Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose, But Some Places Grow Them Better

Kilkenny Castle, IrelandGarden cultivation of roses began several millennia ago, starting way back in Babylon, ancient China, and the Roman Empire. Long admired for their color, their fragrance, and their beauty (some royalty used them as legal tender in the 17th century), the world’s most popular flower has achieved fame not only in horticultural circles, but also in song (“Yellow Rose of Texas”; “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), war (The War of the Roses), adages (“bed of roses”; “I never promised you a rose garden”), and cinema (The Rose; The Rose Tattoo). This international symbol of love is tended to in dedicated gardens around the world, some of which have truly perfected the art. Read about the world’s top five rose gardens >


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The Legacy of Carl Ludvig Engel

Pulpit, Turku Cathedral, FinlandI had no idea who Carl Ludvig Engel was. But as I made my way around Finland, his name kept popping up. I would be awed by a fantastic cathedral and later on find out Engel was the architect. I would admire a stately municipal building and then discover that Engel was the architect for that, too. And his name kept reappearing, in houses and theaters and parks. I was soon on the hunt for more of Engel’s works, and they were pretty easy to find. Read about Engel’s top five works >


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The World’s Best Urban Parks

Watching a group of Asian senior citizens practicing the slow movements of a choreographed dance. Making friends with a red squirrel. Hearing someone rail against the evils of plutocracy. Standing under a 165’ Douglas fir. You never know what you’ll find in a city park, and that’s one of their many attractions. And the best parks that make all that possible smack in the middle of a city do it in unforgettable style. Read about the top five urban parks >


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Bodies of Work

Jenners Department Store, Edinburgh, ScotlandIf you feel like the weight of the world is sometimes pressing down on you, imagine if an actual building were doing the same thing. Since the sixth century BC in ancient Greece, stone women have been supporting entablatures on their heads; their male counterparts came along a little later, in the Greek cities in Sicily and southern Italy. These caryatids and atlantids not only served a practical function, as a column or pillar to support the weight of a structure, but they also added impressive panache. Read about the top five atlantids and caryatids >


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Unforgettable Café Culture Experiences

Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaYou’re ready to start your day with a light breakfast. Or you’ve been working your way through the morning sights and need a little midday nourishment. Or you’re up for a late evening cup of coffee and something sweet. No matter what time of day, a welcoming café invites you in with a tempting menu and a closer look at local customs, and the best ones do it in fine style. Read about the top five cafés >


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Pedal Your Way to New Experiences

Stanley Park, VancouverWhen riding public transportation became a dodgy activity during the pandemic, carless people began switching to bicycles in droves, causing a severe shortage in supply. And now, with spring in full bloom, hopping on two wheels becomes an even more attractive way to get around. Beyond just a mode of transportation to help you accomplish your daily errands, a bike ride for the casual cyclist is also a terrific way to explore a new destination. Read about the world’s top five bike rides >


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Finland’s 10,000-Year-Old Time Capsule

National Museum of Finland, HelsinkiThe National Museum of Finland encapsulates the history and culture of this Nordic country in a nutshell — an extremely large nutshell. The shell itself is striking, an Art Nouveau architectural treasure that reflects the strong period of National Romanticism and beckons you to explore. Once I cracked that shell, I found a bounty of fascinating, interesting, and informative exhibits, including some arresting frescoes as soon as I stepped inside to purchase my admission ticket. Read more about it >


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The Most Heavenly Celestial Intermediaries, Protectors, and Guides

Angel on St. Angelo Bridge, RomeAngels are a common motif during the Christmas season (particularly noteworthy is Clarence in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, and in the holiday markets in Düsseldorf, Germany), but they’re not restricted to December. You can find them throughout the year, in myriad locations and captured in various materials and emotional states, from joyful angels blowing horns to mournful ones grieving at gravesites. You may even have one of the guardian type of your own. Read about the top five angels >


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Going Directly to Jail

Prisoner's Gate, The Hague, NetherlandsGoing to prison while on vacation is not exactly on anyone’s itinerary, especially if you’ve seen Midnight Express. But sometimes a look at life behind bars is a worthy way to pass an hour or two, especially when the jails themselves provide some fascinating history and some pretty impressive buildings. Read about the top five jails >


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The Power of Pink

Rose quartz, Rapid City, South DakotaYou may first conjure up an image of a baby blanket for your infant daughter or niece. Perhaps an Easter bunny comes to mind. Or maybe you recall the unmistakable aroma of bubble gum. No matter what your association, the color pink will make you think of something relevant, and it’s usually a positive and cheery thought. Although pink comes to the fore with the arrival of spring, in myriad blossoms and flowers, you don’t have to look very hard to find it in delightful places around the world throughout the year. Read about the top five pinks >