Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


Leave a comment

Tiny Valletta’s Big Churches

Parish Church of St. Augustine, Valletta, MaltaOne of Europe’s smallest countries in terms of both size and population, the island nation of Malta has a disproportionately large abundance of everything from striking architecture to a complex and outstanding cuisine. Its deep history has seen a seemingly endless parade of foreign powers attacking, invading, and controlling it over the centuries. At its heart, the capital of Valletta houses only about 6,000 people. This fantastic walled peninsula city, surrounded on three sides by blue bays and harbors of the Mediterranean Sea, is crammed with a hefty number of gorgeous churches, maybe for all those who were trying to pray away the latest conquerors. Read about the top five churches in Valletta >


Leave a comment

Enjoying a Really Local Dinner in Windhoek, Namibia

Food, Joe's Beerhouse, Windhoek, NamibiaMy brother, sister-in-law, and I were spending two full weeks in Namibia. We had come to this southwestern African country to see its famed ghost town, climb its spectacular orange sand dunes, stay at its unforgettable desert camps, and gape at its tremendous wildlife. So you can imagine our apprehension when some of that wildlife starting appearing on our dinner plates. Of course, restaurants here, just like anywhere else in the world, prepare foods that are local — I’ve had whale in Norway, cloudberries in Sweden, bison in Utah, boletus mushrooms in Poland, and llama in Argentina. In Namibia, that happens to mean things like eland and crocodile and ostrich — and it’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. One of the places that does it outrageously well is Joe’s Beerhouse in the capital city of Windhoek. Read about it >


Leave a comment

Architecture in Alberta That Rivals Its Scenery

Old City Hall, Calgary, AlbertaBanff, Alberta, was one of the first places I remember ever wanting to see. It took a few decades, but I finally put together a two-week loop around Alberta that started in Edmonton and ended in Calgary, with gorgeous Banff nicely sandwiched between. During that time, I reveled in Alberta’s unmatched scenery — ice fields, waterfalls, dramatic mountains, deep lakes, and deeper forests. But I also was treated to some striking architecture that adds even more interest to this western Canadian province. Read about the top five buildings in Alberta >


Leave a comment

Hurry to Many Glacier Hotel Before It’s Just “Hotel”

Although I’ve visited many national parks over the years, I had never stayed at one of their famed lodges overnight. So, when I headed to parks in Montana and Wyoming, the time seemed ripe. My first one was tucked deep inside Glacier National Park, way up in Montana at the Canadian border. With basic and rustic, but comfortable, accommodations, Many Glacier Hotel rightly prides itself on its excellent restaurant, century-old structure, and one of the most dramatic settings in the Rocky Mountains. But head there quickly: Global climate change is permanently erasing the park’s famed glaciers at an alarming rate. Read more about it >


1 Comment

The War That Didn’t End All Wars

National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MissouriOn July 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb nationalist. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a month, almost all of Europe was embroiled in a vicious “war to end all wars.” That, obviously, did not pan out. Combined, combatant and civilian deaths totaled 22 million, making the First World War one of the deadliest modern wars. Overshadowed by the Second World War, it often doesn’t receive its rightful respect. But the National World War I Museum and Monument in Kansas City, Missouri — one of the best history museums in the United States — gives it the honor and recognition it deserves. Read about it >


Leave a comment

Five Fantastic Buildings in Albany, New York

First Trust Company Building, Albany, New YorkIn 1614, Dutch traders built Fort Nassau, a fur-trading post and the first documented European structure in present-day Albany, New York. Things have changed over the four centuries since then, and a wood fort would hardly blend in at all in the capital of New York. I would have liked to have seen what that short-lived structure looked like (abandoned after only a few years due to the river’s flooding), but I found just as much pleasure in checking out some of its successors. Read about the top five buildings in Albany, New York >


Leave a comment

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 >


Leave a comment

The Eternally Beautiful Churches of Rome

Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, RomeRome and religion are intrinsically intertwined. Completely surrounding the Catholic mini-state of the Vatican City, the Italian capital has been influenced by the church, and vice versa, for centuries. Italians still go pazzo for Il Papa, and a papal Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter is an unforgettable experience (at least, from what I’ve heard). Of course, getting into one takes a lot of doing, so most of us will have to be satisfied with just popping into a regular run-of-the-mill church that a pope may or may not have visited at some point. But in Rome, that means you inevitably step into a dazzling place that could stand on its own against most museums. Filled with long histories, incredible architecture, and art by some of Italy’s heavyweights, the churches of Rome — and there are many of them — rank among the most beautiful in the world. The first one I entered was so sublime that I needed no further motivation to visit every other one I came across. Read about the top five churches in Rome >


Leave a comment

Royal Yet Modest at Oslo’s Oscarshall

Oscarshall, Oslo, NorwayOn the western side of Oslo, Norway, the enclave of Bygdøy occupies a scenic peninsula that has become home to some of the country’s wealthiest citizens, residing in one of the most fashionable areas of Norway, complete with its most expensive properties. So it’s no surprise that when the royals wanted to build a summer palace, they chose this area. Today, that palace, named Oscarshall after its founding king, is open to the public, and I headed there on a gorgeous April day to see how the royals lived, royally yet not overtly sumptuously. Read about Oscarshall >


Leave a comment

Animals That Come to Life in Art

All pet owners know that their four- and sometimes two-legged friends have distinctive personalities. But that doesn’t apply solely to our domesticated companions. Go into the wild and watch how different penguins or baboons behave, and you’ll start to notice the uniqueness of each individual. Animals are just as complicated as humans (with a lot less baggage), capable of learning, surviving against the odds, and feeling, everything from fear and compassion to sadness and joy. We’ve all seen the videos of elephants crying, a husky going absolutely bonkers when his master returns home after an extended tour of duty overseas, the Labrador gently interacting with a curious but cautious three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and the giraffe kissing his caretaker goodbye, sensing the man’s impending death from cancer. When animals are portrayed in art and an artist can brilliantly capture their entire being and personality — their characteristics, beauty, and emotions — in static media like marble or paint, you’ll find yourself looking at something that comes this close to being the real thing. Read about the top five animals in art >