Saturday, May 30, 2009

Romantic and First-Date Picnics

A reader recently asked me about the best places for a romantic picnic, and a first-date picnic. First, a romantic picnic.

I love this question, because there is a kind of romance simply in the act of planning a picnic, thinking about where to go and what to pack for the ultimate experience. One of my favorite picnic menus is also the simplest; go to the market for a loaf of good crusty bread, a hard cheese (cheddar?) and maybe some brie. Add grapes, or fresh strawberries, and your favorite beverage. Don't forget the bread and cheese knives, napkins and a cloth to use as either a table cover or ground cover. If you want to go all out, include a candle and a portable CD player. Now, where to go?

Hammonasset Beach at sunset: Arrive late afternoon, take a walk on the beach, then sit on the sand or at a picnic table and enjoy your picnic while waiting for the sunset.
The Pond at Gillette Castle State Park: Before you drive up the hill to the parking area, look for the pond on your left. In the summer, the pond is covered with pink, white, and fuchsia water lilies, and the picnic tables surrounding the pond are set far enough apart for a feeling of privacy. Later, a visit to the castle can also be quite romantic, as is the view of the Connecticut River from the balcony.
The top of the mountain at Mohawk Forest State Park: A 4-mile drive brings you to the top of the mountain where there is a small roundabout with 2 or 3 picnic tables. Although there is no guarantee, there is a good chance you will have the space to yourselves. The panoramic view is breathtaking.
Wineries: Picnics at wineries can also be romantic. First the wine tasting and agreeing on the perfect wine to go with your picnic, then finding a secluded spot on the scenic grounds to enjoy the picnic and each other. Check out the wineries in the Connecticut Wine Trail for hours and picnic facilities.

First-date picnics should be stress-free, so don't overlook something as simple as picnicking at a local park. Pick a scenic park with unique attractions, such as Elizabeth Park in West Hartford (enjoy the flowers, especially the rose gardens peaking in late June and the duck pond), or Wickam Park in Manchester (ornamental gardens, woodlands, pond, panoramic view and plenty of walking around space. Picnicking options are plentiful at parks and the fun is to let serendipity guide you to the perfect spot. Check out the local parks in your area, and also the state parks, such as Kent Falls State Park in Kent, or Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. Just like city and town parks, each state park has its own unique features.

More ideas: Tour a historic home, such as Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Mark Twain House in Hartford, or Roseland Cottage in Woodstock. (Check with your local library for free or reduced passes.) Or, spend a relaxing afternoon poking around Connecticut's charming town greens and scenic main streets like Essex, Stonington Village, Mystic, and Litchfield where, after your stroll, you can always find an inviting place to picnic.

Finally, the perfect day trip and picnic for romance or first-date, suitable for any age group as well as families, take a boat tour of the Thimble Islands, available at the Stony Creek section of Branford. Picnic at the small beach adjacent to the dock.

Although space is limited here, more information on all the places mentioned should be easily accessed on the web or at the Connecticut Visitors Center. Hopefully these ideas will get you started in thinking of your own romantic and first-date picnic ideas. I'd love to hear any success stories!

I don't usually use this venue to talk about my book appearances, however, I will make an exception here since it's an exciting opportunity for folks to meet 7 Connecticut authors with books of diverse genres. The date is June 7th at Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, where at 3:00, we will briefly introduce ourselves and our work and autographing our books until 5:00. Come meet and greet the authors and check out the great selection of books.

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