For us, travel is all about the experiences. Here’s a look back at our some of our most memorable travel-related experiences of 2018 (in no particular order). 

1. Touring Italy 

Our tour of Italy was simply unforgettable! Deb from Italy Unfiltered and her husband, Massi the Driver, took us on foodie tours, showed us breathtaking views of Tuscany, and demonstrated how to remove a cork from a bottle of Prosecco with a saber in Valdobbiadene. We visited Venice, Florence, and Rome and Arianna and Alessio from KM Zero Tours taught us all about agritourism through visits to unique family-owned farms and vineyards. 

Montepulciano, Italy

One of the beautiful views near the Podere della Bruciata vineyard.

One of our fondest memories of our 2018 trip to Italy was toasting Prosecco with Massi and Deb at Cartizze Hill in Valdobbiadene.

One of our fondest memories of our 2018 trip to Italy was toasting Prosecco with Massi and Deb at Cartizze Hill in Valdobbiadene.

2. Staying at The Pioneer Woman’s Boarding House 

The Pioneer Woman’s Boarding House in Pawhuska, Okla., opened this year and quickly booked full through December of 2019. We were fortunate to stay in five of the eight cowboy-luxury themed rooms this year. We loved the small-town hospitality of the staff there, the cozy beds and clawfoot bathtubs, and the the made-to-order (and delivered to your room) coffee service in the morning. 

The Butterfly Room at The Boarding House was our favorite.

Steve and Ann at the PW Boarding House

We are always super excited to get a room at the boarding house.

3. Cooking with The Chef and The Dish 

Our cooking experiences with The Chef and The Dish allowed us travel to Italy and Spain without leaving our own kitchen. Through the magic of Skype, we learned how to make an authentic Italian meal (including risotto) with our friends, Jeff and Ciana. Then, a few weeks later, Ann learned how to make paella with The Pioneer Woman’s BFF, Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane. Taught to us by expert chefs, the recipes and techniques we learned will be with us for a lifetime. 

Cooking with Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane and The Chef & The Dish.

Cooking paella with Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane and The Chef and The Dish.

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

4. Moving our daughter to Tulsa 

In May we became empty nesters when we moved our daughter, Meghan, to Tulsa, Okla., for nursing school. With the help of our Facebook followers, we were able to select just the right U-Haul truck for the move from our home in Nebraska to her new apartment Oklahoma. It was a bittersweet trip, but we could not be more proud of her and can’t wait to have another nurse in the family. 

Meghan apartment

Meghan stands in her apartment in Oklahoma right after unloading the truck on the day she moved in.

Meghan complete apartment

With unpacking and setup done, Meghan sits and relaxes in her apartment in Oklahoma.

5. Exporing Greece 

Ann checked off the top item on her bucket list with several stops in Greece during our Celebrity cruise this summer. We’ll never forget the awe-inspiring views of the white-washed houses and blue-domed churches in Santori or our slow climb to the top of the Acropolis. Greece was everything we imagined and so much more. 

Oia Greece

A blue domed church in the town of Oia on Santorini Island, Greece enjoys a commanding view of the sea below.

We took a slow walk up to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

We took a slow walk up to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

6. Learning about beer, wine, and spirits 

We had several opportunities this year to tour breweries, wineries, and even a distillery. We took a mixology class where we learned to put the least expensive ingredient into a cocktail first (in case you mess it up). We loved our agritourism tour, including a stop at Kinkaider Brewing, in central Nebraska and we had the most incredible wine tasting in the woods in Montepulciano, Italy. 

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

A sample of Kinkaider beer in the delicious duck breast appetizer we enjoyed during our tasting.

Our wine tasting in the woods experience in Tuscany was one of our favorite travel experiences of all time.

Our wine tasting in the woods experience in Tuscany was one of our favorite travel experiences of all time.

7. Watching the sunset in the Florida Keys

We spent several weeks with Steve’s mom and dad at their winter home in the Florida Keys this year. One of our favorite memories from that trip was watching the bright orange colors of the sun, as it set into the Gulf of Mexico. We’d walk out to a dock after dinner and sit in silence as we counted the blessings of God’s creation and each other. 

Marathon, Florida, sunset

We loved watching beautiful sunsets while in Marathon, Florida.

Steve with parents sunset

Steve with his parents on a dock in Marathon, Florida around sunset.

8. Walking the streets of Pompeii

After a morning drive through the gorgeous Amalfi coast, we were not prepared for how amazed we would be when we walked thought the streets of nearby Pompeii. This incredibly well preserved Roman city, with its original structures and frescos, astounded us at every turn. Joined on the tour by Canadian friends, Roger and Jane Speer, we all could easily imagine what life was like there more than 2,000 years ago. 

Pompeii

Steve and Ann with our friends, Jane and Roger Speer in the ancient city of Pompeii.

Amalfi Coast

The beautiful Amalfi coast in Italy.

9. Road tripping across Iowa 

In late September, we spent a week exploring Iowa. Highlights included a night at Hotel Grinnell, a visit to the kitchen at Lagomarcino’s in the quad cites, and an end-of-season boat ride on the Lady of the Lake in Clear Lake. By the end of the trip, we’d discovered dozens of new destinations and attractions that make the midwest a great place to explore. 

Hotel Grinnell Iowa Penthouse Suite

Inside the Penthouse Suite of the Hotel Grinnell.

Lady of the Lake

Looking back over the wake of the Lady of the Lake boat in Clear Lake, Iowa.

10. Driving through the south 

The last week of 2018, we set off on a trip through the south, driving from Oklahoma to Florida. Our first stop in Bentonville, Arkansas, was one of our favorites. We visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Walmart Museum there. In the Delta of Mississippi, we stoped in Greenville where Steve began his teaching career. He was reunited with school colleagues and former students. And, we enjoyed a big, juicy, broiled steak from the family table in the kitchen of the iconic Doe’s Eat Place. 

Crystal Bridges

“Trade (Gifts of Trading Land with White People)” by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. This was one of the amazing pieces on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Cypress brake

The cypress swamp or, “brake,” in Greenville, Mississippi is one of the last remaining original brakes in the Mississippi Delta.

We are so blessed to be able to do what we love and share our journey with others. It is our hope that in 2019, whether it is someplace close to home or on the other side of the globe, you’ll have the opportunity to go new places and experience new things, too. 

Travel well. 


PIN FOR LATER

  • Just over two years ago, we stopped in Pawhuska to have lunch at Ree Drummond's @PWMercantile. From the person opening the door for us to the folks tending the line giving us water, we felt welcome from the moment we set foot in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.⁣
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But it turns out it wasn't just @thepioneerwoman and her husband, Ladd, who went above and beyond to welcome visitors. No, it turns out what they did was just par for the course in this town that's home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people we've met in all our travels. ⁣
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So we bought a house there. We got it in part, so we could be a part of the community we've come to love. But we also got it so we could help welcome folks to town and let them know how glad we are they came to visit. Come and see Pawhuska. And when you do, stay awhile.
  • Fried dill pickles are a little different in North Dakota than they are in most other places we've been. Instead of just dipping some dill chips in batter, dropping them in the fryer, and then serving them in a basket with ranch, the folks there take their time and make a dish to remember.⁣
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They start with a dill pickle spear, wrap that in Havarti cheese, then put a wonton wrapper around it all. Then, they fry it, and slice it open just so before serving them alongside a spicy aioli dipping sauce. We had these at a complimentary meal at Outlaws Bar and Grill in @visitwilliston, North Dakota.⁣
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Let's be honest, these pickles are just one of many reasons we look forward to our return to @northdakotalegendary next year.
  • Have you ever had the chance to watch a cruise ship come into or leave port? These massive ships, often 1,000 feet or more long, can maneuver themselves by the dock so gently that you don't even realize you've stopped (or started) moving.⁣
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In Bermuda, we had the chance to watch the Norwegian Escape depart. We watched as she pushed away from the dock, then spun 180 degrees on a point before heading out to sea.⁣
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We've seen ships do this dozens of times. In fact, we've been on ships and have been part of this type of maneuvering dozens of times. And yet, given the sheer size of the vessels, it never ceases to impress.
  • You know you want to. Do it. Just book the ticket and go. At the end of your life, you likely won't remember most of the stuff you bought in 2019, but you will always remember the journey you took and the experiences you had. So enrich your life and go. We've never regretted spending money for a trip.
  • This just might be the sweetest, best pecan roll we've ever had. At the @PWMercantile, they bake these delicious treats daily. Covered in a luscious caramel and finely chopped pecans, these rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. Have you had one?
  • Smack in the middle of Portland, Oregon, we found the International Rose Test Garden. Set on 4.5 acres of land, the garden offers visitors a chance to see 10,000 rose bushes from about 650 different varieties. ⁣
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We spent more than an hour walking the carefully tended paths, snapping photos, and just enjoying the beautiful flowers. Our visit here made us glad that we literally scheduled time on this trip to stop and smell the roses.
  • Set in a renovated middle school in Grinnell, Iowa, Hotel Grinnell is one of our favorite boutique hotels. The owner thoughtfully designed the space and included touches from school including “Hall Pass” key card sleeves, and a bar cleverly named, “The Periodic Table.” We wrote a story on this hotel, you can read all about it on our blog. Link in bio. @hotelgrinnell #hosted @traveliowa
  • Everyone has a happy place, a spot where the world melts away and a sense of relaxation and calm settles in. For Steve, this place is on board a cruise ship, out on open water. He can spend hours sitting and watching the water, the ship's wake, and looking out for other ships. He loves soaking up the sun and fresh ocean air while cruising along on the sea. ⁣
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What's your happy place? ⁣
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