One of the gifts of the season just arrived, earmarking some great places to go in the New Year:
It is the 2011 Crew Guide, the seventh edition of a handy paperback guidebook to some of the planet's most interesting places. Uniquely, the book is written by well-traveled members of airline flight crews such as flight attendants, pilots and pursers. Originally the writers were all with Scandinavian Airlines but SAS contributors are now supplemented by writers from nine other carriers such as SAS Star Alliance partners Lufthansa and United Airlines.
The Crew Guide breaks down tips and advice into self-explanatory categories: Eat, Buy, Sleep, See, Recover. New this year are mini-profiles of photogenic crew members, matched to cities they know well. The Crew Guide is necessarily more suggestive than definitive, as the 22 cities included in its pages have to be served by at least one of the 10 participating airlines. Bangkok, Stockholm, Oslo, Brussels and the like are included - and all are worthy choices -but other worthies such as Cape Town and Buenos Aires aren't in the 351-page book.
I was just in Beijing and Tokyo, so I gravitated first to entries about those cities. The 20-page section on Beijing is good, with outstanding restaurants such as The Courtyard and 1949 Hidden City's Noodle Bar making the cut, along with some lively markets. Tokyo, as dynamic and fascinating a metropolis as any on the planet, gets just 10 pages, though an informed contributor correctly points out that some of the best dining in town takes place under the arches of the Japanese capital's railroad bridges.
The 2011 edition of the Crew Guide continues the series' infatuation with New York City - which, at 42 pages, gets just two pages fewer than Beijing, Tokyo and London combined. Mind you, I like the Big Apple, but unlike Tokyo and Beijing, it is a city whose future is behind it, and the greatest-city-in-the-world routine is debatable.
That said, this is a engaging and helpful book, well worth the 15 euros (about $20 USD) being charged for it. Wherever you roam, advice such as this from SAS crew member Dandi Si, in Beijing, will stand you in good stead when you're trying not to look like a - perish the thought! - tourist:
"Rucksacks, walking boots, and professional outdoor equipment are signs of a newcomer,'' Si says. "As too are cameras around the neck.''
You have been warned.
No, the FAs on your next flight won't be selling the book, but you can buy a copy online at http://www.sasguides.com/).