Where in the World are the Mann’s?

Our summer has been just as busy as always, and we have had a lot of fun along the way. Our summer technically started with our trip to Israel and Jordan. However, I’ve already blogged about that trip, so I’ll start right after! First, we had a nice visit from my Aunt Marie (my mom’s sister) and Uncle Glenn Claire. They were in England for a cruise and a trip to Europe, and were able to spend some time with us.

Then we found out we are expecting our first child, along with celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary! Timothy and I are so thankful for 8 wonderful years of marriage and almost 12 years of being best friends.

Then the traveling began (with some English day trips in between)…

First trip: Just Timothy! Timothy went to RLDM (Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making Conference) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and presented a paper with our good friend Dan Mankowitz from the Technion (Israel). This was Timothy’s first time in Edmonton, and was shocked at how similar Alberta was to College Station!

Second trip: Another conference! We are so blessed that I (Laura) am able to travel with Timothy on business trips. Both of us went to Lille, France for ICML (International Conference of Machine Learning)! Timothy had another paper he wrote with some other friends from the Technion to present! It was a really fun week, because we got to see so many friends from Israel- in France! We also did a lot of site seeing in Lille, including their zoo!

Third trip: Both of us went on a last minute trip to Mountain View, California! Thankfully, Google (Alphabet) HQ is about 35 minute drive from my dad’s place (in good traffic)! It was awesome to be back in the U.S. of A, spend time with my dad, and eat lots and lots of food! Timothy went to his first Raider’s Game, and we both had our first Pro-Football tailgate! It was a great game, and the best part was the RAIDERS WON! Then I got to go to two Oakland A’s games (vs. L.A. Dodger game & Tampa Bay Rays), and Timothy got to go to his first Oakland A game (vs. the Rays)! Even though the A’s lost against Tampa Bay, we had a great time! It was Star War’s themed, with lots of characters and the best part was the Star Wars Firework show!!  In addition to our weekend fun, during the week Timothy had a great time at Google HQ. He really enjoyed geeking out with all the Mountain View people, working on projects at HQ, and checking out the awesome facilities.

End of Summer: As our summer winds down, we have lots of family visiting us in England! Timothy’s mom will be here for about 2 ½ weeks, Christopher (Tim’s youngest brother) will be here as well for a couple of days, and then Timothy’s dad will be here for a week!

Baby Update: We will be 20 weeks on Saturday, August 29th! We are 1/2 way there! We have a couple of appointments this week and should know the baby’s gender soon!!! We will post a baby post soon!

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After 8 years of marriage, plus graduate school, post-doc, and traveling the world- Timothy and I are so excited to announce that we are having a baby! This week we had our first ultrasound, which went really well. So far, so good. We are 14 weeks along and our due date is January 17th! We are so happy and excited about this new adventure!

Baby Mann at 13 weeks

Baby Mann at 13 weeks

Happy Birthday, Mama Dee!

Just a few months after moving to England, Timothy and I were back in Israel! Our good friends Dan and Shirley were getting married (it went off without a hitch!)! It was my first Jewish wedding and it was awesome! The Rabbi did everything in Hebrew, and then he would explain it in English! The wedding was beautiful, the couple were so happy and beautiful,  the venue was beautiful, the food was good, and the party was a lot of fun. We are so happy we were able to share in our friends happy day!

Since we were going back to Israel, we wanted to do some things we didn’t do before, and also do some things we loved! First we went to Jaffa (South of Tel Aviv), Eilat, and Petra (see post below), which were places we hadn’t visited! Then we were back in Haifa, where we met with friends, spent 2 days at Hof HaCarmel swimming and had fun, we ate a lot of Israeli food, and drank LOTS of Hafuk (Israeli lattes!).

Enjoy the pictures! (Click to enlarge the gallery!)

Jordan – 2 Day Tour 

First Day Tour of PETRA – “Departing Eilat early morning we cross into Jordan and head straight to the ancient city of Petra. The tour takes in the most popular highlights of Petra beginning with the Treasury and the Siq Canyon and heading right through the main centre of the site. After lunch in Petra we have some free-time… take an optional hike up to The Monastery on Jabel A-Deir…” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Ali our tour guide was amazing! There were 13 of us on the Petra tour (I think) and Ali learned all of our names! He told us interesting fact along the drive from the Jordanian border at Aquaba to Petra. One interesting quote is that we were only 12 km from the Saudi Arabian border! And from Aquaba we can see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel! So cool!

Petra itself was spectacular. Ali was very knowledgeable about the sight. It is about a 4 km hike from the Visitor Center to the Treasury, in which we hiked through the “siq” or canyon. We saw the aqueducts and terracotta “pipes” along the way. While there were tombs along the way, the iconic and most spectacular Treasury was amazing to see as we walked through the canyon walls. After marveling at the Treasury, we walked down to the Palace Tombs. This was where the tour ended for the one-day tour group as they had to walk back 4 km to the bus to head back to Israel. Since we were staying overnight for the Wadi Rum tour, we got to stay as long as we liked. We had lunch at the end of the Ancient Roman City that is located in the middle of Petra. After that, we hiked to the Monastery. It was over 800 steps in the hot desert sun. Some people took donkeys, which seemed frightening because there was no railing and the donkeys were quick and the passengers looked petrified! The hike up to the Monastery was definitely worth it! It was a beautiful sight! After we came back, we explored the ancient Roman city (Colonnaded Street), then hiked up to the Royal Tombs. By then we were exhausted. But the hike back to the visitor center was nice. Seeing the Treasury in the late afternoon was beautiful. It was less crowded and just spectacular.

*After our wonderful day in Petra, we were taken to the Ammarin Bedouin Camp http://www.bedouincamp.net/enter.html. It was my favorite part of the trip! We stayed in a goat haired tent, that had nice thick matting, and super warm blankets. The camp had real bathrooms and showers, plus a generator that ran from sundown til 10pm. Timothy and I walked around the camp, and sat the around the fire drinking “shie” (tea). Also, there was a herd of goats on the side of one of the mountains! It was so cool! Our hosts were very nice, and helped us practice our Arabic before serving us a very delicious dinner. Then we sat around the fire some “shie” and enjoying star gazing. It was so beautiful being surrounded by mountains, sitting by a warm fire, looking at the stars with my wonderful husband. It reminded us of our trips to Big Bend.

In the morning after we woke up we had more “shie” and were served a wonderful breakfast. Then we walked around the camp a little bit more while we waited for Mohhamad, our Wadi Rum guide to pick us up. Right before our driver came, we saw a DESERT FOX! It was so cool. Plus, we got to see more goats on the mountains. I highly recommend staying at a Bedouin camp if you stay overnight near Petra or Wadi Rum! It is a great experience and the hosts are so friendly!

Second Day Tour of WADI RUM – “This day covers the highlights of Wadi Rum. Having arrived at the village of Rum inside the nature reserve, we board  4X4 jeeps, driven by professional Bedouin drivers and journey to the sandstone area of Wadi Rum. Here we go off-road into its unique landscape and get right off the beaten track to explore rarely travelled ancient merchant routes. The enchanting Wadi Rum is an area almost surreal in its distinctive beauty. We cross red sand dunes and explore the beautifully eroded pillars of sandstone rock. It was this area of Wadi Rum that so inspired T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Wadi Rums beauty remains intact and its breathtaking scenery is still an inspiration for those who travel there. Lunch is enjoyed en route in the great outdoors. The tour includes the Seven Pillars, Khaz Ali canyon and Jabel Um Asharim. Returning by evening to Eilat.” *Info provided by Desert Eco Tours

Wadi Rum was so much fun! First we stopped at the “visitors center” and saw the Seven Pillars. Then we drove through the village where Timothy and I met our camel guide! We had a private camel ride through the desert. We rode for about 30 minutes, then took a “shie” break, and then we took another 30 minute ride with our camels! It was a really cool experience. We really enjoyed it! Then we drove to HUGE sand dune that we got to play on and raced down. It was really cool. Then we hiked through a canyon. It was really neat. Also, I did some pretty scary rock climbing. Tim was not happy. Then we had an amazing desert barbeque (and we saw another DESERT FOX). It was delicious! After lunch, we hiked up a pretty large rock formation that had a “bridge” we got to cross and take pictures on! Then it was time to head home. On our way back to Eilat, we stopped at the 1916 train station where a train from the movie Lawrence of Arabia is still located.

While Timothy and I have been blessed to go on so many adventures over the years, it’s hard to believe they just keep getting better and better. We highly recommend Desert Eco Tours (http://www.desertecotours.com/English/ ) and Jordan Experience Tours (http://www.jordanexperience.com/), who work together.

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On Saturday, April 18th we spent the day at Regent’s Park. It was a beautiful spring day. We went to the London Zoo and walked the Queen Mary’s Gardens  and the Avenue Gardens (My mother would have loved it!). The zoo was very impressive. It was not very big, but it was very diverse and interactive. We got to see so many of the animals up close, and some of the monkey’s and lemurs were in open exhibits we walked though and not behind glass or in a cage! A little scary, but cool. The gardens in Regent’s Park were just beautiful! I was so impressed with all the different flowers. So beautiful! I definitely think Regent’s Park is a must see for those visiting London!

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Slowly but surely we are settling in to our new home! We live in a cute little town outside of St. Albans city, but still in the St. Albans District. It is a very rural commuter town with lots of parks and green space, however the downtown area (High Street) has everything we need: several supermarkets, stores, restaurants, etc. We haven’t taken too many pictures of our area yet, but below are some pictures from St. Albans city.

Over a week ago we received all of our house hold goods! We are about 85% unpacked/settled in! The Kitchen, bathroom, guest room, and master bedroom are pretty much complete, but the living area needs bookshelves! Currently all of our books/ nick-knacks are on the dinning room table and it’s quite messy! Once we have that figured out, pictures will follow! 🙂

Also, this past weekend we went on a River Night Lights Cruise in London! We enjoyed champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and a 2 hour ride along the Thames River at night. We got to see the Houses of Parlement, Big Ben, Tower of London, and more all lite up at night. It was beautiful, romantic, and a wonderful time! Thank you to all of our friends at the Technion who made this evening happend!!

I hope to blog again soon with more pictures!

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The past two weeks have gone by very fast! Timothy and I found an amazing apartment in the St. Albans area! It’s a two bedroom “flat,” so we will have a nice guestroom and we are super close to the train station. London is about a 25 minute commute by train. We hope to move in on March 2.

Timothy is really enjoying work and I’ve been keeping busy with my A&M work, as well as hunting for a job! We also celebrated Valentines Day with a walk along the Thames River to the Tower of London, and this weekend we went to the Natural History Museum and saw dinosaurs!

It’s  hard to believe this is our last week living in downtown London, but we are excited to be moving to the country side. We can’t wait to move into our new place and to get our stuff!

Prayer request: Timothy’s mom spent over a week in the hospital (now home) due to side effects from treatment. Please keep her and his family in your prayers.

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Our first week (plus a few days) has been great. We really like the location of our temporary apartment. It is close to Timothy’s work and it is so easy to access different tourist sites.

Timothy had a great first week. He drove right in, and is really excited. We are getting to meet lots of people, we even attended a potluck with some of Timothy’s co-workers, which was a lot of fun.

Today, we went to Churchill’s War Room. Lots of people have recommended this museum to us, and I’m very glad we went. It was interesting to see this “time capsule” and to learn about WWII from the British perspective. Also, when we were walking to the museum, we saw the Horse Guard Parade for the Changing of the Queen’s Life Guard.

It was a beautiful sunny day, here in London, so we wanted to spend time outside. From Churchill’s War Room, we walked to the Thames River, and took the footpath to the Millennium Bridge, which is near St. Paul’s Cathedral (we were unable to go in because of Mass). It was a great day and we enjoyed soaking in the vitamin D!

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Day 3 (Sunday) was a lazy day. After sleeping in, blogging, and doing a lot of nothing, we finally headed out into the city. We decided to go to the National Gallery.

My favorite section was the impressionist wing. I am now a fan of George Seurat. He is amazing. We also saw Monet, Van Gogh, and even a “cartoon” done by Leonardo Da Vinci. We only got to see maybe half of the museum, and will definitely be going back. After the museum, we went out to Indian, before heading “home”.

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Day 2 in London: we walked around the city, seeing some of the most famous sights. We mainly wanted to scout out places we want to see more. We also wanted to become more familiar with the city and how to get around. I’m really glad we did because the streets in London can be quite confusing! What looks like one continuous street on Google Maps, can actually be different streets that change names every couple of blocks! It was also nice to figure out how far things actually are from each other. The Eye of London, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, and Churchill’s war room are all about a 20-25 minute walk from our temporary apartment, which is so cool.

We also took a train to a commuter town we are interested in moving to. The town was really cool, but more urban than what Timothy and I were hoping for. We went to the tourist center and got some good information, and were told of another town close by, but smaller and more residential. We are looking forward to meeting with the realtor and finding our future home.  Also, the train ride was really nice.

PS: We won’t blog about every day, but we will if we do something exciting! 🙂

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