Three Perfect Days: Sydney - United Hub
Hemispheres

Three Perfect Days: Sydney

By The Hub team

Sydney got off to a rough start. The city, named after the British baron who authorized the establishment of a penal colony here in 1788, was inhabited mostly by convicts in its early days—a fact that's still the subject of many Australian jokes. Even so, there was no doubting the splendor of its surroundings.

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Upon entering Sydney Cove, Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales, called it "the finest harbour in all the world," and whether you're looking down on the sailboat-dotted bights from the top of Harbour Bridge or gliding across the water on a ferry, you'd be hard-pressed to argue. You'll also find a city that has blossomed into a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural metropolis, home to 4 million of the world's most open-minded and friendly—not to mention good-looking—people. The novelist Howard Jacobson once wrote that Sydney "flaunted its beauty, so can it be all my fault that i fell for it?" After just one glance, you'll do the same.

Story by Justin Goldman | Photography by Tim Frawley | Hemispheres, March 2018

Day 1

Harbor views from the top of the bridge and the inside of the opera house

The Sydney Harbour Bridge climbs to a peak of 440 feet above the glistening water, but for the adventurous souls who dare to scale one of the world's tallest steel arch bridges—known affectionately to Sydneysiders as The Coathanger—the scary part comes much earlier.

The Sydney Opera House and climbers on the Harbour BridgeThe Sydney Opera House and climbers on the Harbour Bridge

Truth be told, I'm a wreck the entire morning leading up to my scheduled climb. I have to give myself a pep talk before I crawl out of bed at my city center hotel, the QT Sydney, and the tension rises as I sit through breakfast at The Grounds of the City, an Art Deco–inspired restaurant around the corner on bustling George Street, across from the stately Queen Victoria Building. I'm too full of butterflies to be hungry, but I'll need fuel for the climb, so I wolf down a king crab omelet and a flat white (an Aussie latte). I briefly toy with the idea of ordering a nerve-steeling cocktail but decide it might not be a good idea.

Artist Michael Johansson's Past Forward lobby installation at the QT Sydney

It turns out I'm right, because BridgeClimb breathalyzes all of its clients before each ascent. I soon find out why. The first part of the climb is actually a tottering trek across a narrow catwalk, 160 feet above the shore. "It's a bit daunting, but it's not that hard," says my charming climb leader, Amanda. She also notes that an Irish worker fell from this height during construction in the 1920s. He survived, breaking just three ribs, but even clipped to a steel safety cable, I am far from comforted.

Once our group has made it across the catwalk, things get less terrifying. We climb four ladders, then trudge up the bridge's gentle arch. The three-and-a-half-hour climb involves 1,390 steps, and I'm glad I had that omelet by the time I reach the top. I'm also thankful that I faced my fears, because the view is astonishing. Early morning clouds have given way to bright sun, and the view stretches from the top of Hornby Lighthouse at the harbor entrance all the way out to Olympic Park (site of the 2000 Games), 10 miles to the west. The sailboat-inspired Sydney Opera House, a sight so surreal yet so familiar, is behind me. Skyscrapers sprout to the north and south. Eight lanes of morning traffic crawl along the roadway below. It's enough to make me want to do that "king of the world!" thing from Titanic. I can neither confirm nor deny that Amanda snapped a photo of me doing just that.

I could stay up here forever, but there's another party coming up, so down we go. The bridge lands in Sydney's oldest neighborhood, the Rocks. Here, I meet a Tours by Locals guide named Lyndal, who tells me the area's sobriquet dates from the arrival of the British, who settled where they found fresh water flowing into the harbor. "They sailed right into what we now call Circular Quay," says Lyndal, a playful former flight attendant, "and on arrival, Captain Phillip said, 'Military: take the stream. Convicts: to the rocks.'"

"The view makes me want to do that 'king of the world!' thing from Titanic."

From here, Lyndal leads me past the 1841 Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, home to Australia's oldest brewpub, and on to the Big Dig, an excavation site where archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of more than 30 homes and shops dating from the settlement's early days. Some of the artifacts recovered here have amusing stories, such as the porcelain fragments found in Cribbs Lane, discarded by the scorned mistress of a 19th-century philanderer. As Lyndal tells it: "She crashed all her china down the well."

We continue past the Susannah Place Museum, a preserved set of squat brick rowhouses built in 1844, and conclude the tour at First Impressions, a three-sided sandstone sculpture that depicts the convicts, soldiers, and settlers who originally came here. "I always thought I'd go home to Queensland," Lyndal says, surely echoing the thoughts of some of those early immigrants, "but this city has just seduced me."

For lunch, I head into nearby Barangaroo, a harborside neighborhood of towering real estate developments (a massive casino is on the way) and green space. I take a waterfront seat at Cirrus, a new restaurant from Brent Savage, who has been a Chef of the Year in the Good Food Guide (Australia's equivalent to the Michelin guide). The focus here is on sustainable, local seafood, and I fill up on New South Wales oysters, scallop sashimi, swordfish crudo, and fantastic grilled marron (a crustacean somewhere between a lobster and a crayfish in size).

Fighting through a seafood coma, I walk a couple of blocks north to the Barangaroo Reserve. Here, I meet Tim Gray, an Aboriginal Visitors Services guide who's taking me even farther back into Sydney's history with a culture tour dedicated to the area's original inhabitants. Australia's relationship with its indigenous people is fraught, to say the least, but the reserve—named after a female Aboriginal leader whom Gray refers to as "our first freedom fighter"—was created both to honor them and to educate the present-day populace about their lives. Gray leads me along a reconstructed sandstone coastline. On our left, waves lap against the rocks; on our right rises a terraced hillside thick with greenery (the park is home to 83 native species of trees and shrubs).

"We chose native plants to show how the Aboriginal people lived, utilizing plants for food, shelter, and medicine," Gray says. "You can still use them today. The whole of Sydney, with all these plants, is a big pharmaceutical warehouse." He plucks a Port Jackson fig off a tree and hands it to me. Tasty!

"I lean on a rail to watch white-sailed catamarans skim across the water."

Next to the water, Gray points out a large block of sandstone bearing an inscription that looks like the number 101—a recreated Aboriginal carving. Holding his iPad over the stone, he shows me an interactive video of a tribal elder doing the carving. We climb a small hill, schoolchildren rolling in the opposite direction, and stop at a stand of trees, where Gray crushes leaves together to create a paste that kangaroo hunters used to cover their scent. Finally, he breaks out two different kinds of boomerang and explains how they were used for hunting. Do I want to throw one of them? Yes. Do I ask? No.

I thank Gray for the tour and make the short walk back through the Rocks to Circular Quay. The tourist-packed promenade here, which feels a bit like Barcelona's La Rambla without the seediness, takes me along the wharf, where the city's ferry boats decamp for the distant reaches of the harbor, and then around to the opera house, where I stop and lean on a rail to watch white-sailed catamarans skim across the water.

The reconstructed sandstone shoreline at the Barangaroo ReserveThe reconstructed sandstone shoreline at the Barangaroo Reserve

For dinner, I only have to climb the steps of the opera house. Bennelong, named after an 18th-century Aboriginal leader (Barangaroo's husband, actually), may have the most beautiful dining room in the world. I sit at a sloping glass window, beneath a vaulted wooden ceiling that makes me feel as if I'm Jonah and I've just been swallowed by the whale. Outside, the sun sinks behind the bridge and the city lights up, but chef Peter Gilmore's contemporary Australian cuisine refuses to be upstaged by the view. I have Fraser Island spanner crab in a crème-fraîche emulsion, paired with a New South Wales chardonnay; a whole roasted John Dory served on the bone with a Victoria gamay; and for dessert, a sour cherry jam lamington (a play on a traditional Australian cake).

Now that I've had some wine to wet my whistle, I'm ready for a real drink. I walk past the offices, shops, and pubs on George Street before ducking down an unassuming alley and into an unmarked doorway. Down the stairs I enter the Baxter Inn, Sydney's premier whiskey bar; the bottles behind the bar are stacked so high that the white-aproned bartenders need ladders to fill their orders. The list leans toward Scotch, but I can't totally shake my American predilections, so I have a Weller 12-year, a wheated bourbon that can be hard to find even in Kentucky.

Standing at the bar, I realize how much I've been on my feet today, so I trudge back to the QT Sydney. As the elevator doors close, James Brown blares over the speaker: “I feel good!" I do, too, but not as good as I will after I hit the sack.

Day 2

Getting to the heart of Sydney's art scene

Sydneysiders have a different definition of "suburb" from the American one. The inner 'burbs here are less about white picket fences than about creativity and expression. They're also close: Chippendale, the up-and-coming neighborhood I'm off to this morning, is a 10-minute cab ride south of the QT Sydney.

"The space, the staff, the day—hell, this whole country—are so sunny."

On Kensington Street, a pedestrian walkway lined with sparkling new bars and restaurants, I come to the sunny, open-air Concrete Jungle Café. I'm greeted by a pair of tanned and tattooed Aussie chaps, who razz me about my Golden State Warriors hat but quickly bring me a Moroccan mint tea and a Blue Majik Smoothie Bowl (a blend of coconut water, yogurt, blue algae, pineapple, and banana topped with blueberries and granola). Eating like this, I can see why everyone around here is so fit.

The Blue Majik Smoothie Bowl at Concrete Jungle Caf\u00e9The Blue Majik Smoothie Bowl at Concrete Jungle Café

After breakfast, I stroll through Central Park, where vendors sell handicrafts—beach-towel sundresses seem especially Australian—and toddlers wet their feet in a staircase-like fountain. From here, I head down a tree-lined side street to the White Rabbit Gallery, a four-story space that houses on of the world's largest collections of contemporary Chinese art.

Lunch is around the corner at Ester, a contemporary Aussie restaurant (think California cuisine) that opened nearly five years ago and has since won pretty much every food award Sydney has to offer. "Oh, you've come a long way," my waitress says when she learns I'm American. "Let's get a drink in you." (Bless the Aussies.) The tasting menu takes me through fermented potato bread with trout roe and kefir cream, a mini-blood sausage sandwich, wood-fired cauliflower with mint and almond, hanger steak, and some other dishes that come out in such frantic succession I don't write them down. Radiohead and Joy Division play on the sound system, which seems odd given that the space, the blue-aproned staff, the day—hell, this whole country—are so sunny. insert pic after.

I need a walk after the gustation, so I head over to the gritty, LGBT-friendly suburb of Surry Hills. I pass record shops and coffee houses on Crown Street before making a couple of turns down a twisty residential alleyway to Brett Whiteley Studio. Whitely, one of Australia's great contemporary artists, opened a studio here in the 1980s, and it was preserved after his death from an overdose in 1992. The ground floor is scattered with his sculptures and paintings, including the Hieronymus Bosch—esque wall panel Alchemy and nudes that could have come from a twisted Modigliani. ("Apparently he really liked women, beer, and sharks," I overhear a fellow patron saying.) Upstairs is Whiteley's studio, complete with paint-spattered plywood floor and inspiration boards bearing images of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground banana. I think I would have gotten along with this guy.

From here, it's a short cab ride to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, on the edge of the Royal Botanic Garden. The building reminds me of a mullet: business in the front (with a Neoclassical portico), party in the back (a mish-mash of glassy modern extensions). The collection includes works by European masters such as Picasso and Bacon, as well as Asian and Australian artists. I'm particularly drawn to the large, dot-painted landscapes of the Aboriginal artist collective Papunya Tula.

Another cab takes me back to The Old Clare Hotel in Chippendale, where I'm having dinner at the acclaimed modern Australian restaurant Automata. Well-heeled Sydneysiders populate a communal table at the center of the room, which is lit by fixtures made from motorcycle parts. The five-course tasting menu includes delicate white asparagus in a miso sauce; garlicky prawns under a squid-ink-noodle blanket; smoked and grilled with turnip, daikon, and rhubarb; smoked lamb neck with charred eggplant; and a roasted grain parfait for dessert. The red rice sake that's paired with the last dish is so delicious that I chase down my server, a redheaded Michigan expat named Abby, to double-check I have it spelled right: It's a 2015 Ine Mankai from Kyoto's Mukai Shuzo brewery.

I ask Abby where I should go for an after-dinner drink. She looks at the snap-button Western shirt I'm wearing and replies, "You'll fit in at the Shady Pines Saloon." Like the Baxter Inn, the Shady Pines is tucked in an alley, behind an unmarked door, down a flight of stairs (the two bars started Sydney's "small bar" speakeasy trend). Inside, a raucous honky-tonk blues band plays for some shirtless tattooed guys under strings of Christmas lights and an insane—I mean completely insane—taxidermy menagerie: bull, bear, mountain goat, fox skunk, vulture, moose, a cobra dangling from the moose's antlers. This must be what Australians think Nashville is like. I wish they were right, because the Shady Pines would be the best bar in Nashville.

Day 3

Bondi Beach Babylon

I've been in the country for two days now and still haven't felt white sand between my toes—an oversight that needs to be remedied posthaste. Fortunately, it's only a 20-minute cab ride east from the city center until I'm standing at the edge of Bondi Beach, one of the most famous oceanfronts in the world.

Sydney Harbor seen from aboveSydney Harbor seen from above

It's a thing that you're not supposed to go swimming on an empty stomach, right? No? Anyway, I opt for breakfast a couple of blocks up from the beach at Bills, a spacious restaurant filled with boho types tapping on laptops to the tune of Bill Withers's “Lovely Day." I grab a booth and tuck into a breakfast of poached eggs, gravlax, sourdough toast, tomatoes, and avocado, with a berry and coconut yogurt smoothie. The Aussies may be the only people in the world who like smoothies and avocados as much as I do.

Leaving Bills, I spot the endearingly named Gertrude & Alice Cafe Bookstore across the street, so I stop in and pick up a Peter Carey novel to read on the beach. Then I browse the shops on Hall Street and Campbell Parade for supplies, snagging some Billabong board shorts and Havaianas flip-flops at Surfection and a cheesy beach towel, printed with a kangaroo and a surfboard, at a beachside bodega.

No more delay: to the beach! I walk across the impossibly fine-grained sand, past the impossibly toned and tanned bodies (apparently we should all switch to the smoothie and avocado diet), to a spot where I can watch a Brazilian-style beach volleyball game (no hands!) on one side and kids in a surf school falling off waves on the other. The sky is flawless blue, the ideal backdrop for the prop plane doing barrel rolls over the beach. It's less ideal for my New York–in–winter complexion, though. Do they make SPF 5,000?

Apparently, getting sunburned can work up an appetite, so I walk to the southern end of the beach and Bondi Icebergs. Perched on a rock outcrop, Icebergs is home to both a year-round swim club with an oceanside pool and a special-occasion restaurant. I take a window seat in the upstairs bistro, where I watch hardy old men do laps in the pool and surfers catch waves in the sea while I snack on bluefin tuna crudo, followed by Spring Bay mussels in a white wine, tomato, chili, and saffron sauce. I'm feeling so summery that I finish it off with an Aperol spritz.

Refueled, I swap my Havaianas for sneakers and head off on the nearly 4-mile Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. The trail takes me past sandstone walls carved by the waves into undulating forms straight from Dalí's imagination; tide pools crusted with oyster shells; blufftop Waverley Cemetery, where gravestones overgrown with dandelions seem to reach out toward the sea; and Clovelly Bay, an inlet where divers take the plunge. I finish up with a dip at Coogee Beach. The swimmers here don't wade out into the cold water so much as hurl themselves against it, and I follow suit. Brrr!

Catching rays at Bondi BeachCatching rays at Bondi Beach

Once I've dried off—good thing I bought that kangaroo towel!—I cab to the QT Bondi a design-forward beach bum's paradise where I take a nice long nap and an even nicer long shower. Cleaned up, dressed up, and not too sunburned, I hail another taxi and head into Paddington, a hip neighborhood between Bondi and the city center. I'm having dinner at Saint Peter, an award-winning “gill-to-tail" restaurant that experiments with offal and dry-aging—essentially treating fish like meat. The space is narrow, the lighting dim, but the seafood is as bright as the Bondi sun: fresh rock oysters, 13-day-aged broadbill tartare, beautiful sardine fillets in olive oil with a hunk of crusty bread, grilled mahi mahi. I enjoy it all with another spritz, not wanting to let go of the summer feeling.

“I take a window seat at Bondi Icebergs and watch hardy old men do laps in the pool while surfers catch waves in the sea."

After dinner, I feel like a stroll, but I don't make it far. Just a couple of blocks away is The Wine Library, perhaps the city's best wine bar. I pull up a barstool and flip through the tome-like menu before asking the bartender, Andy, for help. He immediately pours me a glass from the bottle of French chenin blanc in his hand. As I take a sip, I notice a familiar song on the radio. “'Waterfalls'?" I ask. Andy shrugs and smiles. “We decided to make it '90s R&B night." It's like they knew I was coming.

And that's the thing, I think, as I taste my way through the list. We may be all the way at the end of the world here, in a sun-kissed, intoxicating fantasyland, but the people make it feel like home. As if on cue, Andy offers me a shot of Fernet, a dram favored by many bartenders in my hometown, San Francisco. “The last Chinese emperor endorsed Fernet," he tells me. “He said if you drink it, you'll live forever, and it'll make you a god." He raises his glass: “So here's to long life and becoming a god."

I'll drink to that.

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Family friendly cities: Summer fun in Seattle

By Bob Cooper

A newly renovated Space Needle, fantastic flight museums and nearby national parks are among the attractions that families visiting Seattle can enjoy on a summer or holiday getaway. Summer is also a good time to visit for the comfortably mild weather — typically in the seventies — and weeks-long Seafair celebration.

Seattle Space Needle and skyline

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Needle of glass

The 605-foot-tall Space Needle has been a leading “point" of interest in Seattle since it sprouted as the futuristic icon of the 1962 World's Fair. The view from atop the landmark tower's elevator ride is now better than ever, with nearly 200 tons of glass added to upper, lower and outer observation levels that permit an unobstructed view in all directions. One floor below is the world's first and only glass rotating observation deck and lounge, with the glass floor revealing a unique downward view of the Needle.

Seattle Center

Riding the Space Needle elevator is only one of many options at Seattle Center, the city's art, museum and entertainment hub. After arriving from downtown on the Seattle Monorail ($1.25-$2.50 per person), you can let the kids indulge their imagination at the Seattle Children's Museum; enjoy sci-fi and pop-music interactive exhibits at the Museum of Pop Culture; or take in the stimulating shows at the planetarium, Laser Dome theater or IMAX theaters at the Pacific Science Center. Not enough? Chihuly Garden and Glass displays homegrown glass artist Dale Chihuly's dazzling creations, and the Artists at Play playground beckons with a 50-foot tube slide and 30-foot climbing tower.

Pike Place Public Market in Seattle

Pike Place Market

Seattle visitors eager to enjoy an authentic experience where the only price of admission is an appetite for food and fun have to fit in a visit to Pike Place Market. At Seattle's most visited venue, newly expanded in 2017, everyone in the family will smile while watching fishmongers toss salmon through the air as street entertainers perform nearby. Food, beverage and craft purveyors sell their wares at more than 500 shops and stalls at the century-old farmers market that overlooks Puget Sound.

Flight of fancy

A 3D theater, flight simulators and the Kids' Flight Zone are indoor highlights of Seattle's Museum of Flight. Just outside is an unrivaled collection of major commercial jets, including the only Concorde on the West Coast, the first Air Force One jet and the first Boeing 747 and 787 Dreamliner. Boeing jets-to-be can be seen north of Seattle at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, the only place in North America where you can watch commercial jets being assembled on a Boeing factory tour.

Mt. Rainer National Park

Mountains, islands and lakes

Visitors renting a car can reach Mt. Rainier National Park, or be on board a ferry bound for the San Juan Islands (where there's a national historic park), in less than two hours. Both are breathtaking family destinations. But there are also many outdoor summer recreational activities available right in Seattle, a city surrounded by water on three sides and home to several lakes. Seattle's zoo is in Woodland Park on Green Lake, where you can rent all sorts of boats. There are also kayak and paddleboard rentals at Lake Union, and great tide pools to explore at Discovery Park on Puget Sound.

Summer celebrations

Seafair is a series of Seattle events that span most of the summer. Surely the loudest is the Seafair Summer 4th festival and fireworks show. Also on the Seafair calendar are big food events, cultural festivals and air-and-boat festivals. Nearly all are free.

If you go

United Airlines offers numerous flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from several U.S. cities. MileagePlus Rewards can help cover your hotel room and rental car once you arrive. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your Pacific Northwest family vacation.

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How to spend 12 days in Italy

By Nick Harper

Home to so many of the world's great works of art, so much of its most historic monuments and such glorious gastronomy, it's little wonder millions of tourists flock to Italy each year.

What's also great about Italy is that it's quick and easy to drive between its key cities. To experience everything the country has to offer would take a lifetime, but give yourself 12 days and you can easily experience five of the country's most iconic cities. Because United flies to and from most of the cities mentioned, it's easy to shorten or extend the trip to suit your time. But here's what we'd suggest for the ultimate 12-day Italian road trip.

The duomo in Milan, Italy at night

2 days in Milan

Touch down in one of the few Italian cities that doesn't appear to be frozen in time. Milan is a more cosmopolitan and cutting-edge affair, befitting the city's status as the capital of finance and fashion. That isn't to say it lacks history — the grand marble Duomo, the masterpiece-packed Pinacoteca di Brera and the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie will sate your historic hunger, the latter housing Milan's most famous mural, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

But this is a city fixed more on the future than the past, one where its history stands side by side with sleek, modern skyscrapers, vibrant bars and cutting-edge hotels. As a result, you can expect a more frenetic pace of life than you'll find further south.

The must eat Risotto alla Milanese con ossobuco — the classic Milanese saffron risotto with braised veal shank is elevated to a silky, smooth masterpiece at Ratanà in Isola.

The must stay Bulgari Milan ($) — a luxurious hotel in the tranquil artists' quarter. Also consider: NYX Milan ($); The Yard Milano ($).

The next leg Milan to Venice is an easy 173 miles, about a three-hour drive. Take the train and it's around two hours 25 minutes from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia.

A canal street in Venice, Italy

3 days in Venice

Venice is La Serenissima — Italy's Most Serene Republic — a city of your imagination and a place beyond your wildest dreams. A treasure trove of glorious art and extraordinary architecture, of 150 canals and almost 400 bridges, you know the city from the photographs, movies and paintings made famous the world over. As you explore Piazza San Marco or take a tour through history down the Grand Canal, so much here seems reassuringly familiar. Yet nothing can prepare you for the for the reality of stepping out from the station to the site of a glittering canal and the dome of San Simeon Piccolo, with Venice's canals and lanes twisting out before you. At that moment, expect your heart to skip a beat as the reality and romance of La Serenissima hit home.

The must eat Fritto Misto — taking full advantage of Venice's lagoon location, this mix of fried fish usually includes squid, shrimp and moeche, a soft-shell crab available only in autumn and spring.

The must stay Aman Venice ($) — 24 luxury suites in a stunning 16th-century Grand Canal palace. Also consider: La Calcina ($); Palazzo Morosini degli Spezieri ($).

The next leg — Venice to Florence is 160 miles and about two hours and 40 minutes away by car. By train, Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze Santa Maria Novella takes two hours and five minutes.

The duomo in Florence, Italy

2 days in Florence

The search for la dolce vita will lead you to Florence, the heart of Tuscany, the cradle of the Renaissance and the most beautiful of all the Italian cities. For art enthusiasts, the city has no equal. Its galleries and museums home to so many of the world's finest examples of Renaissance art, much of it housed at the breathtaking Galleria degli Uffizi. The pink, white and green marble facade of the iconic Duomo, or cathedral, is worth the trip alone — without even stepping foot inside its adjoining museum. But, with so many quirky boutiques, trendy cafés, restaurants and bars, not to mention the beautiful Tuscan countryside close by, there is so much more to the city than its glorious history. Indeed, a single visit will never do it justice.

The must eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina — the city's culinary calling card is a vast slab of T-bone steak rubbed with olive oil, chargrilled, seasoned and served al sangue — bloody.

The must stay Portrait Firenze ($) — central hotel offering luxury and astonishing views. Also consider: BBH Firenze ($); AdAstra ($).

The next leg Florence to Rome is 168 miles away, or three hours by car. If traveling by train, Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Roma Termini takes about 90 minutes.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

3 days in Rome

In existence for more than three millennia, no other city does history quite like Rome, from its classical ruins and places of worship, to the Renaissance palazzo and the Baroque fountains. You can't leave without having seen the Colosseum, the Pantheon, St Peter's Basilica, the Palatino and the artistic treasures of the Vatican museums. There's also the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Museo e Galleria Borghese and far too many others to squeeze in a single visit, so throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee you return.

For all its history, Rome's past blends effortlessly with the present, through the chic boutique stores, the neighborhood trattorias and the vibrant street life that lingers long into the night. The whole city is a stage — and you have a walk-on role.

The must eat Cacio e pepe — one of Rome's most iconic pasta dishes is also one of its simplest: hand-rolled tonnarelli pasta topped with salty pecorino cheese and black pepper, stirred with pasta water to create a smooth, spicy, simple and sumptuous sauce.

The must stay Hotel Eden ($) — magnificently renovated icon hotel, located beside the Spanish steps. Also consider: Nerva Boutique Hotel ($); Hotel Martis Palace ($).

The next leg The drive from Rome to Naples is 140 miles and a little over two hours south. Taking a train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale in one hour and 10 minutes.

Naples and Vesuvius volcano in Italy

2 days in Naples

For the first-time visitor, the sights and noise of Naples can overwhelm the senses. But at its heart lies a charm and vibrancy that has to be experienced at least once in your life. In the city itself you'll unearth a UNESCO-recognized historic core, vast Romanesque piazzas, world-class museums, castles and a labyrinth of ancient lanes hidden beneath the neighborhood washing.

Just a short journey further on lies the ruined city at Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, the brooding volcano that looks down on the city and the Bay of Naples.

The must eat Pizza — in the city of its birth, it's hard to find bad pizza. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele is Naples' original pizzeria, where the options have always been and will always be a Margherita or a Marinara. Chow down on a slice of history.

The must stay Grand Hotel Vesuvio ($) — an understated icon overlooking the Castel dell'Ovo. Also consider: Micalò ($); Hotel Excelsior ($).

The next leg If you have the time, explore the jaw-droppingly beautiful Amalfi Coast or the Bay of Naples' three nearby islands of Capri, Procida and Ischia, the latter made famous by Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. If your time has run out, fly home or on from Naples International Airport.

United now flies from New York/Newark (EWR) to Naples (NAP), in addition to Rome (FCO), Venice (VCE) and Milan (MXP). To explore further, you can also fly to Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Florence, Pisa, Trieste, Turin and Verona with our Star Alliance™ member partner airlines. Book your Italian adventure at united.com or use the United mobile app.

10 essential tips for the solo traveler

By Nick Harper

Are you a solo traveler? The sort of person who wants to head out into the world and experience whatever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like? You're not alone.

Research shows a spike in bookings for solo travelers across almost all age groups in recent years — from baby boomers to millennials. More and more of us want the freedom to travel on our own terms, and more and more of us are turning those dreams into reality.

If you're a first-time solo traveler, you'll feel liberated, but before you head out on your first solo journey, here are 10 things you should know.

Woman traveling by herself


1. You'll come back a better person

Of the many benefits of solo travel is that you'll come back a more confident, independent person, regardless of how confident you were when you set out. When you travel in a group, or even just a pair, you're free to fall back on others and let them decide for you. But when you're traveling solo, every decision is ultimately up to you. And with each decision you make, you'll grow as a person.

2. You need to tell people where you're going

While solo travel isn't unsafe, you won't have anyone to watch your back, or your bags. Give yourself, your friends and your family peace of mind by leaving a copy of your itinerary that includes your flight times, accommodations and anything that helps them keep track of your whereabouts. Then, make another list with international emergency lines, U.S. embassy numbers, toll-free and international numbers for your credit card company, travel insurance documents and anything you might need in an emergency. And before you travel, register your trip with the U.S. State Department's STEP program, so that the local embassy or consulate can assist you if they need to.

Two men traveling together in an airport

3. You don't have to go solo all the way

It's very easy to make friends on a solo vacation, should you choose to. Stay in lodges or hostels rather than hotels and you'll share space with like-minded travelers but be prepared: you probably won't have peace and quiet like you would in a hotel room). If you're up for meeting other solo travelers, choose small group or escorted travel, particularly to destinations that are off-the-beaten-path. Expedition cruises and safaris are two other popular options if you're looking for more social experiences.

4. Buddying up can be good for your budget

Two words send shivers down the spines of solo travelers: single supplement. Since hotels charge by the room — not by the number of people using the room — you'll likely be charged the same rate as two people sharing a room if you book alone. . Try to reserve a single room well in advance, but if you can't do that, check any single supplement charges before you book. You can also ask about a roommate option where you sign up to share a room with another solo traveler, saving money and making a friend.

Man traveling through Kuala Lumpur

5. Choose your destination wisely

The world is your oyster but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. A shorter trip somewhere close to home will give you a good idea of how solo travel works. From there you can work up to bigger adventures. London, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne and Bangkok all rank very highlywith solo travelers from the U.S. And there are plenty of great U.S. destinations, like New York, Seattle, San Diego and Washington, D.C., and lots of great options on a smaller scale, like Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado. Most of those are big, vibrant, bustling cities with enough to keep you entertained around the clock, and each gives you the chance to meet other travelers or explore on your own.

6. You're free to make it up as you go

Solo trips mean every decision you make is up to you and only affects only you. Want to ride a mule deep into the Grand Canyon? You can. Want to spend three days in the Louvre? That's your call. Want to sleep in until midday? Go for it.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of traveling alone is that you can do what you want whenever you want, and you can change your plans at any time. The freedom to make it up as you go is rare in everyday life and it won't last forever, so embrace it while you can.

Man exploring the Grand Canyon

7. You may encounter and defeat a new phobia

Solomangarephobia is the fear of eating alone in public. The dreaded table for one can be the most difficult and awkward part of solo travel, but it doesn't have to be. Seek out a casual cafe rather than a fancy restaurant. Then find a seat at the bar, on a terrace or in a booth, bring a book or your diary and chat to the restaurant staff. And from time to time, you can avoid the awkwardness completely by ordering room service and eating dinner on your bed.

8. You'll learn more by talking to the locals

Travel guide books and apps are great for gaining a better understanding of a place, but they're never as effective as speaking to the locals. An all-night salsa dancing joint in Havana, a secretive speakeasy in Brooklyn, the hands-down best street food in all of Bangkok — nobody knows the local scene like a local. Smile, attempt to say hello in their language, ask questions and you'll end up with a far better experience — and maybe even a friend for life.

9. You'll need a secret stash of cash

Running out of money a long way from home is never fun, but it's even more of a problem if you're all by yourself. To guard against an unexpected emergency, take a $100 bill and tuck it under the sole of your shoe. You might not need it, but if you do, that little piece of paper might just get you out of a scrape.

10. And you'll need to act appropriately

When you're traveling on your own, a little caution goes a long way. Research which neighborhoods are and aren't safe to roam, particularly alone and after dark. If you get lost, avoid standing around poring over maps like an obvious out-of-towner. If you drink, don't drink too much that you can't easily find your way back home. And as cynical as it might sound, keep an open mind but trust no one. The world is a big and beautiful place, but trust your common sense.

Solotravelerworld.com is an excellent resource to find out more.

And wherever you choose to travel, begin your solo trip by booking your flights via united.com or the United mobile app.

Hemispheres

New York City celebrates Stonewall 50

By The Hub team , June 10, 2019

Story by Matthew Wexler | Illustration by Made Up | Hemispheres June 2019

This month, New York City celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots—which sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement—and hosts the first WorldPride event to be held in the U.S. Here, five artists and activists who are participating in the festivities share what Pride means to them.

Melissa Etheridge

Singer-Songwriter

“I grew up in Kansas, and it was the late '70s when I started hearing rumblings of the gay liberation movement. I remember looking at my mom's copy of Life magazine and seeing a photo of women sitting next to each other in a bar. I exploded inside. The LGBTQ community reaches across every ethnicity and every country on earth. WorldPride is a celebration of love and something we still have to fight for. It reminds me of where we were 50 years ago, when we said, 'We're not going to hate ourselves anymore.' It's my honor to create art that reflects what we're going through—the worries, hopes, and dreams of our times."

The Grammy-and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter will headline the WorldPride Closing Ceremony in Times Square (June 30)

Camilo Godoy

Artist

“There's a long history of presenting queerness and eroticism through photography, showing bodies in ways that are beautiful, poetic, and disruptive. Part of my recent project Amigxs appears in the
[current] Brooklyn Museum exhibit and explores the intersection of desire and activism in public space. I think of mentors—artists like Félix González-Torres and David Wojnarowicz—who died because of political inaction during the AIDS crisis. I'm thrilled this exhibit can be a place for people to learn about communities not at the center of our collective narrative."

The Colombian-born artist's work appears in the Brooklyn Museum's Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall (through December 8)

Liz Bouk

Opera Singer

“A lot led up to the moment in 2017 when I looked in the mirror and said, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a man.' After walking in my first Pride March last year with my family, I grabbed a bunch of books about Stonewall to understand how the current transgender movement fits into history. People like Sylvia Rivera, Lou Sullivan, and Marsha P. Johnson
were fearless and gave themselves permission to live their truths. In New York City Opera's Stonewall, I'll be portraying a transgender character created specifically for a transgender singer. I hope people leave celebrating the progress we've made and also feel moved to advocate for change and acceptance of all LGBTQ people."

The mezzo-soprano appears in Stonewall at New York City Opera (June 21–28)

Tommy Hom

Stonewall 50 Director

“I was born and raised in New York City and attended my first Pride event in 1985. My friends brought me to the Village, and I wound up in the middle of the crowd among so many diverse people, thinking, 'I'm not the only one.' I've discovered through my lifetime that we're constantly coming out as we evolve as individuals and as a community. Stonewall is a pivotal point in our history, and this commemoration takes it back to the streets. We should never forget that dancing under starlight or holding hands in public was once an act of rebellion. It's a rallying call, because we're not finished with the fight for equality."

The Stonewall 50 director spearheads a rally at the site of the original uprising, Christopher Street and Waverly Place (June 28)

Gina Yashere

Comedian

“I've never seen myself as an activist—I'm a straight-up entertainer. I fell into comedy by accident when I wrote a skit for a charity talent show, and people were pissing themselves laughing. I thought, 'Oh, this is comedy!' I talk about myself and my life experiences, and so I'm political just by virtue of who I am: a black, female, gay immigrant. I discovered and came to admire people like Wanda Sykes and Whoopi Goldberg, black women making it in the industry against the odds. Let's suspend the doctrine of what we've been fed. See people as people. At the end of the day, we're all just walking hunks of meat."

The British comedian will appear at Levity & Justice for All, a comedy benefit for Project LPAC, at PlayStation Theater (June 25)

Photo Credits: Rob Kim/Wireimage (Etheridge); Courtesy of the artist (Godoy); Sarah Shatz (Bouk); Courtesy of Tommy Hom (Hom); Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic (Yashere)

Denver’s airport in full bloom

By United Airlines , June 07, 2019

With our summer schedule in effect, we set a new record at Denver International Airport today by offering more than 500 daily departures from our Rocky Mountain hub for the first time ever. Since January 1, 2018, we've added 32 new domestic and international routes out of Denver, creating more than 2,600 additional connection opportunities for our customers there. The 500-plus-daily-flights milestone is a result of those efforts, which are all part of our strategy to significantly grow our presence in our mid-continent hubs.

"Denver's record growth symbolizes the investments we're making in our people and our company, both in Denver and throughout our network," said President Scott Kirby. "As we focus on strengthening our mid-continent hubs, our record schedule allows us to provide our customers with a better travel experience by offering more connections and more destinations."

Along with being the airport's largest airline, we are also one of the region's biggest employers and economic drivers. The city is home to our brand-new, state-of-the-art flight training center, the largest single-site flight training center in the world, and we've increased our employee headcount in the area by 970 in recent years. This growth is all about giving our Denver customers unrivaled choice and convenience when it comes to destinations and flight times. Along with that, thanks to our new Denver flight banks, we have increased the number of morning flights available to business customers traveling from Denver to the East and West Coasts, while improving connectivity to Midwest and mountain region destinations.

For more on our Denver operation, see the infographic below.

Denver celebrates record-breaking flight schedule

United in Denver is operating more than 500 daily departures this summer – the largest schedule in our history.

DEN – FLL is the 500th daily flight out of DEN

The historic milestone is a testament to United's commitment to Denver and our overall growth strategy

32 domestic and international routes have been added out of DEN*

Unveiled world's largest single site flight training center *

United's employees are the foundation of our success

Everyone is key to continuing to provide our customers with excellent service while we grow to provide them access to the places they want to go.

970 employees hired in Denver*

Denver is proof that the growth strategy we rolled out in 2018 is working

2,600 new connection opportunities for our customers flying through DEN since last year

Flying our heroes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day

By Matt Adams , June 06, 2019

Over the past several days, on flights out of Washington D.C., Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and others, we had the distinct honor and privilege of welcoming more than two dozen World War II veterans en route to Holland and France, back to the places where many of them fought 75 years ago during the Allied D-Day landings and associated battles.

D-Day veteran pictured with his family before boarding a flight to the 75th anniversary in France

At Los Angeles International Airport, Customer Service Representative Cindy Good, whose uncle, Eric Meissner, took part in the invasion of Normandy, France that began on June 6, 1944 — D-Day — said a few words to the assembled crowd of onlookers who had gathered to see veteran Rudolfo Huereque off before he boarded his flight.

"My mom and family grew up in Austria under Hitler's rule, so if it were not for the Americans and Allied Forces that liberated countries across Europe, I know that I would not be here today," Cindy said. "Many World War II veterans will say 'they didn't do anything,' or 'they were only doing their job.' To those, I will say, 'You did everything… you saved the world.'"

Owing to that debt of gratitude she feels, Cindy works year-round with organizations that arrange for veterans to revisit the former battlefields where they served. Leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, she contacted the airports from which a number of veterans would depart for remembrance trips, working with local employees who ensured the veterans received the hero's welcome they deserve when arriving at the airport.

In a particularly powerful scene at Washington D.C.'s Dulles Airport, a group of the veterans spoke with area high school students before leaving for Europe. As the veterans recounted their experiences, the students listened in intense silence, seeing the war for the first time through the eyes of the men who lived it.

"What was amazing to see is how they expressed no regret, and that they knew it was their duty and honor," said Dulles Airport Managing Director Omar Idris, who led the proceedings alongside members of our United for Veterans business resource group.

Among was 100-year-old Sidney Walton, who served in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II and is one of the oldest surviving veterans of the war. He's been on a mission to visit all 50 states, in addition to battle sites overseas, so that he can tell his story as a living link to a past that is quickly fading as more and more World War II veterans pass away.

At Denver's International Airport, employees and customers paid their respects to Ronald Scharfe, an Iwo Jima veteran, and Leila Morrison, who served on the front lines as a U.S. Army nurse and 2nd lieutenant during the war. We threw them a catered reception at the gate, where they were met with a round of applause, and arranged a water cannon salute as they taxied before takeoff.

"We owe so much to them that this is the least we can do for our 'Greatest Generation' American heroes," said Denver Airport's Customer Service Supervisor Cheryl Searle. "It felt like a Fourth of July parade in small town USA with American flags waving throughout the concourse."

Elsewhere, we had veterans depart from Birmingham, Alabama), San Diego, Las Vegas, Rochester, New York, Little Rock, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Akron/Canton, Ohio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Antonio, Greensboro, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Charlotte, North Carolina and Missoula, Montana.

United captain retraces historic D-Day flight

By Matt Adams , June 06, 2019

They came through the clouds from across the English Channel, dozens of Douglas C-47s in tight formation, just as they had 75 years earlier, when the low hum of their propellers signaled the coming liberation of Europe.

As the squadron soared over the beaches of Normandy in France, a swarm of dark specks suddenly appeared beneath them, silhouetted against the bright sky. Hundreds of men and women wearing period-correct parachutes and World War II uniforms drifted down from the planes toward the original drop zones the Allies used on D-Day in 1944.

Captain Steve Craig pictured with the C-47 aircraft he flew over the beaches of Normandy, France

With the last parachutist clear, the aircraft proceeded eastward to Caen, France. San Francisco-based 787 Captain Steve Craig, who piloted one of the C-47s, looked down upon the rolling green meadows below, where the Battle of Normandy had raged following D-Day, and tried to imagine it as it was all those years ago.

This flight was a dream come true for Steve, an aviation history buff with a keen interest in old warbirds. He earned his chops flying Douglas DC-3s, the civilian version of the C-47, back in the 1980s, transporting crates of fish between Seattle and Anchorage, Alaska, and to hear him tell it, that plane was his first love. Even after joining United as a pilot in 1990, he sat for check rides on the DC-3, and today he is one of perhaps 100 pilots in the United States still qualified to fly the aircraft.

That put him in a unique position when, several months ago, private DC-3 and C-47 owners were finalizing plans for a Normandy flyover commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Hundreds of C-47s had transported thousands of paratroopers from England to Normandy during the invasion, making it the plane most synonymous with D-Day. Now, they needed pilots like Steve so they could fly once more.

The mission was known as Daks Over Normandy, "Dak" being short for "Dakota," which is what the British called the C-47 (in the U.S. it was known as the "Skytrain"). Starting late last month, roughly 30 Daks from around the world converged upon the Duxford Aerodrome, an airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, for a military aircraft show. On the night of June 5, they departed for France, following the same flight path and schedule Allied airmen used on D-Day, arriving over Normandy early on the morning of June 6.

The aircraft Steve flew, tail number N341A, was actually designated as a C-41 during World War II, which was a version of the C-47 modified for VIP travel. It was one of two identical aircraft that U.S. General Henry "Hap" Arnold used as aerial command posts in the theater.

Polished silver aluminum, with a red-and-white tail rudder, it was delivered to U.S. Army Air Command in 1939 and subsequently based at Bolling Army Airfield in Washington, D.C., before serving overseas. Knowing his reputation and experience with this kind of aircraft, the C-41's owner contacted Steve this past February and arranged for him to fly the plane in the Daks Over Normandy event.

Steve's journey started in Oakland, California, where N341A resides, on May 26. It took him seven days, with all the fuel stops, to make the trip to Duxford, where he arrived on June 1. Once there, he had a few days to take care of general maintenance while the aircraft was on display before departing for the historic flight over the channel, the largest single gathering of Dakotas since the war.

ABC News correspondent David Kerley covered the Daks Over Normandy flyover, highlighting the efforts that made it possible. Click here for the video. You can also relive Steve's trip through his blog here.

The ultimate guide to San Francisco's top neighborhoods

By Bob Cooper

Seeing the sights of San Francisco is fun, but once you've been to Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Union Square, the waterfront and the major museums — what's next? Try venturing out to San Francisco's colorful, eclectic neighborhoods for a more authentic experience.

Each major neighborhood is filled with pleasant people-watching, rave-worthy restaurants and a major upcoming festival. And each is within 20 minutes of downtown hotels on foot or by light-rail, streetcar, bus, taxi or ride-share.

Chinatown neighborhood in San Francisco Chinatown

Chinatown

First generation Chinese-Americans have crowded into America's oldest Chinatown for more than a century, so it feels like a slice of China with its hundreds of shops, produce markets, teahouses and restaurants (check out China Live). Visitors should explore Stockton Street and the alleys where locals shop — not just tourist-oriented Grant Avenue.

North Beach

Italian-Americans rebuilt San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire and settled in North Beach, where you can still enjoy pasta and Italian espresso. (Try crazy-fun Stinking Rose, the iconic Caffe Trieste or America's oldest Italian restaurant, Fior d'Italia.) And if you're in town in June, check out the North Beach Festival (June 15-16) and in October, the 151st Italian Heritage Parade (October 13).

The Marina

Marina residents enjoy the city's best Golden Gate Bridge views, and it's the best place by far to watch the Blue Angels perform over the bay during the San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show, presented by none other than United (October 11-13). It's also a bonanza for the upscale shopping and dining — try Pacific Catch or Kaiyo — on two parallel commercial streets: Union Street attracts a well-heeled older crowd and Chestnut Street attracts a livelier and younger crowd.

The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco Castro neighborhood

The Castro

The Castro has been at the heart of LGBTQ culture in the U.S. for 50 years, and the neighborhood is as vibrant as ever. Visitors should stop by the GLBT Museum, enjoy lunch and a chamtini (champagne/martini) at Harvey's — named after "Mayor of Castro Street" Harvey Milk, and catch a classic movie at the Castro Theatre, a 1,400-seat art-deco gem. The Castro is at its liveliest during San Francisco's Pride Parade & Celebration (June 29-30).

People sun bathing at Dolores Park in the Mission District in San Francisco Summer at Dolores Park

The Mission

In the heavily Hispanic Mission District, rapidly gentrifying Valencia Street is just edgy enough to be a favorite of millennials. Taco joints stand alongside fine dining, but affordable, restaurants like Locanda and Al's Place — the least-expensive Michelin-star restaurant in America. Between meals, check out Mission Dolores, the oldest building in the city (1791), and Dolores Park, millennial central on sunny days. Valencia Street teems with 10,000 bookworms during Lit Crawl (October 19), a three-hour circus of 108 readings by authors and poets.

The Haight

Fifty-two years after the Summer of Love, there's still a lot to love about the Haight besides taking a selfie at the famed intersection of Haight and Ashbury. The hippie vibe still lives on even as once-radical concepts like socialism and marijuana use are now more accepted. On the street once prowled by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead are Hippie Thai, the world's largest independent music store, a dazzling Buddhist-merchandise shop and a unique tie-dye shop, Love on Haight.

Fillmore/Japantown

Japantown is the Bay Area's cultural hub for Japanese-Americans and the Fillmore District is a hub of African-American culture. They are side-by-side on Fillmore Street, with the Japan Center Mall the focal point of Japantown and the Fillmore District stretching north along Fillmore. Enjoy Waraku's ramen for lunch or nightly jazz and Italian fare at Zingari. The Fillmore's rich jazz history is celebrated during the Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 6-7) and Japantown's big festival is the Nihonmachi Street Fair (August 4-5).

Conservatory of Flowers in the Golden Gate Bridge Park Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park

Inner Richmond

The predominantly Asian-American Inner Richmond District is the thickest concentration of Asian restaurants in the city outside Chinatown. The 12-block-long buffet line of eateries on Clement Street includes memorable spots like Chili House, where you can enjoy a dim sum lunch between visits to the Conservatory of Flowers and the California Academy of Sciences and De Young museums in nearby Golden Gate Park. Also in the park on October 4-6 is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free, six-stage outdoor concert that draws more than a half-million people.

If you go

A San Francisco visit is a great escape from summer heat or for a fall getaway when the weather is the most pleasant. United offers numerous flights to San Francisco 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 San Francisco vacation.

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