Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Busted: The World’s Best Heads

Bust of Queen VictoriaAn artist’s ability to carve a human head and have the result bear an uncanny likeness to the model never fails to impress me. Such busts may very well cause you to do a double-take, as you question yourself whether that is the real flesh-and-blood person, or their image re-created in marble, copper, stone, or whatever other material the sculptor has chosen to employ. Some, of course, rise head and shoulders above the rest. Read about the world’s top five busts >


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Scotland’s Spectacular Churches

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, ScotlandSome are so ancient, you can almost hear the ghosts of worshippers from nearly a millennium ago. The churches of Scotland, like much of the nation’s architectural inventory, are astoundingly sturdy-looking, as if nothing could ever destroy them. They’re also exquisitely beautiful, with the most delicate details that often belie their bulk. They continually impressed me as I made my two-week loop around this irresistible land. Read about the top five churches in Scotland >


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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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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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Taking a Break on the World’s Best Benches

Bench in Idaho Falls, IdahoThey’re the perfect spot for people watching, or dog watching, if you prefer. They’re shady respites on hot afternoons. They’re ideal for your lunchtime escape from your office. Benches invite us to relax for a bit, whether it’s to catch up on some reading, admire a renowned piece of art, enjoy a beguiling view, or spend some outdoor time with your significant other. When the benches themselves become the attraction, however, they transcend a simple place to sit. Read more about the world’s top five benches >


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Edinburgh’s Ecclesiastical Highlights

St. Paul's and St. George's Church, Edinburgh, ScotlandEdinburgh, Scotland, was built to last. I’ve never seen a sturdier-looking city, as if nothing could ever destroy it (even though the Vikings, English, and Germans have all tried). Woven into its architectural fabric, I found a tremendous collection of some of the most beautiful bank buildings in Scotland as well as many stunning churches. These houses of worship date back centuries, and many of their towers and spires still serve as both a call to worship and a helpful visual orientation to this city’s wonderful skyline, in both New Town and Old Town. Read about the top five churches in Edinburgh >


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Memorials to Remember

Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, AlabamaOn the last Monday of every May, Americans celebrate Memorial Day, a national observance of the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Of course, other countries have their own version of this day, and throughout the world you’ll see memorials dedicated to those who have fought for their country. Although war seems to be the most popular subject, it doesn’t hold a monopoly on memorials, which could commemorate anything from a famous leader to a national movement. Read about the top five memorials >


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Scotland’s Bank Buildings Generate More Pop for the Pound

Glasgow Savings Bank, Glasgow, ScotlandFor centuries throughout Europe, the Church was the main beneficiary of financial dedication and patronage, giving rise to some of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, basilicas, churches, and chapels. But as decrescent religion’s ambit started to fade with the burgeoning of trade and commercialism in the 1800s, banks and commercial institutions began to syphon off much of that funding, which they used to erect structures that honored not a higher being, but capitalism and economic power. This watershed resulted in increasingly grandiose bank headquarters and branches, and few people did it better than the Scots. Read more about the top five bank buildings in Scotland >


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Two Italian Brothers Shake Things Up in Glasgow, Scotland

The neon lights spelling out “Il meglio di buono” (basically, the best of good) at the entrance of Fratelli Sarti on Renfield Street in Glasgow, Scotland, tempted me every day from the window of my hotel room across the street. The restaurant looked appealing, but I often found myself passing by it, on the hunt for traditional Scottish haggis, shortbread, and whisky elsewhere. After a few days, however, just like Chaophraya and its outstanding Thai food, Sarti lured me in with the aromas and promise of something non-Scottish for a change of pace. Read more >


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The Best Artistic Depictions of Palm Sunday

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New YorkThis coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, a key date in the Christian calendar when millions of Christians around the world commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem — a fateful day that launches Holy Week. Depicted in art for centuries, Palm Sunday is an unmistakable scene, whether it’s been rendered on a canvas or, as in most of the ones that really impressed me, stained glass. Read more about the top five Palm Sundays >