Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Animals That Come to Life in Art

All pet owners know that their four- and sometimes two-legged friends have distinctive personalities. But that doesn’t apply solely to our domesticated companions. Go into the wild and watch how different penguins or baboons behave, and you’ll start to notice the uniqueness of each individual. Animals are just as complicated as humans (with a lot less baggage), capable of learning, surviving against the odds, and feeling, everything from fear and compassion to sadness and joy. We’ve all seen the videos of elephants crying, a husky going absolutely bonkers when his master returns home after an extended tour of duty overseas, the Labrador gently interacting with a curious but cautious three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and the giraffe kissing his caretaker goodbye, sensing the man’s impending death from cancer. When animals are portrayed in art and an artist can brilliantly capture their entire being and personality — their characteristics, beauty, and emotions — in static media like marble or paint, you’ll find yourself looking at something that comes this close to being the real thing. Read about the top five animals in art >


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The Best of Baltimore

Giraffe, Maryland ZooClosing in on 300 years since its founding, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, was named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore or the Irish House of Lords. Baltimore Manor was the name of the family’s estate in Ireland, and Baltimore became an anglicization of the more lyrical Baile an Tí Mhóir (Irish for “town of the big house”). This terrifically historic city has given the United States its first paper mill, Catholic diocese, sugar refinery, Sunday newspaper, investment bank, electric refrigerator, public museum, gas streetlights, dental college, commercial ice cream factory, animal welfare association, university press, and city magazine, among dozens of other achievements. An equally long catalog of attractions makes it appealing to visitors of all ages with myriad interests. Read about the top five things to see and do in Baltimore >


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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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Baltimore’s Best Buildings

Bromo-Seltzer Tower, Baltimore, MarylandOne of the most historic cities on the East Coast of the United States, Baltimore, Maryland, has seen its fair share of ups and downs, from the attack on Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the creation of the world’s first dental college, and the formation of the United States’ first investment bank, first chartered railroad, first post office system, first Sunday newspaper, and first chartered water company, to the destructive Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, some fairly serious crime rates, and a population that has plummeted from nearly one million to only two-thirds of that today. Wandering around the city, I couldn’t help but appreciate its historical significance (as well as the revitalization around the Inner Harbor) and its fine architectural contributions. Read about the top five buildings in Baltimore >


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Sampling Little Italy’s Best at La Scala in Baltimore, Maryland

I had already sampled the surf in Baltimore, Maryland, at Oceanaire Seafood Room, and now I wanted to try the turf. So I crossed over Eastern Avenue Bridge spanning a narrow inlet of the Inner Harbor and entered the city’s Little Italy, where red, white, and green lights stretch across a few streets and the aromas of Italian cooking waft from the neighborhood’s handful of restaurants and cafés. Of these, La Scala Ristorante, consistently rated one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, grabbed my attention with its promise of a delectable meal and possibly a game of bocce. Read more >


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Top 5 Aquariums

Seattle Aquarium, Seattle, WashingtonThe deep blue sea is probably the last great unexplored place on the planet — a dark, forbidding netherworld filled with beauty and mystery that has long held the fascination of mariners and landlubbers alike. Examine any map from the 1500s and you’ll see the oceans illustrated with ferocious sea monsters that terrorized sailors. Although many of the legends and myths surrounding those creatures have been dispelled or explained (mermaids don’t really exist, and the Kraken was most likely a giant squid), the sea and its myriad denizens still fascinate us.

Whether it’s the ferocious dragonfish or horrifying viperfish that could petrify even the bravest explorer, the perennially happy clownfish (thank you, Nemo), the vividly colorful mandarinfish, or the remarkably intelligent dolphin, life under the sea is an ongoing voyage of discovery. Thanks to aquariums around the world, we don’t have to plunge to the ocean floor to see and understand what lies beneath (although that’s fun, too). These are my top five aquariums in the world. Read more >


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Sleeping Where Train Tycoons Ruled

Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MarylandRepurposing old, beautiful buildings is the best way to preserve a city’s architectural history and unique character, and Baltimore does a fairly good job of it. The Bromo-Seltzer Tower, for instance, is now an artist colony; the Pratt Street Power Plant in the Inner Harbor now houses a giant Barnes & Noble and a Hard Rock Café. You can stay in another landmark building overnight when you check in to the elegant Hotel Monaco, now occupying all 13 floors of the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, constructed more than a century ago. Read more >


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Go Fish: Dinner at Baltimore’s Best Seafood Restaurant

Oceanaire Seafood Room, Baltimore, MarylandCrab dinners and Baltimore are practically synonymous, but there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and the Oceanaire Seafood Room has expertly mastered the preparation of many of these options. Just a short stroll east from the Inner Harbor, this upscale restaurant combines a sophisticated nautical ambience with a deep menu overflowing with seafood specialties ranging from Florida yellowfin tuna to Faroe Islands salmon to a wide variety of crustaceans. You may have to shell out a few extra dollars, but that will seem irrelevant from the moment you get hooked on Oceanaire’s offerings. Read more >