Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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A Decade of Fine Dining at Capistrano in Valletta, Malta

On my first night in Valletta as a Maltese culinary abecedarian, I devoured a three-hour, eight-course dinner at Legligin Wine Bar. Instantly hooked on Maltese food, I spent the next week eating my way through this small country that’s big on flavors. And it didn’t get much better than at Capistrano, where, over the course of the past 10 years, the flawless quality and presentation of the food has been expertly paired with the sharp, perfectly paced service and an attractive décor. Read more >

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The Best Buildings in Calgary, Alberta

Alberta Hotel Building, Calgary, AlbertaFrom the vantage point in Crescent Heights, the Bow River wended its way before me on a glorious autumn day. The trees on Prince Island were ablaze in yellow leaves, and across the river, the entire skyline of Canada’s fourth-largest city stretched out from east to west. This is a striking site on a macro level, but short of the Calgary Tower, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the individual skyscrapers. Hidden among them, however, are some noteworthy, historic, and positively lovely edifices. Read more about the top five buildings in Calgary >


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War: What Is It Bad For? Images at War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some people may argue that we live in safer times, that the occurrence of war is less frequent than only a century ago, and that the seemingly endless stream of violence that inundates us is really the result, not of actual rising numbers of belligerent actions, but of manipulative media executives and lightning-fast technology that brings the latest flare-ups into our homes immediately. Others say the world has become alarmingly dangerous, that no safe place exists, and that today’s headlines verify it all: North Korea’s aggressive saber-rattling, an unstable and benighted U.S. president constantly vomiting warlike rhetoric, sanguinary Islamist extremists happily murdering everyone, from senior citizens to infants to themselves, without a second thought.

What does all this have to do with travel? Quite a bit: It has closed off entire countries to us, has put us at unease in even “safe” locations, and has lengthened security queue times everywhere, from airports to museums to arenas. Fortunately, many of us will never experience war firsthand. But if you want a good look at its endless ramifications, War Photo Limited, a fantastic little museum in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is one place where you can experience it — safely — through the work of talented individuals with cameras, an instinctive sense of timing, and a touch of luck. The gripping and disturbing images on display will haunt you, but they will also make you appreciate everything that you have. Read more >


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Leunig’s Bistro & Café: “The Panache of Paris and the Value of Vermont”

Conceived of by an architecture student, Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont, brought a touch of Europe to New England. This brick-paved pedestrian-only strip in the heart of the city draws about three million visitors annually to its shops and restaurants, fairs and festivals. At the center of it stands Leunig’s Bistro & Café, a Parisian-style eatery that opened in 1980 with an espresso machine and strains of Edith Piaf, and that has evolved into one of the city’s finest restaurants. Read more >


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Stunning Nature Within the City: Beautiful Banff

Banff, AlbertaThere are very few places I’ve visited where I could step out of a shop or restaurant in the middle of a town and almost immediately enter a forest. The Irish city of Killarney is one of them, with Killarney National Park at its doorstep. Banff is another. This astoundingly attractive town within the boundaries of Banff National Park in Alberta boasts a spectacular setting in the Canadian Rockies that you can easily explore without ever getting into your car. Read more >


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Skeletons and Skulls That Will Keep You Up All Night

St. Peter in Chains, Rome, ItalyAs Halloween approaches, children — and more than a few adults — are deciding on their costume for this spooky holiday of ghosts, goblins, candy, and horror flicks. Skeletons have always been a staple costume, whether it’s a glow-in-the-dark bodysuit variety or a mask or makeup job largely hidden by an oversized hood on a Grim Reaper outfit. As for the other 364 days of the year, real ones have long been put on display for the devout to revere, and fake ones for Mexican communities to celebrate on the Day of the Dead. Skeletons and skulls have been depicted in art or gravestones for centuries as a symbol of our finite time on earth, fighting a guaranteed losing battle against the sand hourglass. They could be positively frightening (say, in the promotional poster for the movie Evil Dead 2) or rather amusing (as in a Scooby-Doo episode). However you react to them, they invariably promise the same denouement: The end is always near. Read more about the top five skeletons and skulls in the world >


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Miami’s Nod to Great Tuscan Food

I had already enjoyed an excellent Cuban meal at Havana 1957 and a wonderful Argentinean dinner at PM Buenos Aires just a few blocks away from my hotel in the Brickell area of Miami, Florida. As I scoured the same neighborhood for another restaurant the next night, I found myself in Mary Brickell Village, a little collection of shops and dining options a couple of blocks south of the Miami River. Every restaurant seemed to be playing music, loudly, but pumping house beats were not exactly conducive to the pleasant meal that I was searching for. So I found the quietest of the group, upscale Toscana Divino, and serendipitously stumbled upon the city’s outstanding contribution to Italian cuisine. Read more >