Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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The War That Didn’t End All Wars

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MissouriOn July 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a month, almost all of Europe was embroiled in a vicious “war to end all wars.” That, obviously, did not pan out. Combined, combatant and civilian deaths totaled 22 million, making the First World War one of the deadliest modern wars. Overshadowed by the Second World War, it often doesn’t receive its rightful respect. But the National World War I Museum and Monument in Kansas City, Missouri — one of the best history museums in the United States — gives it the honor and recognition it deserves. Read about it >


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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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A Good Deed Portrayed in Art Around the World

St. Veronica, National Gallery of Art, Washington DCJuly 12 is the feast day of St. Veronica, one of the most identifiable saints in the Christian canon. Whereas so many saints can be hard to recognize by sight according to their symbols (for example, a lily is associated with at least 10 saints; a book accompanies more than 20), the veil with Jesus’ face is assigned only to Veronica. She was especially revered in the 14th and 15th centuries, but her simple act of kindness — offering to wipe Christ’s face — is just as relevant, and as necessary, today. Throughout the world, she has been portrayed in myriad ways and materials. Read about the top five depictions of St. Veronica >


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Kansas City’s Union Station Is More Than Just a Mecca for Train Lovers

Union Station, Kansas City, MissouriTrain stations have always appealed to me, partly because they harken back to a more romantic, glamorous age of travel, partly because they are the gateways to going somewhere else (and who’s not excited by that?), partly because they’re often fantastic structures. Yesterday’s grand old stations that survived the wrecking ball have been repurposed, now that rail travel has been so severely decimated, becoming destinations in and of themselves. Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, is one such success story of restored glory. Read more about it >


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Staying at a Great B&B in KC, MO

Jefferson House Bed and Breakfast, Kansas City, MissouriMissouri always seems to be unbearably humid. When I went to St. Louis and St. Charles in April a few years ago, residents said it felt like August, not spring. This time, in October in Kansas City, it felt like August again. So, after roaming around all day in the unseasonably uncomfortable weather, it was time to check in to Jefferson House Bed and Breakfast for some much-deserved respite. Read more >


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50 Candidates, 5 Winners: The Most Beautiful State Capitols in the United States

Missouri State CapitolAs Washington, D.C., continues to fail to deliver meaningful, beneficial change to the vast majority of Americans, state governments step up to fill in this appalling lack of action. From minimum wage increases to environmental legislation, governors and state senators and representatives enact changes on a local level. And many of them around the country get to do that in what is very often the most beautiful building in the capital city of their respective state. From domed cruciforms to tower skyscrapers, from a circular structure to a building that looks like a French palace, U.S. state capitols are brimming with history and run a gamut of architectural styles (some more successfully than others). Read about the top five capitols in the United States >


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Lucas Park Grille’s Marvelous Menu in a Revitalized Area of St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis often gets a bad rap, continuously ranked among the worst U.S. cities for murder rates and overall violence, and suffering a 90-year population plummet. But that should not deter you from visiting the Gateway to the West and exploring more than just its iconic arch. One of the most positive, and under-reported, stories to come out of St. Louis is the successful and ongoing revitalization of the Washington Avenue Historic District. Since the late 1990s, sturdy buildings from the late 1800s through the 1920s have been redeveloped as apartments and condos, prompting a surge of young people to move into this neighborhood and spurring a growth in the number of restaurants. And one of the best places to dine here is Lucas Park Grille. Read more >


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Horses and Beer: Touring the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri

Anheuser-Busch Brewery, St. Louis, MissouriI had already seen the mausoleum holding the remains of Adolphus Busch and his wife — an elaborate Gothic chapel in historic Bellafontaine Cemetery. Now I wanted to get a closer look at his, and his father-in-law’s, legacy: the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Fortunately, the largest brewery in the United States offers free daily tours, culminating in a couple of complimentary samples. It seemed the perfect thing to do on an oppressively humid afternoon in St. Louis, Missouri. Read more >


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When Spring Springs in the World’s Best Botanic Gardens

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New YorkEvery spring, as we bid winter goodbye, the time comes to terminate our hibernation and return to the outdoor world. One visually invigorating, and very gentle, way to re-acclimate ourselves is to visit a botanic garden. These oases of flora, very often in the heart of concrete urban clusters, can stir your soul, as the annual rebirth begins and plants, birds, animals, and insects get busy once again. Read more about the top five botanic gardens in the world >


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The Greatest Story Ever Told on a Crucifix

Church of St. Teresa, New York, New YorkIf you celebrate Easter, then you most likely start your day by preparing a big holiday meal, tearing into a chocolate bunny, watching your children search your home for hidden colored eggs, or putting on your Sunday best — including the obligatory bonnet — for the Easter Mass. The most important day in the Christian calendar brings with it the most powerful image as well: Jesus on a cross. Although it’s His resurrection that Christians celebrate today, it’s this Good Friday image that solidifies what His life and teachings were all about. Since that pivotal day at Golgotha, the Crucifixion has been represented countless times in countless cultures in countless media — paintings, sculptures, stained-glass windows, and more. Read about the world’s top five crucifixes >