Catch These French Films at Filmfest DC

FilmFest DC 2016

In the winter months, I try to cram in as many oscar-nominated films as I can before the awards are given out. After that movie-binge, I typically take a needed break from the cinemas. Until April and Filmfest DC

Filmfest is the District’s first, largest and only international film festival. Between April 14 and 24, 2016 Filmfest DC will celebrate 30 years of delighting Washington cinephiles with a really impressive line-up of 75 movies from 45 different countries. As always, that includes a number of films from France and Belgium. Here are some of the French(-ish) or French-language films you can look forward to this year. 

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENTLe tout nouveau testament

The poster claims that “G-d exist… and he lives in Brussels.” Colour me intrigued, especially since the film is directed by Jaco Van Dormael who has made such great films as Toto the Hero or The Eight Day. In the story, G-d (Benoit Poelvoorde — catch him in Romantics Anonymous available on DVD on Netflix!) is alive and grumpy in the Belgian capital, where he controls the universe from his computer and torments his family, including his wife the amazing Yolande Moreau and 10 year old daughter, Ea. To get back at her dad, Ea sends everyone their death dates via SMS… and that’s just the beginning. Intrigued? You should be! The film was Belgium’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist of nine films, but falling just short of being nominated (it was nominated but didn’t win at France’s Cesars.) Watch the trailer here and catch The New Testament at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 21 at 6:30PM or April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

BELGIAN RHAPSODY 

Belgian rhapsody

Belgian Rhapsody illustrates the competition between the small country’s two linguistic groups – the French-speaking Walloons and the Flemish –  through the fierce battle of two brass bands vying for a European championship. The exuberant Wallo-Flemish musical comedy will be shown at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 18 at 8:45PM and April 23 at 5PM. (In Dutch and French with English subtitles.)

THE MEASURE OF A MANla loi du marche

I just saw posters for this film in new York City, which makes me think it has the best chance out of all the movies on this list to actually make it to theater in Washington, DC. Vincent Lindon is always superb and won awards for his performance both at Cannes and at the Cesars. This terrific drama echoes the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” in its exploration of what people are willing to do to keep their jobs. Here, Lindon portrays a fifty-something former factory worker, who after being unemployed for 20 months, finally accepts a soul-destroying job as a security guard for a megastore.  The movie is co-presented by the French Embassy where it will show on April 22 at 7PM. It will also show at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 16 at 5PM. (In French with English subtitles.) The French Embassy will be screening another film, Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents, immediately following The measure of a man, at 9PM on April 22 if you feel like a French double feature. Details here

MY KING

Speaking of acting awards at Cannes, its director Emmanuelle Bercot, who also plays the tittle character in this movie (called Maiwenn in French), won that last year. Her film focuses on Maiween who tears up her knee cap skiing in the opening sequence. As her therapist hints that the whole thing was more of a cry for help than an accident she looks back at her life with her man-child partner Giorgio (swoon worthy Vincent Cassel) and remembers the highs and lows of their life together. My King is showing at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 6:30PM and at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 17 at 5:30PM. (In French with English subtitles.)

My King

 

THE WHITE KNIGHTS

But back to Vincent Lindon. He leads the Move For Kids organization in this provocative Franco-Belgian drama that looks at the darker side of humanitarian assistance. Directly inspired by real events (the highly suspect story of French NGO Zoe’s Ark whose members were arrested in 2007 for illegally trafficking children they claimed to be orphans from war-torn Darfur) The White Knight raises many questions and offers no easy answers about what is wrong and what is right… what my husband would dub an excellent but infuriatingly French film 😉 Catch The White Knight at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 15 at 9PM or at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 22 at 6:30PM. (In French with English Subtitles.)

The White Knights

 

LOVE & FRIENDSHIPLove and Friendship

What is this very British love satire based on Jane Austen’s never-previously-filmed novella in letters Lady Susan doing in a list of French film you ask? Well, it’s co-produced by France, the Netherlands and Ireland. So there, French enough-ish! Plus it looks really good (I always love a good period film!) Brit Kate Beckinsale plays a widow who seeks refuge with her in-laws. As rumours about her private life begin to circulate, she sets out to find a husband for a herself, and a father for her daughter, the reluctant debutante Frederica. There’s only one showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 19 at 6:30PM so don’t miss it. (In English… no subtitles.)

3000 NIGHTS

Saying that I loved Room doesn’t feel quite right because the topic the film/book dealt with is so dark. 3000 Nights feels almost like Room and is also partially based on true stories, that of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons. In the film, Layla is unaccountably thrown into a police van and convicted. She ends up pregnant and in jail and is allowed to keep the child who grows up in a grim cell, knowing nothing of the outside world, but surrounded by love from his mother and her five Palestinian cell mates. Palestinian director Mai Masri is initially a documentary filmmaker and 3000 Nights concludes with a powerful documentary.

3000 Nights

A Palestine/France/Qatar/Jordan/UAE coproduction, the film is co-presented by the Embassy of Qatar and showing at Landmark’s E Street Cinema on April 21 at 8:30PM and AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 23 at 9:30PM. That last screening will be attended by the director too. (In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.)

MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA

The festival saved the best for last with its closing film! Academy award nominated director Philippe Falardeau, of Monsieur Balthazar and The Good Lie fame, returns with a political satire featuring Starbuck’s Patrick Huard (one of my absolute favourite in-French film currently streaming on Netflix… watch it!!) as a former pro-hockey player whose career never took off because he was afraid to get on planes. Now an independent MP and the last honest man in office, his vote can decide the fate of legislation that could send the country to war. The PM relies heavily on guidance from his Haitian intern Souverain, who seems to know more about the ins and outs of Canadian politics than he does.

My Internship in Canada

While reviews agree that My Internship in Canada (watch the trailer here) doesn’t quite live up to its potential, you won’t want to miss this screening at AMC Mazza Gallerie on April 24th, the closing night of the festival, because it will be attended by director Philippe Falardeau and followed by a reception sponsored by the Office of Quebec. (In French, Creole, with some English dialogue and English subtitles.)

Are you looking forward to Filmfest DC this year? The list above is by no means exhaustive, just some French-ish movies that I would like to see during the festival. You can see a full list of all the films shown through April 24th right here. Let me know if you see anything good!  

Postcard from the District: Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

You know the first lady is pretty cool when you find out about new murals from her instagram feed 😉

Michelle Obama and Mr Brainwash at Union Market

 

Michelle Obama marked International Women’s Day and the first anniversary of Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at educating girls around the world, at Union Market. She was joined by famed Los Angeles-based French street artist Mr. Brainwash, who had been commissioned by The Girls Lounge to do a mural on the theme of women education.  The murals are full of colorful hearts, similar to the bleeding hearts/love wall graffiti by James Goldcrown, portraits (including renderings of Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein) and inspiring slogans like “Life Is Beautiful,” “Follow Your Heart” and “Love Is The Answer.” 

Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

Laetitia Brock at the Union Market Mr Brainwash mural

Mr Brainwash Mural at Union Market

 

 

 

 

 

Union Market Celebrates International Women's Day with Michelle Obama and Street Artist Mr. Brainwash; Photo Credit: Gary Williams

Union Market Celebrates International Women’s Day with Michelle Obama and Street Artist Mr. Brainwash; Photo Credit: Gary Williams

Unfortunately, some of the art is already gone, like Einstein’s legs or the bottom half of the Life is Beautiful pink heart above.

Thierry Guetta, aka MBW, was quoted saying that he’ll be back in the District because he feels that “Washington, D.C. needs it.” I agree! Apparently, we have many “blank walls that could have messages for people to see life more beautifully.” Again, I agree and I can’t wait to see more of his murals pop up all over town!! 

So You Wanna Visit the White House…?

I’ll always remember the first time I toured the East Wing… it was the morning after I met my now husband. I told him I had to make it an early night because I was supposed to be at the White House at 8AM. You know, a typical D.C. excuse 😉 I’d only been in the U.S. and in Washington for 6 months and it was all very exciting for me.

I’ve been fortunate to go inside the White House a few more times since then. And while bowling at the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley at 1600 Penn* is still on my DC-to-list with slim to no chance ever getting crossed off, I did get to go to the West Wing once and tour the building once during the holiday season. Here what you need to know if you want to visit the White House too. 

THE WEST WING & BOWLING ALLEY

Unless you’re invited by the White House or know someone who works there (and has West Wing access, which isn’t everyone), the personal residence and the West Wing are pretty much off limit. Because they are led by staff, West Wing tours visits typically happen in the evening or on weekends, outside of office hours. If you’re lucky enough (like I was) to visit when the president is out of town, you’ll get to peak into the Oval Office. Not go into it, but peak into it. Photographs, of course, are strictly off limits except in the press room, which is why SO many people have pictures of themselves at the press secretary’s podium. Well, at least so many people in DC… If you do have the opportunity to tour the West Wing, clear your schedule and go! Ahead of time, you’ll be asked to provide your full name, birth date, social security number, and possibly other personal data so that the secret service can run a quick background check on you. Obviously, I passed the test and I wasn’t even a permanent resident back then so being foreign won’t prevent you from being able to do a West Wing tour. Bowling at the White House requires the same kind of “friends with benefits” which I clearly do not have anymore 😉 They only get to book the lanes once a quarter so again if you’re ever invited to the most exclusive bowling alley in the country, clear your schedule and make it happen! Also, don’t forget to bring your own snacks and booze… I already have my sparkly all picked out… I just need an invite now. 

THE EAST WING

white house tours are self guided

So I toured the East Wing the first time right when I met my husband, on a traditional tour that had been arranged by my graduate program at the George Washington University. I toured it a second time during the holiday season in 2011 when the White House hosted one of its first tweet up ever. Most of our time at the tweet up was spent in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where, interestingly enough for a tweet up, we couldn’t get a signal and where there was no wifi. The White House has learned a lot since then and frequently hosts tweet ups like the one recently for the arrival ceremony for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The highlight of that tweet-free tweet up for me was meeting with and getting to ask questions of White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and White House florist Laura Dowling about what it’s like to plan and prepare for Christmas at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (planning typically starts in March.) Getting to see the end result from all of their hard work during a tour of the building afterwards was really amazing. SO many Christmas trees and gingerbread houses!

Gingerbread White House

white house 4 white house 5

Christmas season at the White House White house 6white house 1

There currently are no tweet up or instameet planned but you should check the White House Social website periodically and follow them on twitter and instagram to get alerts for the next one. Here as well, you also have to go through a quick background check, which non-Americans like myself can pass. The other way to get to tour the East Wing is, of course, through your congressional representatives, though that process is currently being revamped.  I will update this post as soon as the new information is official on April 18. 

THE WHITE HOUSE GARDENS

The easiest way to get inside those gates is the bi-annual White House Garden tour. No, you don’t get to go inside the residence, but you get to see Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden and take a really cool picture like this from the South Lawn: 

Laetitia Brock at the White House

White House Garden Tours happen in the fall and in the spring, and mark you calendars right now because the next ones are next week, on Saturday April 16 and Sunday April 17 2016. On either of those days, show up at the Ellipse Visitor Center (kitty corner from Pinea at the W at 15th and E NW) to get a free, timed ticket. Those are distributed on a first come first serve basis and the visit is obviously really popular so I recommend getting there at 8:30AM since tours begin at 9AM.
White house 10

The grounds will be less crowded earlier in the day. Bring as little with you as you can and selfie sticks are strictly prohibited, as are bags (small purses might be fine but play it safe. Diaper bags are not allowed), food, weapons (duh!) and animals other than service dogs. You’ll go through metal detectors but no background check or advance planning is required for those… White House Fall Garden Tour

You can read a little all about my 2010 White House Garden Tour right here and if it doesn’t make you want to get up early on Saturday or Sunday, remember that it’s one of your best shot at getting in before Obama’s term end. Another alternative for the gardens, if you have kids, is to enter the lottery for tickets to the White House Easter Eggs Roll. 

* Wondering what is it like to bowl at the White House? Check out this lucky Deutsch Art Director’s account on the agency’s blog! Wondering what it’s like to visit the White House for a special event hosted by the First Lady? My friend Olga did just that a few weeks ago.

A Taste of Spring: Cherry Blossoms Everything

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Cherry blossoms season is almost done here in Washington. The actual blossoms faded away late last week. Who can blame them? It’s been barely 40 degrees for the past two days… and don’t get me started on the wind! But officially, the festival ends on April 17 so there’s still more than an entire week to celebrate our city in boom and enjoy festival events, like the fireworks on the 9th, the Sakura Matsuri street festival and the official parade on the 16th, or all the different themed eats, which let’s be honest are my favourites anyway! 

Now, I’m not a huge fan of the official “cherry picks” gimmick co-sponsored by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington that sees restaurants as unrelated to Japan as Boqueria, Carmine’s or Lincoln come up with dubiously cherry-inspired menu items during the festival. But I’m a big fan of sweets of all kinds, most particularly when they don’t involve chocolate and I do love all of the cherry-flavoured pastries that have popped up all over town. Here are some of my favourites so far:
 

MILK BAR’S CHERRY ROSE COOKIE

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Normally I find Milk Bar’s treats just a tad/a lot too sweet for me but the combo of freeze-dried cherries, milk crumbs and rose water essence with a final layer of dusted cherries on top really worked for me. 
 

OLIVIA MACARON’S CHERRY BLOSSOM FLAVOUR

All my favourite macaron flavours have always been on the floral side: fleur d’oranger, rose, jasmin, muguet… so it was bound to be love at second sight with this one — second because I had already fallen with it when it was first introduced last year.
Oli
 

RARESWEET’S CHERRY BLOSSOMS COOKIE

So pretty it’s almost a pity to eat it. Keyword: almost!
IMG_7539
 

ASTRO DOUGHNUT’S CHERRY DONUT

I can’t think of a better to spend $3.25 than this donut! Inside the vanilla dough rests a soft cherry filling, and all this deliciousness is topped by a decadent vanilla bean cream cheese glaze adorned with a sweet cherry blossom design. I’ll be very sad to see this one go.
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CHAPLIN’S CHERRY BLOSSOM BOMB

Normally I’m not a huge fan of the boozy cherry blossom specials (the exception this year being BLT Steaks Japanese whiskey flight… everything else is just too cherry-y and sweet) but I am a HUGE fan of sake bombs. Don’t judge. I have been since I did my first one at a trendy London Japanese restaurant/bar back in 2002. I like Irish car bombs too. Had my first one of those at Lindy’s Red Lion, because GWU! So I actually appreciate Chaplin’s $5 bomb featuring a pint of Kirin Ichiban beer and a shot of bright pink Sakura Emaki Rose Sake. Bottoms up on that one!
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Have you enjoyed any good seasonal eats (or drinks) during the cherry blossom festival this year? Let me know in the comments! I still have a few days to try and check them out!

Helping Raise/Raze Come to Life at Dupont Underground

Volunteering to build Raise/Raze at Dupont Underground

 

I had a ball – lame pun intended – volunteering at the Dupont Underground with some of my friends this morning. This was actually my first time in the abandoned trolley station which plans to open its doors to the public on April 30 with its first art exhibit, “Raise/Raze.” 

“Raise/Raze” was the winning  project of Re-Ball!, an open design competition for a site-specific installation in the underground space using the more than 650,000 translucent plastic balls from the National Building Museum‘s “Beach” installation. So today we helped built the installation by glue-ing a bunch of these balls together. 

Dupont Undergound

Volunteering at the dupont undergroundDupont Undergound

 

 

The making of Raise/Raze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We basically spent three hours in a small portion of the tunnel (it’s over a mile long in total) hot-glueing the balls in sets of three. Another station then turned these into bigger squares while a final station added velcro to it. Eventually, groups of up to 50 people will travel through different spaces within the tunnel and interact with the exhibit by moving the velcro-affixed 3x3x3 cubes around to create various shapes. And while I had a ton of fun with the hot glue gun there’s still a ton of work to be done… so if you have three hours to spare between now and April 24 you can help out too (sign up to volunteer here!)

Hot glue-ing the balls at Raise/Raze

Raise/Raze

Eventually the space is supposed to look like this:

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Rendering courtesy of Dupont Underground and Hou de Sousa

Right now, that seems pretty abstract and kinda hard to visualize…. but I’m sure it’ll get there eventually and I can’t wait to see the final result! I really do hope that Raise/Raze will get the ball rolling on turning Dupont Underground into a hot cultural destination in Washington, DC. Just had to close on a lame ball pun too 😉 

For more background on the Dupont Underground revitalization project, check out this USA Today article. 

Christine and the Queens at the 9:30 Club

Have you heard of Christine and the Queens?

Yes!? Then you know how awesome she is! You can skip the rest of this post and just click on this link to buy tickets to see her perform at the 9:30 Club on May 31. French musicians don’t grace US stages very often, and when they do, we – Frenchies and francophiles – have a responsibility to go cheer them on. Otherwise, they won’t come see us anymore 😉

If you have no idea who Christine and the Queens is then let me introduce you to the best French band you’re not listening to right now. 

Christine and the Queens is the androgynous alter ego of Héloïse Letissier, a  stylish 27-year-old Parisienne who took France by storm with her 2014 debut album Chaleur Humaine. She won four Victoires de la Musique awards, the French equivalent of the Grammies, one for best female artist of the year in 2015, for best video for her song Saint Claude in 2015 and Christine in 2016 and one for best tour in 2016. She’s a really great dancer who counts Madonna, Mark Ronson and Lorde as fans, performed at Austin’s SXSW Festival last March and did a mini-US tour afterwards that included a quick stop in DC’s Lincoln Theater. She’s also been written up about in the New York Times’ T Magazine and was Trevor Noah’s second musical guest ever.

And that was all before she rerecorded and retooled her album, now just called Christine and The Queens, for an international audience (check it out on iTunes!). Her songs always had a bit on English in them and now they have even more. She’s about to take the US by storm. Her song iT was featured in a recent episode of Girls on HBO and is headlining a bigger US tour that will take her to Cochella, New York (obvi!), Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and *yes* Washington, DC again, where she’ll perform at the 9:30 Club this time. Rather than bore you with words, I’ll let her music (and stunning videos) speak for themselves and share Jonathan which I can’t get out of my head right now and the catchy Paradis Perdus, a mash-up of Christophe’s 1972 chanson with some Heartless by Kanye weaved into it (because why not?).

 

See you at the 9:30 Club on May 31?? 

♬ Magnolias for Ever ♪

Des magnolias par centaines | Des magnolias comme autrefois

 Je ne sais plus comment faire | Les magnolias sont toujours là

 

Saucer magnolias in the Smithsonian Castle Garden

 

Current mood today: Claude François for ever! Magnolias will do that to ya 😉

I was looking forward to the beginning of peak bloom for the Washington, DC cherry blossoms this weekend, but the National Park Service has revised the date and pushed it Wednesday March 23-Thursday March 24. Currently blooming, however, are the stunning saucer magnolia trees at the Smithsonian’s Enid A. Haupt Garden (right behind the Smithsonian castles.) I think these will hold me over for a few days 😉 

Tips for Enjoying Cherry Blossom Season In DC


Spring is coming! Every year the highlight of the season in Washington is, of course, the annual blooming of the district’s 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees. The whole town gets cherry fever and hundreds of thousands of tourists (and locals too) descend on the Tidal Basin and the National Mall to admire the delicate white and pink flowers. This year, peak bloom will hit between March 18-23, 2 weeks earlier than originally anticipated due to the recent warm temperatures. This means most of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 17, will probably happen sans-blossom. Regardless, here are a few tips for navigating this huge Washington, DC event.

DC Cherry Blossoms

 

SET YOUR ALARM CLOCK EARLY

The Cherry Blossom trees were a gift of good will from Japan to the United States in 1912 and represent the budding relationship between the two countries. They’re scattered around the city, but the prettiest, most picture perfect pink concentration is around the Tidal Basin, just off the National Mall. Avoiding the stroller pushing, selfie snapping crowd during peak bloom around there is impossible, but your best bet for some quiet cherry blossom time will be early in the morning on a weekday. Like 7AM early, right at sunrise. The evening is also a lot quieter and you can even join a ranger on a lantern walk from 8-10PM (Fridays/Saturdays 3/18, 19, 25, 26 and March 1 and 2nd.) Don’t forget to check the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s website for a full schedule of events. The day of the parade (April 16), of the kite festival (April 2) or of Cherry Blossom 10 miler race (April 3) are likely to be even busier than usual.

Cherry blossoms at MLK memorial

LEAVE YOUR CAR AT HOME 

Seriously, don’t drive to the Tidal Basin if you can avoid it. Traffic will atrocious and there’s NO parking out there! The closest metro to the Tidal Basin is the Smithsonian metro stop on the blue and orange lines, though the circulator’s new national mall linedeparting from Union Station, will also get you pretty close. I always walk there from my place, but my best advice is to grab a cab, lyft or uber, especially if you’re going early in the morning. Capital Bikeshare is a great option for your trip back from the Tidal Basin. On your way there you might not find an empty docket for the bike. Make sure to be on the lookout for one of the pink #bikeinbloom bike too! However you get there, make sure to wear comfy shoes since you’ll be doing a lot of walking regardless.  
Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC

LEAVE THE TREES ALONE 

This really should have been tip number one. Don’t pick blossoms from trees or hold on to a branch. These are big no-nos and if you see someone doing this, you should yell at them. Don’t yell at tourists though for standing on the wrong side of a metro escalator 😉 Rookie mistake, just kindly let them know that we have rules here, and that they should be standing on the right, walking on the left. 

DC Cherry Blossom trees

BRING SNACKS… AND ALLERGY MEDICINE 

Bring some snacks if you’re planning on walking the whole tidal basin. Even better, bring a blanket, some food and have a picnic. Just remember don’t litter (there aren’t a ton of garbage cans down there) don’t drink alcohol in public. In the United States, there is such a thing as open container laws so you can’t openly drink alcohol in public places like sidewalks, parks or the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Womp womp… leave that bottle of rosé at home! Finally – take or pack allergy medicine. All over the city all sorts of trees are booming too so even if you’ve never suffered from seasonal allergies before, you might still want to pack or take a zyrtec!

TAKE TO THE WATERS! 

In addition to the tidal basin and the Washington monument area, you can also find cherry blossoms along the shoreline of East Potomac Park, extending all the way to Hains Point. A great way to appreciate those trees is by taking a DC water taxi from Georgetown or from Old Town Alexandria. If the water temperatures are warm enough, you might even be able to rent a kayak from Thompson Boat Center in Georgetown and paddle your way to the blossoms. Perks, you also get a good workout! But one of my favourite things to do during peak bloom is renting a pedal boat at the Tidal Basin for a picture perfect view of the monuments and the dusty pink blossoms reflecting on the water. If you’re headed to see the blossoms on a weekday, you can even book your boat in advance to reduce wait time.pedalo sur le tidal basin a washington

 

THINK BEYOND THE TIDAL BASIN

While the trees along the Tidal Basin are definitely the most striking, there are other pockets of cherry blossom action in other locations across the city. Here are some alternative spots to see the pink-and-white blooms:

  • There’s  more than 20 varieties of cherry blossoms at the 95-acre Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia which is a great option if you don’t want to come all the way into the city. Bonus: the Korean Bell Garden, while not Japanese at all, makes for a very pretty backdrop.
  • Rather than risk having your dog(s) trampled by hordes of tourists at the Tidal Basin, bring your furry friend(s) to the dog-friendly National Arboretum. You and your pup(s) will be able to enjoy cherry blossoms without being overwhelmed by crowds. 
  • For families, Stanton Park in Capitol Hill is both lined with pretty cherry trees AND has a playground for your kiddos. 
  • Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown is great for off-the-beaten path cherry blossom viewing.  General admissions there will set you back $8 though.
  • Take a drive through the wealthy suburb of Kenwood near Bethesda where the streets will be lined with cotton candy trees. 

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EMBRACE THE SEASON AND THE PINK

Peak bloom only lasts 4 days and odds are, if you’re not from DC, you’ve had to plans your trip including book your hotel and travel WAY in advance. And odds are it might not coincide with when the blossoms are out. And that’s ok. There’s still SO much you can do. The White House might be blooming with tulips and the capitol ground with magnolias. You can get tickets to the DC United home opener on March 20th (there are additional home games March 26, April 9 and April 16) or the Nationals home opener on April 7 (or one of the follow up games April 9-14 as well as pre-season games April 1-2).

The whole town also turns pink during cherry blossom season, and while it might seem cheesy, I love the way restaurants celebrate with special menu items. I typically stick to the desserts and cocktails though and also use the festival as the official kick-off date for rosé-drinking season. This time of year is also the perfect excuse to discover or re-discover some of the best japanese restaurants in town. Finally, if you’ve never done afternoon tea at the The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, now’s your chance! The original Japanese delegation to America stayed there in 1860 and the hotel goes all out that to commemorate, with spring décor, a cherry blossom afternoon tea and cherry-inspired cocktails. 

Cherry blossoms inspired eats

Cherry rose cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar in Washington, DC

Whether you’re a veteran cherry-blossom festival goer or this is your first time in DC, I hope these tips will to help you navigate cherry blossoms season. Washington is truly pretty in pink and while the Champs de Mars’ cerisiers are very lovely too, short of going to Japan Washington’s cherry blossoms are truly some of the most beautiful in the world. If you’ve got any tips to share about cherry blossoms time in DC, let me know in the comments!

Postcard from (snowy) Washington, DC ~ Jonas 2016 Edition

Exactly a month ago, we were celebrating Christmas in t-shirts. Well, the warm spell is over! Winter has (finally) arrived and mother nature made up for loss time by blanketing the north east with a pretty thick coat of snow. According to the National Weather Service, 57 cm (22.4 inches) fell in Washington, DC at the National Zoo (much to the delight of our giant panda Tian Tian)  which was enough to shut down the federal government, metro and pretty much the entire city. We don’t do well with snow here 😉

While I did brave the snow to toast Mandu‘s fifth anniversary on Friday night, it snowed really hard for most of Saturday so I locked myself up indoors and watched the blizzard with my cat Chloe from the warmth of my cosy apartment, eating semi-homemade pho and catching up on the Oscar nominated films available online. I loved the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? (available on Netflix). Have you seen it yet? You can also stream Ex-Machina on Amazon. I really loved that one too. By Sunday, the snow had settled and we were treated to a warm(ish) and Sunday. I had planned to just go to the U.S. Capitol and snap some pictures but then when I got there I thought, why go home now, the mall is right there… and before I knew I basically played tourist in my own city, walking close to 7 miles and seeing all the big sights! Here are some highlights from my walk:

Snow removal during Jonas 2016 in Washington, DC

SnowselfieSledding on the west lawn of the US capitol
Washington Monument in the Snow
Snowselfeet at the World War II MemorialWorld War II memorial in the snow
Sledding at the Lincoln Memorial
Korean War Veteran Memorial in the snowMLK Memorial in the snow
Jefferson Memorial and frozen Tidal bassinTidal Bassin and Washington Monument in the snowEmpty pennsylvania avenue during Jonas
dc snow

Clyde's Stays Open during Jonas 2016Do you want to build a snowman?

How pretty does Washington, DC look under a fresh powdery coat of snow? Did you get snowed in too? How did you weather Jonas 2016?

DC-To-Do List ~ 2016 Edition

To Do List

Every year since 2010, I’ve been listing 10 things I *must* do in the district that year (check out the 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2010 editions.) Washington is a little bit like Paris in that even if you’ve lived there for a while, there’s ALWAYS going to be something you haven’t done yet. Whether it’s checking out a new restaurant that just opened (or has been around for a while) or finally doing that one super touristy thing you just haven’t done yet, like going to the top of the Washington Monument (which I finally did in 2014 and highly recommends everyone does at least once!) I keep a running list for Paris and one for Washington and try to keep it at 10 every year so that it is manageable. I obviously do WAY more than these ten things, but I think it helps to set goals and it’s also WAY more fun than the usual “I’m going to work out and read more books” New Years’ resolutions. Though I will eat healthier and read more books this year! I will.

So far, some of the items I’ve crossed off my DC-to-do-list have included: running the Cherry Blossom Miler, attending a concert at Wolf Trap (One Republic was really good!), walking through the historical congressional cemetery and take off at Gravely Point and attending an event at the French Ambassador’s Residence (which was tricky since it closed for renovations for a while!) Glad I crossed those off, but unfortunately there are a couple of items I’ve been carrying over for a few years including:

1. Sitting in on an oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court. How have I still not done this? It’s been on my list since 2010….

2. Sipping cocktails at the Columbia Room. To be fair, it closed for a bit. But it’s going to reopen, still very close to where I live so I will have no excuse now! That one is from the 2013 list, and I’d love to finally cross it off!

3. Catching a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse. Also from the 2013 list, and I do still want to do go. The theater recently introduced wine nights on Fridays so I think this is a sign….

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

4. Dinner at Little Serow. I’m actually going to scratch that one off the list for good. To be honest, there are just other restaurants like Thip Kao and Bad Saint that are higher on my must-eat-there list right now. {August update: let’s trade dinner at Little Serow for dinner at Bad Saint since Bon Appetit magazine just named it the second best restaurant in America right now.}

5. Visit the Society of Cincinnati and Lars Anderson House. This is an item I added last year, so I haven’t been carrying it over nearly as much as some of the others, but I’d really like to get to this one this year.

The society of Cincinnati in Washington, DC

6. Watch the planes take off and land at Reagan National Airport from Gravely Point, from the 2015 list. 

7. Catch the Caps practice at the Kettler Iceplex. Also from the 2015 list. 

8. Meander through the lush grounds at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden.

9. Go on a hike in Rock Creek Park.

10. Have drinks at The Tombs in Georgetown.

11 (Bonus item.) Since there are so many items from previous list and little room for new one, I’m adding a bonus one: “Raise high” at a George Washington Colonials men’s basketball game. Confession time: I have never been to a single sporting event at my alma matter. Maybe it’s because I went there for grad school… though to be fair, I didn’t really go to any collegiate games of any kind when I was in undergrad either… I mean, why see the McGill Redmen when you can see the Montreal Canadiens you know? This is the year this changes!

Do you keep any kind of bucket lists, either a local one or one for travel? I was thinking of starting a US travel bucket list too…