Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Deceptive Beauty of Oslo’s City Hall

City Hall, Oslo, NorwayEvery now and then, you will find a reason to visit a city hall other than to, say, pick up a marriage license or attend a meeting about your local school system. On such occasions, you may very well be delightfully surprised by what’s in store. The City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for instance, is a gorgeous building where I had the good fortune to meet the city’s mayor during my visit; Stockholm’s City Hall boasts gorgeous golden mosaics and an unbeatable view of the city from atop its tower. And while the austere exterior of the city hall in Oslo, Norway, may not attract you at first, this city hall is particularly chock full of history, stories, art, and superlatives, which became increasingly apparent to me the closer I got to it. Read more >

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Savannah’s Best Buildings in America’s Best Historic District

Savannah Cotton Exchange, Savannah, GeorgiaWith hundreds of buildings in Savannah’s five historic districts, it’s virtually impossible to select some favorites, particularly in the Savannah Historic District, one of the largest such districts in the United States. Within its confines, I came across the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, one of the South’s first public museums, the oldest African American Baptist congregation in the United States, the house that launched the city’s preservation movement, and the third-oldest synagogue and the oldest standing pre–Civil War rail facility in America. Impressive as they are, even these beauties didn’t emerge as my favorites. Read more about the top five buildings in Savannah, Georgia >


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Coursing Through the Heart of Belfast: Donegall Square

Scottish Provident Building, Belfast, IrelandWith “the Troubles” apparently — and hopefully — relegated to the history books, a day trip to Belfast now seemed necessary during my three-week jaunt around Ireland. Just a two-hour train ride north from Dublin, the capital of Northern Ireland has settled into a peaceful, bustling center of activity. The heart of the city beats in and around Donegall Square, a concentration of fantastic buildings, monuments, and green space, and a wonderful place to wander around when the clouds part. 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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Turku Castle Reigns Supreme

Turku Castle, Turku, FinlandFinland’s oldest city and its former capital, Turku is located about two hours by train from where I was staying in Helsinki, the superior Hotel Kämp. The country’s sixth-largest city has plenty to see for a full day trip, from its 700-year-old cathedral to a fantastic museum built over a 14th-century archaeological site, but Turku’s most famous landmark is the one I wanted to visit most — the largest castle in Finland. Read more >


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Big Buildings in Little Rock, Arkansas

Villa Marre, Little Rock, ArkansasMy day trip from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to Little Rock centered around a visit to the state capitol, a stroll through a couple of the half dozen historic districts, and the duck march at what was then the Peabody Hotel. This sleepy capital city (indeed, the downtown felt rather abandoned, and within walking distance of it you’ll feel like you’re in the suburbs, with spacious homes along tree-lined streets) is ideal for strolling, whether it’s along the banks of the Arkansas River, through the Market Hall for some international snacks, or around the historic districts that boast some beguiling edifices, many of which rank among the city’s best. Read more about the top five buildings in Little Rock >


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A-List Churches in Albany, New York

St. Joseph's Church, Albany, New YorkFor a smaller capital city, Albany, New York, teems with iconic structures: the unique state capitol, The Egg performing arts venue, and the sprawling old headquarters of the Delaware and Hudson Railway, now the administration building for the State University of New York. Chief among them are the city’s churches, eight of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Their congregations include Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterians, and United Methodists. They span a wide variety of architectural styles, and they all enjoy voluminous histories, making a visit to these venerable institutions a very rewarding experience. Read more about the top five churches in Albany >