Stephen Travels

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Comfort Food in Council Bluffs, Iowa

After a stroll through Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and a visit at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, I started to search for a spot for lunch, but none were forthcoming in this pleasant residential neighborhood. So, after a tour of the Historic General Dodge House, I asked the staff for a recommendation. Both ladies offered the same suggestion: Dixie Quick’s. Nothing fancy, they said, but high-quality food makes it a popular destination. They turned out to be quite right. Read more >

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The Best Architecture in Des Moines, Iowa

Terrace Hill, Des Moines, IowaPretty much smack in the center of Iowa, Des Moines boasts some enviable national rankings, making the top 10 on such diverse lists as hippest midsize cities, best cities in which to live and work, most pro-business cities, best cities for retirement, best cities for young professionals, best farmers’ market, and so on. You’d think that with all that going for it, it would be a lively, dynamic place, even more so as the state’s capital and largest city. But when I visited on a regular Tuesday, downtown was virtually devoid of people despite the new office buildings, and I walked for a dozen blocks without passing a single place where I could pick up a cup of coffee or a newspaper. Perhaps I just missed the buzzing part of town, but it seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, this was a welcome break from the overcrowded streets of my hometown of New York, and the extra breathing room gave me plenty of space to enjoy some impressive architecture. Read more about my top five buildings in Des Moines >


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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 >