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On holiday and on the move

world Updated: Jul 19, 2010 00:12 IST
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President Obama and his family aren’t just getting outside the Beltway on their brief vacation here — they’re getting outside, period.

Since their arrival on Friday afternoon, the Obamas have been biking, hiking and boating their way around Mount Desert Island, home to the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park.

The first stop on Friday was a 90-minute bike ride on the wooded trails at the northern end of the island. Then came a family hike on Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet the highest peak on the east coast.

The Obamas rounded out their first day with a National Park Service boat ride on Frenchman Bay and a waterfront dinner. Even dinner was outdoors: The first family, who arrived at the restaurant via boat, sat at a table on a pier overlooking the bay. The president and the first lady dined on lobster, while their daughters shared a shrimp basket.

Diners on the pier may have been pleasantly surprised, but back in Washington and elsewhere some saw hypocrisy in the first family’s two-day trip. On a recent trip to the Gulf of Mexico, Michelle Obama encouraged other Americans to visit the oil-fouled region.

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin took a shot last week in a column titled, “Michelle Obama: Take Your Vacation in the Gulf, America — If You Need Us, We’ll Be in Maine”. And Scott Stanzel, deputy press secretary during the administration of George W. Bush, said on Fox News that the President could be “setting an example” but “has chosen not to do that”.

White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton defended Obama’s mini-vacation. “I don’t think that there’s a person in this country [who] doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind,” he said.

On Saturday, the Obamas played tennis in the morning at the Bar Harbor Club, an elegant compound constructed by J.P. Morgan in 1929. In the afternoon, they travelled to Southwest Harbor, where they grabbed lunch before taking in the sights at the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse.

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