Get Out & About, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Speeding Through the Appalachians With Jennifer Pharr Davis

Every year, hundreds of hikers attempt to traverse the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. The typical journey takes at least four months. In 2011, long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis accomplished it in a little over 46 days. She became the trail’s overall speed record holder and the first woman to do so.

Thursday evening, Davis visits the National Geographic Museum to share her story about this incredible achievement. National Geographic is giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky WeLoveDC reader for the event. (See the end of the article for instructions on how to enter.) Davis sat down with WeLoveDC to talk about her accomplishment and time on the trail.

What inspired you to attempt the fastest hike of the Trail?

I had hiked the trail twice before, once in 2005 as a traditional thru-hike taking 4 months, and again in 2008 where I tried to set a new women’s record. I did that, hiking the trail in 58 days and averaging 38 miles per day. But coming off Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia where I finished my hike, I knew instantly that I had a lot left in the tank and that I hadn’t pushed myself to the max. So I immediately starting contemplating the possibility of doing it faster and of possibly trying to break the overall record of 47 days.

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Downtown, Essential DC, History, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Celebrating 125 Years of National Geographic

The National Geographic Society was founded 125 years ago. Its purpose? To expand and share geographic and scientific knowledge through the spirit of exploration. That mission continues to drive National Geographic amidst more than a century of technological and scientific innovations. And for the next year, visitors to the Society’s Museum here in DC can celebrate and enjoy the most iconic moments in the organization’s history.

The exhibition opens with a colorful celebration of the Society’s iconic magazine. The entry arch is constructed entirely of hundreds of past issues in a variety of languages, a fitting tribute to the simple golden square that symbolizes the publication. As visitors walk down a short hallway, they are greeted with a colorful display that shows off the cover of every issue of National Geographic, including placeholders for the future editions to be published during the exhibition’s year-long run.

After a short look at the Society’s founding members—using an interactive portrait—the exhibition opens up to encompass the three areas of the organization’s focus in exploration: land, sea, and sky. The galleries are covered in colorful images that highlight fascinating stories throughout the Society’s history. Science and exploration are the primary focus, including ancient civilizations and cultures, paleontology, wildlife, oceans, and the environment. Continue reading

Entertainment, History, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

The Real Pirates of National Geographic

There are pirates in Washington.

If you doubt, head over to the National Geographic Museum between now and September 2; the Jolly Roger flag hanging from the flagpole should convince you. If you need more persuasive evidence, head inside and wander through the museum’s latest exhibit Real Pirates.

From fore to aft, this exhibit rolls up the past, present, and future of the pirate vessel Whydah. Originally designed and used as a slave ship along the American-African slave routes, the Whydah was captured by pirate captain Sam Bellamy and used in his fleet to pillage more than fifty prizes across the Carribean. On a course for a New England harbor, the Whydah, her captain, and her crew ran into a violent nor’easter near Cape Cod and sank beneath the waves. With it went a hold full of pirate treasure and most of the men on board.

National Geographic chose to feature the Whydah exhibit for a number of reasons. According to Richard McWalters, Director of Museum Operations, the story of the Whydah crosses three seafaring trades: slavery, piracy, and recovery. Through the shipwreck’s history, visitors are exposed to the realities of the slave trade and its vessels, the life of a pirate crew during the eighteenth century, and the technology, dedication, and innovation of today’s salvage explorers. Continue reading

Downtown, Interviews, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Behind the National Geographic Story (With Alice Gabriner)

Roman Frontiers

From “Roman Frontiers”; used with permission. The Porta Nigra, or “black gate,” still dominates Trier, Germany. A hundred feet tall, it was built in the second century as part of a wall system four miles long. Trier was a major city in the late Roman Empire, even serving as a regional capital under several emperors. “The light was so good from my hotel room that I put up a tripod and started taking pictures. The gate is surrounded by modern elements like power lines and a gas station, so I captured a variety of ways of looking at it. This was a way of combining both the old and the new.”

Tonight, National Geographic is pulling back the curtain of sorts. One of the organization’s acclaimed draws is its fantastic use of photography to illustrate various articles and exhibits. Many photographers, from amateur to professional, dream of a day when they see one or more of their photos published in the iconic gold-bordered magazine.

National Geographic magazine Senior Photo Editor Alice Gabriner will share with a select crowd at the museum’s Grosvenor Auditorium her process. (The program is sold out for the evening.) Guests will discover firsthand the work that goes in to curating a National Geographic photo show through an insiders tour, as well as a private viewing of Beyond the Story: National Geographic Unpublished 2012, an upcoming photography exhibition featuring unpublished images by photographers on assignment for National Geographic magazine last year.

I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Gabriner before the program this evening. She graciously took a few moments to answer some questions and shared some photos from upcoming projects. Continue reading

Downtown, History, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Crossing the Northwest Passage the Modern Way: Kite Skiing

Courtesy Sarah McNair-Landry and National Geographic

On December 6, an adventurous brother-sister team visits the National Geographic Museum to share about their experience kite skiing over two thousand miles through Canada’s arctic archipelago. Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry grew up with the Arctic Ocean and sled dogs in their backyard and have trekked across the polar regions since they were teenagers. Their journey saw them fend off polar bears and coping with extreme weather conditions along the way.

Their expedition traces the 1906 Roald Amundsen route through the Northwest Passage. That was the first time that it was actually successfully navigated by anyone following centuries of explorers hoping to discover a way through from the Atlantic to the Pacific north of Canada. The journey began in Tuktoyaktuk, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories and traveled east through Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, and Arctic Bay, before finally reaching the finish line at Pond Inlet on Baffin Island.

Sarah stopped by WeLoveDC to talk about their experience. Continue reading

Downtown, Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

National Geographic Live: Nov/Dec 2012

Photo courtesy of Enzofloyd
Emperador courtesy of Enzofloyd

As the year winds down, so does the Fall National Geographic Live programming. This fall has been packed with great programs and showcases, with still more to come. Thanks to National Geographic once again for offering two pairs of tickets to our readers, providing access to any one of the great programs listed below. To enter, simply put what two programs you’d most like to see in the comment section; make sure you use a valid email address and use your first name. Entries will be taken through Friday noon and winners will be chosen at random and contacted Friday afternoon.

Unless otherwise indicated, all programs are at the Grosvenor Auditorium, located in the National Geographic Museum building at 1600 M Street NW. Parking is free after 6 pm for those attending evening programs.

11/13; 7 pm

Think geography is just reading maps and memorizing names of places? Don’t tell that to Daniel Raven-Ellison. A self-described “guerrilla geographer” and Nat Geo Emerging Explorer, Raven-Ellison believes in encouraging people to experience the world around them in a more meaningful, surprising way, such as taking a photo every eight steps as they travel across the urban landscape. His Mission: Explore books challenge kids to take action to improve their worlds. Come along for the adventure, as this innovative, entertaining educator redefines what you think geography is—and shows how “guerrilla” artists, explorers, gardeners, and others use geography to find solutions. Reception follows. Continue reading

Adventures, Downtown, Entertainment, Interviews, Special Events, We Love Arts

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner: Scaling the World

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner; Photo courtesy National Geographic

Tonight, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner takes the stage at the National Geographic Museum. A prolific mountaineer, Ms. Kaltenbrunner is best known for being the first woman to summit all 14 8,000 meter peaks without supplemental oxygen or porters. She was nominated as one of NatGeo’s Adventurers of the Year for 2012.

She’ll be talking tonight about her daring climb of K2 in August 2011. Ms. Kaltenbrunner took a moment to answer a few questions for WeLoveDC before tonight’s event. Continue reading

Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Features, We Love Food

We Love Food: Casa Nonna’s Tavola 12

Photo courtesy of
‘Chef Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

If you told me that there was a restaurant in town where I could get a delicious, savory 12-course meal for $55, I’d at least raise an eyebrow at you. But Casa Nonna in Dupont Circle is offering just that at their new in-house concept, Tavola 12.

The 12-seat tasting bar is available on Fridays and Saturdays and showcases executive chef Amy Brandwein’s culinary talent. You can leisurely sit at the bar while chatting with Amy, watching each course be prepared by the chef and listening to the chef explain each course. You can add wine pairings to the dinner for an extra $30 per person.

While the menu changes based on what the chef wants to prepare for the night, you’ll find a quick recap of some of the highlights I tasted at Tavola 12 after the jump.
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Alexandria, Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, We Love Food

Pizzeria Paradiso Celebrates 20 Years

Photo courtesy of
‘Pizzeria Paradiso’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

There’s an old friend in town who’s turning 20 next week: Pizzeria Paradiso.

Back in November 1991, the pizzeria opened its first location in Dupont Circle and over its history has not only revamped the original spot, but expanded to Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria. Not too shabby of an accomplishment for a local small business, right?

“When Pizzeria Paradiso was created, the things motivating it were community, laughter and tasty food,” said chef and owner Ruth Gresser in a news release. “We were all so excited when our first customers entered the restaurant a few minutes after we unlocked the front door. And now, we’re so happy to reach our ’20 Something’ anniversary so we can celebrate by eating and laughing with our family of customers and staff.”

In honor of its 20th birthday, the restaurant is hosting a week of events as part of their “20 Something” Celebration:

  • Monday, November 7th – Get one large and one small pizza for $20 on take-out orders only.
  • Tuesday, November 8th – Receive a 20th anniversary beer glass when you purchase a beer with your meal. The 8th is the restaurant’s official birthday.
  • Wednesday, November 9th – Pay $20 for all you can eat pizza and beer (note: you can eat all the pizza you want, but there’s 2 beer maximum).
  • Thursday, November 10th – Pay $20 for a small special pizza and an anniversary beer.
  • Friday, November 11th – Your first beer is just 20 cents.
  • Saturday, November 12th – Dine in at a location and pay just 20 cents for toppings (note: 3 toppings maximum)
  • Sunday, November 13th – Round out the week with “20 Free Pizzas” Family/Kids Day from 1-4 PM. Kids can be part of a make your own pizza demonstration with owner/chef Ruth Gresser and the first 20 kid’s pizzas are free (note: Old Town location only).

Plus, Pizzeria Paradiso will be hosting a trivia contest on their Facebook pages (GeorgetownOld TownDupont) with $20 gift certificate prizes twice per day. And their lucky 2,000th Twitter follower will receive three $20 gift certificates, one for each location.

Congratulations and happy birthday to Pizzeria Paradiso for serving up tasty slices to DC for 20 years!

Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Juliet and the Demon Fish

Photo courtesy Juliet Eilperin and National Geographic

A first glance at the title “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks” would probably invoke visions of bloody feeding frenzies, mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, and the sleek arrow-shaped bodies of deadly sharks. With, of course, the appropriate Jaws theme rolling around in our heads. And we couldn’t be more wrong with that impression.

Juliet Eilperin, a national environmental reporter for The Washington Post, has the spotlight this evening at the National Geographic Museum. And what she’ll be sharing with tonight’s audience will be somewhat removed from that first glimpse of her book. Despite its fearsome title, her work is more of a revelation of this sleek, deadly species that cruise the ocean’s depths (and shallows). Let’s face it: sharks have held a solid spot of fascination in our collective conscious, often as one of fear or as an image of ‘terrible beauty.’ Eilperin shines another light on sharks, however – conservation. Demon Fish strives to expose the intricacies and personalities of the shark-human relationship and reveals it’s not all about blood, teeth, and gore.

The idea bloomed after Eilperin began looking for something to write about. The oceans have had a long pull on Eilperin; they’re a subject she can fill conversations about, and for good reason. “It’s still unknown territory to humans, to a large extent, so that’s what intrigues me,” she confided. “So much of our world has been explored and documented, but when it comes to the sea, we’re still in a period of intense discovery. Also, it’s just so different from the environment in which we operate on a daily basis.” Casting about for the right angle, a colleague suggested the shark and it intrigued her enough to explore further. Continue reading

Special Events, We Love Arts

2011 All Roads Film Festival at NatGeo

Photo courtesy of
‘National Archives Film Canisters’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Starting tomorrow, the National Geographic Museum hosts the 2011 All Roads Film Festival. The five-day festival showcases nearly 40 films in 24 countries, created to provide an international platform for indigenous and under-represented minority-culture artists to share cultures, stories and perspectives through the power of film and photography. This year’s theme is “Stories That Shape Our World” and National Geographic is giving WeLoveDC readers a chance to win a pair of all-access passes to the festival.

The five-day event also will include a “Global Groove: DJ Dance Party,” hosted by DJ Dave Nada and DJ Underdog, panel discussions by a number of the filmmakers and two photography exhibits. One photography exhibit will feature works from three provocative voices in the photography medium, each at different points in their careers; the second is an exclusive view into two cultures where photography by outsiders has been severely restricted. Several filmmakers will participate in two panel discussions, “Latinos in Modern Media” and “Indigenous Communities, Film and the Environment,” as well as discussions following their film screenings where they will talk about their careers and the continuing innovation of indigenous filmmaking.

If you’d like to win a pair of festival passes, simply drop a comment below (using an email address we can use to contact you). We’ll randomly select a winner at noon tomorrow (Wednesday 9/14). Continue reading

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

It’s slowly getting a little cooler outside, which means that I can actually spend extended periods of time in my kitchen without melting. So here’s a recipe from Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna for a homemade tortelloni stuffed with a delicious and soft cheese mixture. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe or the idea of making homemade pasta. Turn on Netflix or your favorite playlist and spend a few hours in the kitchen with your pasta. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon on the weekend, if you ask me.

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Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of
‘Amy Brandwein of Casa Nonna’
courtesy of ‘bonappetitfoodie’

As I watch chef Amy Brandwein call out orders to line cooks across different stations while juggling dinner tickets and checking plates before they go out, I can see how she managed three jobs, planning a wedding and culinary school all at the same time. The executive chef of Casa Nonna says that even 10 years into her career as a chef she still feels like she’s just scratching the surface.

“The learning never stops. I’m an inquisitive person by nature,” says the chef who gravitated naturally towards cooking Italian food. “There are all different regions [of Italy] with their own foods, their own dialects.” Each month Brandwein focuses on a different region and its food at Casa Nonna.

Prior to becoming a chef, Amy was doing political research for a lobbying firm in DC but was “cooking in all her spare time.” Growing up, her dad was a good home cook and vegetable gardener who was always clipping recipes and inspiring Amy. So when she came to the fork in the road of her career, Brandwein decided that rather than go further into politics, she would go into cooking. “I didn’t want to waste any time not doing what I love to do,” the Arlington native says. So she went to culinary school and started staging at Roberto Donna’s Galileo.

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Downtown, History

National Geographic Museum: The Etruscans – An Italian Civilization

‘Nattional Geographic – Etruscans 01 – 06-09-11’
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

I love history. And for me, the older the history, the more I love it. There’s something that fascinates me about seeing how the first people of a given culture tried to figure out the concept of civilization. And for the first couple of millenniums of human history the difference between civilized and true barbarism was incredibly fine. But sadly, DC doesn’t have a large selection of museums that cater to ancient history nerds like me. The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum has an exhibit which hasn’t been updated since I was in elementary school; and Dumbarton Oaks Museum has a nice collection on the Byzantine Empire, but that is more medieval history than ancient. There isn’t much else without going to another city.

Imagine my excitement to find out that the National Geographic Museum was holding exhibit on the ancient Etruscan Civilization! For the non-history buffs out there, the Etruscan Civilization was an Italian peoples which inhabited roughly the area of modern day Tuscany (which is where we get the name). That area is, roughly speaking, bound by the Tiber River (and Rome) to the south, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west, and the Apennine Mountains to the north and east. The Etruscans were an important culture in Italy from about 750 BC to around 500 BC, and were an significant influence on Roman culture and history. Continue reading

Downtown, History

National Geographic Museum: Race to the End of the Earth

Photo courtesy of
‘National Geographic – Race Preview – 05-24-11 01’
courtesy of ‘mosley.brian’

What would you do, what would you go through, to be the first explorers to the South Pole? Would you go through months of trekking through -40F degree cold, on a strict ration of food, constantly freezing and wet, and risking death every day? If that sounds like a great time, the National Geographic has the exhibit for you!

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first men to reach the South Pole, the National Geographic Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled Race to the End of the Earth. It recounts the challenges of two explorers during their race to reach the South Pole. On a 1,800-mile journey through Antarctica in 1911, explorers Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Falcon Scott of Britain fought the elements and raced each other to gain the honor. The exhibit is well suited for the National Geographic, because it adds the adventure and exploration elements to a fascinating and not well known historical story.

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Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Photograph 51

Elizabeth Rich and Alexander Strain in Theater J's "Photograph 51." Photo credit: Stan Barouh.

Biographical plays can be tricky. The best – works like Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus or Hugh Whitemore’s Breaking the Code – have come to brilliantly define the genre but also created conventions that theater audiences now take for granted. There are the poetic monologues illustrating the main character’s motivations, the chorus or narrator trying to shape the life for you (either trustworthily or not), crazy jumps in time, and an overall attempt to make some philosophical sense out of a life. The pitfall is, a life may not necessarily have a theme other than the playwright’s desire for one.

Playwright Anna Ziegler teases some sadly beautiful metaphors out of the life of scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51, now playing at Theater J. It’s a swift ninety minute production with no intermission, befitting the race it depicts but perhaps also the difficulty in breathing theatrical life into what was an intellectual and lonely pursuit. If you have a young niece or daughter whose interest in science you want to encourage, this may be the play to take her to – or not, considering it’s a deeply discouraging look at the boys’ club Dr. Franklin struggled against in her quest to map the contours of the DNA molecule.

It’s this struggle that Ziegler focuses on, and she makes us feel it keenly. We cringe every time the mature and learned Dr. Franklin is addressed by her backbiting colleagues as “Miss Franklin.” But there’s something else going on here as well, the suggestion that it was this prejudice alone that resulted in her not being the first to win the DNA mapping race. Does Ziegler want us to be convinced of that at the play’s end, or is it simply that Franklin’s pride was the block to success? Continue reading

Special Events, We Love Arts

NatGeoLive: March 2011

The Eagle Hunter's Son, ©Eden Film Stromberg Productions, used with permission by National Geographic

First of all, a very big “thank you!” to all our readers. National Geographic took a chance last year with WeLoveDC in letting us give away event tickets through our site and WOW did you guys exceed expectations! So on behalf of WeLoveDC and National Geographic, thank you for supporting the NatGeo Live program.

With that kind of preamble, it’s probably apparent that yes, once again we’ll be doing random drawings every month for our readers to attend a NatGeoLive event of their choice (with exceptions). The 2011 season is packing quite the wallop from what my sources tell me, so get ready for another great lineup of screenings, talks, tastings, and more. (For ticket information, visit online or call the box office at (800) 647-5463.)

To enter the drawing, simply comment below using your first name and a legit email address, listing the two events from the following program list you’d like to attend. (Note that there are a few events not eligible and we’ve noted them for you.) Sometime Monday (Feb 28) in the afternoon we’ll randomly select two winners to receive a pair of tickets (each) to one of their selections. You’ve got until noon on Monday to enter!

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Dupont Circle, Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Return to Haifa

Raida Adon and Rozina Kambos in The Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv's "Return to Haifa" at Theater J. Photo credit: Stan Barouh.

Two women are arguing about their son. One gave birth to him, the other raised him. The adoptive mother makes a cutting comment about the son being more likely to listen to her than his birth mother. Many in the audience laugh. It’s a grim laugh, low and knowing.

A women next to me says out loud in frustration and disbelief, “Why is that funny?”

It was a strange preview night at Theater J, watching the production of Return to Haifa performed by the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv in Hebrew and Arabic. Uncomfortable for some, painful for others, odd for me in my role as critic – as the talkback session afterwards becomes a bit of theater unto itself, worth investigating just as much as reviewing the play. I didn’t know what to make of the whole thing when I left. I still don’t.

Two mothers. One Jewish, one Muslim. One Israeli, one Palestinian. And their son, all of the above, or none of any of it. Questions arose at the talkback with Anton Goodman, Jewish Agency Shaliach, and Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J, that still whirl in my head: Is it a play appropriating a beloved piece of Palestinian literature, as one member of the talkback accused? Is it a play attempting to own a dual narrative, to both celebrate and mourn at the same time, as Goodman believed? A play that makes soldiers unable to be strong for their country, as a mother in the audience feared?

What I can tell you about Return to Haifa… is that you will leave with many questions. Continue reading

Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, The Daily Feed

Yola: Yogurt Parfait Bar Opens

Photo courtesy of
‘Chalkboard detail, Yola’
courtesy of ‘Jenn Larsen’

We all know about the proliferation of frozen yogurt spots in DC over the past few years, and frankly I’ve gotten bored with them – especially now in the winter when my chattering teeth can’t take it. So I was intrigued when invited to a media preview of a new yogurt place that serves up it fresh instead.

Yola is a “fresh yogurt parfait bar” in Dupont Circle started up by Laura Smith, Owner and Food Director, and her father David Smith, as a way of highlighting the fresh yogurt and smoothie bars Laura had enjoyed in Europe. Though at first glance it looks like any frozen yogurt bar, with the usual bins of fresh fruit and crunchy toppings, the yogurt selections are all made fresh by two local family farms – Blue Ridge Dairy in Leesburg, VA and Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, PA. Blue Ridge supplies Yola with both thick Greek-style yogurt and regular low-fat yogurts like honey and vanilla, while Trickling Springs goes for flavors such as maple or the old-reliable chocolate.

I felt instantly Yola was going to become a favorite breakfast haunt of mine. It just has a cute, friendly vibe.

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