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Our trip to the Lake District was just a little vacation we wanted to take, since Tim had some extra vacation. However, the hip thing to do now is to take a “baby moon” when you’re pregnant (according to pregnancy websites: it’s kinda like a honeymoon, but before the baby is born). So we decided to call this trip our “Baby Moon”.

Day 1- Monday, October 26

From Harpenden to Keswick (a town in the Lake District and the “w” in Keswick is silent) via A1(M) A1 (British Highway: Arterial road 1/Motorway 1) the trip was roughly 286 Miles. Timothy did ALL of the driving to Keswick. It was roughly 5 1/2 hours with a few stops. The drive was more scenic, than if we took just the Motorway. It was a bright and sunny English day, and the fall foliage was just gorgeous the whole way!

Once in Keswick, we checked into our wonderful B&B, the Ellergill B&B. It was recommended by Rick Steves, and Rough Guides, and so do we! We used Rick Steves’ book and Rough Guides, along with a video Rick Steves posted on Youtube about the Lake District to plan our trip. The B&B was just around the corner form the main market street and several restaurants/pubs! It was also about a 10 minute walk to Derwentwater (a lake).

That evening, we walked to the lake shore right at twilight. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Once it became dark, we went to town for dinner and turned in early.

Day 2– Tuesday, October 27

We woke up bright and early to walk to the lake shore before breakfast. Once again it was so peaceful and even more beautiful in the early morning sun light. Timothy and I really lucked out, our first day was a beautiful sunny/dry day! After our early morning walk, we went back to our B&B for breakfast! A Full English (vegetarian) Breakfast- eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, with juice and coffee/tea. It was very good, and a perfect way to start the day!

Our host recommended we walk 1/2 way around Derwentwater– going west towards Nichol End Marine, and then south past Catbells around the lake to Mary Mount Hotel for lunch. The was was relatively easy. The 4 1/2-5 mile hike should have taken about 2 hours, but being 7 months pregnant, it took us more like 3 hours, with lots of stops for pictures and taking in the beauty of the Lake District.

Once we got to the Mary Mount Hotel, we were ready for lunch! The pub at the hotel had large windows with a great view of the lake and Catbells fells (a local mountain). It also had a ton of bird feeders, and a bird guide for us to learn about the different birds!

From the Mary Mount Hotel, we could take the Keswick Launch Company boat ride back to Keswick. The ride was very enjoyable, and we got to enjoy more of the lake. From there we walked through town and back to our hotel to relax, before dinner.

Day 3– Wednesday, October 28

After sleeping in (or trying too), we had another Full English Breakfast, before heading out for a hike to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Our original plan was to drive, but Google Maps said it was only 1.8 miles (one-way). So we decided to walk. Not a smart move. When we started walking it was overcast, and shortly into our walk it started to rain (lightly). Then about the last quarter or half (it felt like more) of the walk was UP HILL!!! It was tough, but I did pretty good for a pregnant lady! Once we got to the stone circle, it stopped raining and we had an amazing view from the top of the hill of the surrounding areas. It was breath taking. After taking lots of pictures, we started to walk back. Then it started to POUR!! It was an interesting walk back to town, and we even got lost a little. After lunch at a local cafe, we relaxed at our B&B until Dinner time.

Day 4– Thursday, October 29

Once again, we tried to sleep in, but it is not as easy as it seems! We had another Full English Breakfast before heading to the Southwestern corner of the Lake District to Muncaster Castle. The hour long drive was very scenic and beautiful. However, it was very stressful. English roads are very narrow and windy! Plus this road had lots of sheep and cows roaming freely! We even got in to a few “traffic jams” with the sheep and cows!

Luckily, even though the morning was wet, shortly into our drive the rain cleared up and turned into another beautiful day. We toured the castle (that is still lived in), the grounds, and a owl/eagle/hawk sanctuary! We also went though their family friendly scary halloween maze, and watched a spectacular bird show! Thankfully, I only had 1 heart attack during the show.

We then headed back to Keswick for dinner, and another relaxing evening.

Day 5– Friday, October 30

It was sad to leave the Lake District Friday morning after another Full English Breakfast, but we were ready to go home. Plus there is always laundry, and house work to do after a vacation. The drive back was LONG! We went down the M1 (motorway). And there was a lot of construction and traffic! It probably took us 7 hours (including lunch break). This time, Timothy started out driving, but after lunch I drove, and did a pretty good job! 🙂 We were very thankful to be home, even though we highly enjoyed our “babymoon,” and hope to go back to the Lake District one day! There was still so much for us to see and do, and so much more hiking to do.

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For Timothy’s birthday, we took a nice day trip to Southern England! It was nice to relax on a coach bus, and listen to our amazing guide. We really enjoyed this trip! Plus, the weather was AMAZING for England! Our first stop, Leeds Castle was breathtakingly beautiful! We got to explore the castle, which was restored by an American who bought it 1926, and the pretty garden with amazing views (for those of you who love golf, they have an amazing course). It is definitely a must see! Then we went to Canterbury Cathedral. It was really neat to visit together. There is so much history and beauty at this cathedral! The architecture and art in this cathedral is very impressive.  Lastly, we went to the coast to view the White Cliffs of Dover! The sky was so clear we could see all the way across the channel, to see FRANCE! It was amazing. We had such a fun day together.

Description of Trip:

“Escape the hustle-bustle of London for a day and travel to the English countryside for a tour of Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Dover. Enjoy a private viewing of beautiful Leeds Castle before the doors open to the public, get an exclusive tour inside UNESCO World Heritage–listed Canterbury Cathedral, and admire the symbolic White Cliffs of Dover.”(Viator/Evan Evans Tours)

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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 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 ( ) and Jordan Experience Tours (, who work together.

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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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On Thursday evening we began our journey to Jolly O’ England. We flew out of Stewart International Airport in New York. Our flight from SFW was delayed by an hour, which was stressful because we only had a 2 hour layover! Once we landed, we took the shuttle from terminal F to terminal A, then raced to our gate. Once there, boarding began immediately. Thankfully we made it and so did our luggage! British Airways is an awesome airline and we really enjoyed the flight.

We arrived Friday morning around 6:30am in London. Customs was easy, but took a long time because it was our first time going through with our visas. Then we quickly got our luggage and our private taxi took us to our very nice temporary apartment (see pix below). We will be staying here until February 28th, while we look for a permanent place.

After taking a short nap, we grabbed some coffee in Russell Square Park, before heading to the British National Museum. It was really cool and we barely scratched the surface, there is so much to see. Afterwards we grabbed a late lunch and groceries, before heading back to our apartment.

We are so happy to be in London, and ready to explore our new town!

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Timothy and I have wanted to go to Italy FOREVER. We’ve talked about it since, our days in Potsdam. Then on April 12, 2009 we declared ROME OR BUST, well we all know that was a bust. But not any more!

Armed with our Rick Steve’s Italy book (recommended by my Aunt Marie *THANK YOU*), Timothy and I just enjoyed a wonderful week in Italy, where we visited Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terra and ROME! It was a dream come true.

September 12

We had an afternoon flight to Rome. It was delayed and then customs took about an HOUR (Be warned)! We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn that night (it was the best bed we slept on the WHOLE TRIP)!

Day 1, September 13

We woke up bright and early to take the train to Florence. This required one change in Rome, where we caught a very nice high speed train that went directly to Florence main station. (Great website about taking trains in Italy)

After getting to Florence we went to the tourist center, before hitting the city. Our first stop was the Medici Museum and Chapel, followed by the Accademia Library to get reservations for both the Accademia and Uffizi museums. Then we had lunch before our 1:30pm reservations at the Accademia where we got to see the amazing statue of David, as well as many other famous works of art. Then we went inside the famous Florence Duomo (church), before taking a break for dinner. After dinner we walked the streets and the walked around the Palazzo Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio before bed.

Day 2, September 14

We woke up early for our 8:15am reservations for the Uffizi, where we got to see more amazing art, including Birth of Venus. Honestly the museums in Italy are overwhelming. There is so much art and history. However, there is little information provided. I highly recommend either downloading Rick Steves *Free audio tours of these famous museums, or buying a good guide that will provide you with more information about these amazing pieces of art. Then after lunch, we went to the Museum of San Marco (we discovered this interesting museum from the Rick Steves TV show), which was really neat and is housed in an old 15th century monastery.

Later that afternoon we took the train to Pisa. That night we had yummy Indian food (recommend also from Rick Steves) and saw the leaning tower at night.

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Day 7 of our trip:

After eating another delicious breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Rothenburg. With our book bags packed (Yes, we only brought our book bags! No luggage.) the steep hill was even more of a challenge,  but we made it. We took a couple more pictures and headed to the train station. The train from Rothenburg only goes to one stop, Steinach. From there we caught a regional train to Wurzburg.

In Wurzburg we left our luggage in locker at the station and headed for lunch. We chose a nice biergarten near the main marktplatz. It was probably one of the best meals of our whole trip! Then we explored the marktplatz, the Alte Mainbrucken (a bridge lined with statues of saints), and then the Fortress Marienberg at the top of a HUGE hill looking over the city!

Then we were off to Frankfurt before our flight back to Israel the next day. It was such an amazing trip. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it went and how easy it was to get around. It was more than I could have hoped for.

Our next trip will be to Italy! 2012 was a year of crazy traveling for us, and now 2013 is look to be just as much!

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Our trip Day 3: Munich

On the third day we were still going strong. This was the first time I had explored Munich. In 2002, I went to Oktoberfest with mom and younger brother, but we didn’t get a change to see the city, only the fest grounds. So this was a new adventure for not only Timothy, but for me as well.

We took the train from Pasing (A suburb of Munich) to the main station after eating breakfast with our host BnB family. From the main train station, it is about a 10 minute walk to the Marienplatza. From here we got to see the Neus Rathaus (New City Hall), the glockenspeil play at noon, the Mariensaute, the Residenz (a HUGE Palace), St. Peters Church (we climbed the tower, boy was it high!), ate dinner at the Hofbrauhaus (They had a vegetarian menu and non alcoholic beer!), and also saw the Church of Our Lady and Church of St. Michael. It was a fun, but a busy and tiring day.

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On Monday, March 25th Pesach (Passover) began. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a Pesach Seder, by a family who didn’t even know us! Timothy and I were interested in attending a Seder and so I asked a new friend (Laurie) if she knew of any host program for foreigners interested in Pesach. She told me that she would invite me but she was going to a friend’s house. Later we got a call from Laurie, saying her friend invited us too! We were so excited.

For those of you (like us), who do not know a lot about Pesach or a Pesach Seder, Seder means order and the Haggadah is the handbook Jewish people use to follow the order of the Passover dinner/ceremony. There are shorter versions and longer versions. We had the long version and more traditional. It started at 6pm and lasted until 12:30pm! We read the entire Haggadah (about 2/3 in Hebrew and 1/3 in English). Luckily we had a book with both English and Hebrew so we were able to follow along. It was really nice meeting new people, eating good food and learning about Jewish culture/history. It was a great experience.

Here is a link to a Haggadah in English.

Here is a link to a good video on the Pesach Seder basics.

On Thursday, March 28th,  we took the bus to Akko (maybe 20-40 min bus ride)! We visited the Knights Hall, Templar Tunnel, Turkish Baths, to name a few. It is an old city, with rich history: “Akko is the Acre of the Crusaders, and as the capitol and port of the Latinate Kingdom of Palestine, it received ships from Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice. St Francis of Assisi and Marco Polo were among the guests in the knights’ dining halls…” Read more at Lonely Planet’s website.  We really enjoyed exploring the ins and outs of the small city and plan on going back.

For Easter, we had a quite day at home. In the morning, I made Goldenrod, a Mann family favorite. Thankfully people warned us in advance to buy and freeze bread, and to stock up on crackers and other wheat products, which are not sold during Passover (unless you go to an Arab neighborhood). Then we went to the market to get groceries for dinner. For dinner, I made Quinoa tacos with real flour tortillas that were on sale before Pesach started (6 tortillas usually cost about $5, which is shocking for a Texan! Thankfully we got them for 1/2 price). I must say, the Tacos were AWESOME. The thing I miss most about Texas, besides my friends, is the food. 🙂 The rest of the day was spent relaxing.

I hope this blog post wasn’t too long! Enjoy the pictures. We love hearing from all of you. If you have questions, please feel free to ask!

Take care, Laura & Timothy

Make sure to check out our Ducky Blog! The gang has been busy here in Israel!

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