Athens, Greece: The birthplace of democracy, drama, and doric columns.

After art college, I really wanted to visit Athens, so I was psyched when friends invited us to visit their relatives in Greece.

London, England: London calling. (Collect, most likely.)

Despite being of English descent, I’d never visited the Motherland before. And, as it turned out, with good reason.

Paris, France: The city of lights and total jerks.

Our first introduction to France lived up to all the horrible stereotypes we’d heard about Parisians.

Florence: You say “Florence,” I say “Firenze.” And I’d be right.

We almost missed our train to Florence, but it was running 10 minutes late. Watching the destination board update itself was like gambling. “Come on, Firenze! Daddy needs an on-time departure!”

Rome, Italy: The cradle of civilization (and toga parties).

We boarded the 747 figuring, “What more harm could another plane full of self-important Mid-western hicks do to America’s already sagging reputation overseas?”

Italy, France & Britain: Our glamorous, 3-week long European vacation.

For years, people have been telling me stories about their vacations to a place they called “Europe,” a mystical land argued to be the equal of — and even better in many respects than — the United States. I found this idea almost incomprehensible and so I had to see the place for myself. Our itinerary had one very specific goal: