Three Perfect Days: Houston - United Hub
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Houston

By The Hub team , May 01, 2018

It's easy to think you know Texas—the word is shorthand for longhorns, cowboy boots, dusty trails, and a certain Southern charm. And, to an extent, it's all true: People in Houston do wear large hats sometimes, and few non-Texans can match their ability to rock cowboy boots in business meetings. But in a city whose top industries include energy, aerospace, and medical science, the Lone Star tropes only get you so far. Yes, there will be Tex-Mex and pearl snap shirts. But there will also be groundbreaking art, creative fusion food, and the control center that put humans on the moon. All towns have their contradictions, but few accommodate them as comfortably as this Southern city on the bayou. Everything's bigger in Texas, so there's plenty of room.

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Story by Jacqueline Detwiler | Photography by Shannon O'Hara | Hemispheres, May 2018

Day 1

Exploring Chinatown with a famous chef

Houston is a place of many surprises, the first of which is that the humidity will go right ahead and do your hair for you. By the time I finish drinking coffee on my charming little opera balcony at Hotel ZaZa, which overlooks the city's live oak–lined Museum District, the bayou breeze has worked its magic, leaving my hair with more body than I thought possible. As far as hotel amenities go, I'm all for it.

My first stop this morning is a funky red-brick coffee shop called Blacksmith, for a croissant with crème fraîche and marmalade. I'm also meeting Chris Shepherd, who won the James Beard Best Chef Southwest award in 2014 and runs an ever-shifting restaurant empire on a few blocks of Houston's Montrose neighborhood.

Shepherd enters Blacksmith with so much hand-shaking and back-slapping that he might as well be the mayor. A big man with oversize opinions, he tends to say things like: “The Houston food scene needs to be about more than us. It needs to be about a city united." Diners at his most famous restaurant, Underbelly, leave with a list of local restaurants, farms, grocery stores, and bars that Shepherd recommends they visit before they come back.

“My lips have swollen up as if they've been stung by wasps, and I still can't stop eating."

One of the restaurants Shepherd advocates for is Crawfish & Noodles, a Vietnamese-Cajun joint in Chinatown that was recently featured (along with Shepherd) in David Chang's Netflix documentary series, Ugly Delicious. Shepherd is taking me there to meet chef Trong Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant (the Houston metro area has the third-largest population of Vietnamese in the U.S.) who is making some of the most exciting food in the country right now.

Clams at Crawfish & NoodlesClams at Crawfish & Noodles

At a no-frills table in the back, Shepherd orders us a round of Tsingtao beers, sticky-sweet fish sauce chicken wings, fried salt and pepper blue crabs that we crack open to mine the sweet lump meat, and tender turkey neck with shallots fried so thin and chewy you could mistake them for noodles. Then there are the spicy garlic-butter crawfish, served in a bag that you have to cut open so they tumble out into a bowl alongside a potato or two and a fearsomely spice-slathered cut of corn cob. We rip the tails off and suck the heads in rapturous silence for a few minutes, until we're huffing and sniffling from the pepper. My lips have swollen up as if they've been stung by wasps, and I still can't stop eating.

Chef Chris Shepherd tackles the crustaceans at Crawfish & NoodlesChef Chris Shepherd tackles the crustaceans at Crawfish & Noodles

“Who's got the stones to eat the corn?" Shepherd says with a laugh.

After lunch, he takes me on a tour of the neighborhood, stopping at a shop around the corner, Gio Lua Duc Huong, to pick up what he says is the best Vietnamese bologna in the city. Then he drops me back at Blacksmith, promising to meet up for drinks later.

To make room for dinner, I take a walk through Montrose, wandering streets lined with bars and restaurants and then rows of single-family houses whose porches are festooned with lanterns and whose pickup trucks sit beneath light-laced trees. Blame the weather: Houstonians love a good outdoor space.

About 15 minutes south of Blacksmith I find the Rothko Chapel, a nondenominational reflection space that Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil commissioned from painter Mark Rothko back in 1964. (It opened in 1971.) Inside, benches and meditation pillows face 14 moody Rothko paintings, their brushstrokes uneven enough to suggest hidden realms receding into the distance, like when you put two mirrors across from each other. My favorite is a bluish one that looks like the nitrogen bubbles sinking into a Guinness. I mean, it's also just a plain blue square, of course. Rothkos are confusing.

Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk in front of the Rothko ChapelBarnett Newman's Broken Obelisk in front of the Rothko Chapel

After freshening up at the hotel, I head back to Montrose for dinner at Shepherd's Underbelly. Come July, the space that currently houses the restaurant will have been transformed into his latest venture, a steakhouse called Georgia James, while a smaller, nimbler version of Underbelly, UB Preserv, will have opened down the street, and Shepherd's One Fifth concept restaurant, which offers a new cuisine every year, will switch to Mediterranean. Confused? All you really need to remember is that Underbelly's signature dishes—Korean braised goat and dumplings, cha ca–style fish with turmeric and dill, and crispy market vegetables with caramelized fish sauce, which were inspired by Vietnamese wings like the ones at Crawfish & Noodles—will be available in perpetuity at Shepherd's hipster craft beer bar, Hay Merchant.

A mural in Market Square Park by graffiti artist GONZO247A mural in Market Square Park by graffiti artist GONZO247

After I've eaten, Shepherd returns to join me for a drink at the nearby Anvil Bar & Refuge, a classic cocktail bar with a good-looking clientele, huge windows, and a flea-market Campari sign so cool I'd try to steal it if I could figure out how to get it in the car. Apparently, new bartenders at Anvil have to spend a night making every drink on the house list of 100 cocktails you should have once in your life, and selling them for just $1 apiece.

“Blame the weather: Houstonians
love a good outdoor space."


Tonight's bartender tells us there are going to be two of them tomorrow, which feels a little bit like that classic bar sign, "Free beer yesterday." No matter—I'll gladly pay full price for a cocktail as fun as the Weather Top, which arrives in a tiny coupe glass with a powdered sugar–covered rosemary sprig on top, like Christmas in spring.

Anvil Bar & RefugeAnvil Bar & Refuge

Montrose is an ideal neighborhood for carousing—you can walk from bar to bar, and everyone seems to have the same starry-eyed idea about what nighttime is for. Shepherd and I have drinks. And then more drinks. “I can't believe we're opening three restaurants at the same time, and renovating our house," he says. He claps me on the back, a sign that I have been approved by the de facto mayor of Houston. “We're stupid," he says.

Eventually, I say goodnight and call an Uber to take me back to Hotel ZaZa, where I shout “Goodnight, shiny horse!" to the disco-ball equine standing astride the lobby koi pond, and then crawl, fully clothed, into bed.

Day 2

Getting to the root of "Houston, we have a problem"

OK, I need a donut. Actually, I heard rumors last night about something even better: kolaches, savory stuffed buns that are like a cross between a ham croissant and a King's Hawaiian roll, but with sausage. I decide to get one at Christy's Donuts & Kolaches, a no-nonsense pseudo-diner in Montrose. Under an enormous yellow sign, a few hardcore patrons read the newspaper, powdered sugar on their faces. I order two kolaches: a standard sausage, cheddar, and jalapeño, and a slightly larger one stuffed with boudin—crumbly, heavily spiced Cajun rice sausage. The latter can only be described as revelatory.

The tiny Mercury 9 spacecraftThe tiny Mercury 9 spacecraft

Next, I'm off on a 40-minute drive down to Space Center Houston, the only way you can get into NASA's Johnson Space Center without a chaperone or a government ID. Inside the museum, I turn into an excitable 10-year-old. I touch rocks from the moon and Mars and pretend I'm a superhero. I climb into a replica space shuttle—the Independence—and pretend to press all the buttons. I look at old spacesuits and buy astronaut ice cream and imagine being crammed into the minuscule Mercury 9 spacecraft (about which astronaut John Glenn once said, “You don't climb into the Mercury spacecraft; you put it on.")

An Extravehicular Mobility Unit suit at Space Center HoustonAn Extravehicular Mobility Unit suit at Space Center Houston

Finally, I board a tram for a tour of the actual Johnson Space Center. The first stop is the historic Mission Control Center, which handled the Gemini and Apollo missions (Remember “Houston, we have a problem"?) until it was decommissioned in favor of a modern mission control center in 1995. The man who leads our tour reverently describes the dedication of the team that put humans on the moon using less computer memory than you could stash on a USB stick. It's sobering to learn a fact like that while looking at a room that could be a set in a 1960s period piece. What the heck have I done with all the power in my iPhone?

Next, we pass through the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, where engineers are building a humanoid robot that is so dexterous it can turn a page without ripping it. A young boy leans over to his friend and says what I'm pretty sure everyone else is thinking: “I wish I had a LEGO set of this whole place!"

Inside the replica shuttle IndependenceInside the replica shuttle Independence


"I turn into a 10-year-old, touching rocks from the moon and pretending I'm a superhero."
By the time I leave, I'm starving. Luckily, even from the highway it's impossible to miss the massive wood pavilion that marks Killen's Barbecue. The food here is so good—woody and smoky and wonderfully fattening—that there's a long line of folks waiting to get in. I order tender brisket, smoky pork ribs, tangy collard greens, beef ribs, and mac 'n' cheese so thick and gooey it's practically a solid block.

Buffalo Bayou ParkBuffalo Bayou Park

There's not much one can do after such a lunch, other than fall into a food coma or take a walk. I opt for the latter. Founded in 1986, Buffalo Bayou Park gives visitors a sense of what Houston was like before it was covered in cool restaurants and fancy offices. Surrounding a creek that flows from Katy, Texas, through the River Oaks neighborhood, and down to Galveston Bay, the park is a wild mix of Texas prairie flora, a haunting cistern that dates to 1926, a “lost" pond, and some unexpected wildlife.

The sun is setting when I enter the park, and I soon find myself waiting in a crowd next to a bridge, in the hope that the 250,000 members of the Waugh Drive Bat Colony will wake up and flitter out into the dusk in search of insects. Finally, they emerge, spiraling out in wispy curlicues. A hawk swoops by, trying to catch one, and the crowd makes disappointed “awww" noises when it misses, as if we're watching a football game. But then the hawk succeeds, and tears its prey to smithereens in a tree while everyone watches in horror and fascination. What is this, Yellowstone?

"Buffalo Bayou Park gives visitors a sense of what Houston was like before it was covered in cool restaurants and fancy offices."

The park's underground 1926 cisternThe park's underground 1926 cistern

Bats observed, I drive over to the Marriott Marquis, which towers over the downtown neighborhood of Avenida Houston like a Las Vegas casino. The marble lobby features intersecting arcs of grand chandeliers and fresh floral arrangements. From my corner room, which has almost more windows than walls, I look out onto Discovery Green, a park that hosts concerts and Saturday morning yoga and skating sessions in one of those plastic rinks that are ubiquitous in places with hot climates. I even have a view of the hotel's 530-foot-long neon-blue lazy river, shaped like the state of Texas.

The lazy river at the Marriott MarquisThe lazy river at the Marriott Marquis

Tonight's dinner is at the Marriott's restaurant, Xochi, an ode to Oaxacan food from Houston chef Hugo Ortega, who won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. Ortega grew up in Mexico City, learned to make masa while living on top of a mountain with his grandmother, and worked his way up in the restaurant world starting as a dishwasher. If all that doesn't establish this place's authenticity, the seven-piece mariachi band that's serenading an adorable Latina toddler when I walk in ought to do the trick.

James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo OrtegaJames Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega

I start with a mezcal old fashioned that's so smooth you forget it's mezcal—more like an expensive bourbon that decided to wear a cool hat. Then come the moles, four of them, ranging from a black one that takes two days to cook to a red one made with ants. These are followed by housemade queso fresco served with dollops of black bean and butternut puree, crispy gusanos (worms), and big, round ants, which taste like meaty Rice Krispies. Next comes an order of buttery baked oysters topped with yellow mole and roasted lime, which tastes so good I toy with the idea of moving to Mexico. Dessert is chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate branch with real leaves and flowers, washed down with a rich, creamy hot cocoa frothed tableside with a stick.

A mole dish at XochiA mole dish at Xochi

Do I go to sleep after this feast? Do you have any idea how much caffeine is in fresh hot cocoa? Near the Texas-shaped lazy river is an alluring rectangular fire pit. I grab my book and read a few chapters in the glow of the flames. When the crickets head off to bed, so do I.

"Then come the moles, ranging from a black mole that takes two days to cook to a red one made with ants."

Day 3

Two-stepping from honky-tonk to Heights

From my window, I can see a family playing in the lazy river, and given that I am still full from last night's dinner, I decide to join them, lolling around in the pool like a sea lion until I get hot and retreat inside. The sun! Where have you been all my life?

Sun makes me hungry, so I drive back to Montrose to hit up Goodnight Charlie's, which has just opened up shop for its Sunday High Noon brunch. The place is a hip Texas honky-tonk, and if that sounds like an oxymoron, it's only because so is one of its owners: David Keck, a former opera singer from Vermont who attended Columbia University and Juilliard and came up with the idea to open this place while studying for his Master Sommelier exam. (He's the 149th person in the U.S. to achieve the distinction.) “I'm kind of an obsessive person," Keck tells me as I sit down to eat. (You don't say.) “But country music and bourbon are two things that I feel no obligation to go down the rabbit hole about. I can just enjoy them. So there's something about Goodnight Charlie's that is just about having fun."

Tacos at Goodnight Charlie's

He's right about the fun: The stage is lit by pink and green neon cactus sculptures and a sheet-metal moon with punched-out stars. Behind the bar is a display that includes a 1970s Dolly Parton doll and a taxidermied armadillo holding a Topo Chico mineral water. I order breakfast tacos with chorizo, Yucatan-inspired cochinita pibil tacos with braised pork, and Mexico City–style cheese-steak tacos.

A honky-tonk band at Goodnight Charlie'sA honky-tonk band at Goodnight Charlie's

"There's something about Goodnight Charlie's that is just about having fun."
From here, I drive up to the mellow, tree-lined Heights neighborhood to shop for souvenirs. At the top of some rickety wooden stairs I find Manready Mercantile, a pseudo–hunting lodge that sells flags and shirts and waxed canvas bags and man-scented candles made downstairs. I buy my boyfriend some bourbon-flavored toothpicks and myself a rose-and-musk candle from the $20 bargain bin. “They're working on a new scent, and these are the ones that aren't ready yet," the saleswoman tells me. I sniff. Smells ready to me.

Kitschy wares at Manready MercantileKitschy wares at Manready Mercantile

Down the street, I poke my head into AG Antiques, where, inspired by Hotel ZaZa's disco horse, I gaze longingly at a 4-foot rose-quartz cow skull. I'm pretty sure it won't fit into my carry-on, so I leave it where it is and hope someone reading a major airline magazine will buy it and give it a good home. Just don't tell me about it, or I'll be jealous.

At last, it's time to eat some vegetables, and there is a perfect place for such an activity just down the street. Coltivare reminds me of a rustic Southern wedding reception: Globe lights are strung up across the backyard, which features a woodpile and happy people sitting in circles sipping rosé. There aren't many tables available, but I manage to score a seat in front of the open kitchen, where I can watch the cooks artfully arrange pizzas in a blazing oven. I order buttery bread with chicken liver mousse and a crisp fennel salad with avocado and local citrus, followed by a large bowl of cacio e pepe with tons of Parmesan and olive oil. Olives are a vegetable, right?

“Imagine Houston as a kid who went off to graduate school for mechanical engineering and still refuses to take off his cowboy boots."

To balance out this brush with healthy living, I head out in search of the diviest dive bar in town. I end up at Alice's Tall Texan, which, seated at the intersection of two drab streets, is the kind of place where you'd get an establishing shot of a movie villain as he drives up. Inside, a couple of old-timers tap their feet to an even older jukebox. “What'll it be?" asks the bartender, gesturing to the two taps, both of them Texas-born beers: Lone Star and Shiner. I choose Lone Star, and the bartender delivers it in a frosted chalice the size of my face. I have to use two hands to lift it. “That'll be three dollars," she says. Well, shoot.

I sit there and drink my mammoth three-dollar beer and watch some basketball and marvel at the idea that a place like this could exist down the street from a place like Coltivare. But the wonderful thing about Houston is that you wouldn't even think to question it. The hip and the traditional, the country and the city, the immigrant and the old-timer—they're all equally Houstonian, and sometimes they're all the very same restaurant. Imagine Houston as a kid who went off to graduate school for mechanical engineering but still refuses to take off his cowboy boots. Who wouldn't love a kid like that?

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Travel advisory

What travelers should know about Apple's MacBook Pro 15-inch battery recall

By The Hub team , August 16, 2019

Apple issues recall for batteries in some MacBook Pro laptops

Apple has identified that some of its MacBook Pro Retina display 15-inch computers sold between 2015 and 2017 contain a defective battery that needs to be replaced. Please note that the recall does not impact other 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops or other Mac notebooks. If you do have one of these laptops and are planning to travel, we ask that you power them down before carrying them on board, and they must remain off and unplugged throughout the entirety of the flight.

Helpful tips:

Apple has provided guidance about identifying whether your laptop is subject to the recall. To do so, please visit Apple's recall page for more information and it's also where you can enter your laptop's serial number to determine if your device needs repair.

The safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority. We plan to provide updates and will reach out directly to those with upcoming travel plans.

Hemispheres

The day off: Austin

By The Hub team , August 13, 2019

Story by Ellen Carpenter | Hemispheres August 2019

Austin makes a better case than anyplace for being the next Silicon Valley. Last year, Apple said it would invest $1 billion to build a new campus, and Google is leasing an entire 35-story tower that's currently under construction downtown. Regardless, Austinites are doing everything they can to keep Texas's capital city as weird as ever.

9:00 a.m.

In the Land of the Breakfast Taco, there are many choices. The correct one is Rosita's Al Pastor, a trailer parked in front of a strip-mall bingo hall on East Riverside. Feast on spicy chorizo and migas tacos, with optional salsa that is not optional.

10:00 a.m.

Photo: Dennis Cox/Alamy

Pick up a Pace bike (download the app; rides cost just $1 for every 15 minutes) and pedal the Ann and Roy Butler Bike-and-Hike Trail along Lady Bird Lake. Park on South First and visit Esby, a boutique with breezy linen tops and minimalist leather bags, then pop over to local mainstay Allens Boots on South Congress to make your cowboy dreams come true with a pair of Luccheses.

12:30 a.m.

Photo: Logan Crable

Even cowboys need to eat, so ride another 10 minutes to new Asian smokehouse Loro, the love child of James Beard Award darlings Franklin Barbecue and Uchi. Devour the lunch-only brisket sandwich and the burnt ends–laden candied kettle corn like there's no tomorrow, and wash it all down with a lychee Arnold Palmer.

2:00 p.m.

Trade the bike for a taxi and head over to The Bullock Texas State History Museum. Enjoy galleries covering the fall of the Alamo and the rise of oil production, plus a special exhibit about sci-fi Westerns, Cowboys in Space and Fantastic Worlds. You'll leave with clear eyes and a full heart—and a better understanding of Lone Star pride.

4:30 p.m.

Photo: Chase Daniel

A quick taxi ride gets you back to your digs at The Line, which opened on the enviable corner of Cesar Chavez and Congress in 2018. (Book now for SXSW 2020.) Drop those Luccheses in your bright, minimalist room (you'll love the topographically patterned headboard) and take a dip in the infinity pool overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

7:00 p.m.

Photo: Courtesy of The Line Austin

You're not going far for dinner. Just off the lobby is Top Chef winner Kristen Kish's Arlo Grey, a dimly lit oasis with pale pink walls and white leather banquettes. Start with the luscious burrata, followed by the rabbit and dumplings nestled in an umami-rich broth you'll want to drink.

9:00 p.m.

Photo: Cody Cowan/crc.images

You can't come to Austin and not catch some live music. Cab over to Mohawk, a venerable club with indoor and outdoor stages on Red River Street, near the Capitol. Grab a Shiner Bock at the bar outside, wiggle up to the front, and end your night on a high note.

New United Club opens at Raleigh-Durham Airport

By The Hub team , August 09, 2019

Customers traveling through the Raleigh-Durham International Airport can now partake in a little rest and relaxation along with enjoying local food options and an extensive drink selection at the newest United Club℠. It's the first time in 15 years we've added a new airport location to our United Club network. Located in terminal 2 across from gates D1 and D3, the new club offers customers a customized and relaxing experience.


At 3,800 square feet, the new club offers customers a place to unwind with 93 seats and 53 outlets ensuring your devices are charged and ready for the next leg of your journey. The menu selection was also curated with the cuisine of North Carolina in mind, from the Carolina BBQ with golden cornbread served in the evening to the homestyle biscuits and gravy served in the morning. There is also a Greek Yogurt bar for those looking for a healthier option along with libations served all day at the club's bar.

Hours of operation are from 5:00am to 7:30pm daily.

A seven-night trek through Peru

By Nick Harper

From the Andes to the Amazon and so many points in between, Peru is a land of magical mystery, ancient Incan ruins, lost civilizations and remarkable landscapes. To most first-time visitors, however, it's first and foremost the place where you'll find Machu Picchu. Of course, Peru is much more than that, but the ancient citadel is something you have to see at least once in a lifetime. Unlike many other tourist attractions, it exceeds almost every expectation. You have numerous options to reach the summit, but our recommendation is an easy and almost essential seven-night journey, taking you from touch down in Lima to the summit and back.

Dancers dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing Dancers dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing

Lima for two nights

Your first taste of Peru should be its capital, the "City of Kings." Once little more than a stop-off en route to Machu Picchu, Lima has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. The capital city has been revitalized by new hotels and bars, and it's fueled by museums and galleries that tell the story of a city dating back to 1535. Best of all, Lima has become the gastronomic capital of South America, with two entries inside the top 10 of the coveted World's 50 Best Restaurants list. The cuisine of Lima is inspired by indigenous ingredients, flavors and traditions from every corner of the globe. Stay at the grand, elegant and centrally-located Hilton Miraflores and get your bearings early by taking a half-day Lima Walks tour around the historic center. Then, attempt to get a table at one of those two celebrated restaurants — Central (the world's 6th best) and Maido (the 10th).

After two nights of exploration and glorious gluttony, it's time to depart and fly east.

Plaza de Armas in Cusco Plaza de Armas in Cusco

Cusco for two nights

An hour's flight from Lima lies Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and key stop-off on the way to Machu Picchu. Climbing from Lima to Machu Picchu's near 8,000-foot altitude in one trip will likely bring on altitude sickness, so head to Cusco first. It's 11,000 feet above sea level, giving you the chance to acclimate at leisure as you explore what was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Check in at the historic Marriott hotel, Palacio Del Inka, built in 1438 and once part of the Inca Temple of the Sun. It's located close to the Plaza de Armas, the square at the heart of a very walkable city. Purchase a Boleto Turistico del Cusco pass, which gives you access to most of the historic sites in Cusco and along the Sacred Valley, excluding Machu Picchu. Take the 45-minute walk out to the remarkable Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman that overlook the city, then walk back to Cusco via San Blas, a charming neighborhood full of galleries and boutiques. You'll want to reward yourself for the effort by stopping in at the Museo del Pisco for at least one pisco sour.

Soon enough, your thoughts will turn again to Machu Picchu. It's possible to do a day trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back. It's also possible (and very popular) to trek along the Sacred Valley, taking the classic Inca Trail over five days. But for this vacation, we're suggesting the more leisurely route, first taking a train from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.

The cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo The cobbled streets of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo for one night

Check out early and take a train 90 minutes northwest to "Ollanta," a beautiful small town full of cobbled streets and charming cafes deep in the Sacred Valley — the lush green valley just north of Cusco. Staying in the town will allow you to explore the incredible Inca ruins that dot the surrounding area when many of the other day-tripping tourists have gone. Apu Lodge and Casa de Wow are two excellent options for a brief overnight stay.

Peru train Peru train

Aguas Calientes for one night

From Ollantaytambo, jump back on the train that will take you to Aguas Calientes, the last stop before Machu Picchu. Book at the town's standout hotel, the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, and from there begin your climb up into the clouds — a strenuous 90-minute walk or 25-minute bus ride.

Machu Picchu gets crowded quickly, so make sure you book your tickets via the Ministerio de Cultura's website as far in advance as possible. Basic entry will get you into Machu Picchu's main ruins, terraces and temples. For more elevated views, you'll need to upgrade your ticket to include Montaña Machu Picchu, a mountain with no ruins but fewer crowds, or the smaller Huayna Picchu, where you'll find the ceremonial Temple of the Moon. Staying a night in Aguas Calientes allows you to return to Machu Picchu when it reopens at 6:00 a.m. to see it in a different light, and with less tourists.

After lunch, and perhaps an afternoon at Aguas Calientes' open-air thermal springs, catch the train back to Cusco for the final leg of your journey.

Pisco sour cocktail

Seafood Ceviche

Lima for one night

If time and budget allow, you can keep exploring Peru's other experiences: an Amazon boat cruise, hiking Cañón del Colca or rafting the Urubamba River. Our suggestion is to return to Cusco and fly back to Lima for one final night, purely to remind yourself of the city's standing as South America's gastronomic capital. Eat well once more and sleep in luxury at Hotel B, then fly home with a happy heart.

View of Lima from Miraflores View of Lima from Miraflores

When to visit

Being a large country with many microclimates, there is no right time to visit Peru. However, if your whole journey revolves around Machu Picchu and making sure your photos have clear blue skies and sun-lit ruins, aim to visit between May and October when the weather is at its best. Avoid November through March during the rainy season.


Things to know while visiting

  • Machu Picchu translates as "Old Peak" or "Ancient Mountain," and its ruins were rediscovered in 1911 by the American archeologist Hiram Bingham.
  • The Cerro Blanco in the Sechura Desert is the highest sand dune in the world, measuring 3,860 feet at its summit. It's perfect for sand boarding, and the descent takes four minutes at top speed.
  • Peru is said to be home to more than 3,000 different varieties of potato.
  • Memorize the popular phrase: "Soy mas Peruano que la papa." Translation: "I am more Peruvian than the potato".

United flies to Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), located just west of the city. To find out more or begin your adventure, visit www.united.com or use the United app.

City guide: L.A.'s must-see neighborhoods

By Bob Cooper

Even frequent visitors to Los Angeles rarely visit the city's colorful, energetic neighborhoods. More often than not, they're too busy fighting traffic on the way to Disneyland, the beach cities and L.A.'s other major attractions. But they're missing out on the appeal of the city's unique districts. Angelenos know that these seven in particular — all within a 30-minute drive from downtown — are fun and unique places to experience. Find out for yourself on your next trip to L.A.

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Hollywood Hills sign in L.A. Hollywood Hills sign overlooking L.A.

The Hollywoods

There are four Hollywoods, each with its own flavor. West Hollywood (WeHo) hosts a thriving LGBTQ+ community with countless dance clubs and rooftop bars. North Hollywood's NoHo Arts District features dozens of theaters and galleries, especially on Lankershim Boulevard. Funky and ethnically diverse East Hollywood is home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Barnsdall Art Park. Then there's Hollywood itself, the birthplace of the film industry. It also boasts many theaters, a young and diverse population and attractions like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Museum and Hollywood Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard.

Arts District

Eleven art museums and galleries crowd the trendy, walkable Arts District near downtown L.A., including the Institute of Contemporary Art and the a+d (architecture and design) museum, which both opened since 2015. The district's abandoned warehouses now serve as canvasses for dozens of murals. Inside, there are artists' lofts, coffeehouses, restaurants, wine bars, distilleries and ROW DTLA, a former apparel factory now bursting with restaurants and specialty shops.

Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, L.A. Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo

L.A.'s Chinatown has appeared in more movies and Koreatown is more populous, but Little Tokyo is the most visitor-friendly of the three downtown-area neighborhoods in L.A. once dominated by Asian immigrants. Although the percentage of Asian-American residents in Little Tokyo has shrunk to 40 percent, it's still America's largest "Japantown" and the city's cultural hub for Japanese-Americans. Discover why on First and Second Streets, home to many Japanese restaurants and shops housed in century-old buildings, and at the Japanese Village Plaza mall and Japanese American National Museum.

Silver Lake

Forbes has called it L.A.'s hippest neighborhood, but Silver Lake has more to offer than the chic-funky shops where Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards converge. One block apart on Sunset, for example, you'll find one of L.A.'s best coffee bars (Intelligentsia) and gelaterias (Pazzo Gelato). Both are open late, so after browsing shops that sell everything a hipster needs, from surf-shop fashions to sassy sunglasses, you can get your caffeine or sugar fix at those spots before hitting The Black Cat for a craft cocktail.

Shopping and eating at the Grove farmers market Shopping and eating at The Grove

Fairfax

Only New York City and Jerusalem have larger Jewish populations than L.A., and "Fairfax Village" — named for the commercial strip along Fairfax Avenue — is the city's historic center of Jewish culture. This includes the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and Jewish/Israeli eateries that include a deli, bakery, bagelry, café and market. Also noteworthy in the district are L.A.'s original Farmers Market (open daily) and The Grove, an outdoor retail and entertainment complex. Young visitors favor the district's numerous streetwear and skate shops.

Highland Park

Highland Park, a neighborhood between downtown L.A. and Pasadena, is filled with stately Victorians and Craftsman homes, gastropubs and galleries, nightspots and artisan-pizza spots and a new marionette theater along York Boulevard and Figueroa Street. Then there's Highland Park Bowl, L.A.'s oldest bowling alley. The place, which opened in 1927, was recently transformed into one of America's classiest spots to roll a strike, with leather couches, chandeliers, wood-fired pizza and live music on most nights.

Westwood

Young travelers — and those who want to feel young again — must visit L.A.'s leading "college town," even though Westwood is only a district (not a town) and UCLA isn't even within its boundaries. It's right next to campus, though, and on weekend nights it seems that the entire student population of 45,000 fills the restaurants, pubs and shops on Westwood Boulevard. Even if you don't catch a play at Westwood's landmark Geffen Playhouse, you can choose among more than 1,000 annual events at UCLA.

If you go

L.A. boasts mild weather year-round — heat waves and rainstorms are rare — so anytime is a good time to visit. United Airlines offers numerous flights to Los Angeles from cities throughout the U.S. and worldwide. MileagePlus® Rewards can help pay for your hotel room. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your L.A. getaway.

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MileagePlus members can now enroll in CLEAR with discounted pricing

By The Hub team , July 29, 2019

Starting July 29, United MileagePlus® members will have the opportunity to enroll in the CLEAR®program as part of a discount offered to all members.

CLEAR allows travelers the ability to get through security faster by using biometrics to confirm your identity instead of traditional ID documents. Once you're at a CLEAR pod, biometric identifiers such as your eyes and fingertips are used to verify your identity to expedite entry into airports and other venues. CLEAR's platform is SAFETY Act Certified by the Department of Homeland Security.

CLEAR is currently available at 30+ airports with Newark Liberty International Airport and Houston George Bush International Airport coming later this summer. We are working with CLEAR and airport authorities to expand to other key locations including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in the coming months. You can also find CLEAR at a number of major stadiums and venues across the U.S with new locations being added throughout the year.

United MileagePlus members interested in CLEAR can begin their enrollment online at clearme.com/united. To complete your CLEAR enrollment, please visit a CLEAR checkpoint for a 5-minute, one time collection of your fingerprints, iris and photo. Once enrollment is completed, CLEAR members can access the program anywhere they see a CLEAR pod. A full list of CLEAR locations can be found here: https://www.clearme.com/where-we-are.

See the chart below for discounted member rates. The non-discounted rate for CLEAR is $179.

Member status

Annual cost

Premier 1K® members

Free

Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Premier Silver and U.S. Credit Cardmembers

$109

MileagePlus members

$119


For more information on our CLEAR partnership, visit united.com/clear.

Roaming around Roma

By The Hub team , July 25, 2019

Each week we 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 Los Angeles Flight Attendant Kimberly Atkins

As a flight attendant, I have mastered the art of visiting a city in 24 hours. However, there are some cities where it would take a lifetime of exploration to truly see it all. Rome, the Eternal City, is definitely one of those. Here are my Rome essentials, 24-hour tips, and the best way to conquer the Roman Empire in the shortest amount of time.

My husband Marco was born and raised in Rome, and we met on the Roma-Firenze Eurostar train when I was living in Italy right after college. I then became a flight attendant and worked as an onboard Italian language speaker from 2008-2014. In that time, I commuted to Rome from my base in Washington, D.C. I've spent countless hours wandering the streets of this magical city, exploring hidden alleyways and major tourist attractions and hunting down special works of art tucked in the corners of old churches. Rome, to me, is enchanting. And, while we will probably never get to see it all, here is my favorite game plan to explore La Cittá Eterna.

Safety

First things first, leave the expensive jewelry at home, and watch your pockets. Violent crime isn't prevalent in Rome, but pickpocketing is huge, so watch your purse, backpack and pockets, especially in crowded areas and on public transit. That being said, I feel very safe walking around the historic center of the city at most times of day and night, but when I'm alone I try to stick to well-lit, populated areas. Avoid walking around the Termini train station area at night, and, if you have to, watch yourself, and maybe opt for a cab.

How to get there

When we go to Rome, we fly directly into Rome from Chicago, Newark or Washington D.C.'s Dulles Airport. If you aren't familiar with driving in the madness of Bella Roma, and you don't absolutely need a car, then avoid renting one and go with public transit. The public transit is incredible in Italy, and everything is fairly well connected. Also, taxis and Uber are reasonably priced and available at all hours of the day and night.

Hotel Romanico Palace and Spa

On this trip we had the pleasure of staying at the Hotel Romanico Palace and Spa. The hotel is in the city center, about a 40 to 60-minute drive from the airport. If you have a car, the staff at Hotel Romanico were extremely helpful and informative with parking options. The lobby and lobby bar are beautiful with a great selection of fairly priced drinks and a glass window in the floor that showcases some ancient Roman ruins. Just below the lobby level, the hotel is equipped with a small gym with all the essentials (free to use during your stay) and a beautiful spa — a little oasis in the center of a bustling city. They've recreated the atmosphere of ancient Roman thermal baths, and you can't help but relax and feel like royalty in this spa. After a few days running around the city seeing all the sites, this spa is the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

The rooms at the Hotel Romanico Palace are the stuff of dreams — decorated in palatial Italian decor, some more classic, some more modern. Ours was an end room with classic Roman Palace decor and a huge bathroom equipped with a jacuzzi tub, WC and bidet, and a three-way shower that felt like a luxurious, ancient Roman bath. Not only did the shower have a traditional shower head and rain shower but a travertine waterfall that cascaded out of the ceiling and onto a marble throne (bonus waterfall shoulder massage). It was pure magic. If you're interested, they also have themed rooms and suites.

Recommended walking tour

There are an infinite number of ways to explore this city… so, by all means, plan the route that works best for you. This route just happens to be my favorite, and Hotel Romanico is the perfect starting point.

For our first stop, set your sights on the Spanish Steps. Piazza di Spagna is a 15-min stroll from the Hotel Romanico. Turn right out of the hotel to start your walk and hang a left on Via Vittorio Veneto. You'll pass by the American Embassy and Piazza Barberini on your way. If you're ready for a snack, my favorite forno is along your route. A forno or oven in Italian, is basically just an old-school bakery that sells simple but incredibly delicious breads, pizzas, focaccia, baked goods and occasionally other snacks like arancini (a breaded and stuffed risotto ball of yumminess). A traditional forno is affordable, quick and very popular with the locals.

Piazza di Spagna, The Spanish Steps

When you get to the Spanish Steps (named for the Embassy of Spain located in the Piazza), be sure to check out the church at the top of the steps, the famed Trinità dei Monti. Walk down the iconic steps to the boat-shaped Fountain of the Barcaccia, and snap some epic pictures of the fountain built by the famous Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his father Pietro Bernini. The water in the fountain is supplied by an ancient Roman aqueduct from 19 BC. Legend has it that the Tiber river had an epic overflow in 1598 and carried an adrift boat to the center of this Piazza. That boat inspired Bernini's design. The Shelly/Keats house is also in the Piazza on the east side of the steps.

Head down Via Dei Condotti where you can window shop the best of high fashion and luxury stores like Dior, Bulgari and Ferragamo. If you need an espresso, check out Antica Cafe Greco, a favorite of expat poets and writers like Keats and Byron. Start heading to the east (your left), and follow the signs for your next stop, the Fontana di Trevi.

Fontana di Trevi, The Trevi Fountain

This breathtaking and world-famous fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. Built in 1762 and designed by Roman sculptor Nicola Salvi, it has been featured in numerous films, including Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" where Silvia and Marcello go for a jaunt in the fountain. WARNING: Don't follow Silvia's lead…it is strictly forbidden to dangle your feet or hands in the sparkling, crystal-clear water.

The travertine used to construct the fountain comes from nearby Tivoli, an incredible place to go for a day trip if time allows. Be sure to throw coins into the fountain. The proper way is to hold the coin in your right hand and throw it over the left shoulder. Legend says you should always throw three coins… the first to return to Rome, the second to bring you love, and the third to ensure marriage. An estimated €1.4 million is thrown into the fountain every year. The money from the fountain is donated to subsidize a supermarket for the city's needy. Good job, Roma.

Once you've thrown your coins, follow the signs toward your next stop: Il Pantheon.

The Pantheon

Enjoy the winding cobblestone streets lined with charming shops, gelaterias and street performers. When you come into the Piazza della Rotonda, you can't miss the impressive church built in circa 113 AD. It was built on the site of an earlier pagan temple originally commissioned by Emperor Augustus in 27 BC. The Pantheon is most famous for its large hole at the center of the dome, and it is still to this day the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. This building is even more special, because it is one of the only ancient buildings in Rome that has been in continuous use throughout history, so it is perfectly preserved. It is absolutely breathtaking and free to enter, so go in and enjoy. When you're done, head on over to Piazza Navona.

Piazza Navona

Just 5 minutes from the Pantheon, you'll find one of the most famous piazzas in Rome. Used by the ancient Romans as a stadium, and flooded to recreate "show" naval battles, Piazza Navona is now home to street artists and musicians.

During the Christmas season, it's a must see for its specialty Christmas Market. The focal point of this long, oval piazza is the central Fountain of the Four rivers, representing four of the largest rivers of the four major continents; the Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia) and the Plata (America). It was built in 1651 by none other than the famous Roman sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who won the commission of the fountain in a design competition. Enjoy the live music and art as you walk around the piazza. Don't miss the smaller fountains on either end of the piazza, the Museo di Roma, and the church of Saint Agnes.

Campo de Fiori

Campo de Fiori, literally meaning "field of flowers," is exactly what this piazza was in the Middle Ages. Today it is a bustling piazza with a daily farmers market that has everything you could need from fresh fruits and veggies to specialty pastas and spice mixes, fresh pressed juices, souvenirs and even gourmet Italian truffle products. At night this is one of the more popular and rowdy piazzas for aperitivi (happy hour) and nightcaps.

If you head out the back end of the piazza down Via dei Giubbonari, you can enjoy the numerous Italian shoe shops and clothing stores on this quaint street. And don't forget to hang a right on Via dell'Arco del Monte to head toward Ponte Sisto and Trastevere.

Trastevere

Trastevere literally means "across the Tiber," and while crossing the Tiber River, or Il Tevere, you'll be walking across Ponte Sisto. This famous walking bridge was built in the 1470s and is a favorite spot for more alternative musicians. The views from the bridge are gorgeous, and you can even catch a glimpse of the glowing Vatican dome to your right as you cross the bridge.

You'll be entering Trastevere through Piazza Trilussa, a popular evening hangout. You'll find young Italians and international students meeting up here and occasionally enjoying a drink on the steps of the popular piazza. Head into Trastevere, and just get lost. This Bohemian wonderland has maintained so much of the character and soul of Rome. Ancient homes and apartments line the tiny, winding cobblestones streets that are packed with amazing cafes, bars, restaurants and pizzerias at every turn. Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere holds the namesake church that dates back to the year 340. This is definitely the part of town to put away your map and wander, and just enjoy the dolce vita.

We've come to the end of today's roaming. Trastevere is where I leave you. If I'm in town, you can probably find me sipping on a Campari Spritz at Caffè della Scala or having a traditional Roman Tonarelli al Cacio e Pepe (handmade egg pasta with a simple but decadent dressing of Pecorino Romano and black pepper) at Osteria da Otello. From here, you're a 20-minute cab ride or a 25-minute bus ride back to the Hotel Romanico. If you're up for an after-dinner stroll, head up the river and check out the Vatican illuminated at night.

When you're ready to keep exploring the city, I've got a few more tips, recommended restaurants and day trips on my blog, Kimmie Flies.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure, and have a great time roaming around Roma.

Mission Space City: Accomplished

By The Hub team , July 23, 2019

"Houston," the first word spoken from the surface of the moon by astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969. It is also the place nicknamed "Space City" and where we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

The festivities began at Newark International Airport early Wednesday morning, where customers on Flight 355, our celebratory Space City flight to Houston, were surprised to walk up to a lively and decorated gate. For customer Rosemary Herron, the surprise was particularly special. Her father was part of the team that assembled Apollo 11's lunar module. "What are the chances that I'd be on this flight?!" Mrs. Herron exclaimed. "I feel like my father is with me today." Customers were also thrilled to learn they'd be flying with two special guests, former NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Kevin Ford, who is now a United Boeing 767/757 First Officer in Houston.

"I was nine years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and I remember the first steps they took. I thought, 'Wow, what a cool job! I'd love to be an astronaut,'" said Peggy. "It's really meaningful to me to be here today to commemorate that time. As we celebrate the anniversary, it's important to look back at the impact and the innovations that space has had on our society… it changed the way we live."

The celebrations continued onto the flight where customers found goodie bags on their seats, enjoyed space ice cream and participated in a trivia contest. NASA enthusiasts Flight Dispatcher Courtney Schaaf and Houston-based Ramp Service Employee Michael Caldwell jumped at the opportunity to be on the flight when they learned about United's commemorative event. "As a young kid, I was inspired by watching the moon landing, and I've enjoyed following anything to do with the space program ever since," said Michael. "When I saw that United was putting on this flight, I immediately jumped on it and bought a ticket so that I could be a part of it."Upon landing in Houston, the flight was met with a water cannon salute, which wowed both customers on the flight and ones looking on from the concourse.

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