Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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 >

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A Decade of Fine Dining at Capistrano in Valletta, Malta

On my first night in Valletta as a Maltese culinary abecedarian, I devoured a three-hour, eight-course dinner at Legligin Wine Bar. Instantly hooked on Maltese food, I spent the next week eating my way through this small country that’s big on flavors. And it didn’t get much better than at Capistrano, where, over the course of the past 10 years, the flawless quality and presentation of the food has been expertly paired with the sharp, perfectly paced service and an attractive décor. Read more >


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War: What Is It Bad For? Images at War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Some people may argue that we live in safer times, that the occurrence of war is less frequent than only a century ago, and that the seemingly endless stream of violence that inundates us is really the result, not of actual rising numbers of belligerent actions, but of manipulative media executives and lightning-fast technology that brings the latest flare-ups into our homes immediately. Others say the world has become alarmingly dangerous, that no safe place exists, and that today’s headlines verify it all: North Korea’s aggressive saber-rattling, an unstable and benighted U.S. president constantly vomiting warlike rhetoric, sanguinary Islamist extremists happily murdering everyone, from senior citizens to infants to themselves, without a second thought.

What does all this have to do with travel? Quite a bit: It has closed off entire countries to us, has put us at unease in even “safe” locations, and has lengthened security queue times everywhere, from airports to museums to arenas. Fortunately, many of us will never experience war firsthand. But if you want a good look at its endless ramifications, War Photo Limited, a fantastic little museum in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is one place where you can experience it — safely — through the work of talented individuals with cameras, an instinctive sense of timing, and a touch of luck. The gripping and disturbing images on display will haunt you, but they will also make you appreciate everything that you have. Read more >


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Turku Castle Reigns Supreme

Turku Castle, Turku, FinlandFinland’s oldest city and its former capital, Turku is located about two hours by train from where I was staying in Helsinki, the superior Hotel Kämp. The country’s sixth-largest city has plenty to see for a full day trip, from its 700-year-old cathedral to a fantastic museum built over a 14th-century archaeological site, but Turku’s most famous landmark is the one I wanted to visit most — the largest castle in Finland. Read more >


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Day-tripping to Lokrum, Dubrovnik’s Next-door Island Neighbor

Lokrum, CroatiaWhen the enormous cruise ships sailed into Dubrovnik, Croatia, and discharged hundreds of tourists who jammed the main street of the Old Town in search of thimbles and shot glasses with a picture of the city on them, it was time for me to escape for a while. One of the best and easiest ways to retreat from the hordes is to hop on a ferry for the short cruise to Lokrum, the green island just about 2,000 feet — yet an entire world — away. Read more >


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Mediterranean Luxury at Malta’s Hotel Phoenicia

Since it opened in 1947, Hotel Phoenicia has been one of the foremost hotels in the Maltese Islands, and I was fortunate enough to spend a week here during my visit to this Mediterranean archipelago. From the second I arrived to the second I checked out, the entire staff effortlessly provided warm and accommodating service amid the resplendent setting, maintaining a tradition of excellence that has been the hallmark of the Phoenicia for 70 years. Read more about this preeminent hotel >


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Excellent Roman Cuisine Where Julius Caesar Was Murdered

Da Pancrazio, RomeJust a block or two from where I was staying in Rome, the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo, I spent a couple of hours developing a voracious appetite by strolling through the fantastic farmers market in the Campo de’Fiori. Endless forms of pasta, bottles of limoncello, and the freshest eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, and olives I’ve ever seen provided visual stimulation for my salivary glands, encouraging thoughts of dinner. The aromas from the cheese stand made me want to change careers and become a fromager, and a generous free tasting of all kinds of spreads, from sage to walnuts with mushrooms to sweet red pepper, prompted me to start searching for the nearest place to dine. The restaurants all around the campo looked appealing but a little touristy, so I exited the square directly into the adjacent little Piazza del Biscione, where I stumbled upon Ristorante da Pancrazio—home of fantastic food, on the site of one of the world’s most infamous assassinations. Read more >