Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Topeka’s Engaging Gage Park

Doran Rock Garden, Gage Park, Topeka, KansasI had spent enough time indoors in Topeka, Kansas, with visits to the wonderful Kansas Museum of History and to the neo-classic Great Overland Station, and an acrophobic climb up the spiral staircase to the outdoor observation platform at the state capitol, one of the top five capitols in the United States. Now it was time to head outdoors, and I hopped in my rental car to the city’s fantastic Gage Park, where Topekans and visitors of every age can enjoy an entire day outside. Read more about Gage Park >


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Viewing and Creating Art at the World’s Best Glass Museum, in Corning, New York

VasesUpstate New York is often shunted aside by visitors who tend to descend on downstate, on New York City, and unjustifiably so. In this vast expanse I explored the magnificent State Capitol in Albany, had a blast in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, hiked in the gorges in Ithaca, marveled at outstanding architecture in Buffalo, and soaked in Niagara Falls, one of the world’s top five waterfalls. On my way home from this romp around my home state, I made a stop in Corning, a small, charming city of about 12,000 people that means one thing for most of us: glass. Here, glass is far more than just a mirror or your orange juice pitcher. And nobody explains, demonstrates, and shows it better than the Corning Museum of Glass. Read more about it >


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The Best of Baltimore

Giraffe, Maryland ZooClosing in on 300 years since its founding, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, was named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore or the Irish House of Lords. Baltimore Manor was the name of the family’s estate in Ireland, and Baltimore became an anglicization of the more lyrical Baile an Tí Mhóir (Irish for “town of the big house”). This terrifically historic city has given the United States its first paper mill, Catholic diocese, sugar refinery, Sunday newspaper, investment bank, electric refrigerator, public museum, gas streetlights, dental college, commercial ice cream factory, animal welfare association, university press, and city magazine, among dozens of other achievements. An equally long catalog of attractions makes it appealing to visitors of all ages with myriad interests. Read about the top five things to see and do in Baltimore >


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Divinity in Providence

First Uniterian Church of ProvidenceI was attending a conference for editors in downtown Providence, and in between sessions I had ample opportunity to explore this historic American city. Settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, who named it in honor of “God’s merciful Providence,” the capital of Rhode Island has not always been under this divine protection. Through nearly four centuries of history, it has seen catastrophic floods, alarming crime rates, slavery, and cholera outbreaks. But it has also been an industrial powerhouse, one of the richest cities in the United States, the jewelry manufacturing capital of the world, an educational leader with such institutions as Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, and the Rhode Island School of Design, and a beacon for religious tolerance, still acknowledged in street names like Benefit, Benevolent, and Hope. That religious tradition can also be seen in its dozens and dozens of churches. Read about the top five churches in Providence >


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Staying at a Contemporary Hotel in an Old German Colonial Town in Namibia

Luderitz Nest HotelI had come to the coast of southwestern Namibia with one purpose in mind: to visit Kolmanskop, one of the world’s best ghost towns, something I had been yearning to see for a couple of decades. Not to my surprise, it immediately became one of the highlights of my two weeks in this sparsely populated and wonderfully friendly country. And, after spending a few hours roaming around this remnant of a German colonial diamond-mining town, occasionally being stung by the desert sand in this windy location, I was equally happy to head to the hotel that was serving as my accommodations for a couple of nights, Lüderitz Nest Hotel, fewer than 10 miles down the road in the small city of Lüderitz. With its waterside location, wonderful service, and terrific menu in its restaurant, it’s the ideal place to stay. Read more about it >


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Victorian Grandeur in Old Louisville, Kentucky

Old Louisville, KentuckyKentucky was rapidly becoming a state with boundless surprises for me. I fully anticipated the caliber of the bourbon, the excitement of the horse races at Keeneland Race Course (but was shocked by the lack of litter after 8,000 people left following the ninth race), and the beauty of the landscape — flat valleys dotted with horse farms, and cresting and falling hills covered in thick trees. The fantastic quality of the food, however, was eye-opening, and the friendliness of the locals astounded me on a daily basis. One of the biggest surprises was the state’s architectural treasures, especially in Louisville, where I explored the third-largest historic district in the United States, crammed with fantastic homes from the Victorian Era one after the other on peaceful, tree-lined streets. Old Louisville offers a step back in time to a century ago and provides one of the best city walks you’re likely to find in the country. Read more >


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A Good Deed Portrayed in Art Around the World

St. Veronica, National Gallery of Art, Washington DCJuly 12 is the feast day of St. Veronica, one of the most identifiable saints in the Christian canon. Whereas so many saints can be hard to recognize by sight according to their symbols (for example, a lily is associated with at least 10 saints; a book accompanies more than 20), the veil with Jesus’ face is assigned only to Veronica. She was especially revered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but her simple act of kindness — offering to wipe Christ’s face — is just as relevant, and as necessary, today. Throughout the world, she has been portrayed in myriad ways and materials. Read about the top five depictions of St. Veronica >


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Detroit’s Gem of an Office Building

Guardian Building, Detroit, MichiganRich in architecture, teeming with milestones in industry and music, but vexed by crime, corrupt politicians, and a collapsed population and tax base, Detroit, Michigan, is a perplexing place. On the one hand, prospective visitors are put off by its remarkably bad reputation. On the other hand, it’s one of the most intriguing cities in the United States that I’ve ever been to — and without a problem. From my base at the fantastic Inn on Ferry Street, I explored everything this city has to offer — delicious ethnic foods that range from Arabic to Polish, the outstanding Detroit Institute of Arts, the ruins of Brush Park and the decimated automotive industry, and its famed architecture, including one of my favorite skyscrapers in the world, the Guardian Building. Read more about it >


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Kraków’s Divine Churches

Church of the Transfiguration, Krakow, PolandKraków, like most other major cities in Poland, has lived through a tumultuous history. From glory days as the nation’s capital to a widespread conflagration that burned it to the ground, from being shunted aside under the Austrian Empire to resurgent pride when its most famous resident, Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II, from intense air pollution from Soviet-built steelworks to its role as the country’s leading tourist destination, Kraków is a survivor. And, for centuries, its sturdy citizens have steadily found courage and hope in the city’s gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Kraków, Poland >


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Go Take a Hike — in Arkansas

Petit Jean State Park, ArkansasFrom my hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I drove about 70 miles, mostly up Scenic Byway 7, a two-lane, curvy, hilly road flanked by trees that occasionally sweeps through a blink-and-you-miss-it town. My destination was Petit Jean State Park, the oldest state park in Arkansas and one filled with both natural beauty and some pleasant surprises, courtesy of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more >