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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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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Savannah’s Best Buildings in America’s Best Historic District

Savannah Cotton Exchange, Savannah, GeorgiaWith hundreds of buildings in Savannah’s five historic districts, it’s virtually impossible to select some favorites, particularly in the Savannah Historic District, one of the largest such districts in the United States. Within its confines, I came across the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, one of the South’s first public museums, the oldest African American Baptist congregation in the United States, the house that launched the city’s preservation movement, and the third-oldest synagogue and the oldest standing pre–Civil War rail facility in America. Impressive as they are, even these beauties didn’t emerge as my favorites. Read more about the top five buildings in Savannah, Georgia >


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Coursing Through the Heart of Belfast: Donegall Square

Scottish Provident Building, Belfast, IrelandWith “the Troubles” apparently — and hopefully — relegated to the history books, a day trip to Belfast now seemed necessary during my three-week jaunt around Ireland. Just a two-hour train ride north from Dublin, the capital of Northern Ireland has settled into a peaceful, bustling center of activity. The heart of the city beats in and around Donegall Square, a concentration of fantastic buildings, monuments, and green space, and a wonderful place to wander around when the clouds part. Read more >