Last fall, our college-aged daughter, Meghan, shared with us that she was interested in doing a summer study abroad in Spain. Since she is a Spanish major (as was Steve), we thought this was a great opportunity and encouraged her to apply. Once she was accepted and final arrangements were made in January, Steve had an idea and one night, with just a hint of sarcasm, said, “You know, like any good parents, we should pick our daughter up from school, don’t you think?”

Our daughter, Meghan, during her study abroad in Salamanca, Spain.

I wasn’t so sure about it. I was about to have shoulder surgery and was still battling the effects of a rare auto immune disease called cardiac sarcoidosis. I was uncertain if I would be able to handle the long flight overseas by summer or have the energy to really enjoy new cities and sites. Because Steve is a middle school principal, and can only take extended days off in July, we didn’t have the option of taking much time off later in the year. We thought and prayed a lot about whether or not to invest in such a big trip this summer, and finally came to a conclusion. We had to try.

The route of the Celebrity Equinox’s 7-night cruise through Italy, France and Spain.

We booked refundable airline tickets and Steve began researching places we could go and things we could see that wouldn’t be detrimental to my health. Within a few weeks, we had made arrangements spend three days in Rome, Italy, board a cruise ship that would sail along the Mediterranean Sea to Barcelona, Spain, and then take a high-speed train to meet up with Meghan in Salamanca where she would be finishing her studies.

Steve made sure we built in plenty of time for rest and guess what? We did it and I survived!

We had a wonderful 19-day vacation that included stops in 12 cities in three different European countries, and I’m so glad we went. While we weren’t able to do as much as we’d have liked because of my health condition, we were still able to walk through Roman ruins, dine at sidewalk cafes, relax with a book by the pool on the ship, and explore new places like Ajaccio, Corsica and Palma de Mallorca, that neither of us had ever seen.

The view from our ship as we docked in Ajaccio, Corsica, a place neither of us had ever seen and both want to return.

The view from our ship as we docked in Ajaccio, Corsica, a place neither of us had ever seen and both want to return.

It was an incredible vacation that created new memories that will last a lifetime. Rather than bore you with a day-to-day rundown of what we did and where we went, we’ve decided to share 20 of the things (in no particular order) that we’ll remember most about our summer vacation to Europe. We hope you’ll check back to hear more about our visits to the Colosseum in Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, see what made our jaws drop in Barcelona, and hear about what we learned on our behind the scenes tour of the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship.

This year’s summer vacation was truly an extraordinary travel experience — so come along as we reminisce about what we’ll remember most.

[well]Up next:  See what we enjoyed most about the day we spent roaming Rome.[/well]

  • Have you always wanted to visit @thepioneerwoman lodge in Oklahoma? We’ve got a new blog post today with 12 tips to make your visit spectacular. Our website link is in our bio. And if the lodge is not open for tours when you can come, no worries! There are plenty of great things to see and do when you @visit_the_osage and @pwmercantile I’m Pawhuska. #pawhuska #pioneerwoman #drummondlodge #ranch #postcardjar #reedrummond
  • This is our first spring in Osage County, Oklahoma, and we are in awe of these trees!! It is a red bud and is the state tree of Oklahoma. They are everywhere around here and we love spotting the bright pinkish purple blooms among the green trees. So much beauty in nature. #redbud @visit_the_osage  @travelok
  • Sitting in our hotel room in Venice, we could look out across the busy canal toward St. Mark's cathedral. The fact that it's an island city makes it different from any other city in the world. Water taxis zoomed around, larger vaporettos chugged past, as well. Occaisionally, a cruise ship would glide past our window. Tourists from all over the world came to take in this spectacle, yet to the locals, who drive boats down tight canals with ease, this is what normal life looks like. The world is indeed a large, interesting place. Have you been to Venice? ⁣
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  • Seeing this photo takes us back to the the cooking class we took last summer on the island of Mykonos in Greece. We went to a woman's home, learned about Greek culture and history, and then prepared a meal using fresh ingredients from the garden in her back yard. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most delicious meals we'd ever had. But perhaps even better are the memories of the warm welcome we received as we entered her home and the glimpse into the lives of real people in another part of the world. ⁣
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  • Trust us on this: there is nothing that relaxes more than kicking back in a hammock in the shade on a beach in the Caribbean. Except maybe leaving that relaxing spot and getting back on a cruise ship for cocktails and a gourmet dinner. What do you do to relax on vacation? ⁣
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  • Near Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Italy's Prosecco region, is a bar with no bartender. You simply go inside, take the wine or beer you want from the fridge, and leave your money to pay for it in a box. We weren't sure who the owner of this bar is, or even who keeps it stocked. What we do know from the cards and notes they've left is that people from all over the world have come here and respected the honor system. It's amazing how honest folks will be if you just show a little trust. ⁣
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  • Ahhh...the Piazza del Campo in Siena! We absolutely loved our time here, sitting at a sidewalk cafe, sipping delicious Chianti Clasico wine and savoring the some of the best lasagna and pasta carbonara we'd ever had. While there, we noticed a number of people drinking some kind of orange colored drink. Our waiter explained it was a spritz of some sort. We asked if it were good. She shook her head and said that only the Americans seemed to like it. ⁣
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  • This barn at at @Calamus_Outfitters in @visitnebraska serves as a reminder that this really is a working ranch. The Switzer family has poured their hearts and souls into the land. We think it's pretty neat that they're willing to share this piece of the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills with visitors. Have you been to the Nebraska Sandhills? ⁣
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#visitnebraska #HonestlyNE #CalamusOutfitters #barn #Tanking #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #travelblogger #travel #cabins #agritourism #ranch #ranching #ranchlife #goplaces

Making the most of midlife.