Find party invitations for any occasion at Personalize, preview, and order your invitation instantly.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Thing 20: Cherry Blossom Picnic

The cherry blossoms are in bloom, marking the official start of tourist season! For the next five months, surly teenagers will look bored in front of museums, families in matching T-shirts will stand on the left of the metro escalators, and bus loads of school children will descend on mall food courts with $5 food vouchers.

I was once a tourist too, I keep reminding myself when I get the urge to yell at one of these well meaning people when they stop abruptly at the top of the escalator to have a look around. I, too, did not know the unspoken etiquette of navigating the streets and public transportation of DC. So I try to be patient.

DC residents have a love/hate thing going with tourists. We love their dollars, and their big, excited eyes when they see the Capitol or the White House remind us of all the good things we have that we take for granted. On the other hand, they stand on the left. This irritates natives to no end. They also speak loudly on the train, get excited about the Pentagon City mall (it's a mall...they're everywhere), and seriously, what is with those matching shirts?

All this to say: Tourists, you are welcome in my city. Just so long as I don't have to mingle.

Which is why my favorite way to enjoy the cherry blossoms is to picnic beneath them, thereby avoiding the majority of the crowds as they stroll around the Tidal Basin. I've found that strolling among them only aggravates me. They keep stopping in the middle of the narrow path to take pictures, and the rest of us must wait patiently on the sidelines to keep their frame clear. This is fine the first couple times, but if you are walking the perimeter of the Tidal Basin, you must do this dozens of times and it gets old.

I much prefer bringing a picnic and staking out a spot beneath the trees. The tourists are still there, but they're several feet away, and they're no longer getting in my way as I enjoy the beauty of the tiny white flowers bursting everywhere alongside the water. This year, GFD and another friend of mine who recently moved to the District (enjoying her new status as Not A Tourist) headed down to the Tidal Basin on Sunday afternoon. It was supposed to rain on Sunday, and though it was overcast and a bit chilly we decided to at least attempt a picnic in the hopes that the weather would hold.

My friend picked up sandwiches from Subway, I brought a homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, and GFD brought big beers.

We put our blanket out on the strip of grass between the Jefferson Memorial and the little bridge, under the blooming trees. The Tidal Basin path was only about four feet away and from our vantage point we were able to enjoy the scene while munching our sandwiches and covertly drinking our napkin-wrapped beers. If you are a dog lover, you will be in heaven. Every breed, size and color of dog was being walked around the Tidal Basin. A miniature shitzu, three identical golden retrievers, boxers and schnauzers and even a wolfhound I recognized from the St. Patrick's Day parade last month (he was still wearing his green neckerchief). If you prefer to watch people, this is a good place to be, too. A young child walks behind his family saying in an even tone "ow...ow...ow..." while his family walks on, willfully ignoring him. A bridal party walks down the way, the bride in a lovely ivory dress with truly ugly, bulky, chartreuse shoes. A very old woman, lines of a life well-lived cut deeply into her cheeks, being pushed in a wheel chair by a teenager, presumably her grandchild. A look of utter happiness and contentment graces her wrinkly face.

I'd brought chess and a deck of cards, and after our meal we played a few hands of Texas hold 'em for pennies. I taught my friend how to play chess. We lay back and looked up at the tiny delicate blossoms over head, enjoying the temperate weather.

After about four hours of a perfect, lazy Sunday picnic, we packed up the supplies and headed back for our homes. Tourists still flocked around the cherry blossoms, posing for pictures beneath the boughs and standing in line for ice creams. As for my friends and me, we have the luxury of going back next weekend, and the weekend after that, if the blossoms hold. We'll be here next year and the year after for them, too. We headed home.


Anonymous said...

Jenn from Beth's party here...thanks to reading your blog I am now headed up to DCHot for lunch. Hope to see you soon!