Destinations: Hotel Baron in Aleppo, Syria

A well-travelled former schoolmate recently returned from a whirlwind adventure through the Middle East. In the midst of visiting cafes in Beirut, Northern Iraq and Damascus, he holed up at the Hotel Baron in Aleppo, joining the ranks of the site's other stylish (and powerful) guests: T.E. Lawrence (his bill is framed in the lobby), Agatha Christie, Charles Lindbergh and Teddy Roosevelt. The New York Times' Seth Sherwood calls it, "a faded grande dame from the era of steamer trunks and ragtime."

Married to an archeologist who worked in Syria, Christie wrote some of ''Murder on the Orient Express'' while holed up here. The young Lawrence also worked on archeological digs in the area, though apparently he found time for less rugged and martial pleasures. ''These three days have been frenzied rushes and bargains for antiques (we have spent nearly two hundred pounds) from breakfast till after dinner in the evening,'' he wrote to his mother in 1912, gushing about having spotted ''the loveliest painted and lacquered gilt ceiling that I ever dreamed of.''
- The New York Times, June 24, 2007

Another beauty to check out: the 8-room Beit al-Mamlouka hotel in Damascus.

Lobby at the Hotel Baron