TOP 10 VISITED CITIES OF 2014

On the road in 2014. Thousands of miles and dozens of cities.

On the road in 2014. Thousands of miles and dozens of cities.

Friends often ask what’s my favorite city. It’s usually difficult to name just one. Each city has a flavor all its own and I like each for different reasons. In 2014, I visited almost 50 cities in the U.S. and abroad, traveling more than 140,000 miles. So what were my favorite stops along the way? This was a very difficult exercise (some cities I thought would make the list, didn’t), but I’ve settled on 10 to come up with the World Dispatch Top 10 Visited Cities of 2014. First, a caveat: This is not a list of the 10 best cities in the world; it’s the Top 10 of the ones I visited. Hope you find your favorites here. What’s your Top 10? Leave a message in the comments and follow World Dispatch if you like what you read. Happy trails.

A young boy feeds pigeons at one of the main squares in Bogota.

A young boy feeds pigeons at one of the main squares in Bogota.

10. BOGOTA I had stopped briefly in Bogota in 2013 en route to Cartagena, a city that would have made the list had I visited in 2014. I looked forward to returning to Bogota and was glad I did. Thanks to Jim Wyss, chief of the Miami Herald’s Andean Bureau, the visit surpassed my expectations. Whether touring the Botero Museum, haggling over prices at the flea market, dining at one of its fantastic new restaurants or hanging out in the Candelaria, Bogota’s Latin American flavor made it a must-list.

9. TORONTO I’ve been to Toronto each of the past four years but the city remains fresh. Always something new to discover or an interesting person to meet. Both occurred on my trip last year, including my visit to Casa Loma. Looking forward to returning to both. I visited Montreal for the second time last year and thought it would make the list but Toronto had just that much more, which elevated it over Montreal.

Marrakesh. Old world meets new. Camels grazing at the side of the road.

Marrakesh. Old world meets new. Camels grazing at the side of the road.

8. MARRAKESH After visiting many cities in Morocco, I finally made it to Marrakesh. And it did not disappoint. It’s the old world meeting the new. I still can’t get the images of camels at the side of the road out of my head. I initially thought this fascinating city would make my top 5 but the competition was stiff.

7. LOS ANGELES I live in Miami where downtown is not as vibrant as it can be. So it was refreshing to visit Los Angeles and see so many people walking about downtown. (A protest happening while I was there no doubt contributed to the pedestrian traffic.) Visiting LA can be intoxicating, especially with such close proximity to the playground of the stars. Also, for someone who lives where it’s flat, the mountains were a real treat.

London. Didn't crack the top 5 but still beautiful -- day or night.

London. Didn’t crack the top 5 but still beautiful — day or night.

6. LONDON It pains me not to have London crack the top 5. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love London. I went to school there and have lots of friends there, even some who claim me as family. I visited five times in 2014 but it had lots of competition from other cities.

5. HONG KONG It was great being back in Hong Kong. The scenery is spectacular and the food, even more so. Wandering through the tiny alleys, you never know what you might happen upon – a major anti-government protest or a night market.

4. ISTANBUL What can I say? Istanbul continues to be a city of intrigue after all these years. I would look out my hotel window onto Taksim Square at all hours of the night and see thousands of people walking about. In Istanbul, it seems, there’s no time for sleeping. Makes sense because there’s so much to see and do there.

Traditional ruler arrives for a meeting in Accra accompanied by courtiers.

Traditional ruler arrives for a meeting in Accra accompanied by courtiers.

3. ACCRA My second visit, even stayed at the same hotel (though now under new management). In Accra, the Africa of my high school and college text books came alive on this visit. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out the hotel window to see a traditional ruler arriving for a meeting draped in gold and wearing an intricately woven Kente robe. A courtier held a large umbrella over his head. The scene repeated itself as other leaders arrived. Glad I wasn’t dreaming. Great history. Great culture. Great people.

2. GENEVA My first visit. The weather was a bit cold but perfect. Strolling along Lake Geneva, wandering through art shops in the Old Town, stopping for coffee at an outside shop and sipping it beneath a warm blanket on the square helped to make my stay exceptional.

The beauty that is Cape Town. Table Mountain in the backgroud.

The beauty that is Cape Town. Table Mountain in the backgroud.

1. CAPE TOWN My second visit to Cape Town but no less mesmerizing than the first. It’s a city that continues to burst with possibilities. And it seems to have it all: incredible beauty, friendly people and great food. Stroll along the waterfront, take the cableway to Table Mountain, tour one of the myriad wineries or go dancing in one of its hip nightclubs and you’ll see why this enchanting city scored as the World Dispatch Top Visited City of 2014.

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Crashing the Grand Théâtre de Genève



theatreHow do you crash one of the great theatres of Europe? Here’s how I did it on my recent visit to Switzerland. I was in Geneva in November to attend a press freedom meeting of the International Press Institute, on whose board I sit. When the meeting ended a bit early, I emailed Armando Gonzalez, a soloist with the Geneva Ballet. Armando is a graduate of New World School of the Arts in Miami. I met him earlier this year after the Peter London Global Dance Company invited him to choreograph a piece in honor of my friend Victoria London. He suggested that I look him up if I’m ever in Geneva. He responded to my email, saying that he was about to go on stage in the season’s final production of Casse-Noisette, described as an enchanting fairy tale full of exuberant joy and lyric tenderness. One catch: I had to be at the Grand Théâtre de Genève in a half-hour.

NO TIME TO SPARE

theatre2Fifteen minutes had passed before I saw the email. What to do? Go out for drinks with friends or hustle to the theatre. I grabbed a cab and rushed to the theatre. The show had already started. I asked to purchase a ticket. Not possible, I was told. It had been sold out for weeks. (Armando later said he had planned to take me through the staff entrance.) An usher suggested that I wait for intermission and maybe Armando would answer an email telling him that I was in the lobby. As I waited, I checked out the beautiful lobby, where the production was being shown on a large screen.

Intermission. And no response.

When the bell rang to signal the show was about to resume, the theatre manager walked over to apologize. “Not a single seat is available,” he said.

As we talked, a woman waited patiently to the side with her two kids. I thanked the manager and began to leave. Just then, the woman handed him three tickets. Her children were sleepy, she said, and she was taking them home.

 ‘LUCKY DAY’

Grand Théâtre de Genève.

The manager handed me one of the tickets. “It’s your lucky day!” he said.

An usher came running and asked me to follow her. Up the stairs we ran. My benefactor had great seats: First balcony and slightly to the right of the stage. I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the show. It’s great having Lady Luck as your dance partner!