Washington isn’t the only place with cherry trees in blossom. For a guide to blooms in New York City, go to this guide from Curbed.com. For Pittsburgh, see The Incline. And for Philadelphia, go to Visit Philly.
MY BRITISH FRIEND Maggie and I were having coffee on the sidewalk at Radici, the little Italian market and café on Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, when a bunch of teenage girls with sunburned faces and artfully ripped jeans ambled by looking this way and that.
“Where’s Georgetown Cupcakes?” the group’s ringleader asked us as the others turned in giggling circles.
“In Georgetown,” I said, since I was busy being curmudgeonly that day.
I was once asked directions in Rome, by a map-waving family who sounded like neighbors of Bruce Springsteen’s. Summoning my broadest New York, I said, “Sorry, I don’t speak English,” then pointed to My Prince, who was dithering about on the Spanish Steps, and said, “Go ask him, I think he does.”
“Grazie, grazie,” the family chorused as they scurried off. Heh. Snicker. That was an aside.
Maggie, on the other hand, loves giving advice, directions and orders, delighting in the way Americans jump
when they hear her magisterial voice, the sort, as you know, that is used to sell everything from fancy cars to Orbit gum to Poo-Pourri, a spray that destinks your bathroom. If the Brits say it, best hop to it.
She pointed imperiously (as she does) across the street to Eastern Market, where among the various food stalls is a bakery. “You can get fine cupcakes right over there,” she informed them.
But even Maggie couldn’t sell this. “We want Georgetown Cupcakes, the place from the TV show,” the leader of the pack insisted. So we told them how to get to the little shop where similarly obsessed tourists line up for an hour, just to say they’ve been.
Which brings us, once again, to the cherry blossoms. For tourists there is no place to see them other than the Tidal Basin, despite being scarcely able to see the trees for the gawkers and there being many other places around town with spectacular displays.
Among the tourists last weekend were my niece Alexandra, her husband Nic, and their two kids, 5-year-old Cole and 7-month-old Lexi, who were visiting from Denver. While I said that it was going to be some schlep between Metro and walking to the trees with two little kids, she insisted that’s where they had to be.
Notice that I did not offer to go along.
Instead, My Prince and I headed to the 446-acre National Arboretum in Northeast DC, where there are 76 varieties of cherry, 64 more than at the Tidal Basin. Inaccessible by Metro, which takes care of most tourists, and hard by the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue NE, an area that has always struck fear in the hearts of residents of Washington’s more genteel neighborhoods, making it a delightfully tranquil place to take in the trees.
Sadly, like just about every other place else in Washington, the arboretum has become trendy. How many articles have I read in the past week urging folks to go to this “secret place,” where you could breathe in the tranquillity and picnic in peaceful pastures.
Oh, please . . .
The result was jammed parking lots and roadside shoulders, with rent-a-cops directing traffic and hordes of walkers, bikers, dogs and kids. It was like bovine herds milling around in front of our 30-year-old Mustang convertible, our lazy touring car.
I suppose this is good for the health of the Arboretum, with a probable flush of new supporters and gardening enthusiasts—and their donations. Sigh.
Don’t tell anyone, but while the cherry trees at the Tidal Basin will probably be done by this weekend, the sensational Kwanzans, with their bravura display of cotton-candy flower balls, and several dozen other fine varieties will just be beginning to explode in the Arboretum’s groves.
Next up the azaleas. And if you think you’ve seen azaleas . . .
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” will travel miles, well, at least a few blocks, to see marvelous flowers.