Stephen Travels

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An Easy — and Wonderful — Introduction to Namibia at Windhoek’s Villa Vista Guesthouse

Villa Vista Guesthouse, Windhoek, NamibiaAfter spending nearly a full day traveling in economy class on airplanes, flying from New York to Windhoek, Namibia, via Johannesburg, the first thing I wanted to see after hopping in my rental car and driving a half hour into the city was a restful bed. Fortunately, I had made reservations at Villa Vista Guesthouse, where everything from large, comfortable rooms to delightful breakfasts with a view assured me of a hassle-free and amiable entry into the first African country I ever visited. Read more about this terrific accommodation >

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A Mountain Oasis in an Overcrowded Town

Aries Hotel, Zakopane, PolandThe mountain village of Zakopane seems to always be too full. In the winter, snow aficionados flock to the ski resorts of this southern Polish town near the Slovakia border. In fairer weather, hikers scale the trails of the impressively scenic Tatra Mountains. And all year long, everyone jams the main strip to shop, eat, and admire the unique wooden architecture that has made this a notable town. There’s no escaping the crowds — except for when you check in to ARIES Hotel & Spa, a welcome oasis that’s still in the heart of town. Read more >


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Oceanside Luxury in Swakopmund, Namibia

Strand Hotel, Swakopmund, NamibiaEnticingly comfortable rooms and luxurious suites, with satellite TV and Wi-Fi, proper tea service, great air conditioning, and well-designed bathrooms. Three restaurants, a lobby bar, and a beer garden. Relaxing lounges. Private parking. Superior staff and knowledgeable activities directors. Gym and full-service spa. It could be a list of requirements from guests at hotels in the world’s most-visited cities. But this is not New York, for example, or Tokyo. This is Swakopmund, Namibia, and you’ve just checked in to the Strand Hotel, a fine four-star hotel with gorgeous nightly sunsets and just about everything you could possibly want in a hotel. Read more >


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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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Accommodations on a Horse Farm With Mesmerizing Scenery in Franz Josef, New Zealand

My 10-hour drive down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island brought me from a subtropical environment with beaches, ferns, and palm trees in Abel Tasman National Park and the town of Kaiteriteri to the ranges of the Southern Alps and snow-topped mountains. The wonderful diversity of the country’s landscapes and climates fully comes alive on State Highway 6, a route that largely hugs the wild coast and occasionally turns inland to, for instance, Westland Tai Poutini National Park, where I had booked a night’s stay at Glacier Cottages in the township of Franz Josef. Quiet and scenic, with unexpected four-legged entertainment and free milk — you’ll want to spend more than just one night here. Read more >


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Bird Hunting Inside Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Hotel Monaco, Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaHaving already stayed at the Baltimore property of Hotel Monaco, I knew what to expect when I checked into the Pittsburgh location: a spotless, comfortable, exceptionally quiet room; great service; perfect location. What I wasn’t anticipating, however, was the whimsical bird motif throughout — subtle little popup appearances in unexpected places, making my weeklong stay in this superior hotel an enjoyable guessing game as I hunted for new feathered friends every day. Read more >


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Travel Through Time at Detroit’s Inn on Ferry Street

Inn on Ferry Street, Detroit, MichiganDetroit has seen better days — we all know that. But that doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless case. In fact, it’s one of the most interesting American cities I’ve ever visited. And when I was searching for a place to stay in this Michigan city — one of the best in the United States for architecture, and by far one of the most anthropologically riveting — I decided to opt for something from its grander days rather than a shiny new glass-and-steel hotel. So I took a step back in time and, for four days, I led a semi-Victorian life at the unique Inn on Ferry Street. Read more >