Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The Most Heavenly Celestial Intermediaries, Protectors, and Guides

Angel on St. Angelo Bridge, RomeAngels are a common motif during the Christmas season (particularly noteworthy is Clarence in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, and in the holiday markets in Düsseldorf, Germany), but they’re not restricted to December. You can find them throughout the year, in myriad locations and captured in various materials and emotional states, from joyful angels blowing horns to mournful ones grieving at gravesites. You may even have one of the guardian type of your own. Read about the top five angels >


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Seattle’s Asian Art at Its Best

Statue, Seattle Asian Art MusuemI had spent one rainy day in Seattle, Washington, beneath the city’s surface, wending my way through subterranean streets in the Seattle Underground, followed by a rainy night in my outstanding accommodations, the Sorrento Hotel. More of the same the next day took me indoors to one of the world’s best aquariums and then to one of the city’s top museums, the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This microcosm of Asian art encompasses everything from hanging scrolls to Buddha statues, cosmetic boxes to jade landscapes, that spans a broad range of countries and centuries. Read about it >


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Beautiful Buildings in Vermont’s Top City

College Street Congregational Church, Burlington, VermontPart university town, part commercial center, part New England perfection, Burlington, Vermont, the largest city in the state, feels like a close-knit community, a palpable vibe I detected in the congenial farmers market, where I purchased butternut donuts, and along the Church Street Marketplace. Its pedestrian mall, championed by an architecture student who was inspired by the people-only Strøget in Copenhagen, Denmark, is part of the city’s handsome built environment that includes fine structures on two college campuses, a restored Art Deco theater, plenty of churches, and a hotel that used to be a newspaper office. Read about the top five buildings in Burlington >


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A Chinese Oasis in the Midst of Portland, Oregon

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, OregonMore than 50 Chinatowns can be found dotted around the United States, from the West Coast (especially in California, where at least 16 of these mini-Chinas thrive) to the East, where the Chinatown in Manhattan is getting a little too big for its britches and is encroaching on its equally well-established neighbors. I found one in Portland, Oregon, which also happens to boast a stellar Chinese garden, one of the most authentic located outside China. Read about it >


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Buildings of Distinction in Tampa, Florida

Kress Building, Tampa, FloridaWith a booming population and a port that ranks at number seven in the United States (and number two in Florida for cruise ships), Tampa has been experiencing significant development, and redevelopment, for years now. Amid all that newness, I was glad to see the survival of some of the older things, particularly some stand-out buildings that defined the city for so long. Read about the top five buildings in Tampa >


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Tallinn’s Top Churches

Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, Tallinn, EstoniaWithin, and just outside, the walls of the Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia, you’ll find an abundance of fascinating sights, from resistance and architecture museums, to archery demonstrations, to medieval towers, to fantastic restaurants serving traditional Estonian meals. There’s also an extraordinary concentration of churches that stretch over a long range of centuries. You could see a good dozen of them all within a day, thanks to their close proximity to one another. But, of course, that would mean rushing through these outstanding structures. Instead, choose two or three per day, and you’ll get the full experience of Estonian spirituality. Read about the top five churches in Tallinn>


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Going Directly to Jail

Prisoner's Gate, The Hague, NetherlandsGoing to prison while on vacation is not exactly on anyone’s itinerary, especially if you’ve seen Midnight Express. But sometimes a look at life behind bars is a worthy way to pass an hour or two, especially when the jails themselves provide some fascinating history and some pretty impressive buildings. Read about the top five jails >


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Tiny Valletta’s Big Churches

Parish Church of St. Augustine, Valletta, MaltaOne of Europe’s smallest countries in terms of both size and population, the island nation of Malta has a disproportionately large abundance of everything from striking architecture to a complex and outstanding cuisine. Its deep history has seen a seemingly endless parade of foreign powers attacking, invading, and controlling it over the centuries. At its heart, the capital of Valletta houses only about 6,000 people. This fantastic walled peninsula city, surrounded on three sides by blue bays and harbors of the Mediterranean Sea, is crammed with a hefty number of gorgeous churches, maybe for all those who were trying to pray away the latest conquerors. Read about the top five churches in Valletta >


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Architecture in Alberta That Rivals Its Scenery

Old City Hall, Calgary, AlbertaBanff, Alberta, was one of the first places I remember ever wanting to see. It took a few decades, but I finally put together a two-week loop around Alberta that started in Edmonton and ended in Calgary, with gorgeous Banff nicely sandwiched between. During that time, I reveled in Alberta’s unmatched scenery — ice fields, waterfalls, dramatic mountains, deep lakes, and deeper forests. But I also was treated to some striking architecture that adds even more interest to this western Canadian province. Read about the top five buildings in Alberta >


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Five Fantastic Buildings in Albany, New York

First Trust Company Building, Albany, New YorkIn 1614, Dutch traders built Fort Nassau, a fur-trading post and the first documented European structure in present-day Albany, New York. Things have changed over the four centuries since then, and a wood fort would hardly blend in at all in the capital of New York. I would have liked to have seen what that short-lived structure looked like (abandoned after only a few years due to the river’s flooding), but I found just as much pleasure in checking out some of its successors. Read about the top five buildings in Albany, New York >