How we spent our Valentine’s Day

How we spent our Valentine’s Day

We love being home together on Valentine’s Day. Typically, we spend the evening cooking together while listening 80’s love songs and then enjoy a nice dinner by candlelight. This year, our Valentine’s Day celebration started a bit earlier in the day, as we were invited to give a lunch presentation to the PEP (People Encouraging People) Club at Capitol City Christian Church in Lincoln.

What we love about midlife travel

What we love about midlife travel

Tami Shefford, a friend of Ann’s who works there, recommended us to Todd Grove, the church’s pastor of communications and care. He invited us to come present to the church’s PEP Club for its February meeting, which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day. We happily agreed, and were excited to celebrate with new friends. We got there early, in time for a potluck lunch which included incredible chicken and noodles as well as delicious ribs and desserts.

Valentine's Day table decor

Valentine’s Day table decor

As a bonus, we got to hear singers from Lincoln Christian School before it was our turn to speak.

PEP Club at Capitol City Christian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

PEP Club at Capitol City Christian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We called our presentation, “Falling in Love With Midlife Travel,” and shared some of what we’ve come to love while traveling. Given the day, we just had to start with the most Valentine-y of cities: Valentine, Nebraska. Regular readers of this blog know that we’ve long been fans of Valentine, its people, and all the amazing things there are to see and do while there like visit Smith Falls, float down the Niobrara, or drive through the wildlife refuge.

Valentine, Nebraska slide

We began our presentation with this slide about Valentine, Nebraska.

From Valentine, we expanded a bit and talked about our love of small towns. Over the past year or so, we’ve really come to appreciate the time we’ve spent in towns and smaller cities. We talked about the rich history of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, its friendly people, and the Pioneer Woman Mercantile. We discussed dinners on the plaza in Salamanca, Spain, where Meghan attended Spanish classes for a summer and where we delighted in relaxed dinners with amazing wine.

Salamanca, Spain slide

We used this slide to talk about some of the things we loved in Salamanca, Spain.

Finally, we talked about our hometown of Crete, Nebraska, and how we even surprised ourselves by finding so many things to do right in our own backyard.

Next, we moved on to the incredible travel opportunities we love in our home state of Nebraska. From Toadstool Geologic Park to Ashfall Fossil Beds to North Platte, Nebraska has amazing travel destinations that could easily fill a family’s summer vacation calendar.

A Nebraska event we simply had to include, though, was the annual sandhill crane migration. As we told the folks in PEP Club, if you have not spent time in a blind along the Platte River and seen the incredible sight of these huge birds descending onto the river, you have missed out. It is a humbling experience in the grandeur of nature that takes place in late February and March every year.

Sandhill crane migration, Nebraska, screenshot

A slide from our presentation talking about the sandhill crane migration.

We also shared some of our favorite destinations in the tropics. We talked about the Florida Keys, where I’ve been going since I was a child, and all of the places we love there like the Dolphin Research Center. We discussed plane spotting on Maho Beach in St. Maarten. And of course, we talked about our wonderful day touring St. Kitts with Michael, one of the Doane University students we know though our work with our church’s college ministry program.

St. Kitts screenshot

One of the slides we used to attempt to show the incredible beauty of St. Kitts.

Next, we spent a little time talking about how much we’ve come to love cruising and some of the advantages we’ve found in this form of vacation. For instance, you only have to unpack once, and your resort moves from location to location providing you with new scenery each and every day. There is so much to do on the ship, you simply can’t be bored, and the food and drink you’ll find provide an incredible culinary experience.

Cruise cuisine slide

A slide we used to show the beautiful presentations of food and drink on a Celebrity cruise ship.

Finally, we moved on to the most apropos topic of the day: Where we travel for romance. We shared memories of our honeymoon in Costa Rica and the time we spent wallowing in the volcanically heated river that flows off of Arenal Volcano. We talked about long lunches sipping wine and savoring freshly made pasta carbonara at a sidewalk cafe in Rome. And we talked about Bath, England, a place people have been going to relax since Roman times.

We began with the history of Bath; that the Romans built a temple there and brought naturally heated spring water into a pool. Clear 2,000 years ago, today, the water is green because it is exposed to the sun allowing algae to grow. The original pool isn’t considered safe to use today because it is lined with lead, but you can walk around it on the same flagstones that held Romans 2,000 years ago.

Roman Bath, Bath, England slide

The slide we used to show where Bath, England is, and to show the original Roman bath there

But no visit to Bath, England, is complete without taking some time to enjoy the ancient thermal waters for yourself. Our hotel was able to tap into them, and this was their modern day version of a bath that was part of the hotel’s spa. We spent one of our most relaxing afternoons ever in this pool. If the picture makes it look amazing, it’s only because it was. Yes, it seemed a little expensive when we booked it, but then we actually went there. Worth. Every. Penny.

Hotel Spa, Bath, England

The modern spa located in our hotel in Bath, England. They prepared personalized pouch for visitors with specially selected scents to inhale throughout your treatments.

At the conclusion of the presentation, we took a few questions, and then had a wonderful time hanging around for a while and meeting some of the friendly PEP Club members.

We were super excited when one person told us that we’d inspired him to take his daughter on a Nebraska trip to see the cranes. That affirmed for us why we take the time to write this blog. Nothing makes us happier than when we hear that someone is taking a trip they wouldn’t have taken had it not been for something we said or wrote.

We live in a big, beautiful world and you only have to step out and go places to enjoy it and find new places to love.


We’d love to come present to your club or organization. If you’d like to partner with us, just send us an email at postcardjar@gmail.com.

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

A peek at this year’s new ornaments

For the past several years, we’ve decorated what we like to call our Christmas travel tree. [We wrote a blog post all about it that you can read HERE.] We had lots of help decorating for Christmas this year. Our daughter, Meghan, was home and we invited a couple local college students over. We also had the privilege of hosting Elodie, a young woman from France who we met on our cruise last summer.

Each year, typically Thanksgiving weekend, we empty our postcard jar and select a few postcards that best represent our year in travel and they go right onto the tree. We also hang new ornaments purchased from places we visited that year. It’s always fun to find and unpack the ornaments and reminisce about all of the wonderful things we were able to see and do each year. Here’s what’s new to the tree in 2016.

Ornament from Russia

We purchased this ornament in St. Petersburg, Russia, this summer. It was our first, and quite possibly our last visit to this former Soviet city. While we enjoyed seeing iconic places like Peterhof and the Hermitage Museum, there was much about St. Petersburg that still represented very dark times for the people there. As a side note, when we get new ornaments for the tree, if they don’t already have a year on them, I usually try to add it with a Sharpie permanent marker to help us remember what year we traveled where.

We put lots of new postcards on the tree this year, including two from Stockholm, Sweden. We were in Stockholm this summer while cruising on the Celebrity Eclipse and enjoyed a walking tour of the city, eating Swedish meatballs with pickles and lingonberries, and visiting the Vasa Museum.

 

The Vasa Museum gave us a fascinating look at a salvaged ship that sank in 1628 and spent 333 years on the sea bed. Of course, we had to get a postcard there.

Stonehenge

Seeing Stonehenge in person for the first time was just amazing. It was our first stop after landing in London, England, this summer before embarking on our 14-night cruise through the Baltic Sea. We had both wanted to visit this iconic structure and we joined hundreds of other tourists that day who walked around the enormous stone structures shaking our heads. CLICK HERE for five interesting things we learned about Stonehenge.

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Just three weeks later, we were back in our home state of Nebraska and couldn’t resist a stop at our own iconic replica — Carhenge, near Alliance, Nebraska. This crazy creation in the middle of a field is a Midwest favorite and a must-see when traveling the western end of the state. We wrote a blog post about it that you can read HERE.

Talinn

This beautiful, hand painted ornament was one we found at a small, local shop in one of our favorite places, Tallinn, Estonia. We just loved Tallinn and it’s pastel buildings, colorful markets, and welcoming people.

Bath postcard

When we returned to England at the end of our cruise, we took a few days to explore some more of Great Britain. We took a train to Bath, England, and quickly wished we would have allowed more time in this incredible city. We toured the ancient Roman baths and even had a chance to soak in the thermal waters at the The Gainsborough Bath Spa. It was truly one of the most relaxing, luxurious days we’ve ever had.

Bath Abbey

In Bath, we also visited the Bath Abbey — twice. We stumbled upon it while walking the city streets and were absolutely amazed when we went inside. We’ve been to dozens of churches, cathedrals and abbeys on our travels, but there was something very different about this one. It was SO ACTIVE. There was organ music playing, children singing, and displays throughout that demonstrated the various ongoing ministries of the church. We spent a lot of time here and couldn’t resist purchasing a few books and this ornament from the gift shop before we left.

Bailey Yard

Just two days after returning from our summer vacation in Europe, our daughter, Meghan joined us for a week-long trip across Nebraska. We had a wonderful time exploring towns like Hastings, Grand Island, Scottsbluff, Crawford, Chadron, Valentine, and Norfolk. One of our favorite stops was Bailey Yard in North Platte. It is the largest railroad classification yard in the world and hosts a great display on the North Platte Canteen.

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We picked up this ornament by local artist Beverly Clappsaddle at the Clear Lake Arts Center in Clear Lake, Iowa, this fall. We were on our way back from a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, when our travel blogging friend Sara, from Travel With Sara, mentioned a holiday open house in Clear Lake just as we were about to pass through there. We decided to make an unanticipated stop and were not disappointed.

Nebraska Life

The last postcard we decided to add to the tree this year was one we picked up in Norfolk, Nebraska, this summer. It is from our visit to the Nebraska Life Magazine office and is a great reminder that while we love traveling the world, it is always good to come home to The Good Life.