Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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In a Glass by Themselves

City Hall, Buffalo, New YorkWe rarely give much thought to the ordinary glass objects around our homes—our windows and mirrors, baking dishes and light bulbs, orange juice pitchers and cereal bowls. But once you start to consider its myriad uses, from the mundane to the extraordinary, you’ll develop a new appreciation for this versatile material that begins with melted sand and ends up as fantastic artwork. Read about the world’s best glassworks >


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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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Shelf Life: The World’s Best Bookstores

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaWhen you’re confined to your home for any reason, from a three-day cold that has you feeling haggard to a yearlong global pandemic that has wrecked every aspect of your life and has completely enervated you, you need a panacea to prevent insanity. From cobbling together inventive workout routines with household items to starring in your own YouTube videos to whipping up something completely new in the kitchen, we’ve all found methods to amuse ourselves. (Binge-watching brainless reality shows doesn’t cut it.) Of course, the old standby — curling up with a good book — rises to the top of the ways to escape your situation and enter a world far-removed from your own. And finding a unique brick-and-mortar bookstore to expand your library with anything from the definitive biography of an obscure artist to a demotic novel for a beach read is where it all begins (sorry, Amazon). Read about my top five bookstores >


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Seattle’s Asian Art at Its Best

Statue, Seattle Asian Art MusuemI had spent one rainy day in Seattle, Washington, beneath the city’s surface, wending my way through subterranean streets in the Seattle Underground, followed by a rainy night in my outstanding accommodations, the Sorrento Hotel. More of the same the next day took me indoors to one of the world’s best aquariums and then to one of the city’s top museums, the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This microcosm of Asian art encompasses everything from hanging scrolls to Buddha statues, cosmetic boxes to jade landscapes, that spans a broad range of countries and centuries. Read about it >


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A Good Laugh Is a Mighty Good Thing

Seals in a Bathtub, Portland, OregonHerman Melville said it best in Moby-Dick: “A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing.” Published in 1851, Melville’s statement could not be more pertinent today. Let’s face it: In light of a disturbing pandemic, food and hand sanitizer shortages, insufficient health care procedures, quarantines, and a constant barrage of bad news and “Breaking News” from CNN that instantly makes you think, “What fresh hell is this?!”, we need a good laugh to relieve the tension, if only for a moment or two. Without further ado, from my travels around the world, here are the top five sights that will make you laugh >


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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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Overwhelmed With Light and Color in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, WashingtonI first came to experience the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly from a distance. From 520 feet above it, actually. Atop the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington, after enjoying the expansive views of the city and its watery surroundings and mountainous background, I noticed a splash of vibrant colors in a concentrated patch of ground far below me. Intrigued by this alluring blast of a glowing spectrum, I knew I had to discover the source. And that’s when I was introduced to this artist’s creations at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Read more >


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A True Fish Tale at Ivar’s Acres of Clams in Seattle

After exploring the Seattle Aquarium and looking out at Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington, I was immediately starting to crave fish for dinner. I strolled down Alaskan Highway, a strip of shops, restaurants, and attractions along downtown’s edge that abuts the bay and the multiple piers that jut into it, to Ivar’s Acres of Clams, not only for some wonderful seafood but also for a wonderfully odd, colorful, and fascinating history. Read more about it >


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Come Sail Away on the World’s Best Boat Rides

Maligne Lake, Alberta, CanadaWhen the summer heat becomes too oppressive and you’re tired of sitting in enclosed air-conditioned rooms, one of the best ways to cool off is to hop on a boat, whether it’s your own private tricked-out yacht or a workaday municipal water ferry. A refreshing breeze kicks in as the speed increases, cooling your overheated skin and providing a pleasant reprieve. The ride gets more interesting, of course, when you’re traveling and you find yourself on a luzzu in Malta, a paddleboat on the Alabama River, a pletna in Slovenia, or a high-speed catamaran in Saint Martin. Read more about the world’s top five boat rides >


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Seattle’s Art World at Its Most Brilliant

Seattle Art Museum, WashingtonAnother gray, wet day in Seattle had me searching for indoor activities. The tall, black, steel man with the hammer on a downtown street corner caught my eye, even through the rain and from under the shelter of my umbrella. Unperturbed by the tail end of the morning rush hour, he maintained a steady and soundless rhythm as he beat at the air high above the corner of University Street and 1st Avenue. He also lured me to the building behind him, which quickly ended my quest: the Seattle Art Museum. Read more >