Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Secular Stockholm’s Religious Past

St. James Church, Stockholm, SwedenNearly 80 percent of Swedes describe themselves as “not religious” or “convinced atheists,” and only about 4 percent of members of the Church of Sweden attend a weekly service. Those statistics belie the country’s religious past: There are more than 3,500 churches in Sweden, dozens and dozens of which are dotted around the capital city. I was enamored by the diversity of their architecture, history, and features, and I was enchanted by all of them. Read more about the top five churches in Stockholm >


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The Depthless Southern Charm of Natchez, Mississippi

Temple B'nai Israel, Natchez, MississippiWith a population that has been almost halved since its peak of only about 24,000 in 1960, Natchez, Mississippi, could easily become a forgotten, dying backwater along the Mississippi River. But its rich history, grand setting, elegance, and hospitality help maintain its relevance as one of the South’s most charming cities, particularly for those interested in heritage tourism. At the city’s zenith, more than 500 millionaires called it home — more than any other U.S. city except New York. They left behind a treasure trove of outstanding architecture that still lures a steady stream of visitors, including me, who come to gape at more than 600 antebellum structures — the largest collection in the United States. Read more about the top five buildings in Natchez >


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Sunday Driving, Any Day of the Week

Wildlife Loop Road, Custer State Park, South DakotaRemember when you would get in your car with your family or a friend or two and go for a leisurely drive, with no particular agenda or destination? If so, it’s probably a memory from a long time ago, when driving wasn’t a hassle, when roads weren’t littered with potholes and road ragers, when traffic was light, and when gasoline and tolls were affordable. But anyone eager to hit the road just for the heck of it shouldn’t be discouraged. There are still plenty of places where a casual drive — punctuated by mesmerizing scenery — is delightfully possible. Read more about the top five drives in the world >


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The Best Depictions of the Real Meaning of Christmas

The Adoration of the MagiDecember 25 is rapidly approaching, and for 2.2 billion Christians around the world, the Christmas season is in full swing. Although the secular aspects of this important holiday increasingly garner all the attention and overshadow the real meaning of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — all you have to do is look at a Nativity scene (or listen to Linus’ beautiful soliloquy in A Charlie Brown Christmas) to be reminded of what it’s all about. For centuries, artists have been depicting that day that changed the world in Nativities in every type of media imaginable. Some of these painters, sculptors, glaziers, woodworkers, and other talented experts broke the traditional mold of just showing the Holy Family in a stable with some hay, farm animals, a couple of shepherds, and the Three Wise Men. I found these works in particular to be the most imaginative, and most memorable. Read more about my top five Nativities in the world >


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When Orange Is More Than Your Morning Juice

Puente del Inca, ArgentinaFor those of us who live in certain climates, autumn brings a joyful change of season, when comfortably brisk days replace oppressive summer heat, and green foliage gives way to all-too-brief displays of flashy colors — especially a vibrant orange. If you don’t reside in a locale that’s blessed with this annual switch, you can get your fix of orange with an intricately carved jack-o-lantern or a Cincinnati Bengals game. And if you’re not privy to any of this, there are still plenty of oranges around the world that will capture your attention. Read more about my top five oranges >


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The Best Clocks in the World Tell More Than Time

Holy Spirit Church clock, Tallinn, EstoniaWhen you fall back this weekend, take a good look at the clock or wristwatch you’re adjusting. Is it a strictly functional device that displays the inexorable march of time? Or is it a work of art? Clocks have come a long way since sundials and do more than merely inform you that you have arrived early at an airport or overslept again. The best ones also tell great stories — or have great stories told about them. Read more about the top five clocks in the world >


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Portals to Greatness: The World’s Best Entryways

Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, OntarioFor better or worse, we often make snap decisions about books, or magazines, or people, by their cover. Sometimes we’re right, and the contents inside are as wonderful or as horrendous as we prejudged; sometimes we’re wrong, and exactly the opposite happens. When it comes to the world’s most magnificent building entrances, however, they never fail: They invariably lead to something magical inside, but they also always capture our attention, seducing us into admiring them on their own merit. Read more about the top five entryways in the world >