Sunday, April 4, 2010

Papillons on Parade: Pupsters Picnic in the Tidal Basin in DC

Beth and I don't make it into DC every year for the cherry blossoms, but the fantastic weather made this year a must-see, so I packed a picnic supper and loaded Didi, Chance, and Mr. Parker into the car and met Beth in Vienna after her late-afternoon petsitting appointment for the drive into the District.

In the early 20th century, the mayor of Tokyo gifted the United States with flowering cherry trees as a gesture of the then-growing friendship between Japan and the United States; the trees were planted all along the Tidal Basin near the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where late every March they provide a fantastic show of natural beauty.  Tracking the cherry blossoms ("sakura" in Japanese) as they bloom from the south to north through Japan is a national pastime there, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival each year in D.C. is likewise a huge tourist draw.

Indeed, fighting the crowds can be something of a nightmare, but going on Easter Sunday in the late afternoon seemed a decent bet to dodge some of the tourists (not to mention that the much-warmer-than-usual weather had the blossoms peak several days early--the leaves were beginning to show through on several of the earlier-blooming "indicator" trees already).

We've been in to see the cherry blossoms times when we needed a coats, gloves, and hats, and times when the wind has ripped across the Potomac like a frozen knife, so a clear early evening in the low 70s was really about as perfect as weather as I've ever seen this time of year here, and the dogs were thrilled to get out for an expedition (Didi started celebrating and leaping around as soon as she saw me filling up their water bottle at home).

Beth took Chance and Mr. Parker, while I had Didi and my camera gear (and our supper on my back).  It was something of a hike from where we parked (East Potomac Park) back to the Tidal Basin proper, but with landmarks always in sight, navigating was pretty easy: the Jefferson Memorial straight ahead, and the Washington Monument just across the basin.

We ran into another Papillon owner and had a chat for a while; I managed to keep Didi under control (and less barky than usual) for most of the walk, even when she passed a big hound dog--though there was no stopping her barking at the poodle, a dog for which Didi shares her Daddi's disdain.  What was really amazing was the number of tourists who wanted to stop and even asked us to pose with the Papillon!  I think we tried to get them all three to sit together in the middle of a crowded thoroughfare and all look at the camera ... well, at least six or seven times that I recall.  One Indian gentleman prodded his teenaged daughters to go pose with the dogs, despite the fact the girls were clearly terrified of dogs (hopefully they learned not all dogs are bad, and that even those who bark, are likely lacking in the bite department).

I managed nonetheless to get several great photos, inspiring me to want to make a return trip later (sans pupsters) to simply walk the National Mall at the right times of day to get some great shots.  I have to think of a good time to do so: May, perhaps?  When kids aren't yet on vacation, the weather not yet boiling hot.  But even whilst managing one Papillon and providing moral support for two others, I still managed several nice shots of the Jefferson Memorial.

We stopped in the middle of a field to have our picnic lunch, but unfortunately a couple of joggers cutting through (the pupsters hate joggers), then a small child running toward them, had all three of them yipping and yapping away.  We did get to enjoy some curried deviled eggs I'd made this morning--can't have Easter without hard-boiled eggs, can you?--as well as a ciabatta-bread sandwich with homemade pesto sauce and cheese, a few grapes, and for me, a nibble of prosciutto.  Before we could have our dessert, though, the doggies were out of control, and it was time to bag things up and head for home.

On the way back, several more groups asked for pictures with the doggies.  At one point, Chance got away from Beth and chased a cyclist a heart-stopping 20 feet or so right alongside the busy street--fortunately, he was recovered with no harm,  But Chancois! Mr. Poo! Must you scare your mommy like that?

Lucky for Chance (and Beth's cardiovascular system), Chance didn't really think of going into traffic--just after the cyclist who was riding illegally on the sidewalk.  It did curtail my opportunities to get shots of the fantastic twilight reflection on the Tidal Basin, all in the pink of the trees and the red-indigo of the deepening sky at sunset, unfortunately, but that's for another time.

Well, it was a fun day and one which reminded me that it's not all just sprawling suburbs and endourbs piled with high-rise condo towers and offices with their on-premises trendy shopping options.  And its not just the natively-gardened corner of the neighborhood we're building one step at a time to flow into the nearby nature preserve.  No, there's history, and a beauty in what humans have done which isn't strictly nature, too.

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