Picnic makes perfect: Elevate your next summer getaway with a bespoke basket
There’s nothing like a summertime picnic to truly feel like you’re on vacation, and these top destinations provide idyllic backdrops to your alfresco dining. | By Paul Oswell | June 2, 2022
A picnic is one of those simple pleasures that makes you feel like you’re making the most of those sun-drenched summer days. It also offers the chance to really experience the feel of a destination. Just imagine it — a blanket and basket of your favorite foods amid world-class scenery, with beautiful green spaces and reinvigorating fresh air. Can you think of a more perfect scene for a dream vacation? With that in mind, here are our suggestions for the best ways — and places — to picnic this summer:
Vital Versailles: Let them eat cake, as well as sandwiches or even carpaccio as you surround yourself with the regal environs of this royal residence
Romantic Rome: All roads lead to the wonderful green spaces in this historic capital, and with seven hills to choose from, there’s no shortage of spectacular views
Captivating Kyoto: The serenity of this ancient capital lends itself to mindful, tranquil times, and the inventive landscaping makes for a full menu of exquisite gardens
Paris has all the romance and glamor that you might expect from a historic world capital, but to experience truly spectacular opulence, a trip to Versailles is a must. Less than an hour’s drive from the city center, this stunning, 17th-century royal residence includes an unbelievably lavish palace, sprawling gardens with elaborate topiary, an opera house and elegant fountains. Transformed by Louis XIV into the majestic space it is today, the palaces are magnificent, but in summer, the masterfully designed grounds are the true delight. You can wander around the shaded groves, lined with geometric hedges and sculpted fountains, and be taken back in time to a sophisticated, gilded age.
Waldorf Astoria Versailles - Trianon Palace enjoys a plum location just on the borders of these evocative gardens, and you can conjure up a suitably regal experience with a picnic basket supplied by the hotel. You can choose from a range of picnic fare, with ‘Freshness,’ ‘Country’ and ‘Chic’ options, depending on how decadent you’re feeling. The Freshness option includes a Niçoise salad made with tuna belly, shrimp and avocado sandwiches, cake and fruit salad, with the Country and Chic versions adding duck foie gras confit and sliced Culatello di Zibello ham. All of the choices come with mineral water and an optional Champagne upgrade. With so many gorgeous corners to choose from, finding your perfect picnic spot might be your biggest dilemma, but it’s a lovely one to have. Back at the hotel, Michelin-starred dining and a Grecian-inspired pool help keep up those royal standards.
Rome is rightly famous for its awe-inspiring architecture, with world-class landmarks such as the Colosseum, Pantheon and Roman Forum transporting you back into the days of antiquity. The remains of a once-great empire are complemented by equally revered historic sites that draw tourists in their millions, such as the Trevi Fountain and of course, Vatican City. While seeing these places bathed in the glorious Mediterranean sunshine sets the stage for some wonderful, lifelong memories, Rome also has a wealth of green spaces to escape the sightseeing crowds and enjoy some of that equally admired Italian cuisine. What could be better than a picnic in the park in one of Europe’s most romantic cities?
Join locals as they enjoy some respite in the scenic Pincio Terrace in Villa Borghese park, or bask in the aroma of the fuchsia bougainvillea hedges at Colle Oppio, with its views of the Colosseum.
Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel offers the best of both worlds with its 15-acre private park and seasonal, locally sourced menu courtesy of on-site restaurant, Uliveto. Meaning you can enjoy a world-class picnic basket surrounded by centuries-old pine trees and a variety of lush plants and flowers. Available upon request, the picnic can be arranged in one of the park's quiet corners — a relaxing green oasis where you can savor the special delicacies prepared by the hotel’s chef and personalized according to your tastes. You can even commandeer the services of a personal butler so that you don’t have to lift a finger, instead dedicating your time to savoring the gourmet treats and the lush Mediterranean surroundings.
Japan’s most picturesque city was built more than 1,000 years ago as a place of peace and tranquility. Kyoto is surrounded on three sides by mountains, is dissected by a river and models its entire design around the aesthetics and principles of Zen Buddhism. With its ancient temples, manicured gardens and atmospheric, historical streets, Kyoto to this day retains a calming air of refinement and serenity. Some of the city’s green spaces and parks were conceived and landscaped centuries ago, many of them incorporating the natural landscape into their designs. The grounds of the Shugakuin Imperial Villa, for example, were built in the 17th century on the incline of a hill, and they form some of the city’s most beautiful imperial grounds.
‘Shakkei’ is the traditional art of ‘borrowing’ natural scenery and forms, blending those views so that they become part of a garden’s design. The best example of this is in the gardens of Tenryu-ji temple. Here, planted cherry blossoms mingle with the evergreen trees of the surrounding Arashiyama Mountains to outstanding effect.
Picnicking, especially during cherry blossom season, is a hugely popular Japanese pastime, and ROKU KYOTO, LXR Hotels & Resorts is primed to help you participate. The foothills of the Takagamine mountains provide the spectacular backdrop, and the hotel has boxes of scones that you can take with you for an alfresco high tea. Made with raw milk from Hokkaido, the delicious set highlights ingredients unique to Kyoto such as Tanba black soybeans and white miso. Elevate your tea even further by turning it into a complete meal. Your dedicated hotel concierge can arrange an exclusive picnic experience at the historical Japanese house, including sparkling Champagne and delicious fare from one-Michelin-star ryotei, Kinobu. Complete your stay with a dip in the elegant thermal pool (an ideal way to ease tired muscles after a day’s sightseeing) or rejuvenating treatment in the sumptuous spa.
So, here’s to appreciating the smaller pleasures in life — and if the backdrop includes some of the world’s most memorable panoramas, then so much the better.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”