Successful business travel for me has three requirements -- comfort (including quiet), convenience and connectivity (and if we're lucky, charm). So much for the C's. Which means that the right B's (or B&B's) can fill the bill as much as any executive hotel. And we womentravelers get an A for adaptation. Which brings me to the Cornerstone Mansion in Omaha, Nebraska, where the ABC's of women's business travel are largely met.
As a frequent woman business traveler, you know it's a waste of a precious day to treat any destination as simply "a place" with no identity of its own. That's why the Cornerstone Mansion was a good find in Omaha and a great lesson for my business travel to other cities. I had always enjoyed the Hilton Omaha, but along with the other major hotels it was booked for the annual College World Series.
So my clients suggested a bed-and-breakfast inn. This 1893 mansion is populated during the weekly primarily by women business travelers. Situated in the city's historic "Gold Coast," where structures date back to the prairie explorations of the late 19th-early 20th century pioneers, it is adorned in hand-carved wall paneling, mantles and balustrades of mahogany, among other woods brought in from Oregon and the West. What better mix of past and present than of neighboring mansions in Scottish baronial, French chateau and American craftsman styles, rooms wired with free Wi-Fi and CNN news playing on the parlor TV?
Down the street was McFoster's Natural Kind vegetarian restaurant, a casual neighborhood place that serves chicken and seafood, interesting wines and fresh-squeezed juices. For my second-night dinner, I went downtown to the Old Market District, and was delightfully spoiled in the upscale elegance of The French Cafe, having previously enjoyed on other business trips neighboring restaurants V Mertz and M's Pub.
For a little history...Omaha began to expand in the 1880s as its population exploded from 30,000 to 140,000 a decade later -- and its Gold Coast neighborhood was "the place" to live. Writer Willa Cather, who migrated to Nebraska from Virginia, was bold in her assessment of the frontier: "There was nothing there but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made." Today it's the headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies and the hub of the telecommunications and information services industries. If you get a call from Gallup for a poll or talk to a customer service rep in a host of businesses, you're likely talking to someone in Omaha.
Due to its Heartland America location and the Missouri River, Omaha was a natural nesting place for 19th-century immigrants crossing America from the Midwest and East. There they re-envisioned their European dreams in Omaha and other prairie communities -- English Tudor Revival and Queen Anne styles, for example, are common architectural impulses here.
The mindset was sturdy: In the Cornerstone Mansion the lore is that the tornado of Easter Sunday 1913 ripped through the block and toppled nearly every home -- except this magnificent house. Its symmetrical structure of concrete block faced with brick stood firm, while the tornado's winds carried an open decanter of sherry 35 feet from a sideboard in the dining room to the living room without spilling a drop. Now that's my kind of B&B!
As for the "adaptive" requirements of B&Bs for women travelers, some other requirements to think about:
- Bathroom in room or down the hall
- Stairs versus elevators
- Exercise facilities
- Quiet and privacy
- Convenience to other parts of town or clients
- Quaint or modern
- Snacks and drinks
The Cornerstone rated pretty well, and I'll go back. My room, the Garden Room, was small but very comfortable and had a large separate bathroom. I was offered an upgrade due to a cancellation the second night but didn't take it as I was comfortably ensconced. Some of the decor looked a bit late-Victorian (eg, not touched since then) but the owners of the property in the past 12 years have done considerable renovations and preservation. For my exercise, instead of the usual hotel gym, I took long walks in the fresh morning air around the neighborhood. Breakfast was ample, with cereal, toasts, fruits and fresh-baked blueberry muffins, and I stopped at the nearby Panera Bread for my morning latte. There was a small fridge for us to house our cold drinks and snacks, a microwave, iron and plenty of hairdryers. This B&B was a good business choice that also felt somewhat like home.