Blake Gopnik's holiday gift you can't put a price on: A Dumbarton Oaks walk
For the perfect Christamasy romantic moment, there's nowhere better than an English park in winter. Instead of splurging on a flight, lead a loved one to the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Georgetown. The acres of gardens there -- free through March 14 -- have a foggy, elegiac feel around this time of year that seems perfect for a lovers' stroll, or for quiet recollection of Christmases past. To warm up afterward, a visit to Dumbarton's free museum -- run, like the whole estate, by Harvard University -- provides several options. One, especially appropriate to the season, is a fabulous collection of Byzantine art that evokes early Christian pomp. The other is a stunning display of pre-Columbian artifacts, housed in a wing commissioned in 1959 from the great architect Philip Johnson. Together, they yield the perfect art experience: rich and varied but small enough for a single visit.
Afterward, the winter romance can continue with a walk among the grand Victorian houses of Georgetown. End up on Wisconsin Avenue, and warm up once again with an old-world hot chocolate -- or a decadent snifter of cognac -- at the tiny Cafe Bonaparte.
The gardens and museum at Dumbarton Oaks are open Tuesday to Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m., and closed on federal holidays. The gardens are not open in bad weather (31st and R streets NW, http:/
-- Blake Gopnik