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]

  • Strawberry fields forever...⁣
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While traveling, we adore stopping in farmers markets and checking out the fresh produce available for sale. When we saw these strawberries in Tallinn, Estonia, we just had to take a picture.⁣
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The vibrant color of the berries tells us they were ripened naturally on the vine. You just don't get that color trucked in to a supermarket. And that natural ripening means, of course, that these are some of the sweetest strawberries you'll ever taste. Yum! #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #celebritycruises #cruising #seastheday #cruise #sea #beyondborders #humansatsea #cruiseaddict #cruisecritic #tallinn #lifeisbeautiful #cruiseship #cruiselife #estonia #strawberries #farmersmarket #lifeisshort #visitestonia #adventuregirls #tallinngram #berries
  • On our Baltic Sea cruise, we stopped in Stockholm, Sweden. To get there, we had to sail through the Stockholm Archipelago. ⁣
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For days leading up to our arrival in Stockholm, the captain of the ship kept telling us that we should plan to be up early so we could take in the scenery as we passed through the archipelago. After enough repetitions, we resolved to get up early to see what he was so excited about.⁣
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We are so glad we set the alarm. That morning, we sat on our balcony and had breakfast watching some of the most beautiful scenery we'd ever seen pass by our cabins. We had an up-close view of land that we've rarely had from a cruise ship unless it was docked. ⁣
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Sure, we travel to see specific things. Who doesn't? But we really love it when we find something like this that we didn't know existed, but it is so amazing it enriches our lives and makes us want to go back again and again.
  • In the @visitmasoncityiowa airport, is a new restaurant called CAVU American Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge. Offering chef-crafted foods and incredible cocktails, this restaurant has the best airport food we've ever eaten. In fact, we'll call this airport a destination.⁣
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Pictured here is Chef Cassie's fried potato salad. This was her elimination dish from the show, "Master Chef." Apparently, Wolfgang Puck didn't think much of it. After trying it, we don't think much of Wolfgang Puck's taste.⁣
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This dish, which is served warm, is composed of crispy fried potato chunks covered in delicious potato salad dressing. The combination of flavors and textures had us going back for more. #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #midwestliving #midwestlivingmag  #midwestmoment #igersmidwest #midwestisbest #masoncity #clearlake @masoncity
  • In Rochester, Minnesota, in the shadow of the famed Mayo Clinic, is a beautiful pedestrian area called the Peace Plaza. Because of its location, it's often the last area a person walks through as they go to the clinic hoping for help. And, it's the first place people pass as they leave the clinic sometimes with good news, other times to confront their own mortality.⁣
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The designers of the plaza seemed to understand the huge role the space would play in the lives of the people coming through. They designed it as a calming, meditative space filled with tranquility. It's a place you can refocus a little, and take some time to transition from the clinic to the world. And, it's just one more example of the ways that @minnesotas_rochester demonstrates humanity to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come each year to the clinic.
  • Are these salt and pepper shakers not the cutest?? Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is a magical place at Christmastime. We stopped by the @pwmercantile this morning and snapped a few new pics. Getting excited for the Holiday Lights Parade tonight!
  • We have four holiday gift guides up on the blog for the traveler, home cook, cruise lover, and road tripper on your shopping list! Just click on the link in our bio to check out our blog. ⁣
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One of our all-time favorite items (it made two of our lists) are these @EagleCreek packing items. This starter set goes with us on every single trip. Last year, Steve packed 16 size XXL shirts in on of them. They are super lightweight, safe space in your suitcase, and help you stay organized as your travel. ⁣
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What are your favorite gift ideas for travelers this year? ⁣
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#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #giftideas #giftsfortravelers #traveler #travelgifts #giftguide #roadtrippin #packingtips #packingbags #howtopack #packlight #eaglecreek #celebritycruises #travelblogger #packing #packinghack #giftsph #holidayshopping #giftidea #travelgram #packing101
  • Who's ready for some pumpkin pie??⁣
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The thought of digging in to a piece of pumpkin pie (served with a cup of coffee with pumpkin spice creamer) takes us back to a small town festival we love. ⁣
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A few years ago, our town of Crete, Nebraska, began holding the Great Pumpkin Festival during the first weekend of October.⁣
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From spring to fall, local volunteers tend gardens filled with pumpkin vines so that folks who come to the festival can take home a reasonably priced, locally-grown pumpkin. ⁣
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The festival is full of games, food, performances and fun. It's a wholesome day where the town turns out to celebrate another year together in a relaxed, calm atmosphere.⁣
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Does your town have a festival? Tell us about it in the comments below.
  • ***NEW BLOG POST *** Today is exactly 8 months since we started our weight loss journey using the @noom app. See how we’ve lost 126.3 pounds while traveling. Just click on the link to our blog that’s in our bio to read our answers to your most asked questions about weight loss. And click to the second photo here to see our “before” pic.

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