Three Perfect Days: Paris
Story by Boyd Farrow | Photography by Haleigh Chastain Walsworth | Hemispheres, July 2017
Paris is a cinematographer's dream. No city is more dazzling in the sunshine or sexier in the rain—or, better still, lit up at night. Which is why it is so achingly familiar to anyone who has ever bought a movie ticket. View Notre Dame from the Quai de Montebello, and you get An American in Paris; have a coffee at Café des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, and you're in Amélie. But Paris has always been as much about discovery as déjà vu. Whether it's the reinvented Pigalle, a rejuvenated République, or the rebooted Sentier district, there's always something new to besot the next generation of dreamers—and to keep the older ones returning.
In which Boyd wings his way through the Louvre, samples 18-month-ripened fruit, and meets a chanteuse after dark
One of the things Parisians like to say about their city is that it's endlessly walkable—the operative word here being “endlessly." While each of the city's 20 arrondissements is conquerable by foot, if you're planning to see them all in one go, you'd best pack a comfortable pair of shoes. Before I attempt (and fail) such a feat, I need to be dragged away from my breakfast in my hotel's resplendent surroundings. La Réserve, a grand mansion a block from the Palais de l'Élysée in the 8th arrondissement, was built for Napoléon III's half-brother. Now, it's a 40-room hotel and spa, all ruby-red and emerald-green silk and velvet and herringbone oak floors. I'm wedged in an armchair wiping globs of apricot jam from my cheeks when my butler appears, tactfully wondering if I'm ready for my swim.
With too much ground to cover, I instead begin the day with an earnest jaunt through the immediate neighborhood—the most central of Paris's arrondissements and the one most frequently used as a backdrop in perfume ads. Going out on Avenue Matignon, I reach Rue Saint-Honoré. Home to outposts of some of the world's most chichi fashion labels, this slender street still has its share of idiosyncratic shops, like Colette, which “curates" everything from rare sneakers to a hundred types of bottled water. Admirably, the sales assistant displays no hauteur when I ask her to remove a $5,000 rose gold iPhone from its cabinet, but she also doesn't register surprise when I hand it back. “Too heavy," I say with a wince.
Haylen Namvarazad, musician
Then it's off to the Louvre, where my ToursByLocals guide, Eugénie, marshals me through thickets of selfie sticks to the must-sees—Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa—while delivering factoids about the masterpieces we hurtle past. “This was the inspiration for the first FIFA World Cup trophy," she hollers over the din of the horde, as we clatter past the second-century BC marble sculpture The Winged Victory of Samothrace.
There's no time to catch my breath in the Jardin des Tuileries outside. Eugénie steers me toward the park's southwest corner and the dinky Musée de l'Orangerie. Inside, in twin oval rooms, are Monet's large-format Nymphéas (Water Lilies) paintings, which seem disconcertingly out of focus in such an intimate space. Downstairs are 120 works from Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne. There are two portraits by Cézanne of his wife, who looks like a completely different person in each. Neither is particularly flattering. “They didn't get on," whispers Eugénie.
Lunch is at Les Chouettes, a buzzy eatery whose spacious, iron-clad interior is a blend of 1920s cocktail bar, SoHo loft, and the Eiffel Tower. In the ground-floor restaurant, far below the glass ceiling, the menu is also an artful mash-up: My dish of soft-boiled eggs baked with mushrooms and Brie de Meaux—the ultimate comfort food—is accessorized with a bang-on-trend, Instagram-ready charcoal wafer.
My next stop is Saint-Paul, a medieval neighborhood in the 4th that is often clumped in with the Marais—though it's far less self-conscious. I check out Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, the city's best-known Jesuit church. The elaborate facade is gorgeous, but most of the 17th-century art was plundered during the Revolution. Inside, two rows of golden chandeliers hint at the glory days.“I adore going to the places the tourists go to—but late at night, when they are totally empty. Montmartre is gorgeous, but the Square du Vert-Galant, on the western tip of the Île de la Cité, is even more atmospheric." —Haylen Namvarazad
I head west past Hôtel de Ville—a post-Revolution rebuild of the 16th-century city hall, its facade teeming with statues of notable Parisians, ranging from Cardinal Richelieu to Molière—then cross Pont d'Arcole to the Île de la Cité. On this slim river island stands the city's most celebrated cathedral. Not only is Notre Dame impressively old (construction started in 1163), it's impossibly gorgeous—a Gothic extravaganza of flying buttresses, sullen gargoyles, and bristling spire. If Paris really were a film set, this would be the Tim Burton quarter.
The line to enter moves surprisingly quickly. Several people troop in, take the obligatory selfie, then shuffle out. Others sit in the candlelight, contemplating the high-vaulted nave and the 42-foot purplish South Rose window featuring the New Testament's heavy hitters. Then I notice that many of them are fast asleep. Instead of joining, I cab it back to La Réserve for a rejuvenating dip in the pool.
A couple of hours later, in a crisp shirt and my loosest pants, I leave the hotel once more. I have scored a table at three-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno's restaurant at the nearby Pavillon Ledoyen. My seven-course meal contains two of the best things I have ever eaten: a millefeuille of celeriac and 18-month-ripened avocado, with coconut extraction and chia seeds, and “Stroganoff-style" Wagyu beef. The avocado explodes in my mouth without any of the sweetness I was dreading—the waiter tells me a regular avocado mellows for just three months—but, to be honest, they had me at “Would sir like some bread?" There is even time for a chocolate nib and black olive soufflé before my taxi rolls up.
A view through the clock face at the Musée d'Orsay
Soon I'm in Pigalle, the storied red light district on the fringes of Montmartre. Much of this dirty old neighborhood has been cleaned up. The Moulin Rouge, immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec, looks as if it belongs in Vegas, and the area's new boutiques and bars, with names such as Dirty Dick, are freighted with hipster irony.
I'm meeting the singer and Pigalle habitué Haylen Namvarazad. I spot her waiting for me on the still slightly sleazy Rue Pierre Fontaine, but the bar we're meant to be going to doesn't seem to exist. L'Orphée is hidden behind the frontage of a former massage parlor and reached only by pressing an unmarked buzzer, then passing through a strip-lit corridor and a second unmarked door. I can't help thinking about the last 10 minutes of Taxi Driver.
After years of busking in Metro stations, Namvarazad found fame on a TV talent show and has since starred in the hit rock opera Le Rouge et le Noir. Musicians come to L'Orphée to jam in its red glow after hours. Tonight, a bearded singer delivers a bluesy rendition of “Hit the Road Jack." A guy with a falsetto pays tribute to Ed Sheeran. Namvarazad channels Amy Winehouse with a tingling take on “Back to Black."
Parisians on Île Saint-Louis
“This is the real spirit of Paris," she says over a Desperados beer with a lime wedge. “It is creative, inclusive, optimistic. This city is very tribal, but in bars like this it doesn't matter where you're from or what stage your career is at. It's people doing what they love and helping each other out."
The loveliness of Paris has drawn artists for centuries, but you do wonder about living here, whether a person might start taking it for granted. “I was born here, and yet there is not a single day that I'm not aware of its beauty," Namvarazad says. “Or rather, there is not a single night. When there is no one around and the city is lit up, it is magical. How could anyone not be inspired?"
Later, as my cab bounces past sprays of flowers cascading from tiny balconies, I see what she means. I can barely keep my eye on the meter.
In which Boyd encounters a large cheese, a large religious work of art, and a very, very large fish
An early start. I drop my bags in my minimal room at the Amastan, a small design-focused hotel at the foot of the Champs-Élysées. On one wall hangs a rug that drapes the sofa before continuing to cover the floor. Talk about minimal. After scarfing down some baby croissants in the courtyard, I head east to Le Marché Popincourt in the 11th arrondissement, where I meet Pierre Sang Boyer, owner of two eponymous restaurants nearby.
Boyer, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a French family when he was 7, is one of the city's hottest chefs. He is also, by his own admission, a produce nerd. He squeals with pleasure at every stall, snapping stalks, fondling tubers, stroking fish, massaging poultry. “Look, this langoustine is still alive," he chirps, dangling a twitching crustacean in my face.
“Markets remind us that we are all part of the same chain," Boyer continues, hurrying on to another fascinating stall. “The farmer, the person preparing the food, the person eating it." He stops before a meat display and asks a vendor to cut me some salami. As I chew, I notice a sign: Boucher Cheval, or horse butcher. “Delicious," I whimper.
Pierre Sang Boyer, chef
This part of the 11th has a lively nightlife scene, but by day its narrow streets teem with grocers hosing down sidewalks, shoppers swinging baskets, and men hauling sacks of produce. In Le Jardin Fromager, matronly Madame Sananès vacuum-packs a whole Camembert de Normandie for me to take home. In Poissonnerie Lacroix, Charly Hanafi gives me herring that's been marinated for days in garlic and onions. I can smell the thing from six feet away, but at least it gets rid of the taste of Seabiscuit.
At Boyer's pared-back restaurants (a walk-in counter that straddles the corner of rues Gambey and Oberkampf and a more upmarket spot about 100 feet away), there are no menus. Diners get a bunch of small plates, their contents dictated by the freshest ingredients that day. I decide to try out both kitchens. At the small one, I sample the radishes and spring onions Boyer scored at the market, served with shrimp and chili flakes, followed by slow-cooked pork belly in ssamjang, a sauce made with chili and fermented soybean paste. At the ritzier joint, I'm served a slab of seared beef with the same zingy ssamjang. As fusion food goes, French-Korean is tough to beat. Also, I can light my candle just by breathing on it.
Another Metro ride takes me to the Musée d'Orsay, the former grand railway station on the Left Bank of the Seine that now houses some of the greatest European art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the security check, the guards eye my sealed camembert suspiciously. Inside, the museum still feels like a train station, its concourse filled with people in a hurry to get somewhere else—possibly the Impressionism section on the fifth floor. Here, people are queuing up with their selfie sticks to insert themselves among the revelers in Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette or to photobomb Van Gogh's Self-Portrait. Two years ago, the Musée was forced to lift its photo ban after someone noticed that France's culture minister had posted photos she took there on Instagram. Selfie sticks remain forbidden, but no one seems to care.“In many other cities, it is the artists who are responsible for rejuvenating areas. In Paris, it is restaurateurs. That says a lot about how important food culture is to Parisians." —Pierre Sang Boyer
Next, I cross the Léopold Sédar Senghor footbridge, recently purged of its burdensome lovers' padlocks, and pass back through the Jardin des Tuileries, to the hotel Le Meurice, on Rue de Rivoli, for afternoon tea. Only in Paris can a pastry chef be a superstar, and the pâtissier here, Cédric Grolet, is Ryan Gosling in a toque. Grolet is famous for his ambitious trompe l'oeil confections; I sample a tart that looks exactly like a real apple. It is good—and you have to admire the evil genius who disguises cake as fruit—but I prefer the gooey caramel-and-pistachio cookie.
A short stroll northwest takes me to La Madeleine, the Greek temple–like church built to celebrate the glory of Napoleon's army. Fifty-two Corinthian columns, each 65 feet tall, skirt the exterior. In the gilded interior, the dominant fresco resembles the Sgt. Pepper's album cover, with Napoleon surrounded by Mary Magdalene, the Apostles, Dante, Raphael, and Pope Pius VII, among others. Clearly, the Little Corporal was not short on self-esteem.
From here I'm off to Abbesses—which, at 118 feet down, is the Metro's deepest station—to explore hilly Montmartre. Having learned that the station elevator is broken, I wheeze up 90 spiraling steps before surfacing into what appears to be the set of Amélie. A cobbled square is framed by colored crêperies—all called Chez this or Le Petit that—while sketch artists sit at easels and vendors hawk roses. All that's missing is … no, wait, there is someone playing an accordion.
Parisians enjoying the grounds of La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
I check out the Sacré-Cœur, the 272-foot basilica at the top of Montmartre's butte, the highest point in the city after the Eiffel Tower. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914—as a penance or a pick-me-up after France lost its war with Prussia, it's hard to say. Inside, a half dozen Benedictine sisters are beginning their vespers. Even above the mumble of tourists, the Latin song is ethereal and lovely, amplified by the huge apse rendered with a mosaic of Christ, in white, arms extended. I sit down with my giant cheese and watch as people file in and light votives or stealthily angle their phones for the ultimate shot: a selfie with Jesus.
For dinner, I head to the 1st arrondissement to meet my friend Sara at the Fish Club, a seafood restaurant from the team behind London's Experimental Group. At 8:30, Sarah and I are the only ones here—but by the time we've drained a couple of drinks, the place is jammed, and I have to raise my voice to order the special: grilled sea bream, which our waitress says is big enough to share. No kidding. Other diners leave their own meals to Instagram our monster catch. Fileted tableside, it is so good we don't touch our greens.
I'm exhausted, but Sara tells me that the Experimental guys have a speakeasy next door. Beyond an unmarked (of course) entrance, we feel our way down a metal stairway and arrive in a barely lit bar with low velvet seating and a well-dressed—as far as I can tell—crowd. I down a Bourbon & French; Sara knocks back something citrusy. “Quick, let's make a run for it," she jokes. Or it may have been a delinquent on an adjoining banquette. Either way, we decide to stay for more cocktails.
By the time we leave, I'm so relaxed I hail a cab standing in the middle of the street. The driver looks terrified. Now, if I could only remember where I put my room key.
In which Boyd breakfasts like Ernest Hemingway, shops like Louis XV, and has a Hugh Grant–like effect on the ladies
I check into the grand Hôtel Plaza Athénée on Avenue Montaigne, the backdrop for Carrie Bradshaw's Paris adventures in the last two episodes of Sex and the City. The iconic red awnings match my eyes. After a refreshing shower, I head for the Left Bank.
The 5th and 6th arrondissements, along the Seine's southern bank, used to be a bohemian enclave, home to struggling artists like Picasso and Matisse. Today, you'd have to sell a Picasso just to buy a small studio here. Next to Les Deux Magots, the café where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to hang out, stands a Louis Vuitton store.
The café now offers a “Sartre" breakfast, which includes yogurt or fruit salad, and the more robust “Hemingway," which has bacon and fried eggs but, disappointingly, no whiskey. I settle for a croque monsieur.
Tanya Blumstein, movie dialect coach
Despite its embourgeoisement, the Rive Gauche (South Bank) hasn't lost its soul. The cobbled streets and tastefully worn courtyards, along with a bounty of medieval churches, give the area a timeless feel. I especially enjoy the sixth-century Église de Saint Germain-des-Prés, the oldest Romanesque church in Paris, its square tower the focal point of the 6th. Some of the shops seem almost as old. Cire Trudon's origins date to 1643, when it was founded as a candle shop. (Its wares lit Louis XV's court.) Now it supplies tourists with $100-plus wax busts of Marie-Antoinette and Napoléon.
I head east along Boulevard Saint-Germain to the 5th arrondissement, known as the Quartier Latin since the 13th century (when the Sorbonne was founded and Latin was the language of learning). I zip around the Panthéon, the glorious Neoclassical monument that Louis XV built as a thank-you to God after he survived what was probably a case of man flu. Now it houses the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.
Not feeling too lively myself, I loop back to the Jardin du Luxembourg, where I slump into a garden chair. With 60 acres of immaculate parkland around me, the only sound is the crunch of gravel as the occasional jogger goes by. These are Parisian joggers, so no one is wearing lime Lycra. One woman may actually be wearing heels. On my way out, I step into the sweet little Musée du Luxembourg to catch an exhibition of Pissarro's later pastoral scenes—a nice bonus.“Parisians tend to enjoy life more—spending time with family, enjoying their surroundings. Of course, it does help when your surroundings are this beautiful." —Tanya Blumstein
After enjoying a fortifying salad of quinoa, goat cheese, and broccoli at the restaurant at Hôtel Bachaumont, which anchors the newly fashionable Rue Bachaumont in the 2nd arrondissement, I walk south to check out Paris's regeneration project du jour, the billion-euro revamp of the previously forlorn Les Halles shopping mall. Approaching Les Halles from the north takes me past one of the loveliest buildings in Paris—which is saying something. Église St-Eustache, built between 1532 and 1637, is primarily Gothic, though a Neoclassical facade was slapped on its western side in the 18th century. On a wall inside hangs a Rubens painting; outside stands a gigantic Henri de Miller sculpture of a head and hand. All this makes the new retail and leisure complex look even more weirdly modern. Les Halles's curvy yellow six-acre canopy makes it seem as if someone has dropped a giant omelette on the city.
A 15-minute stroll brings me to Rue des Rosiers, the higgledy-piggledy center of the Marais and the heart of the Jewish community. Poignantly, the sign outside the bustling kosher bakery Sacha Finkelsztajn announces the community's postwar comeback: “From Father to Son since 1946."
The view from the Hôtel Plaza Athénée
Dotting the medieval warren are many enchanting gardens. Place des Vosges is one of the oldest squares in Paris and regarded as one of the best, but I prefer the smaller Square Georges Cain, which is filled with treasures from the adjacent Musée Carnavalet. One of the most intriguing objects is a small electronic bird designed to sing like a nightingale when the wind blows. I don't hear any birdsong, but the gate screeches like an angry parrot.
Near the Carreau du Temple—an iconic industrial market that reopened in 2014 as a cultural and exhibition venue—I meet Massachusetts-born Tanya Blumstein, who was so smitten when she arrived in Paris more than 20 years ago that she never went back. “It just felt like home as soon as I got here," says Blumstein, a voice and dialect coach for theater and film who recently worked with Natalie Portman on Jackie. “Everywhere here has a real community feel. You tend to keep an eye on your neighbors' kids; you know your butcher, baker, and florist. In most big cities, people don't live like that anymore."
We mooch around some of the city's most gentrified rues Saintonge, Bretagne, Poitou. On the corner of Poitou is the Petit Moulin, a tiny hotel that's housed in a former boulangerie and whose interiors are a riot of Christian Lacroix. As we pass, the actor Pierre Niney, who played Yves Saint Laurent in a 2014 biopic, cycles past. Could this be any more French?
Notre Dame from across the Seine
It could. In Jacques Genin's showroom-size chocolate shop on lively Rue de Turenne, a loved-up couple agonizes over a chocolate display as if choosing an engagement ring. I'm agonizing too, over how many kirsch caramels I dare take from the sample jar.
The Marais has long been Paris's most BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) area, but things may have gotten out of hand. At Nanashi on Rue Charlot, vegetarian “Parisian Bento" boxes are served by staffers with lion-tamer mustaches. We pause to nibble retro shortbread at Bontemps, a patisserie opened by a former financier, and sip blueberry-lavender smoothies at Wild & The Moon.
Back at the decidedly un-BoBo Plaza Athénée, I soothe my limbs in a deep marble tub. The blisters on my feet are so big they may soon need their own arrondissement. I'm dining in the hotel restaurant tonight, and I wonder if the dress code extends to the fluffy white slippers that were left beside my bed.
That dinner, taken in a corner berth in the handsome Le Relais Plaza brasserie, is a gratifyingly no-nonsense affair: an entrée-size starter of crevette salad, tender beef served with mashed potatoes, and a trio of sorbets. I'm glad I went with regular shoes—I have to walk at least some of the bread basket off before I can even contemplate going to sleep.
I cross nearby Pont de l'Alma and walk along the Left Bank, admiring the way each building is subtly and artfully lit, like movie stars in a black-and-white film. I can hear the chatter of tourists pleasure-cruising the Seine and the muffled voices of a couple sharing a bottle of wine by the water's edge. People throng outside Faust, a nightclub beneath the exuberant Pont Alexandre III. As I thread my way through the crowd, a young Frenchwoman bumps into me, spilling wine down my shirt. Being English, I apologize. She smiles, kisses my cheek, and disappears. Okay, so it's not a Robert Doisneau moment, but it's not a bad way to say goodnight to the city—the Eiffel Tower to the west, its sparkling light show reminding us that the clock has just struck 12.
Berlin-based writer Boyd Farrow is not the first person to fall in love in Paris. Three weeks after he returned home, he is still blissfully happy with his camembert.
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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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Neighbors, coworkers, parents, protectors, heroes. All of these labels and more encompass the men and women whose devotion to our country serves as the truest embodiment of the American spirit. We're talking about Veterans. Join host Phil Torres as he heads to our nation's capital to learn more about these heroes and to explore just how many United employees are veterans on this Big Metal Bird.
From players and personnel to thousands of pounds of equipment, it takes not only a game plan, but a team to get the San Francisco 49ers to their next game and back all within 24 hours. This process is a little thing in the airline business we call chartering. Learn more about how our Charter team gets professional sports teams to their away games and back on the newest episode of Big Metal Bird.
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.