Week-End Highlights: GLT Get-Together and All the Pumpkins!

This week-end was all about two things: girlfriends and pumpkins! We had planned a fun day-trip to the Middletown/Frederick area to visit a pumpkin patch and the weather could not have been more perfect. If anything, it was too warm to wear the typical instagrammable fall outfit 😉

We headed to Jumbo’s pumpkin patch because I had seen it listed in a couple of articles as one of the best in the United States (like in this post on Travel + Leisure). This seven-generation family farm offers lots of family friendly activities like face painting, pony rides, hayrides etc. but also has a legit patch where you can pick-your-own gourd. There were A LOT of kids, but once you got out to the patch it felt a bit calmer.  And it’s just an hour from D.C. so it’s a perfect day trip! 

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

Jumbo's Pumpkin Patch

We had planned on visiting nearby South Mountain Creamery and Distillery Lane Ciderworks but unfortunately ran out of time after a particularly long lunch at The Main Cup. We did squeeze in a quick visit to Olde Mother Brewing, just outside of Frederick, on the way back. It’s a pretty new spot, and I wouldn’t have thought to visit it if one of my friends and former colleagues hadn’t messaged me that she worked there when she saw that I was in the neighbourhood. I must say I actually really liked their pumpkin beer (which is rare!!) 

Tasting flight at Olde Mother Brewing

In the evening, I met up for dinner and drinks with a couple of awesome local ladies from the Girls Love Travel group. I’ve recently joined this group to interact with like-minded travel chicks and get some travel inspiration and it was super fun to get together for the first time. Some of the girls are actually pretty new to the DC areas and up for doing some slightly touristy stuff, which is always fun! 

Girls love travel get together in DC

Sunday, I went back to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for a third time. I had wanted to go back to the history galleries since I skipped those altogether on my second visit but there was a pretty ridiculous hour wait just to get into that part of the museum. So instead, I focused on the “Making a Way Out of No Way” section, which details how African Americans acted to change and build their lives despite tremendous obstacles. This is probably the last time I’ll go to the new Smithsonian this year, though I feel like I still have SO much to see. Have you been yet? 

2015 Notre Dame de Cousignac Rosé Luberon

I spent the rest of the day writing. The weather was beautiful so I opened up a bottle of 2015 Notre Dame De Cousignac Rosé Luberon just in time for sunset!  I love trying wines from regions I have been to, like the Luberon where we spent Christmas with my uncle’s family a few years ago. I found the bottle in the 2 for $20 bins at Batch 13 so it was quite a steal too! ps: that pic is from snap chat. Do you follow each other on the social platform yet? We should 😉 Click here to find me!

Hope you had a great week-end too! 

A Taste of Lille ~ Méert’s Legendary Waffles

No visit to the Northern French city of Lille would be complete without a stop at 27 rue Esquermoise. This address has delighted local gourmands since 1761. Initially, it was a humble chocolaterie and ice cream shop until it was taken over in 1849 by Michael Paulus Gislinus Méert who turned the shop into a local institution with its signature thin, gaufres filled with Madagascar vanilla. Today, the former confectionery is an elegant patisserie, salon de thé and gourmet gourmet restaurant and a must-visit sight if you’re in the area. 

Meert's famous waffles - image courtesy of Meert

Meert’s famous waffles – image courtesy of Meert

I don’t remember the first time I had one of Méert‘s waffles, but I must have been a baby — I’m a second generation Lilloise after all, though we moved to Paris when I was 5 years old and hardly ever think of myself as anything but a Parisienne. Today, you can find Méert in Roubaix, Brussels or Paris (I love the tiny shop near the Picasso Museum in the Marais) and the sweet waffles are set to jet off to America as well soon (to New York… of course…).

Meert's first boutique in Paris is located at 16 Rue Elzevir in the Marais. There's a new one in Saint Germain now too.

Meert’s first boutique in Paris 16 Rue Elzevir in the Marais. There’s a new one in Saint Germain now too.

During my last visit to Lille, we swung by Roubaix, which is a quick metro ride away. We visited la Villa Cavrois  as well as La Piscine-Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent, a fantastic museum housed in a former indoor swimming pool, with a notable art déco interior. My dad actually learned to swim in that pool when he was young!  

The former A.Baert's 1932 Art Déco swimming baths offer a stunning backdrop for the Museum of Art and Industry's collections

The former A.Baert’s 1932 Art Déco swimming baths is a stunning backdrop for the Piscine’s collections

Méert runs the restaurant and café there so we were able to get our waffle fix without having to wait in line at the shop in Lille — there’s always a bit of the line these days!

Meert's waffles at the piscine museum

 Trust me though, those waffles are worth waiting in line for…. and while I love their fun new flavours, especially the spéculos one, the classic Madagascar gaufre is still my favourite, and has been since I was a wee little Northern France girl.  

Meert Lille

 

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!

Weekend Highlights: Road Tripping in Pennsylvania and a Brewery Wedding

It’s wedding season! How many do you have lined up for the summer? Over the weekend, we headed to Berwick, Pennsylvania, to see our good friend David tie the knot at a local brewery. This being me and Berwick being in the middle of nowhere, I broke the trip up and squeezed in a little (rainy) keystone state sightseeing… 

Pennsylvania State Sign

We left the day before the wedding and spent a night at the Candlelight Inn in Ronks, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It rained the entire ride up but cleared up just enough by the time we got to Lancaster Central Market for a late lunch. Lancaster Central Market is the oldest continuously operated farmers’ market in the country. It’s smaller than Reading Central Market in Philadelphia but it’s in the heart of Amish country and offers a mix of produce stalls, bakeries and other more recent addition like Saife’s Middle Eastern Food and Narai Exotic Thai Cuisine. Lancaster’s German roots have made it a center for pretzel bakeries (the country’s first commercial bakery was established in Lititz in 1861) so I opted for a traditional, salted hand rolled soft pretzel. Best pretzel I ever had!

Soft hand rolled pretzel in Lancaster, PA

There’s a number of coffee shops inside the market, including Lancaster County Coffee Rosters, but we headed next door for an elf-sized latte at Rabbit and Dragonfly, a cute bookstore and cafe inspired by the works of Lewis and Tolkien

Tolkiens Themed Coffee Shop in Lancaster PA

If it had kept raining, we could have staying for a game or chess or something, but the rain miraculously cleared away so we took advantage of that instead. Since it was a Friday, we stopped by the Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction in Ephrata. Otherwise, we just drove around on smaller roads, passing through miles of rolling farmland, covered bridges and the occasional Amish horse-drawn buggy. 

Horse drawn buggy in Amish Country

Our last stop before hitting the road to Harrisburg was Dutch Haven. It’s impossible to miss on Route 30 and I had to try a little shoo-fly pie 😉

Dutch Haven on Route 30

In Pennsylvania’s capital, we caught the 11AM guided tour of the state capitol, which is absolutely stunning. Theodore Roosevelt called it the “most handsome building I ever saw” and I can totally see why. Its grand staircase was modeled after that of the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house, and its dome ceiling was inspired by paintings at the Vatican, so it’s all pretty ornate! We didn’t have much time to linger and explore the rest of the city. The area around the capitol seemed pretty dead on a Saturday anyway and we had a wedding a two hour drive away to get to!

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State Capitol

Pennsylvania State CapitolThe ceremony and reception were lovely, if casual, at Berwick Brewing Company. I’d been to a winery wedding before but never a brewery one. Have you? It was super fun meeting the bride and groom’s families, reconnecting with old colleagues and making new friends. One of my favourite element of the wedding: the couple eschewed the traditional wedding cake (and many other typical wedding elements you come to expect at an American wedding) for a bunch of pies. I like pies (and also didn’t have a wedding cake at my wedding… ) And I loved trying the different brews too! Check out the groom’s beer-themed wedding details! I loved that too!

Berwick Brewery Wedding Details

On our way back, to break up the return drive a bit, we stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park. It’s actually only a two hours away from Washington, DC via Frederick so I don’t know why we’d never been. We did the self guided auto tour, which took us about an hour and a half. If we had a packed a little differently, I would have loved to hike one of the trails near the battlefields. I guess that gives us a reason to come back right?

Gettysburg National Military Park

Sachs Covered Bridge Near Gettysburg

How was your weekend? Did you have to deal with as much rain as we did? 

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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