The first stop on our European adventure was Rome. Since we were arriving mid-morning after a 10-hour flight, and because we weren’t sure how Ann would be feeling due to her illness, we pre-booked a private car tour to give us an overview of the city until we were able to check into our hotel room.

This turned out to be a fantastic way to tour Rome that didn’t involve extensive walking or a lot of time in the heat. And, our driver was a local who gave us some insight on what it was we were seeing. In addition, I didn’t even want to attempt to drive there myself.

Cars “parked” in Rome. Double parking is common here. We’re weren’t sure how anyone ever backs out.

If you have not been to Rome, you need to understand that traffic there is CRAZY! It’s a city built over the past two and a half millennia, originally laid out for horses and carts long before there were motorized vehicles. Today, some 4.5 million cars and 1.5 million motor bikes take to the streets every day, and go (and park) wherever they can. There are no lanes marked on the streets. There are only cars pushing into and out of traffic at every turn. The word “chaos” doesn’t adequately describe the sheer disorganized free-for-all that is traffic in Rome. And, we happened to arrive during a public transportation workers’ strike! Suffice it to say we were glad we weren’t driving.

This same chaotic traffic pattern of go where you want, when you want, is what made our car tour convenient. After driving past the Vatican, one of our first stops was a plaza designed by Bernini.

The driver gave us some background information as we drove up and then just kind of stopped and parked outside a pizza place in what looked like a crosswalk. He warned us to watch for motor bikes before we crossed, as they rarely stop for anyone. We carefully crossed the street and strolled the half block to the plaza. After snapping some photos and exploring for a few minutes, we found our driver. He suggested we grab a slice at the pizza joint. We did, and enjoyed some of the best pizza we’d ever had as we hopped back in the car.

Our next stop was the Pantheon.

The Pantheon, as completed by the Emporer Hadrian. It was built on the site of a temple originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa.

Completed nearly 2,000 years ago by the emperor Hadrian to honor all Roman gods, (and re-dedicated as a Catholic church in the 7th century), it is one of Rome’s most popular tourist destinations. We were able to park right next to it and walk right in as our driver waited outside with the car. We stood, in awe, looking up 142 ft. at what is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, admiring a stream of sunshine coming in through the oculus at the very top. When done looking, we meandered back out,  jumped back in the car, and were off to our next stop.

We spent several hours doing this, hearing about a spot, stopping right next to it, getting out, and exploring. We rolled up to stops with a great views of the Forum, Colosseum, and Circus Maximus.

We stopped at the top of the Spanish Steps. We visited the plaza where Rome’s City Hall is located. Every time we’d stop, we had only to walk a few steps to be standing right in the middle of the place we were visiting. It felt very first class, and made for a very “doable” tour for both of us.

One of our favorite stops was something our driver called, “The Hole of Rome.”  We headed up a hill where our driver told us there were a lot of embassies. Right outside the Maltese Embassy, there was a short line of people, waiting to peek through a tiny hole in the door. We asked what it was, but our driver wouldn’t tell us — he said we just had to look.

We waited a couple of minutes in line for our turn, and then took a peek. Through the hole, we saw a path lined by trees. In the distance we saw the city, and, perfectly framed, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was something we’d have never found on our own, but was worth taking a few minutes to see and enjoy.

We returned to our hotel and knew we’d had a far more complete, and fun tour than we would have had if we’d tried to go on our own. We didn’t have to drive in sheer chaos, hop on and off a crowded bus, or “help” each other navigate the streets. Even better, we saw things we wouldn’t have known existed, which made for a most memorable day of roaming Rome.

[well]This blog post is part of a series about the “20 Things We’ll Remember Most About Our Summer Vacation.” Up next: A look inside one of the world’s most beautiful churches — St. Peter’s Basilica. [/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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