Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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 >


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Victorian Grandeur in Old Louisville, Kentucky

Old Louisville, KentuckyKentucky was rapidly becoming a state with boundless surprises for me. I fully anticipated the caliber of the bourbon, the excitement of the horse races at Keeneland Race Course (but was shocked by the lack of litter after 8,000 people left following the ninth race), and the beauty of the landscape — flat valleys dotted with horse farms, and cresting and falling hills covered in thick trees. The fantastic quality of the food, however, was eye-opening, and the friendliness of the locals astounded me on a daily basis. One of the biggest surprises was the state’s architectural treasures, especially in Louisville, where I explored the third-largest historic district in the United States, crammed with fantastic homes from the Victorian Era one after the other on peaceful, tree-lined streets. Old Louisville offers a step back in time to a century ago and provides one of the best city walks you’re likely to find in the country. Read more >


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Detroit’s Gem of an Office Building

Guardian Building, Detroit, MichiganRich in architecture, teeming with milestones in industry and music, but vexed by crime, corrupt politicians, and a collapsed population and tax base, Detroit, Michigan, is a perplexing place. On the one hand, prospective visitors are put off by its remarkably bad reputation. On the other hand, it’s one of the most intriguing cities in the United States that I’ve ever been to — and without a problem. From my base at the fantastic Inn on Ferry Street, I explored everything this city has to offer — delicious ethnic foods that range from Arabic to Polish, the outstanding Detroit Institute of Arts, the ruins of Brush Park and the decimated automotive industry, and its famed architecture, including one of my favorite skyscrapers in the world, the Guardian Building. Read more about it >


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Denver’s Most Noteworthy Buildings

Malo Mansion, Denver, ColoradoWhile attending a meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in downtown Denver, Colorado, I had ample opportunity to duck out before, between, and after sessions to explore — what else? — the architecture of Denver. While the mountains and fantastic natural surroundings come to mind first when thinking about the Mile High City, its built environment is pretty noteworthy, too. Read more about the top five buildings in Denver >


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Staying at a Great B&B in KC, MO

Jefferson House Bed and Breakfast, Kansas City, MissouriMissouri always seems to be unbearably humid. When I went to St. Louis and St. Charles in April a few years ago, residents said it felt like August, not spring. This time, in October in Kansas City, it felt like August again. So, after roaming around all day in the unseasonably uncomfortable weather, it was time to check in to Jefferson House Bed and Breakfast for some much-deserved respite. Read more >


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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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Vicksburg National Military Park: The Civil War and a Lesson in Division

Arkansas Monument, Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, MississippiThe threat of yet another idiotic government shutdown in Washington, D.C., was endangering my plan for the next day while I was traveling around Mississippi. If the shutdown proceeded, national parks would close, and I had already planned to spend multiple hours at Vicksburg National Military Park. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, the shutdown was averted, and I found the gate to the park opened when I arrived — the entrance into one of the top Civil War historic sites in the United States. Read more about it >


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Arcades Provide Sheltered — and Beautiful — Walkways Around the World

Mirogoj Cemetery, Zagreb, CroatiaSuch a simple and practical idea: the creation of the arcade — a succession of contiguous arches, each supported by columns. You’ll see them all over the world, from Salisbury Cathedral in England to the Great Mosque of Damascus in Syria to the Old Town streets of Pisa, Italy. These sheltered walkways, often lined with shops, provide an intermission for pedestrians trying to escape torrential rains, bitter snows, blistering sunshine, and soggy/muddy/icy streets. And they do so with style and elegance. Read about the world’s top five arcades >


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The Big Easy’s Enduring Allure

New OrleansSometimes relegated to merely America’s party city for dipsomaniacs and forever linked to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana, manages to transcend both through its history, culture, and a palpable vibe that can’t be replicated. One of the most distinctive cities in the United States, NOLA is many things to many people: rambunctious, mysterious, unsettling, tempestuous, unfettered, joyful, unforgettable. No matter what your disposition, this 300-year-old city boasts an undeniably magnetic drawing power that will keep you enthralled throughout the year, not just during its legendary Mardi Gras celebrations when all discretion is jettisoned. Read more about the top five things to see and do in New Orleans >


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A Century of Fine Dining at Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, New York

Just a short walk downhill from the gorgeous New York State Capitol and near many of Albany’s top churches, along the city’s main downtown thoroughfare, Jack’s Oyster House has been in business for more than 100 years. Still operated by the same family, this stalwart establishment has remained open for business every day of the year since World War I—with one exception: the day of the founder’s funeral in 1987. That sort of dedication earned Jack’s a certification from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America for achieving the highest distinction in the distinguished dining and hospitality communities. But Jack’s doesn’t rest on its laurels; the head chef, named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, merges its history with forward-looking creations. Read more >