Three Perfect Days: Beijing
Story by Benjamin Carlson | Photography by Aurēlien Foucalt | Hemispheres, August 2018
Beijing is a bit like the Ptolemaic model of the world: ancient, encircled by rings, and once regarded as the center of the universe. China's political heart since Mongol conquerors made it their capital in the 13th century, the city has gone through countless transformations—from dusty outpost to glitzy megalopolis—while remaining the country's gravitational core. It's a place where politics reign but punk rock thrives in the cracks, a hub of high- tech innovation whose people still abide by ancient mores. In short, Beijing is the most vivid embodiment of the old truism about China: that it is an immense place of immense contradictions—not so much the center of the universe but a universe in itself.
The Jade Belt Bridge at the Summer Palace
If Beijing has a magnetic core, it's here: a mile east of the Forbidden City, where emperors once rode in palanquins and where the new elite buzz about in Maseratis and McLarens. I, however, opt for two wheels—a bicycle courtesy of the friendly concierge at The Peninsula, where I'm staying. A Chinese guest in a bow tie and rhinestone-studded sneakers waiting in the lobby seems puzzled by the sight of a bike being wheeled out and offers to share a cab.
A moat at the Forbidden City
Undeterred, I cycle to a street lined with poplar trees and rose bushes, where I soon find myself surrounded by people pedaling in the same direction, including a fleet of six beefy men on identical blue bikes. I take a right-hand turn and the road widens. This is Chang'an Avenue (aka Eternal Peace Street), a 10-lane stretch running between Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I pull over beside a huge portrait of Mao Zedong, intrigued by the scale of the image and by Mao's orange-ish skin tone, like a bad spray-tan. “No stop- ping," a nearby guard suggests in Mandarin. “Keep moving!"
“The Forbidden City, with its majestic golden- capped pavilions, was designed to shock and awe."
Once I make it through the block-long line for security at the Forbidden City I head into a waiting area, where a vendor stands over a pile of gold hats with built-in pigtails. I ask if they are for eunuchs, and he frowns. “Only emperors wear those. We don't sell hats for eunuchs!"
Vendors on Qianmen commercial street
The Forbidden City— with its gargantuan Hall of Supreme Harmony and 180 acres of courtyards, palaces, and majestic golden-capped pavilions—was designed to shock and awe. Even today, in a city bristling with extravagant skyscrapers, it does the job. I pass into the inner sanctum, a courtyard that used to be off limits to every- one but the emperor. After a minute alone in this vast and strangely discomfiting space, I edge toward a provincial tour group, just for the company.
By the time I leave—the Forbidden City is like Ikea; you have to walk through the whole thing to get out—I'm not only humbled but famished. For lunch, I've arranged to meet American expat Patrick Rhine, the director of research at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, at the small Hunanese restaurant Blessed Events. The air inside is sour and pun- gent. I ask Rhine about the smell, and he replies, “What smell?" When my order of rice noodles and pork arrives, I understand: The bowl is full of fermented pickles. They are, I find, much more pleasant in the mouth than the nose. The pork chunks are sweet and fatty, the rice noodles slippery, the soup hot and sour.
A carved dragon at the Forbidden City
Afterward, we wander over to Art District 798, a block of Bauhaus-style factories that's been refurbished into a hub of quirky shops, high-minded galleries, and bizarre installations. “This place used to be a lot cheesier—lots of over- priced, tacky chinoiserie," Rhine says as we walk through the complex. “There are at least three ocarina shops within 100 meters of us now, and I don't know why."
A portrait of Mao Zedong at the Forbidden City
We pass a stack of dinosaur statues in cages, and a space where an artist has jabbed a potato with a bent fork and placed it in a bowl. “It's a commentary on the failure of Western culture, I think," explains a nice young lady in octagonal spectacles. She points to a dish filled with dark liquid and two clay beads. “This one's called Bubba and Forrest Go Home."
It can be tough to tell what's tongue-in-cheek at 798, but there are no such ambiguities across the street at China Cow Parade Park, which sells weird cow statues and displays a wall-size, military-style map showing the shop's 10-year plan for carpeting China in stores. “There's weird random stuff constantly going on," Rhine says. He points to a blocked-off side street. “The North Korean government has a sculpture house there. And over there," he points again, “the other week they had pig wrestling."
I bid Rhine goodbye and head off to another section of 798, where the M Woods museum is showing an exhibit of videos by the Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy. At the door, an attendant demands proof that I'm 18. It quickly becomes clear why. In one video clip, a man in an Alfred E. Neuman mask is assaulting a five-gallon ketchup bottle— and it gets a lot more transgressive than this. Time to call it a day.
Duck foie gras ravioli at Jing
Fortunately, there are no five-gallon ketchup jugs at Jing, the Peninsula hotel's elegantly subdued French restaurant. The brainchild of chef Julien Cadiou, brought to Beijing by way of Hong Kong, it offers exquisite renditions of dishes tailored to the comfort food–oriented palate of China. I order wildly: wasabi big eye tuna and wagyu beef tartare with quail egg yolk; duck foie gras ravioli in vegetal consommé; a succulent lobster cavatelli; chicken thigh with a mushroom-foam garnish and a hazelnut red wine reduction.
In need of a nightcap, I order a cocktail at The Lobby lounge. A waiter brings a Manhattan as a jazz band takes the stage. “I wish you bluebirds in the spring," the alto sings, looking me in the eye. “I set you free-e-e-e."
I take that as my cue to go to bed.
The restaurant's lavish entrance
It's morning, and I'm walking through Baochao hutong, a leafy alleyway that feels like a time capsule. I watch a woman pulling laundry along a line while another empties a bucket with a soft splash. The cry of a knife-sharpener echoes through the alley. I stop at a roadside cart for a Shandong-style jianbing, a fresh-made crepe with a filling of spicy egg, pickled vegetables, and spring onions.
Centuries ago, camel trains used to end their journey from central Asia in these dusty streets. Now, scooters zip by on the pavement, but the ambience is otherwise unchanged. The Drum Tower (or Gulou, pronounced “goo-low") still stands at the center of the city's biggest unbroken hutong block, a labyrinth of picturesque alleyways that date to the 13th-century Yuan dynasty and are dotted with traditional courtyard homes. Passing piled bicycles and half-open doors, I encounter four elderly aunties and an uncle in a Panama hat who are seated on stools, watching the hutong as if it were TV. I wave hello, and they watch impassively, much as you would if a TV character waved.
Sampling Beijing's culinary delights by tuk-tuk on a Lost Plate tour
I soon understand why they spend their days watching the street. An old man walks by swinging two cages with shrieking parakeets; a girl in a watermelon crinoline dress poses for a cameraman while her friend in a lemon crinoline dress adjusts her bangs. Nearby, a little boy in split-bottom pants draws a chalk spaceship on the ground; his mother asks, “Do you love to eat?" He thinks a moment and replies, “I love to eat meat buns!" A man, dusted shoulder-to-knuckles in flour, makes pancakes with split hot dogs on a round griddle.
“Camel trains used to end their journey from central Asia
in these dusty streets. Now, scooters zip by on the pavement."
I wind my way to the Drum Tower, the imposing 15th-century structure where servants used to beat the hours. (Now, 10- minute demonstrations happen throughout the day.) A sunny flagstone plaza stretches between the lantern-shaped building and its humbler mate, the Bell Tower.
On Gulou street, which skirts the south side of the tower, the atmosphere changes; the alleys give way to a strip of fashionable cafés and bars. A pink-haired girl in gothic schoolgirl attire marches into a shop specializing in vampire paraphernalia. A tattooed man rushes by clutching a mandolin. Outside a guitar store a group of overheated guys roll their shirts up to expose their bellies—the Beijing bikini— causing a young hipster couple to hop off the sidewalk to avoid them.
A lantern-filled back alley
From here, I catch a cab to the diplomatic district, Sanlitun. Less punk-rock than Gulou, this once-seedy bar district is where the smart set now goes to eat American barbecue and shop at the Apple store. I get a table at Moka Bros, a health-food eatery in a multistory plaster edifice that feels like a slice of Barcelona. While sipping a flaxseed and beet smoothie and nibbling a radish-salmon poke bowl with lime-ponzu sauce, I eavesdrop on a Westerner in wraparound shades speaking Mandarin to his girlfriend: “That's how you earn money. It's not bad or good—it's just how it works."
A gate in the city's historic wall
After lunch, I stroll a quiet street lined with neon pink and lavender flower boxes, then head into LLJ Jiaji Zhan, a storefront with more than 50 claw machines filled with dolls and stuffed animals. One has a zombie boy named “My Immortal Buddy." Another offers “Gon's Marmot." The machines don't accept cash, only payments through scanned QR codes, so I settle for watching a slew of kids vie for prizes.
Modern towers along the Landmark River
For more fun, I head off to Wujin—or “Hardware Store"—a tiny, 10-person space that's part indie book- store, part restaurant, and is hosting a zine launch. As I sip a spicy ginger carrot juice, I strike up a conversation with a platinum-haired expat named Kendra Schaefer. Over a decade ago, she accepted a bet with her father to go to a monastery in rural China to study Shaolin kung fu (despite speaking no Mandarin), and she now works here as a web designer. She tells me she loves this city for its “surrealism": “In Beijing, you walk out your door and trip over a guy with a three wheeled Jetsons-like vehicle he made in his yard to transport a ton of Pomeranians."
I'm all kitsched-out, and it's time for dinner. I've signed up for a local food tour, Lost Plate, which meets by the Lama Temple, the city's most spectacular Buddhist sanctuary. Dating to the 18th century, it's the largest Tibetan holy site outside of Tibet. The roof tiles blaze gold in the setting sun. Pilgrims in crimson robes shuffle out, debating where to eat.
Luckily, I don't have to worry about that. Outside the temple I spot the Lost Plate guide, an energetic young woman from Hubei named Icy, and a group of tourists from around the world. Leading us toward a trio of waiting tuk-tuks, Icy opens a cooler filled with cans of beer: “Who's thirsty?"“In Beijing, you'll see a three wheeled Jetsons- like vehicle made to transport a ton of Pomeranians."
I ride in a tuk-tuk with a Danish couple, who rave about the food scene in their country. “Sometimes it's too trendy, though," the woman says. “One day I was eating a cake, and inside it had ants."
The evening is a swirl of splendid hole-in-the-wall eateries. We eat hot Hubei noodles with pickled veggies in a teddy-bear themed restaurant, Mongolian hotpot in an unmarked shop, and a deep- fried hamburger nicknamed “the doornail," due to its resemblance to the Forbidden City's huge brass door studs.
A few of the many traditional dishes enjoyed during a Lost Plate tour
Belly full, I bid farewell to Icy and the Danish gourmands and go to Temple Bar, a dive known for its cheap drinks and loud shows. A staple of Beijing's heavy metal scene, it has a dungeony feel with steel floors and black walls. Two chalkboards list dozens of $4 cocktails: Super Mario, Brain Teaser, Red Lobster. A band breaks into a set of prog-rock jams. Three locals in paisley shirts, one on a crutch, approach the stage and attempt to dance to the angular rhythms. A girl in what appears to be a pink clown outfit begins to sway. I think about something Schaefer said to me earlier: “In Beijing, you never have to make your own fun."
A rock musician tunes up at Temple Bar
Very true, but now it's time for me to head to the Brickyard, a boutique hotel an hour north of the city center. I have a big day planned and could use a full night's sleep.
The boutique Brickyard hotel
I'm woken at dawn by sunlight blazing through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately, the view is stunning: green-carpeted mountains, rolled out in layers of translucent color, like a Renaissance painting. Scrolling across the top is an undulating gray wall. Yes, that wall.
The Great Wall was the ultima Thule of the ancient Chinese world. Beyond this barrier, emperors believed, the world descended into chaos and barbarism. Construction started in 220 BC and continued intermittently over 13 dynasties. Today, the structure winds some 5,500 miles, from the east of China to the lands of the Silk Road in the west. This section, near Beigou village, dates back more than 400 years, when it was constructed at phenomenal expense to keep Manchu invaders at bay. (It failed, of course: The Manchus swept through gaps in the wall and conquered Beijing in 1644, making the Wall the most magnificent monument to failed intentions in human history.)
Pocketing a banana for breakfast, I set off to get a closer look. The route to the wall winds through Beigou, a picturesque village shaded with chestnut trees. After a short walk through Beigou's manicured courtyard homes, I begin the ascent. It's a straight shot up from the town square to Mutianyu, a pretty, well-kept portion of the Great Wall. After climbing for an hour, exhausted and sticky, I pause under a tree and silently fume at a couple as they climb into an air-conditioned car they hired to ferry them up. I briefly consider a Lord of the Flies–style attack; barbarism and chaos already feel close at hand.
On the last stretch, the path grows steep and rocky. Then, just as I'm contemplating sitting down and refusing to move ever again, the trees part, and I am at the base of the wall. I try to enter a watchtower on the wall via the doorway, only to find that it is welded shut. A burly police officer leads me to another part of the wall, where for a small fee he hauls me over the six-foot-high battlements.“Green-carpeted mountains roll out in layers. Scrolling across the top is an undulating gray wall. Yes, that wall."
The view from up here is breathtaking. Mountains lie on all sides like coiled serpents, and the wall rises and falls in defiance of gravity, with one section soaring like an M.C. Escher staircase to a gatehouse 150 feet above us. Gazing up, I see two terrified tourists descending it on their bottoms. One good look at the mountains surrounding us, and it's clear why the wall failed: Any barbarians who got this high would not be stopped by an extra 10 feet of brick. Still, it's a spectacular piece of superfluous engineering.
A section of the Great Wall, built more than 400 years ago to keep out Manchu invaders
Tourists gasp in five languages around me; a little Chinese boy, fearless, does a dance routine by the crenellated edge while his mother films him. A man works the controller for a drone that whines above us. A scholarly fellow gazes at the landscape and, with an air of profundity, spits into the abyss. On the way down, men from the village carefully sweep the “forbidden" path with grass brooms.
Lunch is back at the Brickyard. Raj, the hotel manager, seats me in the courtyard, where I can admire the mountain I've just climbed. Out comes a bowl of cabbage and black chestnuts with roasted pork, then a brie salad garnished with green raisins from Xinjiang. At last comes rainbow trout, succulent and bold, with fried garlic confit and pesto. When Raj offers homemade caramel ice cream, I do not refuse.
Next, it's time for some shopping, at Panjiayuan, Beijing's most boisterous bazaar. Located on the city's south side, about an hour and a half from the Great Wall by car, the market is a magnet for antiques collectors—and even more so for those who want cheap replicas. It spreads over several acres and is divided into aisles by specialty: jade bangles, calligraphy, scroll paintings, coins, chests, fans, rocks that look like meat, paintings of Tibetan mastiffs, Communist statuettes, agate beads, dried walnuts shaped like little brains to roll around one's palms for circulation. “Old Marx, Old Mao, Old Xi, they're three great men!" hollers a vendor selling political paintings. She points at a yellow fan. “Take it to your office—inspire the people around you!"
I decline the offer, but decide that all this walking has put me in the mood for an aperitif. A taxi and a tuk-tuk ride later, I'm at Great Leap Brewing, nestled in the buzzing hutong courtyard of Beijing's original craft beer maker, sipping a Sichuan peppercorn–infused ale. A table of expats nearby raises a toast to a couple departing the city, and I feel a pang of secondhand nostalgia.
For dinner, I have decided to go west, opting for the cuisine of the Uighur people, the Turkic minority of China who once manned the Silk Road trade routes. The restaurant, Xinjiang Bayi Laoye, is massive, garish, and packed. The decor calls to mind a sort of Central Asian Turkish Caesars Palace: a glitzy front desk, amber-crystal chandeliers, faux stained glass windows. The ceiling is painted with the Milky Way.
Uighur food at Xinjiang Bayi Laoye
I befriend an American factory manager who is traveling to Shandong to negotiate the sale of boiler fittings. We order a series of dishes: big-plate chicken; noodle squares; lamb on rose wood skewers; and heaps of WuSu beer. Even the teapot, filled with subtle cardamom-flavored tea, has a sort of Atlantic City extravagance: It resembles a big brass turtle shell.
I briefly join a group of boisterous young men shouting “Bottoms up!" over shots of baijiu, the potent liquor of choice in north China. (It's actually the best-selling liquor in the world). I down a glass, and the burn in my throat spells instant regret.
The roof of the Orchid, a boutique hotel hidden in a hutong
The evening spirals out to the Blue Stream Bar, a short bike ride away. It's a cozy joint by the Drum Tower, a low-beamed single room with wood pillars and an intimate stage. I walk inside looking like I've had one too many baijiu (which is one baijiu), get an ice cream, and watch a cross-cultural band take the stage. Someone explains that the band's name, Eluvium, is supposed to represent a cycle of exhaustion and replenishment.
Before long, a petite woman begins hammering out a gnarly pentatonic melody on the yangqin dulcimer, while a singer in denim pulls out a keytar and the drum enters with a pounding 7/4 beat. I eat my ice cream thinking about replenishment, as the music sweeps upward, out past the seventh ring road of Beijing, into the mountains.
Expanding our commitment to powering more flights with biofuel
Today, we strengthened our emerging reputation as the world's most environmentally conscious airline by expanding our contract with Boston-based World Energy, agreeing to purchase up to 10 million gallons of cost-competitive, commercial-scale, sustainable aviation biofuel over the next two years. The biofuel, which we currently use to help sustainably power every flight departing out of our Los Angeles Airport hub (LAX), achieves more than a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis.
Our contract extension follows our original purchase agreement in 2013, helping us to make history in 2016 when we became the first airline in the world to use sustainable aviation biofuel on a continuous basis. We are still currently the only U.S. airline to use biofuel in our regular operations. World Energy's biofuel is made from agricultural waste and has received sustainability certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
Recently announced, World Energy will invest $350 million to fully convert its Paramount, California facility to renewable diesel and sustainable aviation jet fuel, bringing its total capacity to 300 million gallons of production annually at that location, one of the company's six low-carbon fuel manufacturing plants.
"Investing in sustainable aviation biofuel is one of the most effective measures a commercial airline can take to reduce its impact on the environment," said Scott Kirby, United's president. "As leaders in this space, United and World Energy are setting an example for the industry on how innovators can work together to bring our customers, colleagues and communities toward a more sustainable future."
"Great companies lead," said Gene Gebolys, World Energy's chief executive officer. "We are honored to extend our commitment to United to advance their efforts to drive change to a lower carbon future."
Our contract renewal with World Energy will further assist us in achieving our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Our pledge to reduce emissions by 50 percent relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road, or the total number of cars in New York City and Los Angeles combined. Our biofuel supply agreements represent more than 50 percent of the commercial aviation industry's total agreements for sustainable aviation biofuel.
In addition to our purchase agreement with World Energy, we have invested in more than $30 million in California-based sustainable fuel developer Fulcrum BioEnergy. Our investment remains the single largest investment by any airline globally in sustainable fuels. And our agreement to purchase nearly 1 billion gallons from Fulcrum BioEnergy is also the largest offtake agreement for biofuel in the airline industry.
Our biofuel supply agreements represent more than 50 percent of the commercial aviation industry's total agreements for sustainable aviation biofuel.
Visit our United Eco-Skies® page to learn more about our ongoing commitment to the environment.
Love flies with us: Upcoming Pride month events
To help celebrate Pride Month, we're offering customers the opportunity to use their MileagePlus® award miles to bid on exclusive Pride packages. All proceeds will benefit our charity partner, The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.
Bid on one of our exclusive Pride packages including:
- Attend a Drag Queen Brunch in Chicago
- Pride getaway package + walk in the parade with United in Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston or San Francisco
- WorldPride New York City getaway package + walk in the parade with United
- VIP Family movie night in the park in NYC
- Attend a Drag Queen Brunch at Newark Airport
"As Pride Month approaches, we invite MileagePlus members to show their pride, embrace the LGBTQ+ community and join United in saying 'all routes lead to love'," said Luc Bondar, United's president of MileagePlus and vice president of Loyalty. "United is thrilled to offer these unique Pride experiences and help The Trevor Project in their mission to support LGBTQ youth."
Additionally, on June 28, in partnership with iHeartMedia's Z100, we will celebrate PRIDE LIVE's Stonewall Day, the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. The Stonewall Foundation will be inducting key community members including United into PRIDE LIVE's STONEWALL ambassador program at Stonewall Day.
"Supporting LGBTQ youth in crisis from every state across the country takes significant travel resources, and we're grateful to United Airlines for contributing to our mission in such a valuable way," said Muneer Panjwani, Head of Corporate Development for The Trevor Project. "Their commitment to our mission of ending suicide among LGBTQ youth makes them a valued partner throughout the year, helping us save young LGBTQ lives every day."
Be sure to look out for United throughout the month of June as we'll be participating in Pride events across the globe including Pride parades in Washington, D.C. on 6/8, LA on 6/9, Denver on 6/16, Houston on 6/22, San Jose (Costa Rica) on 6/23, Mexico City on 6/29, Bogota on 6/30, San Francisco on 6/30, Chicago on 6/30, World Pride in New York City on 6/30 and then on 7/6 in London and 10/19 in Honolulu.
We team up with Audubon International to save owls in San Francisco
Today, we strengthened our emerging reputation as the world's most environmentally conscious airline by announcing that we are expanding our successful Raptor Relocation Network to our premier West Coast hub, San Francisco International Airport. We are teaming up with Audubon International to trap raptors — primarily barn owls — residing near the airport and resettle these birds of prey at suitable golf course habitats where the species are more likely to thrive.
We initially partnered with Audubon International to launch the Raptor Relocation Network in 2017 at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it has successfully resettled more than 80 birds — including several American kestrels, a species of concern in New Jersey. We will now work in tandem with Audubon International and San Francisco airport officials to resettle the barn owls and other at-risk species at Bay Area golf courses certified within the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. As an official sponsor of the PGA Tour, we are uniquely positioned to help connect wildlife professionals at airports with the suitable golf course habitats identified by Audubon International for relocation purposes and to help inform the public on the importance of environmental sustainability.
Our expansion of the Raptor Relocation Network follows our recent announcement in San Francisco that we have committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050. Our pledge to reduce emissions by 50% relative to 2005 represents the equivalent of removing 4.5 million vehicles from the road, or the total number of cars in New York City and Los Angeles combined.
"Being environmentally conscious means more than just reducing our footprint; it means convening different groups to develop new and innovative ways to actively protect vulnerable species," said Janet Lamkin, United's president of California. "As we continue our commitment to protect raptors in the New York area, we are excited to expand our efforts to San Francisco and further underscore our industry-leading efforts to operate sustainably and responsibly."
"Audubon International is excited to be working with United Airlines' Eco-Skies program to expand the Raptor Relocation Network to the West Coast," said Christine Kane, Audubon International's chief executive officer. "Thousands of golf courses across the world have adopted environmentally sustainable property management practices that support wildlife habitat through our Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Bringing this all together to provide safe, high-quality habitat for raptors is a great success."
For more information on our commitment to environmental sustainability, visit united.com/ecoskies.
Escape to Cape Town: Waves, wines and lions at the "bottom of the world"
The reasons world travelers give when calling Cape Town their favorite African city are as abundant as the African Penguins (about 3,000) that waddle the beaches of Table Mountain National Park. Besides that park, which stretches from the city to the southwestern tip of Africa, these reasons include a wow-worthy waterfront, great restaurants and easy access to wonderful wineries.
Cape Town becomes more accessible beginning in December 2019, when United is due to become the first U.S. airline to offer nonstop flights to Cape Town, subject to government approval. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flights will depart New York/Newark on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and return from Cape Town on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They will reduce travel time by at least four hours and allow one-stop service to Cape Town from more than 80 U.S. cities.
Every accommodation type can be found, from quiet B&Bs; to chic urban hotels. Central Cape Town and waterfront hotels are ideal if you want the convenience of being close to restaurants and shopping. Simon's Town district guesthouses bring you within waddling distance of penguins and False Bay beaches. Table Mountain views are relished at Gardens district hotels. Then there are coastal hideaways like Monkey Valley Resort, wedged between a milkwood forest and a beach, and The Twelve Apostles, a seaside hotel named for the mountains that tower above it.
Under the Table
Table Mountain National Park is as diverse as the flora and fauna that populate its 85 square miles. The piece of the park within city limits is a stunning swath of evergreens that soar up to the flat-topped, 3,500-foot namesake peak. The day hike or cable car ride to the summit is an exhilarating use of a few hours to shake off your jet lag. The two other main sections of the national park are Tokai Park, filled with birds and baboons, and Cape Peninsula, which extends along the Atlantic Ocean (including the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony) all the way to the Cape of Good Hope at the "bottom of the world."
On the waterfront
It's hard to beat simple pleasures like hiking up Table Mountain or Lion's Head, lazing on Cape Town's beaches or visiting the world-class Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. But, visitors should also spend time on Cape Town's Table Bay waterfront, home to a dizzying array of restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and attractions. Zeitz MOCAA houses the world's largest collection of contemporary African art in a 10-story former grain silo that was repurposed in 2017. Also on the waterfront are the Two Oceans Aquarium and ferries that whisk you to Robben Island, where the museum tells the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela's journey from prisoner to president.
Wining and dining
Constantia grape wineland countryside landscape background of hills with mountain backdrop in Cape Town South Africa
The Cape Winelands, among the world's leading wine regions, is within 40 miles of Cape Town, centered around the 17th-century towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl. Excellent restaurants are found at many Winelands wineries (as well as in Cape Town), but perhaps the best spot to wine and dine is even closer to the city — Groot Constantia, where wines have been produced since 1685. Visitors can enjoy tastings or food pairings of the award-winning wines; tour the Manor House, wine museum and history museum; and dine at one of two restaurants.
Lions, leopards and rhinos
Several game reserves within a three-hour drive of Cape Town allow visitors to see African wildlife in their native habitat. The 25,000-acre Inverdoorn and Aquila reserves each offer half-day safaris on which you may spot all of the "big five" — lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo — as well as cheetahs, giraffes and wildebeests, from open-air vehicles. The Sanbona Reserve is even larger (but a bit farther out), while the Grootbros Reserve specializes in boating safaris that deliver sightings of southern right whales, great white sharks, bottlenose dolphins, African penguins and Cape fur seals.
When to go and how to get around
The first United nonstop flights and South Africa's summer both begin in December. Rain is rare from December to March, when high temperatures are typically in the high seventies, so Cape Town is a perfect warm-weather escape. Once you arrive, Uber, taxis, rental cars (driven on the left side), sightseeing buses and trains and are all convenient transportation options. And oh yeah, South Africans speak English.
If you go
You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for three weekly nonstop flights from New York/Newark to Cape Town beginning December 15, subject to government approval. Redeem MileagePlus® Rewards points to cover your hotel and car.
Chicago's 10 best outdoor bars and restaurants
Don't let its Windy City nickname fool you. During the spring and summer months, Chicago is the perfect destination to enjoy some outdoor fun. And there's no better way to do that than by catching a few rays on one of the city's rooftop bars or restaurant patios. As the weather brightens, here's a guide to Chicago's most exciting outdoor drinking and dining spots.
Located on the roof of the Hoxton hotel, Cabra is one of Chicago's newest rooftop bars and restaurants that is sure to be a busy summer hangout spot. This Peruvian restaurant is colorful and vibrant with a menu filled with reinvented and traditional Peruvian dishes. The open designed dining room is filled with plush seating, bright colors and plants hanging over the bar, giving the restaurant a lively yet relaxing atmosphere.
Offering an elevated view of the Chicago River, this stylish rooftop bar more than lives up to its name. Located on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel, Raised combines a modern industrial aesthetic with all the comforts of a sophisticated hotel bar. The beverage menu includes a wide variety of local microbrews, plus seasonal cocktails served by the glass or decanter for larger groups.
Fun is on tap at Cerise, the playful rooftop bar on the 26th floor of Chicago's Virgin Hotel. Inspired by Japan's popular izakaya gastropubs, this hip lounge features a colorful cocktail menu filled with sparkling spritzers and fruity fizzes. Famed designer Paola Navone helped craft the whimsical decor, making Cerise one of the most Instagrammable bars in the city.
The J. Parker
It's difficult to decide what's most impressive about The J. Parker. From the signature mixed drinks inspired by the flavors of Mexico, Cuba and Spain, to the sharing menu created by award-winning chef Paul Vivant, every aspect of this rooftop bar is worth experiencing. Above all, the bird's eye view of Lake Michigan and Lincoln Park make it truly spectacular.
Located on the 13th floor of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building, Cindy's is one of the most popular spots in the city, and for very good reason. Sporting incredible views of Lake Michigan and Millennium Park, this gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant welcomes patrons with a constantly evolving food and drink menu, including summery treats like boozy popsicles and amaretto ice cream pops.
Can't decide whether to try a rooftop beer garden or a street-level patio? Parlor has you covered either way. With two locations in Chicago, this comfortable pizza bar offers multiple outdoor dining options. On the menu, Parlor has some of the most creative pizzas you'll ever try, like Eggs Benedict (Canadian ham, three eggs, and lemon Hollandaise sauce) and Pork-Q Pie (cherry peppers, BBQ pork, pineapple and smoked mozzarella).
Combining traditional and modern Mexican food with killer margaritas that you can order by the pitcher, El Cid has been a mainstay of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood for more than 15 years. Their outdoor front patio is great for people-watching, while their discrete back patio provides an intimate atmosphere that's perfect for a romantic dinner.
Open on three sides at the back of the restaurant, the private terrace at Gather is a relaxing alternative to the elegant inner dining room. Seating on the terrace is first come, first served, so you might run into an occasional wait. But rest assured, it's well worth it. To help distinguish the space, Executive Chef Ken Carter has crafted a separate menu designed to be shared outdoors.
Chicago carnivores, rejoice! You're in for a treat at this restaurant, bar and butcher shop in the city's Wicker Park neighborhood. The menu is loaded with steaks, chops, burgers and charcuterie, all of which are available to order on the upstairs patio. For a full night's entertainment, check out a live concert in Chop Shop's popular event space after your meal.
With its lush outdoor patio and upscale menu, The Dawson is a place you'll want to return to repeatedly. Tucked away in the River West neighborhood, it's an ideal spot for large groups of friends looking to unwind after a day of exploring the city. The patio includes a full outdoor bar and a fireplace for cooler nights.
If you go
Around the web
An insiders’ tour of Fishtown, Philadelphia
Story by Lauren Itzkowitz | Illustrations by Francesco Zorzi | Hemispheres, May 2019
Named for the shad fisheries that once lined the Delaware River, this working-class Irish, German, and Polish neighborhood has drawn creative types for years. New restaurants and lodging options may be raising Fishtown's profile, but it's still a tight-knit community—as evinced by these six locals, who showed us the area's hot spots.
Cheu Fishtown chef and co-owner Ben Puchowitz recommends…
“Suraya has great healthy lunch options that don't drag you down the rest of the day. It's a beautiful space, and the food is ambitious."
Suraya executive chef and co-owner Nick Kennedy recommends…
“Riverwards Produce is a go-to when my family is planning dinner. I love their produce and cheese—they have what I find myself needing."
Riverwards Produce owner Vincent Finazzo recommends…
“I send people to Vestige to experience a boutique that feels like it's from the desert in California. With jewelry, candles, and a curated body-care section, Vestige transports you to a better place."
Vestige owner Ashley Gleason recommends…
“I like La Colombe [the coffee brand's flagship café] for people-watching and spending a few hours staring into my laptop. They also have the best bread in the city."
La Colombe president and cofounder JP Iberti recommends…
“Wm. Mulherin's Sons is a great place to grab a drink, mostly because a drink always turns into dinner, and Mulherin's offers one of the best meals in Philly. Their hotel is always booked, much like the restaurant."
Wm. Mulherin's Sons co-owner Randall Cook recommends…
“Cheu is great when I'm in the mood for a midday treat. A counter seat at the bar lets you see all the action, the ramen is killer, and the draft beer is ice cold."
The 2019 Hemispheres hotel top 20
Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019
Our annual compendium of the best new hotels in the world takes us from from Rio to ryokan, Savannah to surf club. No matter where you're going, in these pages, you'll find a place where you'll want to stay.
Hotel Amparo San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
For Social Media Influencers
Just in time for its designation as the 2019 American Capital of Culture, San Miguel de Allende—which is practically an artists' colony unto itself—welcomed this five-room hideaway in the 300-year-old former mayor's residence. Thanks to co-owner Mariana Barran Goodall, who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, and runs Houston-based Hibiscus Linens, every tiny detail here is ready for its close-up. It won't take long for you to fill up your Instagram grid with shots of gold room keys, hand-stitched napkins, custom bathroom tiles made by local artisans, and even the coasters.
WE LOVE the flower-filled courtyard, a great place to take a selfie or sit with an espresso from the on-site café, which sources Mexican beans from Buna roasters. From $250, hotelamparo.com
Eastwind Hotel & Bar Windham, New York
For Hip Hikers
For many vacationers, the Catskills conjure images of 1950s summer camp resorts and Dirty Dancing. The Eastwind provides a sleek, Scandinavian-style counterpoint to those Borscht Belt spots of old. Opened last June on the site of a 1920s bunkhouse about 150 miles north of New York City, the 19-room retreat is a perfect jumping-off point for hiking, fly-fishing, and snowshoeing excursions. If you're feeling creative, write a few jokes—these are the stomping grounds of Joan Rivers and Henny Youngman, after all—on a vintage typewriter in one of the writer's studio suites. Or take a load off under a Faribault Woolen Mills plaid throw in one of the spartan-chic A-frame Lushna cabins.
Six Senses Maxwell Singapore
The second of two Six Senses urban resorts to open in the Lion City last year doesn't immediately scream “eco-friendly." The posh 138-room property across from the Maxwell Food Centre occupies a 1929 Art Deco heritage building and exudes Old World opulence with fixtures such as brocade headboards, silk lampshades, and damask velvet chairs. However, befitting its home in Asia's greenest city, the hotel is also home to a series of sustainable touches: reusable glass water bottles, biodegradable cornstarch toothbrushes, locally sourced minibar items, and a restaurant that serves responsibly caught fish.
WE LOVE the traditional ice cream tricycle, from which guests can order free organic ice cream sandwiches (in flavors like durian, red bean, and sweet corn) on soft, colorful bread, kept cold by a solar-powered refrigerator. From $240, sixsenses.com
The Middle House Shanghai
Set just off Shanghai's main shopping street, West Nanjing Road, the newest member of Swire Hotels' House Collective is a polished den of understated glamour, courtesy of Milan-based interior designer Piero Lissoni. The entryway is as heart-stoppingly dramatic as any couture runway show: A 3,760-piece Venetian glass chandelier hangs surrounded by emerald-green, bamboo-patterned tiles. The 111-room hotel, which opened last spring, boasts a nearly 700-work art collection—over half of which is Chinese—loosely inspired by the curatorial theme “I Dream of China."
WE LOVE Caroline Cheng's lobby installation, Prosperity, a black robe covered with 12,000 tiny butterfly figurines crafted in China's porcelain-making capital, Jingdezhen. From $268, themiddlehousehotel.com
Palihotel Seattle Seattle
For Stylish Seafarers
Guests arriving at the check-in desk at the first Palisociety hotel outside of Los Angeles are greeted by a portrait of a raincoat-clad, pipe-smoking sailor—a perfect introduction to the subtly nautical vibe that permeates Seattle's newest hotel, which opened in November one block from the bustling Pike Place Market. The prime location means the seafood (sweet-and-spicy salmon jerky, littleneck clams, local oysters) at the on-site restaurant, The Hart and the Hunter, is always as fresh and invigorating as the Puget Sound views from the landmark 1895 building's upper floors.
WE LOVE The Hart and the Hunter's briny Elliott Bay Gibson, which includes oyster-shell-infused gin, Maldon sea salt, bay leaf olive oil, and a pickled onion. From $175, palisociety.com
Perry Lane Hotel Savannah, Georgia
For Aspiring Southern Belles
Few American cities are better preserved than Savannah, with its centuries-old squares and statues and hanging Spanish moss. Last June, the city's Historic District got a rare new addition, the 167-room Perry Lane Hotel. The Luxury Collection property pays such deep homage to the Hostess City of the South that— aside from a loaner jazz guitar from local luthier Benedetto and an art collection that includes works by 81 artists with ties to the Savannah College of Art and Design—it invented a fictional grande dame named Adelaide Harcourt to help define its aesthetic. (Look for her portrait above the lobby fireplace.)
WE LOVE the polka-dotted Gargoyle Artillery statues at the rooftop bar, Peregrin; you'll keep turning away from the views of the Historic District to consider their Gothic-psychedelic visages. From $187, perrylanehotel.com
Hôtel de Berri Paris
For Art Connoisseurs
The City of Light isn't short on artful luxury accommodations, but how many Parisian palaces look like they were born in a Rodin fever dream? The lobby at this Luxury Collection property, which opened last May just steps from the Champs-Élysées, is scattered with sculpted figures and busts, many of them reproductions from the Louvre's molding workshop. Designer Philippe Renaud gave each of the 40 rooms and 35 suites a unique color scheme and art theme; one might have red-and-yellow-striped walls hung with simple figurative line drawings, while another's matte olive-green walls boast Cubist paintings. No matter the decor, reserve a room with a view of the lush garden.
WE LOVE the Bemelmans Bar–meets–Ralph Steadman mural of Parisian street scenes that wraps around the Michelin-recommended Italian restaurant Le Schiap (named for couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, who once lived at this address). From $445, marriott.com
The Ramble Hotel Denver
Most travelers are happy if their hotel has one great bar; at this new 50-room boutique property, there are four, all of them run by the team behind New York's award-winning cocktail den Death & Co. By night, the grand lobby's sunny café transforms into a swanky lounge with velvet curtains and spangly chandeliers. Hidden upstairs is Suite 6A, an intimate 21-seat bar. A ballroom/venue/theater, Vauxhall, is aimed directly at the surrounding River North Art District's culturati. Finally, outside, under the glow of artist Scott Young's neon Wish You Were Her(e) sign, The Garden serves up patio classics such as Aperol spritzes and mojitos.
WE LOVE that the bartenders are so willing to chat about their favorite unsung ingredients, like a French fortified wine called Pineau des Charentes that's featured in the Black Poodle alongside Irish whiskey, amaro, aloe, and sparkling mineral water. From $209, theramblehotel.com
Skylark Negril Beach Resort Negril, Jamaica
For Boho Beach Bums
In Jamaican slang, to skylark is to goof off, mess around, or make mischief. Ironically, that's an activity that the designers at the impeccable Skylark Negril Beach Resort seem not to have pursued. The sister property to the nearby Rockhouse Hotel opened in June on Seven Mile Beach and pairs modernist touches—geometric breeze-block, whitewashed concrete—with pops of color from retro travel posters and throw pillows emblazoned with a print of the island's favorite fruit, bright-red ackee.
WE LOVE the outpost of NYC restaurant Miss Lily's, which serves up Caribbean rums and jerk favorites smoked over pimento wood to a soundtrack of reggae and dancehall hits. From $95, skylarknegril.com
The Hoxton, Williamsburg Brooklyn
For Digital Nomads
The London-based Hoxton chain brought its trademark combination of high design and low rates to the States last fall, with the debut of this 175-room outpost—a perfect spot for freelancers and creative types who aren't chained to a cubicle (i.e., Brooklynites). You and your laptop will feel at home in your cheerily appointed room, which features a smart wall-mounted desk and a retro Roberts Radio. If you're more productive surrounded by others, head down to the beehive-busy sunken lobby, which is done up in eclectic, sherbet-hued furniture.
WE LOVE procrastinating by perusing the Best of Brooklyn line of locally made products—such as Pintrill pizza slice pins, Brins strawberry vanilla jam, and Sesame Letterpress notecards—for sale in the lobby. From $159, thehoxton.com
Woodlark Hotel Portland, Oregon
For Plant Lovers
It's fitting that the latest hip lodging in a town known as the Rose City would be aimed at green thumbs. Opened in December in side-by-side landmark buildings downtown, the 150-room Woodlark Hotel is decorated with moody black-and-white botanical photos by Imogen Cunningham, while the conservatory-like foyer teems with a greenhouse's worth of potted trees. In this pattern-obsessed city—remember the famous PDX airport carpet?—the guest rooms' custom wallpaper, featuring the sort of native Pacific Northwest flora you'd find in nearby Forest Park, is sure to become iconic.
WE LOVE the artfully composed bouquets for sale at the lobby outpost of Colibri, an elegant flower shop co-owned by James Beard Award–winning chef Naomi Pomeroy. From $125, woodlarkhotel.com
Janeiro Rio de Janeiro
For Sun Seekers
This 53-room hotel in beachside Leblon was opened last fall by fashion designer and Osklen founder Oskar Metsavaht, but its stark, sun-bleached, minimalist aesthetic owes a great deal to another Brazilian Oscar: architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rio-born genius best known for New York City's UN headquarters and Brasília's space-age government buildings. In a city beloved for the ostentatious vibrancy of Carnaval, the Janeiro's sandy earth tones, blond freijo wood, travertine limestone, and sculptural rattan pieces offer an oasis of calm.
WE LOVE the 18th-floor infinity pool, which overlooks the white cliffs of the Cagarras Islands and the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hill). From $288, janeirohotel.rio
United Places Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Australia
Many new hotels tout their live-like-a-local bona fides, but few feel as much like a posh apartment block as this 12-suite bolthole, which opened last June in Melbourne's gallery-filled South Yarra neighborhood. If location is everything, you can't do much better than a property overlooking the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, while suites include all the trappings of a dream flat: rain showers with Le Labo products, oak parquet floors, sleek furnishings from Patricia Urquiola and Grant Featherston, and a bar cart stocked with Tasmania's award-winning Sullivans Cove whiskey. Best of all, each suite comes with personalized concierge service.
WE LOVE the in-room breakfasts from the team downstairs at Matilda 159, an open-fire restaurant serving such creative dishes as sea bream tartare and spanner crab with prawn butter. From $461, unitedplaces.com.au
Shinola Hotel Detroit
For American Artisans
A lot is riding on the shoulders of Shinola, the Detroit-based watchmaker that has become synonymous with the Rust Belt's renaissance. In January, the company got into the hotel game with a 129-room space that sprawls across three new buildings and two downtown landmarks—the former Singer Sewing Machine shop and the T.B. Rayl Co. hardware store. Throughout the property, you'll find products made exclusively for the hotel, such as scented candles with notes of cherry blossom, leather, and smoke, and Shinola-branded cola in the Michigan-centric minibar.
WE LOVE the in-room Runwell desk clocks, scaled-up versions of the first watch the company ever produced. From $255, shinolahotel.com
Belmond Cadogan Hotel London
You'll be inspired to put pen to paper at this reimagined Chelsea property, which opened in February after a flawless $48 million renovation of the 1887 Cadogan Hotel. Oscar Wilde's former pied-à-terre is now part of the Royal Suite, in-room libraries are curated by family-owned John Sandoe Books, and an installation of 600 bronze-cast hardbacks encases the lobby elevator bank. Guests of the 54 rooms and suites are granted a key to Cadogan Place Gardens across the street, where they can sit under a mulberry tree with a notebook and sketch their own picture of Dorian Gray. Need inspiration? One taste of the decadent chicken butter at chef Adam Handling's eponymous restaurant will do the trick.
WE LOVE that reading in the bath is encouraged: The deep Victoria + Albert soaking tubs feature a bamboo bathtub tray complete with a book stand—and a holder for your Champagne flute. From $620, belmond.com
Eaton DC Washington, D.C.
For Social Activists
K Street may be synonymous with D.C. lobbyists, but, as of last September, it's also home to a new hub for budding activists. Katherine Lo—the daughter of the Langham hotel group's chairman—designed her 209-room Eaton DC to inspire the next RBG or AOC at every turn. Tune in to the house radio station, grab a book from the Radical Library (which features works by Roxane Gay and Langston Hughes), or brainstorm with fellow progressives over turmeric lattes at the Kintsugi café. You can even call down to the front desk for a nightstand copy of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
WE LOVE Erik Thor Sandberg's Wonderland-themed lobby mural, Allegory, which replaces Alice with civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an all-white elementary school. From $199, eatonworkshop.com
Noah Surf House Santa Cruz, Portugal
You'll want to learn the Portuguese word for “to chill" (relaxar) before you set foot in this surf-bum paradise, which opened on the Silver Coast, 50 minutes from Lisbon, last July. Its 21 rooms are divided between a central surfhouse that features hostel-style bunk accommodations and 13 boxy bungalows that dot the hilly dunes. There's an inescapably '70s SoCal vibe here, from the beanbag chairs and rope swings to a skate park and an organic garden filled with a small brood of hens.
WE LOVE the upcycled decor, which incorporates traffic signs, old boats, octopus traps, and fishing nets. From $182, noahsurfhouseportugal.com
KAI Sengokuhara Kanagawa, Japan
For Zen Seekers
It's impossible not to relax at Japan's newest onsen (hot spring) resort, which opened last July in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, two hours by train from Tokyo. The art-themed ryokan invites you to slip into a yukata (cotton robe) and then do absolutely nothing—except soak in the milky, mineral-rich water piped from the Owakudani volcanic valley into a communal bathhouse and private guest room soaking tubs. Equally invigorating are 24-year-old chef Akari Sash's inspired kaiseki dinners; with dishes like abalone grilled over nearly 400-degree stones, she'll have you forgetting all about Western-style spa meals.
WE LOVE the tenugui (cotton towel) decorating workshop, which feels like a sophisticated answer to the adult coloring book trend. From $332 per person, including breakfasts and dinners, kai-ryokan.jp
The Carpenter Hotel Austin, Texas
You'll wish you could sign up for a meal plan at this millennially minded hotel, just steps from Zilker Park. Food-world power couple Christina Skogly Knowlton and Andrew Knowlton (the host of Netflix's The Final Table) are behind the offerings at Hot L Coffee and Carpenters Hall, a restaurant located in, yes, a former union hall. Start with huckleberry butter–topped waffles, snack poolside on the best chocolate chip cookies ever, then sip a pear brandy–based Kind Eyes cocktail before a dinner of big-as-your-head chicken schnitzel. The 93 rooms are just as delectable, with custom-designed striped cotton blankets, blue-and-terracotta-tiled bathrooms, and thoughtful, vintage-inspired over-bed lights.
WE LOVE that each room has a terrace, outfitted simply with two folding chairs—the perfect place to sip a surprisingly inexpensive minibar Lone Star at the end of the evening.From $175, carpenterhotel.com
7Pines Resort Ibiza Ibiza, Spain
For Swanky Swimmers
Forget Ibiza's party-hearty reputation: At 7Pines, on the Mediterranean island's quieter west coast, relaxation is key. Guests at the 186-suite property from The Leading Hotels of the World don't need to pack much more than a bathing suit (and a dinner-appropriate outfit or two) because they'll want to spend all day snapping mermaid-inspired Instagram shots along the infinity pool's glass wall. Need a change of scenery? A five-minute walk down a stone staircase leads to secluded Cala Codolar beach, where all the sunbathers look like they stepped out of an Antonioni film. Finish the day with a massage at the Pure Seven Spa, which, of course, has its own pool.
WE LOVE that no matter where you dine—on modern Asian cuisine at The View, prawn tartare at the Cone Club, or piña coladas at the Pershing Yacht Terrace—the Balearic Sea is always in sight. From $448, 7pines.com
Photo Credits: Marcus Jolly (Hotel Amparos); Jordan Layon (Eastwind Hotel); © E Leong (The Middle House);Eric Laignet/Paris Images (Hotel de Berri); Adam Szafranski (The Ramble Hotel) Nicole Franzen (Shinola Hotel); Courtesy of Belmond Cadogen Hotel (Belmond Cadogen Hotel); Adrian Gaut (Eaton DC); Noah Surf House Portugal (Noah Surf House); Akifumi Yamabe (KAI Sengokuhara); Alex Lau (Carpenter Hotel); Tomas Alonso Salvador (7Pines)
The day off: Nashville
Story by Nicolas DeRenzo | Hemispheres May 2019
Music City's burgeoning tech scene is tapping into the Tennessean capital's creative energy with outposts for such brands as Lyft, Postmates, Warby Parker, and Amazon, which is opening a 1 million-square-foot operations center complete with 5,000 jobs. “Silicon Honky Tonk," anyone?
Cafe Roze chef Julia Jaksic named her East Nashville eatery after the Croatian word for “pink," a color that dominates the sunny space. Grab a bar seat and order a cardamom-rose latte and a country ham toast—a slab of sourdough heaped with soft-scrambled eggs, paper-thin Benton's ham, and snowdrifts of parmesan.
Cross the Cumberland River and head to the Tennessee State Museum, which moved into its new $160 million digs last fall. The collection, which covers 13,000 years of area history, features such objects as Andrew Jackson's inauguration hat and a spangly Dolly Parton outfit and guitar.
Hot chicken is a staple here, but Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint makes the case that Nashville is an unsung BBQ town, too. Pitmaster Pat Martin got his start in nearby Nolensville, but his downtown location is a 13,000-square-foot ode to hickory-smoked, Western Tennessee–style whole hog.
Let's face it: You're going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Once you're there, don't skip Hatch Show Print, which moved into the same building in 2013. America's oldest letterpress print shop, which turns 140 this year, has churned out bold concert posters for everyone from Elvis Presley to Kacey Musgraves. Try pressing your own on one of the store's guided tours.
Stroll over to historic Printers Alley to freshen up in your room at the new Bobby Hotel. Stop to greet the staff—in particular, the hotel's mascot, Sasha the rescue dog—and check out lyricist Bernie Taupin's mixed-media artworks in the lobby before heading up to the rooftop lounge, which offers seating in a 1956 Scenicruiser tour bus.
Dinner is at Bastion, former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger's 24-seat spot, which is hidden, speakeasy-style, in a cocktail bar/nacho joint in the Wedgewood-Houston warehouse district. Go for the “Let's Try Everything" tasting menu option, offering a flurry of small plates with deceptively simple names, such as Raw Lamb + Sunflower, Mackerel + Barley, and Apple + Foie Gras.
Back on the east side, duck into a different sort of speakeasy, the Southern outpost of NYC cocktail den Attaboy. There's no menu, so your server will ask you a series of questions, and then, in the words of Grand Ole Opry member Carrie Underwood, let Jesus—or whoever's behind the bar—take the wheel to craft you a perfectly bespoke drink.
Photo Credit: Lisa Diederich Photography (Cafe Roze); courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum (guitar); courtesy of Martin's BBQ (sign); Andrea Behrends (Bastion); CK Photo/courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (vintage posters); Aaron Ingrao (Attaboy)
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.