Weekend Highlights: Flower Crowns, Mucha and Football

Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? After keeping a low profile last weekend and throughout most of the week (I’ve had the worst cold!) I made up for lost time and had quite a wonderful 3-day weekend. It all started with rosé and flowers on Friday. 

One of the best part about having friends from different parts of the world is learning about their culture and traditions (oh, and the amazing food too!) On Friday, my friend Bianca showed us how the Finns celebrate summer solstice. Midsommar is one of the most important national holiday in Finland (and it’s a big deal in many other Nordic countries too.) While her rooftop does have a fire pit, we didn’t light any kokko (bonfires) to keep evil spirits away but we did drink some snap and make midsommarkrans,  beautiful DIY flower crowns using string, birch and of course, flowers. Check us out being all crafty!

Making flower crowns for midsommar

Celebrating Finnish midsommar

Almost as good as the snapchat filter isn’t it? ps: speaking of, you can follow more of my day-to-day on snapchat (<– click on the link, or username laetitiabrock).

Saturday, I escaped the city with my friends Olga of MangoTomato and Nicole of Hapatite. We headed to Winchester, a quaint little town tucked away in the Northwest part of Virginia, about an hour and a half away from Washington. 

They love all things apple in WinchesterWinchester, Virginia

Winchester, Virginia

What prompted our mini road trip was an Alphonse Mucha exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley though we snuck in some shopping in the city’s Loudoun Street Mall and some good eating at One Block West, a fabulous little restaurant, and Red Fox Creamery! And while we had to rush through them a bit because they were prepping up for a wedding, I *loved* the gardens at the museum, almost more than I loved the collection inside!

Alphone Mucha exhibit

The Chinese Garden at the Shenandoah Valley MuseumGardenThe Chinese garden at the Shennandoah Valley Museum

On the way back, we stopped by Wild Hare Cidery for a quick tasting then found our wine (as well as fabulous views!) at Bluemont Vineyard

Bluemont Vineyard

With France playing its 8th of final game bright and early at 9AM on Sunday, I had pretty much written the day off, at least as far as getting anything done beside watching football was concerned. I was a little worried about my choice of venue for the match… Fado’s is one of the best spot to watch football in the city, but we picked it BEFORE knowing that we would be facing Ireland 😉  Things weren’t looking too good when the boys in green scored within the first few minutes but luckily Griezmann was there to save the day and I’m looking forward to cheering on Les Bleus in the quarter finals next weekend (and then hopefully in France for the semis and finals!).

Allez les bleus

Keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll face Iceland, I’ve loved following their Euro Cup Cinderella story… and I’d rather not face England too. Have you been following either the Copa America or the Euro Cup? You’d almost never know there’s a major international soccer tournament that just wrapped up in the US… I feel like it’s barely gotten any coverage 😦 

We’ll be watching the game at Penn Social on Sunday with a bunch of other expats so don’t hesitate to join us! Is it bad that I’m already looking forward to next weekend? Between the July 4th holiday and all the football, it’s going to be another good one!

How ‘Bout Them Apples? Discovering Loudoun County’s Cideries

When I first moved to the United States, the only cider that was “widely” available was Vermont-based Woodchuck or Boston’s Angry Orchard, fruity beverages that dominated the American cider scene back then. In recent years though, the refreshing and light apple-based drink has exploded here. As craft beer became increasingly popular, cider’s appeal also rose, particularly as an alternative to beer for those who can’t drink (especially those who are gluten intolerant) or those who just don’t like the taste of it. Fast forward to 2016, and cider is definitely having a moment in America! And that includes in the state of Virginia, of course (I mean, Jefferson grew apples at Monticello and produce cider after all). So when my friend Calla suggested we venture out to some wineries during the MLK long weekend, I brought up the possibility of us checking out a cidery too and before I knew it our little day trip had a cider theme! 

Virginia cideries are clustered around Charlottesville and in the Shenandoah Valley, which is a little far from Washington, DC if you’re just going for a day trip. So instead, we opted to check out two tasting rooms in Loudoun County, tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Starting with the newest and furthest away from the city, we found ourselves in the tiny, very definitely MICRO Wild Hare Cidery (open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5PM) in Bluemont, VA. Wild Hare is one of the area’s newest cidery producer and the tasting room is intimate at best, with no seating, but the tasting was free and the people were very friendly. 

Wild Hare Cidery in Bluemont, Virgnia

 

Also, the cider was good. Dry and hoppy Hatch was my favourite, reminding me the most of your typical Brittany cider (the fact that they described it as the champagne of cider didn’t hurt either I’m sure….)

Wild Hare Cider

 

Next, we headed to Corcoran Cidery, a small family owned winery and cidery situated on a family farm in Waterford, VA. Since it was the the first cidery to open in Loudoun County we basically went from the newest one to the oldest one 😉

Corcoran cidery
Corcoran CideryThey also do beer, but that’s not on the same site. The good news is if you have a mixed group of wine and/or cider lovers you can sample either wine or cider or a mix of both at the tasting room there. We all opted for the $7 cider tasting flight, and tried all 4 ciders they have to offer. 

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On warmer days, the owners also fire up the BBQ but it was a bit too cold and snowy when we were there so we got a bit hungry after the tastings and headed to Purcellville for some burgers at Market Burgers Fries and Shakes. Since you really can’t go to Purcellville without stopping to sample some cocktails at Catoctin Creek Distillery, we did just that too! Before the hour and a half drive back to the District,  we stopped for some coffee and sweets at Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery, barely making it before the shop closed at 5PM.

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All in all, it was a super fun day trip. I learned a lot along the way about Virginia cider, got to go back to Catoctin Creek Distillery which I absolutely adore and even made a few new friends along the way. I don’t think it gets any better than that 😉

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Virginia is for (art & French films) lovers

Virginia is for lovers and this month, the Commonwealth wants DC area residents to Like! to LOVE Virginia. Throughout April, people who “like” the Virginia is for Lovers Facebook page will have access to daily travel deals and super savings through the VADeals4DC tab. To spread the love, they’ve also installed a giant LOVE art installation at the DuPont Circle Memorial Fountain. The letters will be displayed through April 8 and everyone is encouraged to take a picture of them or with them and upload them to the facebook page. As part of the promotion, Virginia will also be giving out some Like! to LOVE Virginia t-shirts on April 1st (the location will be announced on Facebook at 3PM Friday).
I got a head start on loving Virginia by visiting its capital, Richmond, last weekend. Located less than a two hour drive away from Washington, D.C., Richmond is a great destination for a one or two days getaway. Richmond has a long and interesting history that includes a stint as the capital of the Confederate States of America. But that’s not what brought me to Richmond this time around. It was art and more specially, Pablo Picasso’s art. My parents and I have always engaged in a lot of cultural traveling. When the largest-ever exhibition of works by Dutch master Vermeer opened in The Hague in 1996 we made a special trip to Holland. The following year we headed to Portugal to be among the first visitors at the new Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. And last year, we managed to put together a quick visit to the new Pompidou Metz Museum a few months after its opening. It’s kinda what I’ve always done so the minute I heard about the Picasso: Masterpieces from Le Musee National Picasso exhibit in Richmond I thought, well, I just have to go. OK, to be fair my first thought was: “why Richmond?” But my second thought was how do I get tickets.

 

Picasso is taking over the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from Feb. 19-May 15, 2011

 

As it turns out, Richmond also happens to be the host of one of the largest French film festival in the US every year meaning that I was able to turn a simple trip to Richmond into a nice cultural getaway! My friends Yasmine, Cecile and I escaped DC as the national marathon runners were just getting started and arrived early enough to grab a quick lunch at Coppola’s Delicatessen, explore the Carytown neighbourhood and catch the noon showing of a very forgetable Sophie Marceau film at the decrepit historical Byrd Theater. We then headed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for our 3PM entrance time to the exhibit. Having grown up a few blocks away from the Musée National Picasso in the lovely but old Hotel Salé in the Marais this wasn’t my first time seeing any of the works presented. The avantage of this “small,” selective exhibit was that, unlike at the Paris Museum which is quite extensive, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the number of paintings to see. With 176 works selected from the Paris museum to travel overseas, I was able to discover or rediscover paintings or even photographs and sculptures that I may have overseen before.

After the exhibit, we took a quick stroll through the museum, which is actually quite impressive for a musée de province, featuring Andy Warhol’s Elvis poster, a Goya, antiques from Egypt and Greece, the largest public Fabergé collection outside of Russia and a waterfall cascading into a pool with a Maillol sculpture. Not bad…

Amuse offers upscale American fare & craft cocktails in an art-lined space

We then headed to Amuse, on the top floor of the Museum for a well deserved treat. We sat in oversized neon green chairs and enjoyed some “Cubist Cocktails” inspired by the modern master. Among the clever creations were a “Guernica” with house made orgeat and Pedro Ximenez Sherry over black cherry and almond milk cubes topped off with sparkling Cava or (pictured below) a “Bleu Period Martini” made with Grey Goose Vodka dirtied with cornichon brine (a nice twist!), shaken and served with blue cheese stuffed olives.

“Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Richmond is the exhibit’s second US stop after Seattle, Washington, and its only stop on the East Coast. Its third and final stop will be the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from June 11 through September 18, 2011. After that, Picasso’s masterpieces will return home to Paris to a newly renovated National Museum. Which of course I will travel to see shortly after it reopens. That’s just what I do 😉