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]

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
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What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
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if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

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