore isn't as engrossing as Hong Kong, of course, but there's plenty to do, great dining and the almost cartoonish Singaporean dedication to order and cleanliness. There are no bad hotels in Singapore and all the major chains are represented. I personally like the Ritz-Carlton a lot. The bathrooms alone are a tourist attraction.

PITTSBURGH
If you're already laughing, then you're just a bigot--and ignorant. Pittsburgh is a great city. Point Park at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers is a wonderful urban space to explore--or just spread out a blanket and picnic. (Remember picnics?) I just love the Duquesne Incline Railroad. After all, how many 130-year-old funicular cable cars have you ridden in your life? Baseball? A section of Forbes Field's center field wall has been preserved on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The current home of the Pirates, PNC Park, is on the riverfront and rather charming. And the Pirates don't stink this year. Hotels? People seem to think the Renaissance, carved out of a 1906 building, is a hoot. It doesn't float my boat, but it's great if you can cash Marriott points. And you might as well cash in some US Airways Dividend Miles before the airline leaves Pittsburgh altogether.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com.

Copyright © 1993-2005 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.