Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Pedal Your Way to New Experiences

Stanley Park, VancouverWhen riding public transportation became a dodgy activity during the pandemic, carless people began switching to bicycles in droves, causing a severe shortage in supply. And now, with spring in full bloom, hopping on two wheels becomes an even more attractive way to get around. Beyond just a mode of transportation to help you accomplish your daily errands, a bike ride for the casual cyclist is also a terrific way to explore a new destination. Read about the world’s top five bike rides >


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A Literal World of Treasures in the Heart of Wichita

Museum of World Treasures, Wichita, KansasEgyptologist? Archaeologist? Paleontologist? Historian? Numismatist? Photographer? Mineralogist? No matter what (or how old) you are, it seems the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas, has something for everyone. Since its founding in 2001, the museum has assembled a tremendous number of riches from around the world, from prehistoric fossils to Frank Sinatra’s tunes. Read about it >


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Superb Structures in the “City of Soul”

Standard Life Building, Jackson, MississippiThe capital of Mississippi was within easy striking distance from my accommodations in Vicksburg, the wonderful Baer House Inn. In less than an hour, I had pulled into Jackson and was wandering its peaceful streets. In this city that is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, I found very little of its pre–Civil War built environment, thanks to its nearly wholesale destruction during that bloody conflict. However, a handful of survivors and some newer additions, all concentrated in a small walking distance, keep the city architecturally interesting. Read about the top five buildings in Jackson >


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The Best American Botanic Garden

Missouri Botanic Garden, St. Louis, MissouriSpring has sprung, and after the nightmare year everyone on earth has just experienced, we all need a little serenity and peace outside our four-wall quarantines. Botanic gardens are one of the best places to achieve that, to surrounded yourself with enduring beauty while unconsciously destressing and lowering your blood pressure. One of my favorite spots for that is the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis — the second-largest botanic garden in North America, blooming with more than 6.5 million specimens, and the most beautiful in the United States. Read about it >


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Marking Mark’s Feast Day

St. Augustine Catholic Church, Montpelier, VermontApril 25 marks the Feast Day of St. Mark, one of the Four Evangelists who wrote one of the gospels and spread the Word of God. His life mission took him around the eastern Mediterranean, to Cyprus and northern Africa, and his death, in 68 AD, is the stuff of legend. Over the centuries, he has been portrayed as both a young and an old man in just about every form of art imaginable. Read more about the top five depictions of St. Mark >


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The Best Buildings in Bergen, Norway

Bratten Building, Bergen, NorwayBergen throws the best Norwegian Independence Day festivities, or so I was told when I arrived in this coastal city two days before the holiday on May 17. I was glad I had timed my vacation so well, but parades, music, and fireworks weren’t the only things that attracted me here. The gorgeous natural setting on a fjord harbor with a mountainous backdrop, one of the world’s top five aquariums, and a welcoming, self-deprecating populace make this a fantastic destination. In between it all, Norway’s second city is a delight to stroll around and take in its attractions as well as some impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Bergen, Norway >


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Shelf Life: The World’s Best Bookstores

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaWhen you’re confined to your home for any reason, from a three-day cold that has you feeling haggard to a yearlong global pandemic that has wrecked every aspect of your life and has completely enervated you, you need a panacea to prevent insanity. From cobbling together inventive workout routines with household items to starring in your own YouTube videos to whipping up something completely new in the kitchen, we’ve all found methods to amuse ourselves. (Binge-watching brainless reality shows doesn’t cut it.) Of course, the old standby — curling up with a good book — rises to the top of the ways to escape your situation and enter a world far-removed from your own. And finding a unique brick-and-mortar bookstore to expand your library with anything from the definitive biography of an obscure artist to a demotic novel for a beach read is where it all begins (sorry, Amazon). Read about my top five bookstores >


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Finland’s 10,000-Year-Old Time Capsule

National Museum of Finland, HelsinkiThe National Museum of Finland encapsulates the history and culture of this Nordic country in a nutshell — an extremely large nutshell. The shell itself is striking, an Art Nouveau architectural treasure that reflects the strong period of National Romanticism and beckons you to explore. Once I cracked that shell, I found a bounty of fascinating, interesting, and informative exhibits, including some arresting frescoes as soon as I stepped inside to purchase my admission ticket. Read more about it >


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The Best of New Zealand’s Biggest City

St. Mary's in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, New ZealandAfter an entire day in airports and on planes, from New York to California to New Zealand, the temptation to stay in my comfortable king-size bed in my darkened hotel room and hibernate for a day was eroding my will to go out and explore. But Auckland has too much to experience to sleep it all away. So, after a restorative power nap, I began poking around the largest city in the country. Read about the top five things to see and do in Auckland, New Zealand >


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Beds, Breakfasts, and Bashes at the Hitching Horse Inn

Midway into my South Dakotan expedition, between Sioux Falls in the east and Rapid City in the west, I stopped for a couple of days in Pierre, the small, low-key capital smack in the center of the state. I selected the Hitching Horse Inn as my accommodation for my two-night stay — a quiet, comfortable, convenient bed and breakfast with a good deal of architectural character. It also proved to be the unexpected setting for one of my most memorable stays in a B&B ever, when I had the pleasure of hobnobbing with some of the city’s prominent citizens at a Friday night shindig that was clearly an eagerly anticipated weekly event. Read about it >