Saying Adeus to the Olympics with Caipirinhas

Caipirinhas on the roof, a slight twist on my traditional rosé on the roof ;-)

Caipirinhas on the roof, a slight twist on my traditional rosé on the roof 

While I haven’t really followed the Olympics over the last two weeks, I’ve loved seeing the spotlight back on Rio de Janeiro and it’s brought back some great memories of my trip there two summers ago. My husband and I headed to Brazil for the World Cup in 2014 and even got to cheer for France at Maracanã Stadium. Well, I cheered more than he did, of course 😉 

Cheering for France at Maracanã StadiumCheering for France at Maracanã Stadium

In addition to Rio de Janeiro, we also traveled to Belo Horizonte where we cheered on England even though it was already eliminated from the tournament, the Minas Gerais where we witnessed what it’s like to be in a really small town when Brazil wins a game and Foz do Iguaçu on the Argentine border where we saw that it was like to be in Brazil when they lose 7-0 to Germany and get booted out of the tournament they’re hosting). One constant throughout our trip: caipirinhas, the country’s most famous cocktail. After a long day of navigating a country that can be difficult at times, with only rudimentary Portuguese and a French guide du routard to guide you, plus a nervous husband who’s not a great traveler, caipirinhas (yes, plural!) were just what I needed to relax. 

Caipirinha with a view (of the Municipal Park) at Hotel Belo Horizonte Othon Palace

Caipirinha with a view (of the Municipal Park) at Hotel Belo Horizonte Othon Palace

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Rio 2016 sand castle
One of the souvenirs I brought back from Brazil was a bottle of cachaça so I could indulge in some of the country’s flavours back in Washington, DC. Cachaça is distilled from pure cane juice and taste a bit like rhum agricole. It’s not widely available in the United States, and when it is it costs a lot more than it sure and that’s a shame because Caipirinhas are a ridiculously easy cocktail to make, requiring just 3 ingredients (muddled lime, cachaça and sugar.) Here’s what you need to make the classic version of the cocktail at home:

1-2 limes, cut in quarters (plus an additional slice for garnish)

1-2 tablespoons of white sugar

2 ounces of cachaça (approximately 6 CL)

Start by muddling the limes and the sugar at the bottom of a cocktail glass or in a shaker. You basically want the juice to mix with the sugar before adding the cachaça and further mixing or shaking. If using a shaker, pour the content, including the crushed limes into a short glass filled with crushed ice. If you used a glass directly, just add some crushed iced to it before serving. If you want the drink to be a little less potent, you can also add a splash of perrier lime sparkling water before serving. You can also, as is often done in Brazil, add fresh fruits to the mix like crushed pineapple or passion fruits (though those are even harder to find here it seems than cachaça.) And if you’re hosting a large party and don’t want to bother making individual cocktails, Caipirinhas work really well in a pitcher too, just quadruple the recipe. And if you can’t get your hands on some cachaça swap in some vodka instead and make it a caprioska!

Toasting the Olympics with Caipirinhas

Saúde and obrigada for the memories Brasil

Travel Highlights from 2014

2014 was a great year for me travel-wise. I made it home to France not once, but twice. I made the most out of a few work trips in New York, Chicago, Raleigh, Boca Raton and Austin, Texas. I even tested out Icelandair’s “the best part of a trip to Paris is Iceland” advertisement by doing a stop-over in Reyjkavik on my way back from Paris. The highlight of last year, though, was traveling to Brazil to cheer on my beloved Bleus during the World Cup, a trip I had been planning for and looking forward to for the past 3 years.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF WORK TRIPS 

Chicago (and New York before that) happened in the dead of winter. For Chicago, I think I got to go because none of my colleagues were crazy enough to go there for a frozen 36-hour trip. But I really like Chicago and I can’t wait to go back. In the summer.

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I couldn’t justify renting a car in Austin since the event I was there for was at the hotel where I was staying, and unfortunately that hotel was not in the center of the city. As a result I didn’t get to see much of Austin as I would have to, but I did get to have some great BBQ and some fun food like Texas shaped waffles and Texas wine, at the Vino Volo at the airport of course.

Texas shape waffle

Texas wine flight

For Raleigh, it was really a combination fun and work since we have quite a few DC friends that somehow ended up there and we actually ended up going on 2 separate occasions. Since I’ve never owned a car (and didn’t have a car growing up in Paris either) I’m absolutely OBSESSED with road trips. It’s weird, I know. But my favourite part of the trips to Raleigh was driving down, through Richmond, VA, with my husband. I really would like to do more road trips in 2015. You know, with my imaginary car 😉

Welcome to North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been to Charlotte, of course, in 2014 for the Democratic National Convention, but Raleigh is quite different. I loved touring Duke University, especially the Sarah P. Duke gardens and fell in love with the North Carolina Art Museum. Also with LaFarm’s white chocolate chip baguette. SO good!

Rodin Gardens

Duke University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t love Boca Raton as much, but it was still nice to spend a whole week in Florida. Even if I spent most of it indoor for our annual conference (helped that it was at the gorgeous Boca Raton Resort), I did spend a few hours on a beach before my flight, and checked out Whale’s Ribs of Drives-and-Dives-In fame. The oysters were cheap… but also tasteless. The bloody marys on the other end…

BRAZIL 2014 

Raleigh, Austin, Boca… those were nice trips. But of course, the one trip I was really (really really really) looking forward to was heading to Brazil for the World Cup. That trip was expensive, it required a lot of advance planning, entering of lotteries etc. Was it worth it? YES! Absolutely. For me. My husband probably thinks differently (maybe I should have tried to squeeze in one US game in there…) It certainly wasn’t an easy trip for us as a couple and we learned a lot about traveling together. We both disliked our stay in Belo Horizonte, though we adored the smaller town of Ouro Preto. We loved Rio, though I wish we’d stayed closer to Ipanema or Copacabana, instead of downtown.

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One of the highlights of the trip, for me, (I mean, not that watching France NOT score a single goal for 180 minutes wasn’t thrilling) was Iguazu Falls and crossing the border into Argentina for a quick day trip to see the falls on the other side. There’s a triple-border spot formed naturally by the convergence of the Parana River and the Iguazu River. Right there, you can literally stand between Brazil and Argentina, with Paraguay in the backdrop. I absolutely loved that spot!

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And while the whole idea behind going to Brazil was that we wouldn’t be making it to Russia or Qatar, I learned so much in my first World Cup experience that I think the next one can only be better. Privyet Russia 2018?

HOME SWEET HOME 

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I feel very lucky that I got to go to Paris not once but twice last year. I caught up with family, and my ever changing hometown. I went to the ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier with my dad and showed my husband some of my old haunts. I fell in love with Paris’ newest monument, la Fondation Louis Vuitton, and discovered the new offspring of its most famous museum (that would be the Louvre Lens, you can read more about it here). I had some great coffee at adorable new spots in the Marais and the Canal Saint Martin area and ate WAY too many pastries 😉

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I even got to show my husband a little bit of the country outside of France when we traveled to the South of France to spend Christmas at my uncle’s house in Goult and visited many cute small villages along the way (as well as the not-so-small “villages” of Avignon, Marseille and Nice.)

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THE BEST PART OF A TRIP TO PARIS IS ICELAND?

Finally, I took my husband on a bit of his dream trip, which meant meeting up in Reyjkavik for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling we’ll be back and explore more of Iceland in the future (I mean, I’m going to keep visiting Paris… so as long as Icelandair keeps offering that awesome stop-over deal… Iceland trips are going to be in our future.).

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Unlike Brazil, that trip was just easy. We booked some guided excursions, which I never do and despite some of my friends advising me to just rent a car and do it ourself. If there’s anything I learned in Brazil, it’s that it’s ok, occasionally, and it did prove to be the right travel choice for us at that particular time. I’m not saying we’ll always go with organized tours, but that it can be worth it to save yourself the hassle of doing it all yourself sometimes…

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t have a lot to look forward to travel-wise for 2015. I had such an amazing travel year in 2014 that it seems greedy to expect even half of that for 2015. And yet, I want more! So far, outside of a quick work trip to New York in early February (I already have reservations for Meow Parlor!) and another to Vegas for our national conference, I don’t really have anything concrete.  But here are some of my travel thoughts. I used to live in Montreal and I haven’t been back in ages. And Canada happens to be hosting the Women Football World Cup next summer so I’d love to make that happen (bonus: NO lottery to get tickets to games!!) I also have friends getting married in France and Finland in August and September, and while the 2 weddings are too close together to make both happen, I’d like to make at least one happen (if it’s Finland, I’m making it to Saint Petersburg this time!) Also, last week I won a 4 nights stay at a brand new hotel in Cancun through Expedia’s #TravelChat, so it looks like as soon as we can figure out flights, we’ll be headed to the dream relaxing beach vacation my husband has always wanted… and maybe we’ll rent a car and take a road trip to a new US destination as well…

What were your 2014 travel highlights? Any exciting plans already for 2015?

My Picks For Watching The World Cup In DC

I can’t believe this is going to be my third World Cup in Washington, D.C.! Well, technically, I was honeymooning in Peru during the 2006 tournament and I’ll be in Brazil for most of this one. Nonetheless. I’ve definitely noticed a rise in soccer fandom in the District since I’ve moved here. There are SO many options now when it comes to watching the games and you can read all about them in lots and lots of articles and blog post (like this one, and this one and this one.) Overall, the best places to watch soccer in the area will always be Lucky Bar, Fado and Summers. But the World Cup is about SO much more than soccer. It’s about countries. It’s about being together as you watch the match (or at least not surrounded by people who are cheering for the other team. Been there, done that for the finals in 2006. It’s not fun. And it can be hard to get together with like-minded fans when you’re let’s say from Australia, Belgium or France as opposed to American, Mexican, British or Italian. If I weren’t going to Brazil, here is where I’d be watching some of the games.

 

Watching the World Cup in DC

 

A CINDERELLA STORY ~ Brazil’s fairy tale princess could be Belgium. The Red Devils boast some of the best young players in Europe, most of them World Cup rookies. Nonetheless, several of them are rising stars of the English league and their goalie, Thibaut Courtois, helped lead Atlético Madrid to a shock Spanish title this year and a runner-up finish in the Champions League. They’re also in a pretty easy group and are definitely a team to watch! Their biggest fan in the city happens to be a knight who owns 2 restaurants… so take a long “lunch break” on the 17th and the 20th head to B Too to cheer them on!

Games to watch: Belgium-Algeria (June 17 at noon), Belgium-Russia (June 22 at noon), Belgium-South Korea (June 26 at 4PM.)

allez les bleusALLEZ LES BLEUS ~ Let’s start with the most important team, at least for me! Yes, there are plenty of French restaurants in the city, but supporters of Les Bleus will be getting together at Redline for every France game. Initially, it was the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Club of DC who decided Redline would be their World Cup HQ (chef Fabrice Reymond is from Lausanne.) But since the French Embassy doesn’t get involved in these kind of things and we’re playing La Nati anyways, I thought it would be fun to go to Redline too. So now Redline is the World Cup HQ for all supporters of LES BLEUS and supporters of Switzerland are headed to City Tap House instead on the 15th and darlington House on the 25th (sorry). On the 20th, when France and Switzerland face off, we’ll all be at Redline though.

Games to watch: France-Honduras (Sunday June 15 at 3PM), France-Switzerland (Friday June 20 at 3PM), France-Ecuador (June 25 at 4PM.)

CAMPEONES! ~ There’s not shortage of great Spanish restaurants to cheer on the reigning World Cup and Euro Cup champions: Bodega, Jaleo, La Tasca, etc. THE game to watch is obviously Spain-Netherlands, a rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals. That’s June 13th at 3PM. I hear both the Dutch and the Spaniards are planning on taking over Elephant & the Castle on Pennsylvania Avenue, which should be really fun. Otherwise, if you’re into the Socceroos, you probably want to avoid anywhere remotely Spanish on June 23rd and head to Fado’s instead. It’s an awesome soccer bar and the Australians in Washington Association will be there, so there will be at least a few other people not cheering for Spain around you.

Games to watch: Spain-Netherlands (Friday, June 13 at 3PM), Spain-Chile (Wednesday June 18 at 3PM) and Spain-Australia (Monday June 23 at noon.)

World Cup at Biergarten Haus DCNATIONALMANNSCHAFT ~ Now I’m no fans of the Germans, but they put on a good show (both on the field and off.) I do feel bad for them this year because they’re a) in a really hard group b) playing the US and it’s never fun to cheer against the US in the US. Four years ago, BiergartenHaus opened its door on the first day of the World Cup and the H street bar is still an awesome spot to watch the games, especially if you want to be outside in the sun instead of inside a dark bar all day. and it’s especially fun to watch Germany play there since, you know, it’s a German beer garden and all. Also outdoors will be a return of Soccer in Circle Festival with a live screening of the USA-Germany game on big screen in Dupont Circle June 26th.

Games to watch: Portugal-Germany (Monday June 16 at noon), Germany-Ghana (Saturday June 21 at 3PM) and of course Germany-USA (Thursday June 26 at noon.)

U-S-A! U-S-A! ~ There’s obviously tons of options to cheer for the USMNT. Dupont Circle for the US-Germany game on the 26 should be really fun and D.C. United is sponsoring another outdoor screening, for the Portugal-USA game, in Reston Town Center (June 22 at 6PM.)

Games to watch: Ghana-USA (Monday June 16 at 6PM), Portugal-USA (Sunday June 22 at 6PM) and USA-Germany (Thursday June 26 at noon.)