Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Seeing Red

Japanese maple treeRed is an extreme color. For many, it’s all about love and passion. What would Valentine’s Day be without red roses or red heart-shaped boxes of candy, presented by the revered red-blooded American, perhaps, in some cases, to his red-hot mama? Those emotions, however, can lead to danger, another of the color’s associations—The Scarlet Letter, for instance, or stop signs and stoplights and code reds. You’ll see red if you’re angry and overheated, and if you’re a politician on the rise, you’ll need to don the requisite red power tie. But not everything red is so intense. Plenty of red things around the world have nothing to do with its common links, and they’ll make an equally strong impression on you. Read about the top five reds >


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O!

Joel N. Cornish House, Omaha, NebraskaThe marketing logo for Omaha’s tourism industry—a giant O with an exclamation point that you’ll see all around the largest city in Nebraska—captures the surprise that visitors experience in this city. More than a few times, I found myself saying, “O! Look at that,” whether it was the city’s outdoor sculptures, revitalized warehouse district, friendly giraffes at the zoo, or some especially impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Omaha >


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Deco Delights in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Fire Alarm Building, Tulsa, OklahomaI’ve been to some of the best places in the United States to see examples of one of my favorite architectural styles—art deco: Miami Beach, Chicago, and, of course, my hometown, New York City. Much to my surprise, when I was running around the Midwest, I would find that Tulsa, Oklahoma, ranks right up there with the best of them, thanks to a fortuitous mingling of new oil money, the Jazz Age, and the architectural style that originated in France. Read about it >


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The Surreality of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Simply put, New Zealand is gorgeous. The mountains, the lakes, the coastlines, the fjords, the beaches: Few countries can boast such a bountiful variety of nature’s best. Some of it is simply surreal—other-worldly colors, mud pools, boiling lakes, geysers, bubbling ponds, fumaroles. Director Peter Jackson clearly made the right choice when he opted to cast the country as his setting for Middle Earth in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. And one place that extends even beyond the surreal is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Read more about it >


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Houses Give Horses a Run for the Money in Saratoga Springs, New York

Kilmer House, Saratoga Springs, New YorkYou may go to Saratoga Springs for the horses, but don’t forget about the houses. In this utterly charming small city of about 30,000, the racing season brings crowds of summer visitors. During the rest of the year, you’ve got two national museums (one for dance, one for horse racing), plenty of hiking opportunities, spas, a renowned artists’ community, and a massive inventory of gorgeous architecture in numerous historic districts. Read about the top five buildings in Saratoga Springs, New York >


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The Highest-Quality Art in Norway

"The Scream"One of the world’s most renowned paintings is also one of its most disturbing and mysterious. Almost as famous for its history of thefts as for its quality and impact on the art world, The Scream anchors a tremendous collection of excellent art at Oslo’s National Gallery, Norway’s biggest and best art museum. This one piece alone makes a visit here necessary, but I found so many others that made a wonderfully lasting impression. Read about it >


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Scotland’s Spectacular Churches

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, ScotlandSome are so ancient, you can almost hear the ghosts of worshippers from nearly a millennium ago. The churches of Scotland, like much of the nation’s architectural inventory, are astoundingly sturdy-looking, as if nothing could ever destroy them. They’re also exquisitely beautiful, with the most delicate details that often belie their bulk. They continually impressed me as I made my two-week loop around this irresistible land. Read about the top five churches in Scotland >


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A Lakeside Dinner in Dover, Delaware

Root beer, McGlynns, Dover, DelawareFrom State Street Inn, my exceptional bed and breakfast in Dover, Delaware, I strolled through the Victorian Dover Historic District. Past Lakeside Cemetery, with an unsettling Hitchcockian number of black birds of prey perched on bare tree branches, I crossed over the adjacent placid Silver Lake. My destination was McGlynns Pub, my choice for this night’s dinner. A cool, slightly breezy evening drove everyone else inside, but I chose an outdoor table for its views of the lake and handsome waterfront houses, and the company of a forlorn injured Canada goose. Read about it >


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Canada’s Choicest Churches

Cathedral Church of St. James, TorontoBy 2029, an estimated 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost—victims of harsh weather, evaporating congregations, abandonment, deterioration, and deliberate razing. That’s nearly one-third of all the ecclesiastical buildings in the entire country, so you better hurry if you want to see some irreplaceable structures before they’re gone forever. Fortunately, my favorites (except one) seem pretty secure…for now. Read about the top five churches in Canada >


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Bourbon on Saturday, Church on Sunday

Georgetown Baptist Church, KentuckyKentucky produces approximately 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. That’s a lot of booze. And perhaps if Kentuckians imbibe a bit in what they don’t export, it may explain why, at last count, there are 5,011 churches in the Bluegrass State. That’s a lot of worshipping. And people in Kentucky are doing it in all sorts of structures, from what is barely more than a cabin to what could pass for an old Holiday Inn to cathedrals that easily rival anything in Europe. Read about the top five churches in Kentucky >