It figures that people who fly a lot would tend to know about great places to eat and drink, things to do, places to hang out, yes? Sure. Proof of this is in the useful annual Crew Guide paperbacks published by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), with a little help from their friends at other Star Alliance carriers, among them bmi, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austrian, TAP and LOT.
SAS has quizzed thousands of flight crew members and pilots since 2004 for inside information, which is then boiled down and recounted verbatim from contributors, who are identified by job title, first name and the initial letter of their family name. The series is subtitled "The best-kept secrets of cabin crews and pilots.'' I am using the 2009 edition. The 2010 edition is coming out at the end of November, according to SAS public relations guy in the United States, Tom Fredo. The book retails for 15 euros (currently about $22 U.S.) and is available online from http://www.sasguides.com/.
I used the book for the first time when I arrived yesterday in Barcelona. It's working for me. I booked into a hotel in the marina district, at the water's edge of the Mediterrranean, so I followed tips from the SAS Crew Guide for this part of town. I checked out Shoko, at 36 Paseo Maritimo de la Barceloneta, and found it just as described in the book, a "sexy restaurant and bar at the beach and the Olympic Village.'' Then, I drifted over to another spot nearby, Aqua, at no. 30 down the beach. The book recommended the outdoor terrace; it was sunny and warm when I dropped by, so I took advantage, watching people stroll by on the boardwalk. Tomas W., a pilot for SAS, raved about Aqua's ''great Mediterranean food.'' That was dead-on, too.
So far, the Crew Guide is two-for-two. I'll be thumbing through it some more, looking for local knowledge, throughout the rest of my trip. If I find something great, I'll hip you to it, too.