A Dozen Extraordinary Picnics and the Finest Passage Ever Written About Them

A meditation on "one of the gentlest and loveliest things we can do."
picnic fullness.png
David Nikonvscanon/Flickr

Every year in late spring, right on the cusp of summer, I like to revisit a passage from the book Iberia by James Michener, one of the best traveled writers of his generation. In it he muses, apropos of nothing in particular, about bygone meals eaten outdoors. But I can't do it justice. See for yourself:

I have never bothered much about whether or not people will remember me when I am dead; but I am sure that as long as my generation lives, in various parts of the world someone will pause now and then to reflect, 'Wasn't that a great picnic we had that day with Michener?'

I have lured my friends into some extraordinary picnics, for I hold with the French that to eat out of doors in congenial surroundings is sensible: in Afghanistan we ate high on a hill outside Kabul and watched as tribesmen moved in to attack the city; at Edfu along the Nile we spread our blankets inside that most serene of Egypt's temples; in Bali we picnicked on the terraces and in Tahiti by the waterfalls; and if tomorrow someone were to suggest that we picnic in a snowstorm, I'd go along, for of this world one never sees enough and to dine in harmony with nature is one of the gentlest and loveliest things we can do. Picnics are the apex of sensible living and the traveler who does not so explore the land through which he travels ought better to stay at home.

The apex of sensible living!

Needless to say, it pleased me to find, upon scrolling through the trusty Reuters photography archive, that the spirit of the passage endures. I give you picnickers on Bolivia's Uyuni salt lake:

uyuni salt lake.jpg

A couple in Rockville, Maryland, dining in harmony with nature:

rockville.jpg

Cubans on the outskirts of Havana:

cubans.jpg

Beneath blossoms in India:

india full.jpg

En masse on Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia:


sidney aus.jpg

In Austria:

vienna.jpg
In Baghdad:

bagdhad.jpg
In Minsk:

minsk.jpg
In France, obviously:

france.jpg
In Tehran:

tehran.jpg
In Yosemite, beneath a waterfall:

yose.jpg
And in Vienna:

vienna 2.jpgSee? You thought Michener was getting carried away, but he had a point.

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

'How Do You Function Without a Cellphone?'

A short documentary about a San Francisco designer who doesn't own a cellphone, and a teenager who can't imagine life without hers.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Global

Just In