Enchanted by Paraty, Brazil
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 Employee Operations Staff Representative Frankie Pagan
I have always said that I would rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff, and my passion for travel has brought me to more than 62 countries. People always ask me, "What's your favorite destination?" and I always answer, "The one that I'm going to next." However, Brazil is definitely at the top of my favorites list. In fact, it is the country I return to the most.
One of my favorite cities in Brazil is Rio de Janeiro, but just 4.5 hours south of the Marvelous City, as Rio is known, lies a beautiful hidden gem: Paraty - a colonial work of art, where Brazilians and tourists alike share in this beautiful city's old charm and flavor. A visit to this enchanting town will transport you back to the Portuguese colonial era.
Named after a local fish, Paraty sits on Brazil's stunning southeastern Costa Verde coast and is set amid jutting peninsulas and secluded beaches with a backdrop of steep, lush, jungle mountains plunging into an island-studded turquoise bay.
The small colonial town's center is a national historic monument with very well-preserved Portuguese colonial buildings on its pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. Cars are not allowed to enter the town.
Elegant white buildings adorned with fanciful multicolored borders and latticed windows blend harmoniously with the natural beauty that envelops this charming town. Among its architectural landmarks is the waterfront Capela de Santa Rita, a whitewashed church built in 1722. Since 1966, the Brazilian government has recognized Paraty as a National Historic Site.
The town's cosmopolitan flavor is further enhanced by the large number of artists, writers and chefs -- both Brazilian and foreign -- who have settled here and opened shops, galleries and fantastic restaurants. The food options are endless, from international to local beach eats, but be sure to try the local seafood. Bars can be hard to find, so just follow the music. They usually aren't jumping until late.
Paraty has a wide range of accommodations. I recommend that you stay at a pousada, or country inn, near the historical center of town. We stayed at Pousada Literaria de Paraty, a small elegant pousada owned by a Brazilian actress.
The town is very walkable. The vibe is relaxed and carefree. Everyone wears Havaianas, Brazilian flip flops. The locals are warm, friendly and genuinely nice. They are very proud of their delightful town and are always happy to help tourists. Keep an eye out for the monkeys that roam the streets. They are quite amusing and may be waiting for a treat.
A very interesting and unique characteristic of the town is that it floods regularly and intentionally — I heard from the locals that it has an old street-cleaning strategy. It dates back to colonial times, when the city was planned. Since Paraty is below sea level, sidewalks are elevated about a foot above the cobblestones, and, at high tides, ocean waters flood the streets in a timeless ebb and flow. It's best to carry a pair of flip-flops to wear so that you don't ruin your shoes. Some hotels and pousadas offer flip-flops to their guests, but I recommend you by yourself a pair of Havaianas.
In the town's main square, you can watch a capoeira performance, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of fight, acrobatics, music and dance in a very magnetic way. Check with your hotel for times because it is something you won't want to miss.
For approximately $125, you can rent a boat for the day and head out into the bay to the small islands and coves nearby. Along the way, you can snorkel in the crystal-clear, emerald-green sea and swim in the many secluded beaches. Our boat stopped on one of the islands, where we had a tasty lunch of freshly caught fish, garlicky white rice and Brazilian-style bean stew. Wash it all down with Brazil's national drink, the rum-tastic caipirinha or a refreshing local beer. Then sit back, relax in a beach chair and take it all in.
It's very easy to reach Paraty once in Brazil. From the U.S., Untied flies nonstop from multiple of our hubs to São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Air-conditioned buses leave from both Rio and São Paulo for Paraty. Buses from Rio depart 12+ times a day from the Rodoviaria Novo Rio bus station. The price of one-way a ticket is approximately $25, and the trip takes about 4.5 hours. The trip from São Paulo's Rodoviaria Tiete bus station takes about 6.5 hours and costs about the same. From São Paulo, try Reunidas Paulista bus company and, from Rio de Janeiro, Costa Verde Transportes.
Useful information and tips:
- Check out www.paraty.com.br for great tourist information.
- U.S. citizens as well as those of many other countries are required to have a visa to enter Brazil. For visa and health requirements visit https://www.united.com/web/en-US/apps/vendors/default.aspx?i=TIMATIC.
- Bring a Portuguese phrase book (Locals love it when you try to speak the language).
- Bring bug repellant and sunscreen.
- Bring a hat and sunglasses.
Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.
Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.
"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.
"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."
Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.
"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."
If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.
Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.
Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.
"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."
Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.
"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.
In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.
And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast
The Special Chronicles.
In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.
"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."
United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools that many people are using to stay connected.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
To use on Zoom:
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
- Start by downloading your favorite United image to your computer. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- C:\[insert your device user name here]\AppData\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads
- If you're using a Mac copy the images to this folder on your computer:
- /users/<username>/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads
- If you're using a PC, copy the image you want to use into this folder:
- Once you start a Teams meeting, click the "…" in the menu bar and select "Show background effects" and your image should be there
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