Three Perfect Days: Mumbai
Story by Amit Gurbaxani | Photography by Manjari Sharma | Hemispheres, May 2015
Few cities can excite and exhaust a visitor as much as Mumbai. Teeming, muggy and full of noise, the city exists on a precipice, endlessly teetering between energy and anarchy. It is, above all else, a place of contradictions, of gloss and grit, of chalta hai fatalism and fierce ambition. Some might say Mumbai has a dark heart, but few would deny that it's got soul.
In which Amit tucks into the best berry pulav in India and buys a bunch of stuff he doesn't need
Abode, the 20-room “anti-chain" hotel that opened in late 2013 in the tourist hub of Colaba, represents a departure from the over-the-top opulence that has long characterized high-end hospitality in Mumbai. In contrast to the aptly named Taj Mahal Palace nearby, Abode goes for the mix-and-match aesthetic popular with hipster hotels everywhere: patterned Bharat floor tiles, flea market knickknacks, Art Deco furnishings. And if that's not enough quirk for you: They keep packets of cookies by the lobby door, to give to the street children you will inevitably encounter after you leave.
I grab a few packs and head for the gleefully artistic South Mumbai neighborhood of Kala Ghoda, a five-minute stroll from the hotel, pausing along the way to take in a couple of the city's 19th-century architectural gems: the Romanesque Transitional Elphinstone College and the neo-Gothic Indian Mercantile Mansion. I also pop into the Rhythm House, Mumbai's most famous music store, where I grapple with a purchasing decision: Bombay Lounge or Bombay Chill Out?
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi, Food writer and contributing editor for Vogue India
Breakfast is at the Nutcracker, a small, funky vegetarian eatery that's known for serving excellent comfort food. I have the eggs Kejriwal, a dish of fried eggs on toast topped with cheese and chilies, which puts a spring in my step. I head out into the bright sunshine, passing the caricaturists, palm readers and rice writers lining the sidewalk, on my way to the largest, most unpronounceable museum in Mumbai.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is still commonly referred to as the Prince of Wales Museum, which was its official name until the mid-1990s, when Bombay became Mumbai and many of its landmarks were renamed to reflect national rather than colonial traditions. The museum is housed in a huge domed building, an exceptional example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, which fuses European, Indian and Islamic styles to dramatic effect. The collection here is equally eclectic, encompassing everything from sixth-century religious statues to a stuffed white tiger. “Grrroar!" it says as I walk by—or maybe that's my stomach.
Lunch is a short taxi ride away at Britannia & Co., one of Mumbai's last remaining Parsi cafés, which were established in the early 20th century by Iranian immigrants. The crystal chandelier aside, this is not a swanky place—the paint is peeling, and the most prominent artwork is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (the nonagenarian owner, Boman Kohinoor Irani, is a staunch royalist and can generally be found wandering among the diners extolling the virtues of the British Raj). Food writer and Vogue India contributing editor Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi insists, however, that you'd be hard pressed to get a better berry pulav anywhere in India.
“Bombay is easier to love than most big cities because of the social networks and support systems you so quickly form here, no matter which class or caste you belong to." —Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi
To prove her point, Roshni is joining me here, the first stop in a whirlwind tour of her favorite Mumbai eateries. “For me, one of the things that make Bombay such a great place is old restaurants like this," she says. “For a lot of people, it's almost as if their life depends on these places being open, because they go there to eat every day." We order the berry pulav, a richly flavored rice dish of chicken or mutton, spices, fried onions and tart barberries imported from Iran, and round things off with fluffy caramel custard. Boman stops at our table to soak up some deserved praise. “My son is the chef," he says, beaming, then sends us off with wishes for “a pleasant life and a safe journey."
On our stroll back to Kala Ghoda, we walk past the wrought iron gates of the Horniman Circle Gardens, where, in the 1850s, a group of traders formed the city's first stock exchange, in the shade of a banyan tree that still stands today. It's a picturesque, peaceful spot, but Roshni has her own reasons for coming here. “I love that the park is surrounded by people selling street food," she says, “from chana chor garam [fried and spiced chick peas] to bhel puri [a snack of puffed rice]."
I part ways with Roshni and head to the nearby home decor and design store Filter, which is filled with things I want but don't need. Having picked up a few vintage Hindi film posters, I head out to explore the many art galleries that have opened in the Colaba–Kala Ghoda area. One of the more prominent of these, Chatterjee & Lal, is housed inside the pleasantly shabby Kamal Mansion. I pop in to find a young couple taking selfies next to a fiberglass Spider-Man, which is a cast of its creator, British-Indian artist Hetain Patel, wearing the superhero suit.
The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is as renowned for its architecture as its exhibits
Not far from Patel's Spidey stands a testament to a different kind of power: the 85-foot, basalt-and-concrete Gateway of India, overlooking Mumbai Harbor—a Hindu-Muslim spin on the ceremonial arch. Built by the British in 1911 to commemorate themselves, it was also the point from which the last British troops left the country in 1948, which seems fitting. Today, it serves as a meeting point for locals, who are catered to by a clutter of street vendors selling roasted corn, ice cream and coconut water. I, however, have another kind of beverage in mind.
A quick stroll along the waterfront brings me to Cafe Marina, a rooftop bar that provides a perfect vantage point as the sun sets over the harbor, dousing the Gateway and the Taj hotel in pink and orange hues. “What's that?" I ask my waiter, pointing at a huge white structure in the distance. “Asvini Hospital," he replies, “where they filmed that movie with Amitabh Bachchan." In Mumbai, you're never far from a Bollywood reference.
From here, I walk five minutes or so for a spritz at the hotel, then cross the street to reunite with Roshni for dinner at Ling's Pavilion, a local institution where the decor, clients and quality of the food haven't changed in 20 years. “That's what I love about Ling's: the consistency," Roshni says. “The way the pot rice smells is exactly the same every time." We eat perfectly cooked salt-and-pepper prawns and meaty mushroom pot rice in view of a portrait of a white cat. “It's a piece of Chinese silk embroidery art," the restaurant's owner, Baba Ling, tells us with pride. “The Chinese consul-general gave it to us in appreciation of what we're doing for China."
A street vendor prepares pav bhaji
Our last stop of the evening is a few blocks northwest at Ellipsis, an artsy restaurant-bar designed by industry darling Thomas Schoos. There's clearly somebody important in the house tonight, because there are two huge bodyguards at the approach and a couple more seated at the table next to ours. Over cocktails, Roshni and I speculate about which Bollywood star might be here, only to learn that the muscle belongs to a local property developer. Ah, well.
On my way back to Abode, I make eye contact with a hand-drum seller. Oops. “Only 600 rupees, sir, 10 dollars," he says. “Five," I respond. We settle on eight and I walk away, fully aware that I've been had, but still tapping a happy beat.
In which Amit familiarizes himself with India's Great Soul and the potency of the Mega Frog
Iwake up and, after a quick bang on my new drum, take a long, relaxing soak in my room's claw-foot bathtub, then head to the lobby for a breakfast of pav bhaji, a wonderfully greasy dish of spiced mashed vegetables and buttered bread, which is said to have been invented in Mumbai in the 19th century to fortify mill workers for the hard day ahead.
I stuff myself into a black-and-yellow cab and head for the South Mumbai neighborhood of Tardeo, whose biggest claim to fame—or at least tallest—is the Imperial Towers, a pair of pointy skyscrapers that stand more than 800 feet high. The cab takes me down Marine Drive, a pleasant waterfront stretch that's lined with Art Deco buildings on one side and Lycra-clad joggers on the other, before depositing me in front of Mani Bhavan, Mahatma Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1934, now a museum.
Tasneem Vahanvaty, Consultant at the National Centre for Performing Arts
It's a nice house, with screened balconies and ample shelving, but, more importantly of course, the chance to delve into the personal life of India's Great Soul is what draws the crowds. On one wall there's a picture of Gandhi with Charlie Chaplin. Nearby, there's a letter Gandhi wrote to Hitler in 1939: “Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?" At a section relating incidents from Gandhi's childhood, a woman turns to a young child and says, “See, he was such a good boy."
Gandhi hailed from the western state of Gujarat, so it seems fitting that I'm having lunch today at Swati Snacks, a family-run eatery that's renowned for its fantastic Gujarati food. I'm joined by Tasneem Vahanvaty, a consultant with Mumbai's National Centre for Performing Arts. We order panki chatni (razor-thin rice pancakes rolled and wrapped in banana leaves) and fada ni khichdi (baked wheat, legumes and veggies)—then settle down to discuss the city of her birth. “Samuel Johnson said, 'When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life,' and that's how I feel about Bombay," she says. “People have a love-hate relationship with this city, and often both emotions are felt in the same breath."
Over the next half hour or so, as we ride in a sweltering taxi through Mumbai's traffic-clogged and cacophonous roads, it's easy to understand this sort of ambivalence. But then all is forgiven when we arrive at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, in the South Mumbai district of Byculla. Located in a mint-green Renaissance Revival mansion, this is Mumbai's oldest museum, having opened for business in 1872. The interior—with its arches and columns and elaborate wrought iron detailing—is so exquisite you'd be forgiven for forgetting the exhibits, which range from industrial art to dioramas of local communities. “Sindhi!" I shout, having spotted mine. Another highlight is a statue of Mumbadevi, the Hindu goddess after whom Mumbai is named.
“If you can afford it, this city can give you any kind of experience you want—cloistered avenues, urban fever, polyglot dining and a vibrant art scene. There is always something to do in Bombay, or something to see." —Tasneem Vahanvaty
The sun is going down, which means: time for a sundowner. I say goodbye to Tasneem and take a black-and-yellow to Aer, the Four Seasons bar, which, 34 floors above street level, is the highest in the city. From up here, Mumbai looks like a massive graphic equalizer bar, lit up against the black screen of the sky. Below the bright towers are streams of blue, the tarpaulin roofs of the city's slums. At the next table, a group of youngsters are playing a game of Spot the Building. Quietly, so as not to freak them out, I join in: the blunt pineapple of the Nehru Centre; Antilia, the Jenga-like, billion-dollar home of India's richest man.
Finally, I spot the pyramidal roof of the ITC Grand Central hotel, where I've booked a table at Kebabs and Kurries, a restaurant serving a vast range of Indian cuisine. First, though, I catch a taxi to Juhu, the North Mumbai suburb, where I check into the J. W. Marriott. Full of bright lights and big columns, the Mumbai Marriott “is the hotel where you're most likely to spot a Hindi film star," says the receptionist. Actors such as Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Kajol and Shilpa Shetty have all been spotted here, she says. I hang around in the bar for a while, waiting for Bollywood royalty to arrive, then realize with a jolt that I'm running late for dinner. Taxi!
My driver does a fine job of dodging through the traffic to get me to Kebabs and Kurries before closing time. The menu here is dizzying, so I play it safe and order the signature dish, dal Bukhara, black lentils lavished with cream and butter and slow-cooked in a tandoor. For dessert I have the shahi tukda, India's syrup-soaked version of bread pudding. It's a tasty, filling and somewhat narcotic meal—a nap might be in order. But no. Suck it up. Things to do.
blueFROG, Mumbai's best-known music club (and home of the Mega Frog) and a 1960s vision of the future
I catch another cab to Lower Parel, a former mill district in the heart of Mumbai and home to blueFROG, the city's best-known music venue. Housed in an old industrial building, the club's interior is right out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a '60s-inspired vision of the future that includes color-shifting circular booths and bubble-wrap bumps on the walls. But people aren't here to admire the decor—they're here to bounce around to the music of Mad Orange Fireworks, a jazz-funk band from Bangalore. At the bar, ordering a whiskey-and-watermelon cocktail called a Mega Frog, I start chatting with Suprateek Chatterjee, a local film reviewer and musician, with whom I discuss the club's recent renovations. “Apart from the new sofas," he says, “the washers in the loos have been changed!" This, we decide, calls for another round of Mega Frogs.
In which Amit samples progressive Indian cuisine and avoids the rigors of a seaside massage
Iwake up with a (mega) frog in my throat. With some effort, I manage to drag my head off the pillow and my body off the bed and plod over to the window. I'm looking out over three small bodies of water: a kiddie pool, an infinity pool and a saltwater pool. I could do with some of that. A quick dip later, I grab a croissant at the hotel's excellent Bombay Baking Company before taking a cab back to South Mumbai via the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, a swooshing cable-stayed bridge that offers glorious views of the city (if you're not the one doing the driving, of course).
I alight at the bridge's southern end, in Worli, one of seven islands that were merged, through a series of land reclamation projects started in the 1840s, to form Mumbai. A working fishing village, Worli comprises a warren of lanes where the aroma of fish being dried or fried is ever-present. I pass by a weathered-looking man who, apparently unaware of how good he'd look on a postcard, sits fashioning a net out of rope. Nearby is a fish market inhabited by the world's fattest stray cats. Then there's a wedding party of women in bright saris dancing down the street and showering blessings on the bride. It's perfect—almost as if they knew I was coming.
Jas Charanjiva, Street artist and co-founder of Kulture Shop
I decide not to use the Sea Link to return to the northern part of the city, heading instead through one of Mumbai's largest green spaces, Shivaji Park, which is filled with kids, canoodling couples and, above all, cricket matches. I stop for a while to lounge in the sun, then continue on to the futuristic Bandra Kurla Complex, a commercial district on the banks of the Mithi River.
Bandra Kurla isn't the most soulful place in Mumbai, but it is home to some fine restaurants, including the “progressive Indian" eatery Masala Library, by Jiggs Kalra. Hailed as the “czar of Indian Cuisine," Kalra has pulled out all the stops at this venture. My meal includes mushroom chai presented like a tea service—a consommé is poured from a kettle into a cup of dehydrated button mushrooms—followed by mutton chaap, an Indian iteration of spare ribs. I also have the jalebi caviar, a dessert so elaborate I don't have the space to describe it here. Despite the fanciful presentation, Kalra makes no concessions when it comes to taste—this is a wonderful meal.
“A few years ago, my husband and I were supposed to move to New York, but I wanted to experience life in Bombay. Any time we came here, we'd feel creative and inspired. I just love the hustle and bustle of the city." —Jas Charanjiva
From here, I catch an auto-rickshaw and head to the west side of Bandra, where I'm meeting local street artist Jas Charanjiva. Bandra West, as the area is known, is Mumbai's creative hub, home to many of the city's musicians, designers and artists. I meet Jas outside her store, Kulture Shop, which collaborates with Indian artists around the globe to produce prints and T-shirts. The plan is for Jas to take me to her favorite place in town, Bandra Fort, a 17th-century Portuguese fortification overlooking the sea. For Jas, the history is perhaps a little less important than the fact that the spot allows “a quick getaway from the crazy traffic and pollution of the city."
On our way to the fort, we pass Mount Mary Church, outside of which is a clutter of stalls selling wax candles shaped like houses, shops, cars, airplanes, currency notes, computers, babies and body parts. Devotees believe that if they place these candles at the oratory opposite the church, their wishes, as represented by the various shapes, will be granted. In this regard, the stalls provide a snapshot of the hopes and aspirations of this city; the candles include one marked “TV star."
Inside the fort, we settle down beside some college kids taking selfies with the Sea Link bridge in the background. “I find it fascinating that you see people aiming their cameras at something so recent," Jas says, “while surrounded by something that's 400 years old." We leave the fort and stroll toward the promenade, where we come across another group of smartphone-wielding kids, snapping the actor Shah Rukh Khan's beachfront bungalow.
A wedding celebration in a fishing village in western Mumbai
I take another rickshaw, drop Jas off and head to Juhu Beach to catch the sunset. The beach is less a place to swim than a picnic spot where families spread sheets and laze, fully clothed, on the sand, buzzed by hawkers selling pinwheels, cotton candy and sun hats. As I jostle through the crowd, I am approached by three different men offering seaside massages. Then, just in time, I spot a speeding, oncoming volleyball. I duck and decide to get out of here.
Another rickshaw takes me to the restaurant where I'll be dining tonight. A hugely popular local seafood chain, Gajalee has several branches across the city, including one right by Juhu Beach, but hardcore fans swear by the flagship, in the neighboring suburb of Vile Parle. Once there, I'm happy to find that the golden batter-fried bombil (a native lizardfish also known as Bombay duck) has been cooked to perfection. The prawn masala and fish curry are equally delectable.
Stomach full, I return to Bandra, home to Bonobo, a nightspot named after the amorous African apes. Over a few beers, I chat with a jewelry maker about to launch an online store, an indie musician working on an electro-pop album and a foodie entrepreneur who's come from debuting a pop-up night market. It all reminds me of something Jas said earlier, about Bandra being “the Brooklyn of Bombay." This isn't the first time that Mumbai has been compared to New York. It's a melting pot. It never sleeps. Some have even taken to calling the city “The Big Mango."
It's a bit of a hike, but I feel duty-bound to end my trip at my favorite spot in Mumbai: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a Gothic Revival masterpiece that was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, and which is even more beautiful at night. As I stand and take in its riotous detail—its turrets and Moorish dome, its glorious clash of idioms and styles—it occurs to me that Mumbai is indeed a bit like New York, and London, and Dubai, and Rio de Janeiro. It is a city where, as one visitor put it, “you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed."
Amit Gurbaxani is the co-founder and editor of thedailypao.com, a website that covers food, culture, nightlife and fashion in Mumbai.
This article was written by Amit Gurbaxani from Rhapsody Magazine and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city
“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.
Old city by day
The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.
Food and music by night
Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.
Head west to the beaches
The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.
Or east to the wine country
The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.
Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.
Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.
United 787-10 Dreamliner launch
Story was contributed by: Jennifer Lake | Photography: Alicia of Aesthetica
It was a typical Monday morning. I'm sitting at my desk at work, drinking coffee, reviewing my to-do list for the week. All around me, heels are clacking through the office and phones ring intermittently. However, this particular Monday morning was different. Ultimately, I would receive an offer from my favorite airline for a collaboration to participate in the United 787-10 Dreamliner launch from Los Angeles LAX to New York/Newark EWR. Read the full story here featured on Style Charade.
Fit for the runway: We begin testing new uniforms
Last year we announced new partnerships with Tracy Reese, Brooks Brothers and Carhartt — best-in-class fashion and apparel designers — to help reimagine uniforms for more than 70,000 of our employees. Focusing on high quality fabrics, improved breathability and overall enhanced fit, our goal is to design and develop a more cohesive collection that looks good, feels good and enables employees to perform at their best on behalf of our customers.
United employees can learn more on the uniform designs by visiting Flying Together.
An insider's guide to Boston
Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.
Getting there & around town
Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.
Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.
When to visit
Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.
What to do
There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.
As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.
Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).
Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.
What to eat
What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.
Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.
Our role in ‘Spider-Man™: Far From Home’
In Columbia Pictures upcoming release in association with Marvel Studios, "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," our web-slinging hero finds himself – yep, you guessed it – far from his home in New York City. And since flying is one of the few superpowers Spider-Man doesn't possess, we gave him a little help, meaning United is featured in the film.
The scenes of Peter Parker and his pals traveling to Europe take place on one of our Boeing 777s with the all-new United Polaris® business class, and several of our employees – including members of our Tech Ops, Inflight, Flight Operations and Airport Operations teams – served as actors and production support during shoots at New York/Newark (EWR) and London-Stansted (STN).
London-Heathrow (LHR) Customer Service Representative Manjit Heer and LHR Cargo Warehouse Operations Manager Richard Miller were background extras on board, and multiple flight attendants had a role, including San Francisco (SFO) Flight Attendant Tammy Harris.
"It was extremely surreal," said Tammy. "I was in my element because I was on the plane in uniform, but not really, because I'm not an actor."
Tammy said she hit her mark and delivered her line with gusto, and she's excited to see if she made the final cut when "Spider-Man™: Far From Home" hits worldwide theaters this summer.
"Hopefully, I'll have my two seconds of fame and all will be well," she joked.
Los Angeles (LAX) Aircraft Maintenance Supervisor Fernando Melendez is a veteran of several film shoots but said this one was his favorite. When the production went to London, he was one of five members of LAX Tech Ops who went over to look after our airplane and make adjustments to its interior based on the filmmaker's needs.
"When we parked the plane at Stanstead, there were lights and cameras surrounding us. It was like the plane was the star of the movie," he said. "Each day, we would work with the assistant director; he would go through and say, 'Okay, for this shoot we need these seats, or these panels removed,' so they could get the camera angles. Pretty much, the airplane was our responsibility; we opened it in the morning and closed it at night. We were the first ones there and the last ones to leave every day."
Fernando said the actors were all very gracious and engaging, and said the whole experience was fantastic from start to finish. It also earned him a little cooler cred with his 18-year-old son, who is a massive Marvel fan.
Leading up to the film's premiere this year, there will be plenty of ways for employees and customers to get into the Spidey spirit in anticipation of our cameo. Stay tuned for more details.
Peter Parker returns in "Spider-Man™: Far From Home," the next chapter of the Spider-Man™: Homecoming series! Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks are quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help Nick Fury uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent!
Directed by Jon Watts, the film is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film is produced by Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal. Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Thomas M. Hammel, Eric Hauserman Carroll, Stan Lee, Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach serve as executive producers. The film stars Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, with Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal.
"Spider-Man™: Far From Home" makes its way to North American theaters on July 5, 2019.
What to expect from our improved app
20 million miles and counting...
On November 7, while flying from Newark Liberty International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, United customer Tom Stuker made history when he reached 20 million miles flown on a single airline. We were fortunate enough to capture the milestone he reached with us.
To mark the special occasion, we hosted a celebration in Mr. Stuker's honor at the United Polaris lounge at O'Hare International Airport on Saturday. The celebration was delayed a couple of months, so Mr. Stuker could celebrate the event with his family.
The party included a room full of employees, media members and Mr. Stuker's friends and family enjoying food, cocktails, stories and laughs. To thank him for his long-standing loyalty to United, we also presented Mr. Stuker with gifts made specially for him.
"United makes my dreams come true," Mr. Stuker said to the room full of people.
He also praised United's MileagePlus program, the United Polaris lounges across our system and Oscar's leadership of the airline but, most of all, he praised the service he receives from our employees.
"My favorite part of United is the people. United is such a big part of my life…you are a family to me," he said addressing the United employees. "It would take me days and days and days to say thank you in the right way to the right people. They all know me by now and know how much I care about them as people, how much I care about this airline and its success, and how much I care about the greatest leader this airline has ever had, Oscar."
Bora Bora: The most beautiful island in the world
Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By Chicago-based United Club Customer Service Representative Amile Ribeiro.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be very subjective but, once you set your eyes on it, I'm sure you'll agree with me: Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.
There are very few things that can get me out of bed early in the morning, and airplanes are one of those things. We were already in Tahiti and woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our quick flight to Bora Bora. After checking in at the airport and getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to the gate to line up for our flight. Air Tahiti has an open seating arrangement, and we wanted to make sure we got the best possible seats. We were able to secure two windows seats. Travel tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when landing in Bora Bora. We took off from Papeete and within minutes we were flying over Mo'orea. Then we flew around Ra'i ātea and Taha'a, and finally arrived in Bora Bora, the island that Polynesians call "First Born." Pora Pora is the actual local pronunciation, but the first explorers misunderstood it and 'Bora Bora' stuck. Though after setting foot on the island, I've come to call it "Paradise on Earth."
At the airport we were met by a representative of our resort, given flower leis and directed to our high-speed boat. I couldn't believe the color of the water; it was as if Paul Gauguin himself had painted it. After a thrilling ride, we reached our hotel's dock, where a local playing the ukulele welcomed us. We were then given a tour of the astonishing property and were taken by golf cart to our overwater bungalow. We have stayed in many beautiful properties around the world, but when we opened the door of our bungalow our jaws dropped. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that all should have at least once in their lifetimes. And worth every penny. The view of majestic Mount Otemanu is something right out of a fairy tale. After the sun set, the nighttime dance show was equally enchanting.
We had planned to be in Bora Bora during the final leg of the famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe competition, which happens to be a major event in the cultural life of French Polynesia and has the reputation for being the toughest canoe race in the world. The center stage was at the island's most beautiful beach, Matira. We stood in awe as the winners reached the finish line after several hours (and days before that) of frantic paddling from island to island, showcasing the power of human strength and endurance. Besides being an incredible sporting challenge, it is also a colorful spectacle that filled the beach with flower-clad women and the air with the pulsating beat of drums. We were also able to celebrate and dance with them later that night at the local ball in Vaitape (Bora Bora's largest city). It was a marvelous way to get a deeper understanding of another culture!
Besides having the time of our lives at the resort's infinity pools, inner lagoons and beach, we also went to the Turtle Center and had a chance to feed these amazing creatures while they're being rehabilitated to go back into open waters. From there, we took a boat tour of the main lagoon and went swimming with stingrays and sharks. Few things scare me in life, and sharks are on the very top of that short list, but I mustered the courage and what a thrill it was! To commemorate my bravery on the last day of our trip, I got my very first tattoo: a hammerhead shark. Polynesians believe that such sharks act as guardian angels to humans and protect us from the Great White. My husband got a Polynesian design that was custom made just for him, and it represents travel, freedom and courage. We also got a set of matching Polynesian wedding bands. Since the art of tattoo originated in Polynesia, this is the most enduring souvenir one can get from such an amazing culture, but I'm sure the memories of our trip will also stay with us forever!
The feedback from customers and employees was clear: we needed to improve our boarding process. As part of our ongoing efforts to put customers at the center of everything we do, we identified boarding as an opportunity to improve the airport experience. We tested a variety of different boarding processes on thousands of flights across multiple airports. Best practices emerged from each test, and combined, they now form what we are calling "Better Boarding".
Better Boarding consists of three key improvements
Less time in line:
By reducing the number of boarding lanes, there is more space for customers to enjoy the gate areas, many of which have been completely remodeled with more comfortable seating and in some airports, the ability to have food and drinks from within the airport delivered directly to the gate area. Over the years, we have invested millions of dollars in our terminals, and now with less time spent standing in line, customers will have more time to dine, shop, relax, work or enjoy a United Club℠.
Simplified gate layout
Say goodbye to the five long lines we see today
Group 1 will board through the blue lane.
Group 2 will board through the green lane, followed by groups 3, 4, and 5.
Late arriving customers in Group 1 and 2 will use the blue lane.
Customers in groups 3, 4, and 5 always use the green lane.
We are providing customers with more information throughout the boarding process so that they feel more at ease, and more equipped with the latest information about their flight. Customers with the United app can receive a push notification once their flight starts boarding. Customers will only receive the notification if they've opted in for push notifications and have a mobile boarding pass in the app's wallet.
Be in the know about boarding
Customers will receive boarding notifications through the United app (if they've opted in for notifications).
Improved gate area digital signage to guide customers through boarding.
Balanced groups and better recognition:
United MileagePlus® Premier 1K® customers will now pre-board and United MileagePlus Premier Gold customers will be boarding in Group 1. For more information on our boarding groups, visit: https://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/travel/airport/boarding-process.aspx
Improved premier customer recognition
We're happy to make them happy
Improved premier recognition and better positioning of customers to create balanced boarding groups.
The new Better Boarding process is just one of the steps we are taking to improve the customer experience. We will continue to collect feedback from customers on ways we can further improve boarding and you may receive a post-travel survey to tell us more about your experience
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On March 8, 2018, we announced a new global relationship with Special Olympics, an organization we've partnered with for many years focusing on supporting the spirit of inclusion with our employees through local communities and through our Charity Miles Program. United's increased sponsorship includes support for major Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago, site of the very first International Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, and the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
In addition, United will engage with local Programs in our key markets around the world. Special Olympics embodies our shared purpose to connect people and unite the world. With more than 5 million athletes and 1 million coaches and volunteers in 172 countries, our employees and customers will join forces with Special Olympics to achieve our shared vision of inclusion. Together, we hope to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities.
Our relationship with Special Olympics represents a continued effort to break down barriers and further build on the organization's remarkable legacy by engaging our customers and employees around the world. Working together, we created new training that specifically reflects insights from Special Olympics, including training scenarios with real-life situations that individuals with intellectual disabilities face when traveling. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will have participated in the new training modules that reflect Special Olympics insights as United takes steps to deliver a world full of inclusion.
Check back this summer for coverage from Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in Chicago and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.