Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Auckland’s Architectural Gems

Old Arts Building, Auckland, New ZealandI was returning to Auckland via ferry from breakfast and a low-key morning in Devonport. Ahead of me, the skyline of New Zealand’s largest city marched along the harborfront, dominated by modern office and residential towers. With the exception of the Sky Tower and the cheerful Ferry Terminal, this fairly generic skyline could be interchanged most anywhere — Vancouver, for example, or Miami or Honolulu. Once I looked beyond that, however, I found that the city has an impressive list of heritage buildings, more than 200 structures with significant and valued historical and cultural heritage. Read more about the top five buildings in Auckland >


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Faith and Fun in Helsinki’s Finest Churches

Karuna Church, Helsinki, FinlandStrong incense emanating from censers in a Russian Orthodox cathedral. An organ concert in an iconic Lutheran cathedral. Utter silence in a modern chapel in a busy area of Helsinki. A wedding in a church built into a rock. A chorale by Finland’s most famous composer ringing from the bell tower of an Art Nouveau church. My experiences in the city’s churches continually surprised me, surpassing mere architecture, history, and religious tradition (although all of those abound in Helsinki’s houses or worship), and visiting them became one long series of unexpected delights. Read about the top five churches in Helsinki >


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Dinner on the Most Photogenic Street in Gdansk, Poland

Only three blocks long, Ulica Mariacka, or St. Mary’s Street, is arguably the most charming street in Gdansk, Poland. It’s not undiscovered — during the day, tourists fill the cobblestone lane, attracted by a plethora of shops selling everything amber, from jewelry to sailing ship models. At night, however, the crowds thin and the pace slows, and you’re guaranteed to have a remarkable dinner at Literacka while soaking in the historic atmosphere. Read more >


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The Churches of Pittsburgh: Very Diverse, All Beautiful

From the top of Mount Washington, I took in the fantastic view of the skyline of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the best urban views in the United States. Connected to the land across the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers by its iconic yellow bridges, this pie-shaped section of the city rises heavenward with its shiny skyscrapers, which (unfortunately) effectively hide one of the city’s lower-rise assets: its gorgeous houses of worship. Read about the top five churches in Pittsburgh >


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From 1322 to Today, Tallinn’s Town Hall Was Built to Last

Town Hall, Tallinn, EstoniaIn 2005, the Town Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, received second prize in the category of Conservation of Architectural Heritage at the European Heritage Awards. Located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, Town Hall isn’t the largest one I’ve ever seen, nor the grandest or most elaborate, but it’s certainly charming and irrefutably resilient: For nearly 700 years, this structure has weathered everything from its critical role in the then-independent city to its subordination under Soviet Communism to its rebirth as Tallinn’s hub. And, so, that award was very well-deserved. Read more about it >


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Lake-Hopping in the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are one of the most gorgeous places on the planet. This long range of dramatic peaks runs on both sides of the border of Alberta and British Columbia. Within their folds, I thrilled at the countless gems in their treasure trove — blissful mountain towns, waterfalls, rushing rivers, plenty of wildlife, canyons, historic hotels, glaciers, and more photo-worthy vistas than you can imagine. And, of course, there are the lakes — tremendously beautiful bodies of water of all shades of blue and green that hold unbeatable natural allure as well as a few secrets and mysteries. 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 >