Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Drinking Your Way Around Mendoza, Argentina

The Argentinean wine industry has been around for a few centuries, thanks in large part to Italian immigrants, but it wasn’t until very recently, in the 1990s, that it really took off and became a global player, bolstered by the region’s production of rich Malbec. Today, nearly 1,000 winery estates, or fincas, spread out around the city of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes Mountains. One of the best ways to experience these fincas and sample their output is to leave the driving to someone else. So, with my private driver, Pablo, at the wheel, I headed out on an increasingly intoxicated road trip. Read more >

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The Firehouses That Burn the Brightest

Jasper Fire Hall, Jasper, AlbertaThe word “hero” is employed far too often to describe someone who simply does his or her job, or someone you might have a shred of admiration for. In fact, the word is quite in danger of verbicide. The shortstop who makes a great catch is not a hero; your favorite reality star is certainly not a hero. In a world that is seriously lacking in true heroes, it’s heartening to know that there is one group that deservedly earns the accolade every day: firefighters. And societies have acknowledged their selfless bravery and critical role by constructing some highly impressive buildings for them from which they perform their duties. Read about the world’s top five firehouses >


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Fine Finnish Food, Served With a Story

The small city of Oulu, Finland, seems to be made for walking, and I couldn’t resist the lure of crossing over the little bridges connecting bucolic islands around the historic city center and simply wandering. During that meandering stroll, I ended up on the little island of Pikisaari, in front of Sokeri-Jussin Kievari, an inviting and cozy restaurant housed in an old, red, hand-carved log building that used to be a sugar warehouse — and that was the scene of the owner’s almost comedic near-death. Read more about this Northern Ostrobothnian restaurant that pairs fantastic food with a great history >


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The Eeriest Places on Earth

Nevada City, MontanaIf you’re planning to visit a fabricated haunted house for Halloween, or to attend a party in a costume that’s anything but frightening, I have an alternative: Go to an authentic ghost town. These abandoned places teem with vacated, decaying buildings and with the spirits of a long-vanished population. You’re unlikely to run into a vampire or a sexy French maid; a rolling tumbleweed is more probable, or the hint of an odd susurration carried on the wind that blows through the silence of these eerie, deserted places. You can find them all over the globe, from Chile to Italy to Japan, and they will give you a thrill, and a chill, like no other locations in the world. Read about the top five ghost towns >


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Silence and Stars at Namibia’s Desert Homestead Outpost

Desert Homestead Outpost, Sesriem, NamibiaThe nearest town, the rather small settlement of Sesriem, was about 25 miles away, a drive through unspoiled nature with nary a soul around. The isolation of Desert Homestead Outpost here in southern Namibia is part of its broad appeal, providing a chance to forgo televisions, computers, and telephones, and immerse yourself in natural beauty and quiet. Throw in superb lodgings, warm service, and outstanding food, and you have one of the most remarkable accommodations in Namibia. Read more >


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Visiting a Grand Estate From Another Era in Miami

Vizcaya, Miami, FloridaMiami is a very sexy city. Its sleek architecture, trendy and outstanding restaurants (such as Havana 1957, Toscana Divino, and PM Buenos Aires), and very pretty people make it nearly impossible to imagine it as the swampy backwater it once was. Somewhere along the way, around 1900, Miami took off, but you can still visit one of the precursors of the city’s current glitz and glam at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a grand 1916 estate on Florida’s Biscayne Bay that still continues to attract the glitterati. Read more >


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Scotland’s Bank Buildings Generate More Pop for the Pound

Glasgow Savings Bank, Glasgow, ScotlandFor centuries throughout Europe, the Church was the main beneficiary of financial dedication and patronage, giving rise to some of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, basilicas, churches, and chapels. But as decrescent religion’s ambit started to fade with the burgeoning of trade and commercialism in the 1800s, banks and commercial institutions began to syphon off much of that funding, which they used to erect structures that honored not a higher being, but capitalism and economic power. This watershed resulted in increasingly grandiose bank headquarters and branches, and few people did it better than the Scots. Read more about the top five bank buildings in Scotland >