Sometimes I think about what kind of traveler I am and try to determine my favorite “type” of travel. I always enjoy seeing the Earth’s natural wonders and absolutely love seeing wildlife on my travels. While I have fun on active adventure type trips I also love staying in 5 star resorts or taking advantage of luxury rentals around the world.
Then I realize many of my most memorable travel experiences have happened in the big cities of the world. Cities are so full of energy and unique cultural experiences, and when you visit a famous city you see iconic landmarks at every corner. So, I bring you my five favorite cities around the world.
My first visit to San Francisco I arrived on public transportation and selected a stop using Google maps on my phone that was about two blocks from my hotel. I got off the bus and, suitcase in tow, rounded the corner suddenly faced with the steepest hill I’ve ever seen on a city block. Yes, my hotel was on top of Nob Hill and I had to climb up it on foot with my luggage. That’s what I love about San Francisco. There’s a surprise to behold around every corner. It’s a beautiful city with lovely buildings and unique architecture. There are lots of interesting little neighborhoods and the food options will keep me coming back.
I had high expectations for Rome before I went. The history, the beauty, the food could not possibly live up to my expectations, but Rome in fact blew them away. The ruins of the Ancient Roman Empire there in the middle of the city were awe-inspiring, and the winding streets and open bustling Piazzas were unlike anywhere else I’d been before. I wrote a whole blog post about how blown away I was by the food there and I would go back to Rome just to eat and drink. I’ve only been to Rome once and only for a long weekend, so now I long to go back and also see more of Italy. But I’ll always want to return to the Eternal City.
When I visited Istanbul in 2008 it was my first trip out of North America. This ancient city is such a historical, geographical and cultural crossroads and the city is like a tapestry featuring the best of each of the worlds it borders. It’s part European, part Middle Eastern, part Central Asian, part Ancient Roman and part Ottoman (to name a few) and influences of each of these can be found everywhere. If that weren’t enough, the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people are legendary and getting to know them was a highlight of visiting Turkey. I can’t wait to return and see more of the country, but I will return to Istanbul again and again.
In my opinion no other city in the world has the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro. Impossibly shaped emerald green mountains rise from clear blue water divided by world class white sand beaches. The beautiful people of Rio will be there enjoying the beaches beside the tourists and the sights on the mountain tops are unparalleled. Inland from the beaches Rio has diverse and and distinctive neighborhoods where I had a blast enjoying music, dancing and maybe a caipirinha or two. Each time I visit Rio I feel more safe than before and discover more to love. I fully expect the rest of the world to fall in love with Rio as well during the 2016 Olympics.
I’ve saved the best for last. Despite having visiting exotic cities around the world I believe the greatest city is just a few hours from my home: New York City. The first time I visited New York it felt like a dream because around every turn I found myself in a place that looked familiar from seeing NYC in countless TV shows, movies and photos. Then I scratched beneath the surface a bit and I discovered the distinctive neighborhoods and the friendly residents from all walks of life and corners of the Earth. I discovered the most amazing food and have yet to have a bad meal in New York, the peaceful oasis of Central Park and the beautiful skyline as seen by the Staten Island Ferry or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Plus the city is at the forefront of, seemingly, everything. And although I’ve been to New York many times I will continue to go back again and again because there is always something new to discover and experience.