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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St. Stephen Rocks

St. Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo, New YorkAt last count, there are at least nine St. Stephens, including a Byzantine monk, an English abbot, and a Russian painter and missionary. I’m familiar with only two: Stephen I, the man who united Hungary into one nation a millennium ago and served as its first king for nearly 40 years, and my namesake, the Biblical Stephen who was stoned to death for his faith, thus becoming Christianity’s first martyr. With the latter’s feast day coming up, on December 26, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look at how this Stephen is presented in art—very often, but not always, holding the rocks that were used to kill him. Read about the top five depictions of St. Stephen >


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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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This Place Is for the Birds

Quite literally, Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in New Zealand is a home for our feathered friends. Along with a selection of reptiles, invertebrates, and aquatic creatures, birds have found a mostly predator-free place to thrive. At Pūkaha, conservation and education efforts have been bringing threatened species into the consciousness of visitors for more than 50 years. And they do it in a delightful way to keep you thoroughly entertained. Read more about it >


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How Great Thou Arch

Queenstown War Memorial, New ZealandThey seem simple: vertical curved structures that span an open space and may, or may not, support weight above it. Of course, arches are much more complicated than that, a complex balance of compression, stress, thrust, bracings, and transference. The Mesopotamians got the jump on them four thousand years ago, but it was the Romans who used them systematically in a wide range of structures, leading eventually to a worldwide adaptation of this most beautiful form. Read about the top five arches >


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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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The Best of New Zealand’s Biggest City

St. Mary's in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, New ZealandAfter an entire day in airports and on planes, from New York to California to New Zealand, the temptation to stay in my comfortable king-size bed in my darkened hotel room and hibernate for a day was eroding my will to go out and explore. But Auckland has too much to experience to sleep it all away. So, after a restorative power nap, I began poking around the largest city in the country. Read about the top five things to see and do in Auckland, New Zealand >


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First Impressions That Last

Pitons, St. LuciaYour journey begins in your mind, when you ruminate about a place you’d like to visit. After you’ve made your itinerary, selected the places you want to explore, and booked your accommodations, there’s only one thing left to do: Go. And when you get there, it’s that ever-important first impression that can set the tone for your entire trip. That initial reaction all depends on how you arrive, and the mode of transportation you’ve selected can make all the difference. Read about the world’s top five arrivals >


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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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Organized Nature in a New Zealand Botanic Garden

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, New ZealandJust a couple of blocks from my hotel, I wandered into Christchurch Botanic Gardens to find out what ordered beauty looks like in New Zealand. I had already bounced around the country for three weeks, completely enthralled by its untamed and spectacular nature, from azure lakes and national parks to snow-capped mountains, unspoiled beaches, geothermal wonders, and caves both chunky and delicate. Now it was time to see what could be done with nature when Kiwis get their hands on it. Read more about it >