Sunday, February 8, 2009

Out in the Open

I'm convinced that picnicking is one of life's most enjoyable simple pleasures. It's incredibly relaxing, fun for the whole family, and in a digital world that changes more quickly than I can manage to keep up with, it's also refreshingly low-tech. All you need is a blanket, a few delectable treats, and good company and you've got yourself the perfect afternoon. Of course, Paris is a city that was made for le pique-nique, but DC is also a pretty decent spot for dining on the grass. With predictions of 60 degree temperatures and sunny skies tempting us out of hibernation, a friend and I headed out to the National Mall yesterday for the year's first picnic, American style.

Well, not too American. When I think of picnicking in the USA my mind inevitably conjures up images of a red and white checkered tablecloth topped with potato salad, turkey sandwiches and brownies. Throw in a couple cans of cheap beer and you're good to go. Yesterday's picnic was quite a different story: ham sandwiches on baguette, Port Salut cheese with crackers, red grapes, red wine and a few pieces of chocolate for dessert. Hearing a group of passers-by speak French was the icing on the cake. Only the view of the White House and the Washington Monument kept us from forgetting where we were.

Parisian parks are often remarkable for their picnicability and their grandeur. Think, Les Jardins de Luxembourg or Le Jardin des Tuileries. Perfectly manicured, they stand as testaments to the beauty and strength of the French capital. In contrast, our own National Mall should be renamed the National Disaster. While our picnic was lovely, sitting out on the expanse of lawn that stretches from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial reminded us just how sad looking the area has become. Remember that much laughed at addition in the stimulus plan that called for re-sodding the National Mall? Well, those doing the laughing clearly haven't taken a good look at the place in the last couple of years. There's nothing laughable about letting one of the defining images of our nation's capital fall into disrepair. Nevertheless, yesterday was only the first day of what I hope will be a long picnic season in DC. Spruce up the place a bit and I almost wouldn't wish I was in Paris.


Anonymous said...

It IS winter, though. I went to Versailles in the winter and it wasn't that pretty. I think it would have been amazing in the summer; unfortunately, I didn't get to see it.

Tanya said...

Hi Kaley, You make a good point about the seasons. Most places will look better in the late spring or early summer. I went to Versailles on a really nice day last May and the grounds were very pretty, though actually not as pretty as some of Paris's best parks.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mike and Steph said...

As much as I love you, I HATE you for this post! Wah wah, trodden grass: remember below-freezing temperatures as a way of life?!

Tanya said...

Steph, yeah, yeah, I remember :-) But that doesn't mean I can't be happy for no longer having to deal with it!

Tanya said...

I think a clarification is in order: When I talk about how sad the National Mall looks these days, I'm only partially referring to the trampled, dead grass. It's still winter, so the place isn't going to be in full bloom or anything, but even in the summer it's hard to find anything on the Mall in good condition. The lawn never quite bounces back, the sand and dust and rock that covers most of the grounds blows all over the place, the water in the reflecting pool is dirty, and nothing really blooms at all. It's just kind of, well, dirty.