Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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A Good Deed Portrayed in Art Around the World

St. Veronica, National Gallery of Art, Washington DCJuly 12 is the feast day of St. Veronica, one of the most identifiable saints in the Christian canon. Whereas so many saints can be hard to recognize by sight according to their symbols (for example, a lily is associated with at least 10 saints; a book accompanies more than 20), the veil with Jesus’ face is assigned only to Veronica. She was especially revered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but her simple act of kindness — offering to wipe Christ’s face — is just as relevant, and as necessary, today. Throughout the world, she has been portrayed in myriad ways and materials. Read about the top five depictions of St. Veronica >


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The World’s Best Depictions of Adam and Eve

Original Sin, by Marco BenefialIn the Bible, the Book of Genesis describes how God created man on the sixth day. To keep him company in the Garden of Eden with all those plants and animals that he got to name, God granted him Eve, fashioning her from one of his ribs. They were free to frolic around Paradise without a care, as long as they didn’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Alas, the sly serpent proved too persuasive to Eve, who then dragged Adam down with her when she tempted him to partake as well. Things quickly went south: For disobeying God’s one command, an angel drove them out of Eden, stripped them of their athanasia, and forced Adam to work for a living and Eve to bear children in a spectacularly painful way. It’s quite a story, one of the most popular in the Bible, and it has been depicted in art for centuries. Read about the best of those renditions >


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Big or Small, Amsterdam’s Museums Are Among the World’s Finest

Tulip Museum, Amsterdam, the NetherlandsWhen I found myself finally able to turn away from Amsterdam’s irresistible canals and canal houses, gorgeous churches, inviting parks, and romantic bridges, or when I was simply faced with a rainy Dutch day, I turned my attention to the city’s museums. About 75 museums scattered around the capital of the Netherlands appeal to a very broad audience, no matter what your interest. From major art and history museums to those with a very specialized focus (say, for instance, diamonds, Heineken, or hash, marijuana, and hemp), these cultural institutions should play a major role in your visit here, but with so many choices, you’ll have to select carefully. Read about the top five museums in Amsterdam >


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Something for Everyone at Haesje Claes in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

On a beautiful spring evening in Amsterdam, I spent some time strolling around a part of the city that I hadn’t seen yet during my weeklong stay here. After checking out Posthoornkerk (Post Horn Church), one of the top 10 churches in Amsterdam, and passing by the West-Indisch Huis (West India House), built in 1617 as a meat market and ultimately where the Dutch West India Company’s governors ordered the construction of a fort in Manhattan (the genesis of my hometown), I made my way to dinner at the hopping Haesje Claes, which simply does Dutch right. Read about it >


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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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Lunching at Café Morlang in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I had spent an unseasonably cold spring morning wandering around Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam’s famed floating flower market, and Begijnhof, the lovely medieval courtyard surrounded by historic buildings, including Begijnhof Chapel (1660s), one of only two wooden buildings remaining in the center of the city. Now it was time to warm up indoors for lunch. And I found the perfect place at Café Morlang, just a couple of canals away. Read more >


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Skeletons and Skulls That Will Keep You Up All Night

St. Peter in Chains, Rome, ItalyAs Halloween approaches, children — and more than a few adults — are deciding on their costume for this spooky holiday of ghosts, goblins, candy, and horror flicks. Skeletons have always been a staple costume, whether it’s a glow-in-the-dark bodysuit variety or a mask or makeup job largely hidden by an oversized hood on a Grim Reaper outfit. As for the other 364 days of the year, real ones have long been put on display for the devout to revere, and fake ones for Mexican communities to celebrate on the Day of the Dead. Skeletons and skulls have been depicted in art or gravestones for centuries as a symbol of our finite time on earth, fighting a guaranteed losing battle against the sand hourglass. They could be positively frightening (say, in the promotional poster for the movie Evil Dead 2) or rather amusing (as in a Scooby-Doo episode). However you react to them, they invariably promise the same denouement: The end is always near. Read more about the top five skeletons and skulls in the world >


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Come Sail Away on the World’s Best Boat Rides

Maligne Lake, Alberta, CanadaWhen the summer heat becomes too oppressive and you’re tired of sitting in enclosed air-conditioned rooms, one of the best ways to cool off is to hop on a boat, whether it’s your own private tricked-out yacht or a workaday municipal water ferry. A refreshing breeze kicks in as the speed increases, cooling your overheated skin and providing a pleasant reprieve. The ride gets more interesting, of course, when you’re traveling and you find yourself on a luzzu in Malta, a paddleboat on the Alabama River, a pletna in Slovenia, or a high-speed catamaran in Saint Martin. Read more about the world’s top five boat rides >


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Indulging in a Dutch Tradition at The Pancake Bakery

All around Amsterdam, I had been noticing a formidable number of restaurants touting their pancake menus. I didn’t realize what all the fuss was until I read up a bit on this traditional Dutch mainstay, and then I was intrigued when I learned just how creative pancakes can get in the Netherlands. They’re not your typical grilled batter with maybe some blueberries or chocolate chips thrown in. At The Pancake Bakery, a menu of 79 different types will make you completely reevaluate your notion of what a pancake can be. Read more >


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Lunching at Amsterdam’s Villa Zeezicht

With more than 1,000 restaurants to choose from in Amsterdam, ranging from Argentinean steak houses to Indonesian takeaway joints to traditional Dutch establishments, you’re never at a loss to satisfy any particular craving. Those located along the city’s famous canals, of course, boast the more charming setting. But even if you can’t get to enjoy the views at the often limited outdoor seating, you’ll still be satisfied with the fine meal you’ll be served at your indoor table. Villa Zeezicht is one of those lovely canal-side restaurants with a delicious menu that ultimately makes it irrelevant where you’re sitting. Read more >