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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FROM MARRAKECH TO TORONTO, BEHIND SCENES OF LATEST TRAVELS

When I travel, I enjoy giving you a behind-the-scenes look at experiences that help make the trip memorable. What follows are snapshots from my current dash from Marrakech to London to Toronto to Washington, D.C. to Miami.

LATE IRON LEAVES ME STEAMED

Giving the prologue at the Atlantic Dialogues in Marrakech.

Giving the prologue at the Atlantic Dialogues in Marrakech.

I arrived in Marakech on Thursday to attend the Atlantic Dialogues. I was honored to be asked to do the prologue, the opening speech that sets the stage for the discussions to follow. The night before the opening, I asked the hotel for an iron. None came. Fine, I thought, I would use steam the shower to unwrinkle my shirt. It worked. An hour before the speech, I heard a knock on my door. I opened it to find that housekeeping had finally sent the iron. I didn’t really need it but thought what the heck, I should run it over my shirt to give it a crisp look. I untangled the cord and began ironing, my mind mostly on the speech. I felt a sting on my thigh and quickly pulled the iron away. Yep, I had accidentally burned myself. Sometimes, I thought, best to leave well enough alone, as my mom used to say. As I gave the prologue, I could still feel a slight pain in my thigh. Probably explains why some in the audience said later that I was on fire.

CATCHING UP WITH FRIENDS IN MARRAKECH

Karim, left, and Hassan, right. We enjoyed a delicious meal and great conversation in Marrakech.

Karim, left, and Hassan, right. We enjoyed a delicious meal and great conversation in Marrakech.

One of the great delights of travel is visiting with friends around the world. In Marrakech, I had the great pleasure of catching up with my friend Karim. We met on my first visit to Morocco more than five years ago. His family is connected to the family of another good friend, Madhu Metha. At Madhu’s request, Karim showed me around Casablanca. He was a great host and guide. The best part of the visit was dining at Rick’s Cafe, which made me feel for a moment that I was part of a different time. Sam was even at the piano.

I emailed Karim when I arrived in Marrakech to see if he planned to be here for the weekend. I was surprise when he said yes; he had a wedding to attend. We met up a day after the wedding and his brother Hassan joined us. It was great catching up over dinner at the Pacha Complex, a massive compound of restaurants and clubs that he co-owns in Marrakech. Over great wine and food (I had the rabbit) we talked about everything, from Middle East politics to the Florida gubernatorial elections. After dinner, we popped into a few of his other restaurants and the Pacha nightclub. His Churrascaria Marius Brazilian restaurant was incredible: people clapping, dancing on tables. It was quite a show. Dining there next time I’m in Marrakech. I returned to my hotel just in time to get an extra hour of sleep because clocks were being turned back an hour. (See next post).

MARRAKECH HOTEL AND TIME MANAGEMENT

I had problems sleeping most nights. My first morning, I got up in the night and wondered the time, having forgotten to set by watch. I dialed the front desk. “7 minutes to 5,” came the voice on the other end. “7 to 5?” I asked, a bit puzzled. The TV was showing a different time, although I didn’t quite trust it. “Are you sure?” I pressed. He responded with 6:55, which matched what I was seeing on the TV. Of course, that’s far different from 4:53 – although I could have used the extra couple hours of sleep.

 CONNECTING SIR ISAAC NEWTON, FAREED ZAKARIA AND BLOOMBERG’S DAN DOCTOROFF

Sir Isaac Newton. Lived across the street from my hotel in London.

Sir Isaac Newton. Lived across the street from my hotel in London.

Sometimes you see something that makes your jaw drop. That happened Monday morning as I sat for breakfast at the Radisson Blu Edwardian at Leicester Square in London. As I bit into one of the most delicious omelets I’ve ever had, I looked across the street at what a new library building. A historic marker was etched into the side: “SIR ISAAC NEWTON LIVED IN A HOUSE ON THIS SITE. 1710-1727” Wow! I thought. That night, I was to interview Fareed Zakaria and Bloomberg CEO Daniel Doctoroff at the Toronto Global Forum as part of the Executive Club dinner. I had just read on the flight to London (where I spend the night en route Toronto from Marrakech) that Fareed was listed among the 100 great thinkers of our time. I thought I should refer to this somehow in the introducing both men – I’m a big fan of both – to help begin and

Historic marker to Sir Isaac Newton on library in Leicester Square, London.

Historic marker to Sir Isaac Newton on library in Leicester Square, London.

frame the discussion that was to follow. I told the story of spotting the sign and referred to Fareed and Dan as great thinkers of our time. Dan demurred. But after our discussion, I don’t think anyone in the room disagreed with my characterization. They were outstanding. We traveled the world, touching on issues from Brazil to Obama to the Middle East to the European economic crisis to the attack in Ottawa to 911 to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Wish we had more time: wanted to get to Russia and quantitative easing. Next time.