Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Cleveland’s Architectural Glory Days

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, Cleveland, OhioSpending a long weekend in February in Cleveland, Ohio, seemed, in retrospect, a bit odd. It’s cold, it’s gray, it’s dreary, and even the animals in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo looked lethargic and in desperate need of spring. But even in the dead of winter, this lakeside city offers some fine diversions, such as the second-largest performing arts district in the United States, a market that celebrated its 100th birthday a few years ago, and excellent museums. It also boasts some outstanding architecture from the era when the city was one of the 10 largest in the United States. Read about the top five buildings in Cleveland >


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The Curious Castle of Manitou Springs

Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs, ColoradoI couldn’t decide if it was beautiful or an eyesore, the creation of an imaginative designer or a lunatic. Either way, it most definitely was unusual. In Manitou Springs, Colorado, Miramont Castle stands as its oddest yet most irresistible attraction — a fantastic mansion, or the setting for a movie director’s spine-tingling chiller. With a convoluted history and a schizophrenic architectural style, I found it impossible to categorize what Miramont was. But I was most definitely glad that I saw it. Read about Miramont Castle >


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The Superior Structures of Salzburg, Austria

High Salzburg FortressJulie Andrews’ romp through Salzburg, Austria, in The Sound of Music while singing “I Have Confidence” and toting her luggage and guitar case is unarguably one of the city’s best unintentional promotion pieces ever produced. How could it not be? Fountains, a gorgeous Alpine backdrop, and the mountaintop fortress are all on full display, tempting you to immerse yourself in this most Austrian of cities. You’ll certainly come here for the music, whether it’s the campy Sound of Music singalongs or the higher-echelon concerts of Salzburg native Mozart. But you’ll also come here for the architecture, much of which miraculously survived the bombings during World War II. Read about the top five buildings in Salzburg >


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Exploring Alberta’s Largest Botanic Garden

Pine conesJust outside of Edmonton, Alberta’s largest botanic garden unfolds over 200 acres. More than 60 years old, it’s a peaceful place to wander among myriad trees, flowers, plants, seasonal edibles, and a terrific Japanese garden. It’s also the home of some serious botanical research by the University of Alberta. And it gets even better when you stumble upon the annual apple workshop. Read about the University of Alberta Botanic Garden >


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French Flair in North America

Maillou House, Quebec CityA French enclave on an English-speaking continent, Québec is a wonderful anomaly. Although Montreal is the Canadian province’s economic powerhouse, Québec City is its solid, more obvious connection to its French past, and its present — French is still the native language of more than 90 percent of its half-million citizens. Roaming its streets and alleys of low-rise stone houses, magnificent churches, and tempting cafés, I couldn’t help but feel transported to 18th- and 19th-century France. Among its beautiful edifices, there’s one building that’s so iconic to the city that it’s impossible to think of one without the other, and that you’re anywhere but in the capital of Québec. Read about the top five buildings in Québec City >


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Desert Delights at Doro Nawas, Namibia

Doro Nawas, Damaraland, NamibiaThe building rose like a desert mirage, a castle-like apparition atop a hill in the middle of the flat savannah littered with scrub. But this was no trick of the eye. This was Doro Nawas Camp, a fantastic desert camp in the floodplain of a small tributary of the Huab River in the Damaraland region of Namibia. It was also my unforgettable accommodation for a couple of nights within Damaraland National Park. Read more about it >


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Michigan’s Memorable Museums

Michigan winters can often be brutal. For those who prefer not to have frozen appendages while strolling around the excellent Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park or the grounds of one of the most beautiful capitols in the United States, the state offers plenty of indoor diversions, including its assemblage of hundreds of museums. They run the gamut, from traditional art and history museums to the bizarre Pickle Barrel House Museum and the astoundingly specific Nun Doll Museum. Scattered around the state, from its southernmost border to the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula, these repositories will reward you with new knowledge. Read about the top five museums in Michigan >


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First Impressions That Last

Pitons, St. LuciaYour journey begins in your mind, when you ruminate about a place you’d like to visit. After you’ve made your itinerary, selected the places you want to explore, and booked your accommodations, there’s only one thing left to do: Go. And when you get there, it’s that ever-important first impression that can set the tone for your entire trip. That initial reaction all depends on how you arrive, and the mode of transportation you’ve selected can make all the difference. Read about the world’s top five arrivals >


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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 >