Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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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Visiting a Grand Estate From Another Era in Miami

Vizcaya, Miami, FloridaMiami is a very sexy city. Its sleek architecture, trendy and outstanding restaurants (such as Havana 1957, Toscana Divino, and PM Buenos Aires), and very pretty people make it nearly impossible to imagine it as the swampy backwater it once was. Somewhere along the way, around 1900, Miami took off, but you can still visit one of the precursors of the city’s current glitz and glam at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a grand 1916 estate on Florida’s Biscayne Bay that still continues to attract the glitterati. Read more >


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Scotland’s Bank Buildings Generate More Pop for the Pound

Glasgow Savings Bank, Glasgow, ScotlandFor centuries throughout Europe, the Church was the main beneficiary of financial dedication and patronage, giving rise to some of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, basilicas, churches, and chapels. But as decrescent religion’s ambit started to fade with the burgeoning of trade and commercialism in the 1800s, banks and commercial institutions began to syphon off much of that funding, which they used to erect structures that honored not a higher being, but capitalism and economic power. This watershed resulted in increasingly grandiose bank headquarters and branches, and few people did it better than the Scots. Read more about the top five bank buildings in Scotland >


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Beyond the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, San Antonio, TexasOne of the largest cities in the United States — seventh, by population, and 13th by land area — San Antonio is known for quite a few attractions, particularly the revitalized and reimagined River Walk, and, of course, the Alamo, both of which snare the majority of visitors to this Texas city. Given its vast geographical size (461 square miles), you’ll need a car to take in some of the other highlights, such as the McNay Art Museum, the San Antonio Botanic Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the King William Historic District, one of the top 10 U.S. historic districts. But a fairly compact core easily offers up most of the city’s best — and most memorable — achievements in its built environment, and wise travelers will happily stray from its top two attractions to find them. Read more about the top five buildings in San Antonio, Texas >


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Buda or Pest? The Hungarian City’s Best Buildings Stand on Both Sides of the Danube

Matthias Church, Budapest, HungaryCrossed by Chain Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in the world, in the heart of Budapest, the Danube River divides the Hungarian capital into older, hilly Buda and flatter, larger Pest. Each side has its own special appeal — Buda boasts fantastic views; Pest offers multiple cultural attractions — but to see this city’s most beautiful buildings, you’ll have to visit both, an enjoyable proposition that leads you through one of Central Europe’s most alluring capitals. Read about the top five buildings in Budapest >


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Exploring the Urban Landscape of Vicksburg, Mississippi

City Hall, Vicksburg, MississippiAround this time of year 155 years ago, the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was under siege in a pivotal Civil War moment. A Union victory here, the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, spelled the beginning of the end for the South. The city survived, however, growing into a major trading center that relied on steamboat traffic and erecting impressive structures that reflected its boom and that still survive today. Read more about the top five buildings in Vicksburg, Mississippi >


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A Century of Style and Grace: New York’s Woolworth Building

Woolworth Building, New York, New YorkOnce the tallest building on the planet — a title it retained for 17 years in the early 1900s — it now ranks at #63 in the United States and doesn’t crack the world’s top 100. Despite surrendering its lofty crown, the Woolworth Building retains its elegance and style that have been hallmarks of the New York City skyline since 1913. Although it’s getting increasingly harder to see as taller, less interesting neighbors sprout up around it, the Woolworth Building still puts other skyscrapers to shame, and once you take your first glance at it, you’ll understand why my favorite building in New York earned the moniker the “Cathedral of Commerce” only three days after it opened. Read more >