A Quick Update on My Running Goals

I didn’t really know where to start when I first sat down to jot some running goals for the year. I mean, my main goal was to lead a healthier life, turn to running rather than drinking at the end of a stressful day and hopefully complete the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler I had impulsively entered (and won) the lottery for.  I’ve never been really good as setting goals and following through with them, so in the spirit of bettering myself I decided to actually go through the exercise. I did what all good bloggers do: found some running bloggers to follow on social media, stalked their feed for a while, read their posts and reflected on what I was truly trying to achieve for myself when I decided to start running. With all that in mind, I came up with 10 goals for 2017. Well, I added an 11th one later on. And on the eve of me crossing that 11th bonus goal off my list, here are my running goals and a quick update on how close I am to achieving them.

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Make Running a Regular, Consistent Habit

I’m afraid this one is still a work in progress for now… while I have made exercising a part of my daily life, running isn’t what I turn to first. I actually started cycling when CycleBar opened a new studio in NoMa and became quite addicted. I now look forward to ending every week with Haley’s Happiest of Hours class at 6:00PM on Friday. I leave all the stress of the week in the room and immediately feel better and more relaxed afterwards. And stronger too. Eventually, I’d love to feel that way about running but for now, I still force myself to do it and it is not something I do as consistently as spinning. 

Run a 5K Without Walking

I love walking. And I have a really hard time resisting the temptation to pause a little (to snap a pic, respond to a text or just take a break) during my runs so I’m not crossing this one off the list quite yet… 

Run 5K in Less Than 30 Minutes

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I time all my runs to 30 minutes, even if I end up running longer than that, to track progress on how long it takes me to run 5K. I keep a log in a bullet-style running journal and I am soooo close with this one. I run like a turtle but I’m slowly getting faster, at least for short distances. 

Run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

Running DC's Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

Check! This is literally the race that started it all for me. It was the first actual race I ever trained for and ran some 8+ years ago and my motivation for training last winter. My time wasn’t great, I walked a lot. But I did it!

Join a Running Group

I don’t know why I didn’t get started on this one sooner… well, that’s a lie. I know exactly why. I’m an introvert and a slow runner.  My lack of confidence in my ability to keep up with other people, both socially and athletically, has been paralyzing. I made some baby steps towards getting over my fears recently though. Last Wednesday, I joined a couple of ladies at Summit to Soul, which is an awesome sports shop on 8th street, for a run around the Capitol. Turns out they were all very nice and I (almost) kept up with them. And on Monday, I headed to Pacers on 14th street for their weekly group run. I did ok there too, keeping up with everyone even while making small talk. Finally yesterday I went to my first Cycle-Run-Wine at Cyclebar and managed to run 2.5 miles after a grueling spin class. Go me! Turns out I really wish I had done this sooner. Running gets lonely and I’m way less likely to stop and walk as soon as things get tough when I’m surrounded by other peeps. I’m headed to Paris next week, but when I’m back, I plan on checking out a few more running groups and hopefully pick one or two to keep up with. Since I really struggle with long runs, I really hope to find one that will keep motivated to during 8 to 10 miles…

Be in the Better Mood After Running

Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not… but usually I feel good about myself, if a little tired. If I’m not in a better mood after running it’s typically because I haven’t had a good run and that’s typically because I haven’t been running consistently.  So this goal is tied to an extend with the first one of making running a regular, consistent habit. And still a work in progress.

Run a 10K Race

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I find that I only train if I have a race coming up so I’ve tried to sign up for different races of various length throughout the year, whether it’s the Crystal City Twilight 5K or the Marine Corp 10K in late October.  This item will get crossed off soon enough 😉

Turn Running into a Social Activity

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I’d love to make running dates with friends though my peeps usually fall in one of two categories:

  • those who are hard-core runners … and I can’t keep up with them
  • those who hate running and have no desire to run, even with me

Obviously, I need to find some peeps in the middle… and hopefully as I settle on one or two running groups to participate in frequently I’ll make some running friends at my pace and level. It would be nice to have people to meet up with at races and an extra incentive to get up early for long runs if it were paired with the promise of mimosas and croissants with friends afterwards right?

Run the Paris Marathon

This is actually a long term goal that I had no intention of crossing off my list this year, but still wanted to have on there. I don’t need to complete a lot of marathon in my life. Just the one. In my hometown. I’d also love to participate in the Marathon du Medoc some day, but I don’t need to actually cross the finish line on that one 😉

Run 100K in one Month

I was inspired to add this goal to the list because a lot of ladies in the facebook running groups I follow had threads talking about this and comparing their progress. I figured 100K is basically a little more than 4 miles every other day so if I consistently ran 3 miles M-W-F and then did a long run of 8-10 miles on Sundays I would hit that goal. As I mentioned, I’ve been struggling with consistency so I haven’t reached it yet, but I’m hopeful I can maybe in October or November… 

Run an International Race

This is my bonus goal and I only added it after signing up for a Disneyland Paris half marathon. I’m boarding an Icelandair flight to Paris tomorrow and the race is Sunday. You can read my goals for that race <>… and I definitely wish I’d trained a little harder right now. But there’s no turning back now. I’m running an international race this weekend… and wearing a cute costume too.  

If you’re a runner, do you set goals for yourself every year? Or before each race? I’d love to know! 

Setting Goals for my First International Race

Earlier in the year, I laid out my running goals for 2017. I set out my overall objective, to make running a regular, consistent habit, and a series of short term, achievable goals like running a 5K without walking and joining a running group. I had no intention of including running an international destination race to the list, at least not yet. I’ve always known I wanted my first (and possibly only) marathon to be the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris. But I was looking at 2020 as a timeline, so I could run it for my 40th birthday. Until then, I thought I might at best make it to a 10K in New York or maybe a half marathon in Philadelphia. But when a friend told me about Disneyland Paris‘ first half marathon I made a snap decision. Within 24 hours, my bestie Caitlin and I had booked flights to Paris, a hotel in Magny le Hongre near the park and were making plans for our 24 hours stop-over in Reykjavik on the way back. Obviously, I’d also started a pinterest board to get some outfit inspiration… because … priorities. This is a Disney Run after all! In any case, there was no turning back after that: an international destination race was now written into my 2017 running goals!
Turning a race into an excuse for a full-blown destination vacation is really not something I ever thought I would do. And I guess I’m not really… Don’t hate me for saying this, but Paris isn’t a destination for me. It’s home. Once the race is over in Marne-la-Vallée, I don’t have to navigate a foreign metro system to get home… I know exactly how to head back, especially since I used to work at Disneyland Paris and the RER A was a part of my daily commute for 6 months. I’m also hoping my parents might rent a car and pick us up 😉 Hint. Hint. And I don’t have to sleep in a hotel after the race, I get to be in my own bed…. well, at least my childhood bed from when I was a teenager. Most importantly, Paris isn’t a bucket list destination for me… there’s no pressure here. If I’m tired on Monday and feel like doing nothing but eat baguette and cheese instead of getting out and sightseeing… it’s ok. I might feel differently if the race were somewhere new.

Also, unlike my friend Caitlin who is a more advanced and serious runner (ie: she’s not a French escargot like me!), I don’t have high expectations for myself and this race. I run *really* slow and as a new runner, beating my PR is pretty much a guaranteed at every race. Well… this one might be the exception since I do plan on stopping here and there to snap pictures with Disney characters along the way. But Caitlin is a good runner, and I do want to keep up with her as long as I can so we can take photos together and really share this experience (and capture it for posterity!) And that’s my motivation in training for my first Disney Run and international race. Because it’s not just about the destination for me here. It’s about the company and running a race in Paris, with my best friend who I met when our high schools paired us for an international exchange program they organized over 20 years ago. There was no guarantees we’d even get along, but we did…. and she’s been one of my favourite travel gal over the years, whether we were way outside of our comfort zone riding horses in a dude ranch in Montana or more in our element sipping wine at a beautiful seaside vineyard in Greece. And I can’t wait to add this experience to the list of memories we have together. Adding it to my running goal list almost seems secondary…. 

The Only 10 Things You Need for a Successful Dîner En Blanc

A little photo booth fun at Baltimore’s first Dîner en Blanc

A few weekends ago, I kicked off Dîner en Blanc season by attending Charm City’s very first event, which was held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. It had been a while, since New York City three years ago actually, that I’d attended a dîner as a guest rather than a volunteer. Just showing up with my chairs, table, food, plates and flowers seemed so easy, but that’s because a) I’ve attended quite a few diners by now b) I’m usually responsible for getting 250 people from their meeting location to the diner venue and making sure they set up properly once on site 😉 Just showing up and having people tell me where to go was a nice change of pace! I do totally get that, for newbies, getting ready for the event can seem overwhelming though. Especially since participants no longer have the option of going through an official renting company for certain items. So I thought I’d break down all the items that you actually need to attend Dîner en Blanc, as give as give you a couple of tips if you want to take it up a notch or two.

1. A table – this is a strict BYOT(able) affair! But not just any table will do…. it should measure between 26-32″ and since you have to carry everything yourself, sometimes on the metro, I definitely recommend a roll up table. The table will be covered by a tablecloth so it’s actually one of the few items that does not need to be white. I recommend this one. 

2. Two folding chairs – the lighter the better! These are fine and these will work too. If you already own folding chairs but they’re not white, don’t sweat it but do cover them with an extra table cloth or white bed sheets. 

3. A white tablecloth & two napkins – I suggest you opt for a 72×72 tablecloth like this one since you’ll be using the space underneath your table to store everything that doesn’t need to be on top of it. A 54×54 is fine as well just make sure it’s white! As for the napkins, they’re really important. You’ll be waving them in the air at the beginning of the dinner so paper won’t do. Cloth napkins can be hard to find in twos so you might have to buy a pack of twelve and share with other friends attending. 

4. Two white plates, glasses and a set of cutlery – the plates have to be white (here’s a good one) but your silverware doesn’t (here’s a set). For the glasses, think of what you’ll be drinking (Champagne? Wine? Water? All of the above!) and get what you’ll need. Tumblers or stem glasses are fine, and you probably can get away with GoVino glasses too… If you’re planning on purchasing a bottle of Jacquard champagne for the diner, you can also pick up a set of flutes and a champagne bucket in the Dîner en Blanc store. 

5. A centerpiece for your table – you can go all out on this one (see my friend’s Jade fancy sail from last year) but you can also just keep it simple. This 15″ Eiffel Tower with some lights or a simple bouquet of white flower will do the trick just fine. For Dîner en Blanc in Baltimore I actually had small bouquets of fake flowers to make it easier on myself. The key is to remember that you do have to carry everything and that you can take a few shortcuts. Flowers are nice but the above mentioned champagne bucket from Jacquart can totally double up as a centerpiece too! Ditto for a cake stand like this one. And since you have to bring lights too a fancy candelabra like this one can totally serve dual purposes!

My friend Jade put a lot of work into her centerpiece last year!

6. Lights – While the dinner kicks off around 6:30PM, eventually it will get dark and you will want to have a little extra lighting. You can use a candelabra, votives (paired with flameless tealight candles) or LED string lights(they look great in a vase!) , just remember to keep it on the fake side (yep, no fire!!)

7. Water – You can purchase some  “summer water” through the Dîner en Blanc online store, but you’ll definitely want some real water too! It’s HOT in DC at the end of August. Some ice wouldn’t hurt either. All alcohol purchases (and there are some great options this year!) must be done through the online store due to city regulations.

8. Food – You have the option of purchasing one of Mike Isabella’s six unique picnic baskets (I’ve got my eyes on the one from Kapnos myself!) but you can also bring your own food of course. 

9. Trash bags – Dîner en Blanc aims to leave the site of the event as pristine as it found it and that means guests are responsible for not leaving anything behind, and that includes trash. For this reason, pack a white trash bag or two.

10. A white bag/basket – All this stuff needs to go into something. I’ve seen people lug those white picnic baskets around (very elegant!), a large tote or basket works as well. Some participants go the suitcase or the grocery cart route. I’ve never been a fan because you have to store everything under your table and it gets crowded down there really quickly. A folding cart can definitely help with the chairs, but isn’t required.

Of course, you also need to be dressed in white from head to toe.

Typically you have a little leeway when it comes to footwear and accessories. But don’t go crazy… we’re talking gold or silver jewelry, nude shoes and the like. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead too…. if it looks like rain is likely, you’ll want to add a white (or clear) umbrella and/or rain poncho to your shopping list. Dîner en Blanc will happen rain or shine. And on that note, I’d love to add a bonus item to my list:

An open mind and positive attitude – Part of the fun of Dîner en Blanc is that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you’re an intern on the hill, a doctor, a teacher or a partner in a law firm, you still have to carry all of your stuff, in the DC-in-August heat, to the secret location. The metro may not cooperate (I mean, does it ever?) and it might rain (fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened so far) but that’s part of the experience and everyone has to through it. If you’re not willing to kind of go with the flow or are upset because you don’t get to sit next to your friends, you’re probably not going to have a great time at Dîner en Blanc. But if you bring a little extra food to share with your neighbours, you might make some new friends…. and you can still meet up with your old friends on the dancefloor! If you take everything in stride, like, if metro shuts down the escalators again, then you’ll definitely have a great time at this exceptional event. I can’t wait to see you all in your chic-est white outfits somewhere in the city on August 26!  If you’ve attended a Dîner en Blanc before, care to leave some tips in the comments?

ps: If you’re looking for a one stop shop option, this blog post from last year goes over all the items you can find at Ikea. I also have a nifty little public list on Amazon to help with the basic like table, chairs etc. Finally, if you’re trying to decide whether to BYOF(ood) or not, The Hungry Lobbyist has a great post recapping all of the options this year. They look delicious!

6 Places to Eat Raclette or Fondue in Washington

When the temperature go low, I go warm, melted cheese! One of my favourite thing to do in the winter is host friends over for raclette. If you don’t mind splurging on your own grill (you can get a small one for 2 people for $27 on amazon or a bigger one perfect for larger get-togethers for $63 — that last one is actually the one I own) you can throw your own party too. I’ve got this little guide and raclette 101 primer to help you plan it! But of course, you can head to one of these restaurants to get your hot, melted cheese fix:

Brasserie Beck

Raclette Happy Hour at Brasserie Beck

Raclette Happy Hour at Brasserie Beck

Leave it to one of my favourite restaurant in the city to throw one of the best happy hour, complete with complimentary raclette! Between 5-6PM and again from 9-10PM, patrons can enjoy gooey melted cheese at the bar, in addition to $5 wine and $2 off draft beer. While the free raclette ends at 6PM, the drink specials are good until 7PM. And if you prefer your raclette tableside, it’s also on a menu for $13.

Cheesetique

Cheesetique’s speciality is, obviously, cheese, so it’s not surprising to find two different types of fondue dishes on its menu during the winter (if you’re lucky you might even find some raclette in its cheese counter too!) The first fondue is pretty classic with gruyère, emmental, raclette and white wine ($18.) The other is $13 and varies every day depending on what cheeses are available.

ENO Wine Bar and Tasting Room

Raclette at ENO Wine Bar in Georgetown - picture courtesy of ENO

Raclette at ENO Wine Bar in Georgetown – picture courtesy of ENO

The wine bar next door to the Four Seasons in Georgetown turns into an alpine chalet every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. $18 gets you a plate of bread, potato, cornichons and onions onto which the hot melted cheese is poured on. For a little extra, you can add charcuterie as well. And of course, since ENO is a wine bar, there’s a wine pairing option as well. The sommelier selected a sparkling Gewürztraminer from Washington state to go along the raclette ($18 for one glass).  

The Fainting Goat

Last March, chef Nathan Beauchamp kicked-off a series of raclette parties at his U Street restaurant. They were pretty popular, so they will be coming back in 2017, this time in the form of a 3-course menu. Until then, you can enjoy The Fainting Goat‘s popular take on fondue: its goat cheese fondue ($12 during regular hours and $10 during late nights Thursday-Saturday from 11PM-1AM.)  

Garrison

Fondue pop-up at Garrison. Photo credit: Scott Suchman for Garrison

Fondue pop-up at Garrison. Photo credit: Scott Suchman for Garrison

Just in time for winter, chef Rob Weland is bringing back the popular fondue pop-up at his Barracks Row restaurant. If the weather allows, you can even enjoy it on the heated patio. Wether indoors or out, it’s a pretty classic alpine fondue, offered at $18 per person. It comes with bread cubes unless you want to splurge on add-ons like heirloom apples, turnips, radishes, boiled potatoes, hanger steak tips, and, of course, the restaurant’s popular gougeres (the add-ons run between $4-10). 

Homestead

At Homestead in Petworth, raclette is considered an appetizer or shareable plate… it’s also noted as vegetarian unless you want to add lamb bacon lardons to it. 

 

 

Week-end Highlights: The Crown, Beaujolais, Friendsgiving & Fotoweek DC

Brr! It got cold all of the sudden! After a gorgeous Saturday, it looks like temperatures are back to what they should be this time of year, which means I spent most of Sunday curled up on the couch with my cat, binging on The Crown. But before that, I did have quite the fun weekend.

LE BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU EST ARRIVÉ!
I kicked off the weekend at one of my favourite monthly gathering, Creative Mornings. Creative Mornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Every month, there’s a theme that’s picked for all of the chapters around the world. This month, it was “Fantasy” and all 157 chapters around the world gets to select an appropriate speaker from its local creative community based on their interpretation of that theme. For DC, host Joe Daly reached out to photojournalist Nicole Tung who showed some of her work in war-torn Syria at the National Geographic auditorium. The pictures were pretty rough, especially at 9AM, but it’s definitely work that needs to be seen…. 

Creative Mornings

Nicole Tung at Creative Morning

On a more upbeat note, I wrapped up Friday at my friend Marc-Antoine’s annual Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. I’m too old to party at Bistrot du Coin until the wee hours on a week day (though I did have a lot of fun there back in my days…) and I much prefer a casual get together with friends. Everyone brings a bottle of Beaujolais and some cheese, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the new harvest. Have you tried this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau? It’s pretty fruity (though I guess I say that every year lol)

Le Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

MINI-HIKE BEFORE MESSY KITCHEN’S FRIENDSGIVING POTLUCK

The weather was simply stunning Saturday, it would have been a shame to stay home (though I was really tempted to because I made the mistake of starting The Crown Friday evening!) I went on a mini-hike in Rock Creek Park to soak up all the fall colours (and the amazing 70 degree temperatures!)

Mini-Hike in Rock Creeek park

That evening, I got a head start on Thanksgiving at my friend Notes from a Messy Kitchen‘s annual Friendsgiving potluck. Not only was the food amazing but she raised more than $2,000 for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry

Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving

Carving the turkey

Notes from a Messy Kitchen's Friendsgiving

FOTOWEEK DC AND BINGING ON THE CROWN

Sunday was COLD! It was also the last day of Fotoweek DC. I wish I had had a chance to go to more events. I did make it to Scott Suchman‘s discussion of the Michelin guide (he showed stunning pictures he had taken at all of the restaurants that received stars and more). I also made it to one of the last events, a talk with Ami Vitale Sunday at National Geographic. Taking pictures of pandas is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it right? 

After watching the U.S. pick its new president for the past two years, I finally got to vote as well. The French right and center right hosted an open primary on November 20, with a run-off on November 27 to select a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. For the French election, they will set up a voting station at the French embassy for us to vote in person, but this time we got to vote online which was kinda fun! The candidate I voted for made it to the second round, but I do want to spend the next few days leading to the second round combing through both Alain Juppé and François Fillon’s platform so that I can make the best decision of which candidate I want to see in the general election in May.  

Voting in the French primaries

Finally, I wrapped up the weekend binging on The Crown, Netflix’s sumptuous 10-episode series staring Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth ascending the throne decades before she expected to. Have you had a chance to watch it yet? You should!

This week is going to be a short one… I hope you enjoy it and wish you a great Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating. 

 

Le Beaujolais Nouveau is Arriving at These 6 French Spots

Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

Ten days after the U.S. elections and one week before Thanksgiving, it’s time to celebrate a French holiday for a change: the arrival of the first wine of the season, le Beaujolais Nouveau. As always, it happens on the third Thursday of November, so unless you were up until 2 a.m. celebrating at Bistrot du Coin today’s the day! Here are 10 French restaurants and wine bars marking the occasion around town.

Cafe du Parc at the Willard InterContinental will be offering free George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with passed hors d’oeuvres at the bar on Thursday from 5-6pm. Beaujolais will also be available by the glass and as a pairing with a 4-course, prix-fixe dinner at the restaurant upstairs ($65 per person without the pairing, $85 with.)

Le Grenier on H Street will also be pouring complimentary Beaujolais at its bar from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday. 


Beaujolais Nouveau at La JambeBeaujolais is pretty cheap wine, and Chef Cedric Maupillier totally gets that.
 He’ll be offering glasses of the vin primeur for $10 a glass ($7 at the bar during happy hour) and $25 a bottle throughout his Shaw restaurant ConvivialAround the corner from Convivial, my new favourite wine bar, La Jambe is celebrating the 2016 harvest with $9 glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau ($16 for two until supplies last so make it a wine date!) which will pair perfectly with owner Anastasia Mori’s homemade charcuterie. Petworth Citizen will also be pouring some Jean Paul Brun, but they don’t have Anastasia’s rillettes though…. 

Le Beaujolais Nouveau will also arrive at Central Michel Richard, where Domaine Dupeuble – Beaujolais Nouveau will be poured (and paired with Coq au Vin!) from Thursday to Saturday. 

Coq au vin and Beaujolais at Central Michel Richard

Across the pond in Old Town, Virginia, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux have crafted a fabulous three or four course menu ($39 and $49 respectively) at Bastille, designed to pair with a Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais, which will be offered for $9 a glass or $32 a bottle. (ps: Domaine Manoir du Carra has a Beaujolais rosé which you should absolutely try if you can get your hands on it!!) 

Last year’s Beaujolais Nouveau release happened just on the heels of the Paris attacks when gunmen and suicide bombers hit the bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was a little difficult mustering the usual enthusiasm that accompanies the celebration. So I’m really looking forward to it this year and you’ll find me, as usual, celebrating with dear friends at home parties rather than out and about. Will you be celebrating the release of the new 2016 harvest this year?

 

My Trip To Paris By RaShonda’s Explore Savvy

RaShonda of Explore Savvy is one of my favourite local travel blogger. Between her recent trips to Cuba or Milan and her scooping of fabulous cheap or error fare her facebook and twitter feeds give me major wanderlust – and make me want to buy all the airline tickets! Earlier in the year, she posted about an error fare on TAP Portugal, which I quickly snagged for a cheap Thanksgiving get-away. I mean, $280 round trip to Lisbon? How could I not jump on that? She also took advantage of the mistake, but rather than just stay in Portugal, opted to hop along to Paris. Here are some highlights from her trip to Paris earlier this year.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS
As Laetitia mentioned, I came across a TAP Portugal deal for $285 round trip tickets from New York to many popular destinations in Europe. It was too good to pass up. My husband and I like to celebrate our anniversary in a different place each year so I figured we would take advantage of the deal to spend it in the City of Love this time around!

Explore Savvy's Anniversary trip to Paris

 

HOW I GOT THERE
We flew TAP Portugal. It was okay but nothing to write home about. If you ever fly this airline, my advice is to bring your own food and snacks. For what they lacked in food, they had plenty of red, white, and sparkling wine which made the food slightly more palatable. All of their flights from the US transit through Lisbon. If you have the time, they offer free tours during the stop-over, which is always a plus.

WHERE I STAYED
I’m a member of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) which means I earn points when staying at Starwood properties like Westins, W Hotels, Meridiens or Sheratons. They have properties around the world and I always try to capitalize on the use of points when I can. I wanted to stay some place that had its original Parisian charm and not your typical American hotel chain. Fortunately SPG had a few options that fit that requirement in Paris. We booked a room at Le Dokhan’s, a boutique hotel in a 19th century Haussmanian building in the 16eme arrondissement. It was recently acquired by SPG and was definitely the best of both worlds. From receiving a complimentary anniversary toast in Paris’ first champagne bar (located in the lobby level) to taking photos in its Louis Vuitton elevator, this place was oozing with charm.

Louis Vuitton elevator at Le Dokhan's in Paris

Also, it’s a short stroll to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower! And while we didn’t use our points this go around, we earned enough for a free night or two in a less expensive city.

BEST THING I ATE
Paris is known for having tons of Michelin-rated restaurants and I figured I’d book one for our anniversary. I’d gone through the listing and narrowed down our selection to a few choices and ended up picking Kei, a one-star French restaurant which a slight Japanese influence. Each dish was so unique and the best part was all of them were very tasty. The service was absolutely amazing and I’d definitely recommend it to someone who’s celebrating a special occasion.

Kei

Kei

BEST FREE ACTIVITY
I’d definitely recommend spending the afternoon strolling down the Champs-Élysées. There are so many cute cafés and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit there and people watch. There’s also a ton of shopping. While many of the places can be found in the States too, they do offer different options in the European stores.

TOTALLY WORTH THE SPLURGE
I know they’re opening in Washington, D.C. soon, but I finally had a chance to a go to Ladurée. We went to the one located on the Champs-Élysées. The line was out of the door but fortunately it moved quickly. As we made it halfway through, we noticed people walking right past us and into the small café area. We followed suit and learned we could order our macarons from there with no wait. Who knew?

Explore Savvy at Laduree

We ordered 8 macarons to go but still ended up sitting down and ordering a tea, a cappuccino, and a fancy ice cream dish. While, this was not our most expensive eating experience, we spent nearly $60 on an afternoon snack with a few macarons to go. But hey, you only live once 😉

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS
I always hear people talking about how French people are so rude. Honestly, my husband and I had a totally different experience. As long as you realize that the culture in Paris is not the same as in the United States, you will see things differently and enjoy your experience. One major difference: service at restaurants! Waiters are usually not ignoring you, they’re just giving you your space. If you need something just make eye contact or wave to them and they’ll be right over. Also, if you’re not fluent in French, learn a few basic greetings. Trust me, when you simply try it goes a long way…

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Explore Savvy trip to Paris

 About the author: RaShonda Riddle is a nonprofit marketing director by day and travel enthusiast by night. She loves food, art, architecture, and learning about other cultures. Her passion is exploring the world one country at a time. You can read more about her travels on her blog Explore Savvy and on her social media channels (facebook & twitter.)

Week-end Highlights: Laotian Food, Spanish Tall Ships & a Little Art

Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? After a long, emotional, week, mine was low key, in a good way, though I still managed to do quite a bit. Friday, I made my grand waitressing debut when I helped out with chef Bobby Pradachith’s Amone pop up at Mess Hall. 

Mess Hall food incubator in Washington, DC

 Chef Pradachith is the son of Chef Seng Luangrath of Thip Khao. After a stint at Minibar, he’s  following on his mother’s footsteps in elevating Laotian cuisine’s profile in the District and created a fantastic menu of historic dishes his three days pop-up at the culinary incubator. It was interesting for me to b behind the scenes for once and I still got to try a few of the dishes, like this riced cured rockfish with a fermented pork sauce, pineapple and cashews (Sa Ton Pa Va) or the soft coconut jelly with sour coconut, peanut brittle and salted plum (Woon Mak Pao).
Sa Ton Pa Va Laotian food

 

Week-end Highlights: Pinxtos, Vegan Wedding Cake & a Mini College Reunion

I’ve been pretty lucky. So far this summer, all of the weddings that I have been to have been local. Even better, since my college friend Sandra got married here at 2941 Restaurant not only did I not need to travel but a bunch of my college friends actually traveled to see me! Well, attend the wedding, but also see me!! 

ALL THE PINXTOS AT ANXO

My friend Elena, who came down from Connecticut for the occasion, is pretty obsessed with all things Spanish culture. To be fair, she’s a Spanish teacher and has traveled extensively throughout Spain. She wanted to check out Anxo and I was more than happy to oblige since I had not yet been to DC’s first cidery and pinxto bar in Truxton Circle. The weather was beautiful, and we were able to eat all the Basque small plates (and drink all the cider) outside which was such a treat. My favourite is always the Pintxo Gilda, with Basque peppers, olives and anchovy! 

Gilda pinxto at Anxo in DC

POPSICLE BRUNCH & PLAYING TOURIST ON THE MALL

Since the wedding was at 4PM, I squeezed in a little brunch catching up with some other college friends. They were staying at the Melrose Hotel between Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, I suggested we try RIS’ popsicle mimosa brunch. The popsicles come in two flavours: pomegranate spice and ginger orange pineapple. Since my friends weren’t drinking, I only had one of the ginger orange pineapple mimosa but under different circumstances, I certainly would have jumped on the $20 bottomless option.

RIS' ginger orange pineapple popsicle mimosaAfter brunch, we took a quick stroll on the mall. Could the weather have been more perfect to play tourists!?

Playing tourists on the mall

The wedding was beautiful, and one of the highlights was the vegan cake by chef Caitlin Dysart. Yep, vegan cake (the bride is vegan). Isn’t it just gorgeous?

Vegan wedding cake by Chef Caitlin Dysart The end of the weekend is a bit of a blur… literally 😉 I probably should have drank a little less wine. How was your weekend?

U.S. Supreme Court? CHECK!

FINALLY!! After 6 years on my DC-to-do-list, I can cross off visiting the U.S. Supreme Court! Well, actually, the item on my list was a little more ambitious than just visiting the U.S. Supreme Court. I wanted to sit through an oral argument. And that’s not exactly what I did this week, but close enough. 

US Supreme Court

Thanks to a former colleague, I sat through a lecture on property rights in the progressive era, organized by the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society and hosted by Justice Samuel Alito. The lecture itself was waaaay over my head, I have no legal background whatsoever, but the reception afterwards, in one of the court’s stunning conference rooms, was right up my alley! I mean, of course I would find a way to drink wine at the U.S. supreme Court right? 

Reception at the US Supreme Court

So now I actually do want to just take a tour of the building and get to learn more about it but I am still crossing the U.S. Supreme Court off my DC-to-do-list!! So far, I’m doing pretty good and I think I might be able to cross everything off… let’s recap:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court — check 
  2. Sipping cocktails at the Columbia Room.
  3. Catching a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
  4. Dinner at Bad Saint — check (read about it here)
  5. Visit the Society of Cincinnati and Lars Anderson House.
  6. Watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport from Gravely Point — check
  7. Catch the Caps practice at the Kettler Iceplex — check
  8. Meander through the lush grounds at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden — check (and during Cherry Blossoms season which was absolutely gorgeous!)
  9. Go on a hike in Rock Creek Park — check (though I’d like to crush it from top to bottom like this Washingtonian article recommends.)
  10. Have drinks at The Tombs in Georgetown.

So 6 down, 4 to go with 7 weeks left in 2016! I think I can do it!!