Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Amsterdam’s Most Beautiful Churches

Vondel Church, Amsterdam, NetherlandsThe canal houses tend to get all the attention in Amsterdam, and with good reason. It’s impossible to resist the charms of these slender homes that line, sometimes a little drunkenly, the calm canals lacing through the city. But the capital of the Netherlands boasts some pretty impressive buildings of a much larger scale, such as its Royal Palace, one of the world’s most beautiful train stations, and one of the world’s top five post office buildings (which now operates as a shopping mall). Many of the city’s gorgeous houses of worship are of substantial size, too, and their spires and domes can be spotted rising above the canal houses all over town. Read about the top five churches in Amsterdam >

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Quiet Luxury in the Polish Capital

Hotel Bellotto, Warsaw, PolandEven though it’s one of the premiere hotels in Warsaw, Poland, it sounds Italian — and with good reason. Hotel Bellotto was named after Bernardo Bellotto, the Venetian artist who spent the last 20 years of his life in Poland, unwittingly playing a critical role in the rebuilding of Warsaw after nearly the entire city was destroyed during World War II, long after he died in 1780. Today, the five-star hotel’s name pays homage to this critical player in Warsaw’s rebirth while providing exceptionally wonderful services and luxurious rooms. Read more about it >


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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 >