Busy Daze – Saturday

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It was a weekend of full-on activity.

Saturday I did a tour of the White House.

I belong to a type of support group for lonely Aussies.  When I first came here I used to go to a lot of their activities and functions but I hadn’t been to anything for a couple of years until I saw an email from them saying they had 30 tickets to see the White House –  I was really quick to respond.

No cameras were allowed;  actually no handbags or purses were permitted along with a long list of other prohibited items.  That presented a problem about where to put the items we were allowed; passport,  keys, metro card, money/credit cards and mobile phone. My passport is bigger than most pockets I have.

We met at the gate and were lined up alphabetically for a series of security checks;  the first one they checked passports and asked our date of birth;  the second one they checked our passport against a list;  then there was the metal detector and check of our meager allowable possessions.

Once inside it was a self guided tour of the East Wing – in each room there were secret service people more than willing to answer questions or tell a story about the room.

We saw the library, containing 1,400 books –  a room often seen on TV;  the East Room where Paul McCartney recently performed and where receptions, ceremonies and press conferences are held (we’ve probably all seen the President walking from a private elevator down that strip of red carpet to the East Room);  The Green Room; The Blue Room; The Red Room and the State Dining Room.    As the guard in this room said:  “look carefully at the carpet and you will see stains;  this is not a museum”.   When buffet receptions are held guests are served in the State Dining Room and then wander around and sit throughout the other rooms.  He commented that food and wine is often spilt on the 18th century furniture!

Once we were outside everyone whipped out their mobile phones for some “I was here” shots:   With the exception of a photo taken of a man sitting on the metro in a cat-in-the-hat hat,  I haven’t used my mobile to take photos so I was pretty pleased that these turned out (and that I figured out how to get them from my phone to my computer!).  We were not allowed to take photos directly outside the entrance.

The manservant met me with a rental car and we visited friends for a lovely sunny-day lunch and relaxed afternoon.  There are no photos of the delicious spinach quiche and pastries with fresh fruit but here is where I saw my first bit of autumn colour.

Then we took our rental out to Virginian friends who were hosting a pumpkin carving party (and I thought Aussies came up with any excuse for a party!).  We didn’t carve a pumpkin but were really amused by the intense looks on the faces of those participating.   I’m not sure who ultimately won  – there were two judges and they each announced a different winner!

There was a massive pot of chili and hot dogs and then a table laden with sweets and the night finished with a fireworks display.  A really fun night out.

Finished pumpkins with a group in the back still completing theirs…  

***  Sunday was not a day of rest as we went to the USA Science & Engineering Festival on the National Mall – I think I will have to cover that on another day!  I am exhausted tonight and think I got a touch too much sun today – it was a glorious day down on the Mall.

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53 responses

  1. What a blast. I’m like you. I am a picture taker and if I can’t take pictures of stuff I feel uneasy. You did great with your phone. Mine doesn’t do as well. I love DC. I am a building person. Can you imagine dumping food on a museum quality piece of furniture. Slobs. I love pumpkin carving but will skip it this year. Glad you had a good time. Now get some rest.

    • If I had 18th century furniture my guests would be sitting on plastic sheets! It felt very strange to be out without my camera – I’ve been in many places where photos are not allowed but never in a place where I’ve not been allowed to have a bag with my camera safely tucked inside.

  2. A tour of the White House sounds wonderful! I don’t remember ever doing that, unless maybe I was 5 years old. I know that had to be a thrill. You got some terrific pictures outside. Really great. You took them with your phone? Wow.

    The leaves changing color are stunning. The carved pumpkins look like works of art. We may get an idea from your pictures. Sounds like the perfect weekend to me.

    • The pumpkins were really good – I’m sure it was difficult to select a winner (I’m not sure they won anything other than the honor!). I was pleased with my phone’s efforts on the photos – perhaps I will be tempted to use it more to snap people on my trains LOL – it makes a big shutter noise though that I seem to be unable to turn off making it pretty obvious I am taking a photo! 🙂

  3. We toured DC a number of years ago but never took the inside tour. that would be so great to actually walk through the halls. A piece of history, even part of future history.

  4. “We didn’t carve a pumpkin but were really amused by the intense looks on the faces of those participating. ”

    Hey, pumpkin carving is a very strenuous activity. I swear I lose 100 calories just trying to scrape the goo out of the gourd. Back when I had to help three kids carve pumpkins, I used to be so exhausted from the work that I had to ask friends to take the kids out trick or treating.

    But: I wonder if the White House library is an accumulation of books bought and read by all of the Presidents who ever lived there, or if it’s just Obama’s books, or if it’s just all of the books people send to the Presidents to read. I read somewhere the White House routinely receives over a thousand books a year from publishers and writers who hope the POTUS will endorse the book in a speech or interview. But I get the impression the president is too busy to read books. He probably just hands them to aides to read and summarize for him.

    • LOL – yes, it certainly looked strenuous and the “contestants” were taking it very seriously. I was told that someone was going to use the pulp and seeds so that nothing goes to waste. Carvers got to take their pumpkins home at the end – we have a Chilean student with us at the moment and she was thrilled to participate in this bit of Americana (we’ve also subjected her to Gridiron and Baseball!) – in exchange she’s provided us with wonderful Picso Sours and Empanadas. I think we got the better deal 🙂

      I’m not sure about the books – a committee from Yale University originally chose the books for the library under Jackie Kennedy’s instruction. I think it is mostly history and reference books – I couldn’t read any of the spines from the where we were allowed to stand.

    • I think you would really enjoy it Snowy. If you do want to do it you will need to contact the Aussie Embassy here in DC about 6 months before you want to go – or send me an email closer to the time and I can make inquiries for you.

  5. HA! I’ve lived in the states all my life and haven’t come anywhere near seeing all that you have seen! Great post. Too bad they wouldn’t allow you the camera. Your phone did great though.

    • I suppose it could be a security risk to have a camera – you never know what we might “accidentally” shoot. In one room they had dividers pulled out across the window – someone asked why and the secret service person said it was “incase the President has to go out in the helicopter – you are not allowed to see it”. The manservant gave a talk at the US Naval Observatory once which is also the home of the Vice President – we went on a private tour of the Observatory later and at one stage during the tour we were suddenly herded away from the windows because the VP was landing in his helicopter!

  6. How fun to go on a White House tour. I’ve never done that in spite of living an hour away from it for two years.

    It sounds like you had a busy and fun weekend. I’m looking forward to reading about your Sunday. Andrew would have liked going to the Science and Engineering thing.

    • It’s funny how many things we don’t do when we live close to them. Two weeks ago I had friends come from Australia and they did a White House tour on their second day – it took me 10 years!!

  7. I’ve never really had an yen to visit the White House but I’ve *always* wanted to visit DC (and Philly). There’s so much, though, and I’m such a country mouse, I reckon I’d have to be in a tourist group. Yech.

    Thanks for sharing your day!

  8. My favorite WH story is in the summer’s when Truman was President, the WH was so open people woild rush to cover under the North Portico during passing thunderstorms. Hard to believe now.

  9. Chilli is always good news. I love it love it. My husband will not eat it so when he goes out of town, it is the first thing I do, make a big pot.
    Your photos look fab. I have been on that tour. I always thought the outside looks like a big wedding cake.

  10. What a great weekend! The White House tour must have been neat. I didn’t realize they were doing them again.

    The Pumpkin Carving Party looks like a whole lot of fun. There were obviously some very creative contestants there.

    • Yeah, they stopped the tours after 9/11. In the “old” days you could just turn up at the Visitor Center and get timed tickets, now you have to apply to your state’s congressman up to 6 months before you want to go. Then a couple of weeks before your visit you have to give your SS number, and other personal details, so that background checks can be done on you.

  11. How nice you get to hang with a group of folks like that. You all share my interests – chili and pumpkin carving! I love that there are stains, I wondered how uptight that place would be.

    • LOL – I’m too uptight to live in the White House – all the dinner guests would have to sit in the kitchen to eat so they didn’t stain the carpet and furniture coverings any more! 🙂 The pumpkin carving party was more my style as we all ate outside LOL.

  12. WOW!!! Your White House photos are so awesome. How in the world are you supposed to carry your passport, etc without a purse?? I’d be dropping everything all over the place.

    The pumpkins look so cool.

    We’ve been having temps in the 80s!! Can you believe that?? Today it was supposed to get up to 82. I haven’t seen the weather, so I’m not sure if we made it but I really wouldn’t doubt it. It was so warm when I came out from work.

    • It’s been in the mid+ 70’s here since Friday – lovely. The Aussie passport is bigger than the American one and we also have a chip in ours making it fatter and comes with a warning not to bend it – this means that it really does not fit into jean/trouser pockets. I have a pair of cargo-type pants that I wore and the passport fitted in a thigh pocket – though I couldn’t do the zipper up so I was stressing all the time that I’d lose the damn thing! I noticed a few of the other ladies had their stuff in travel type plastic wallets.

  13. wow the building is impressing and so big-I love the ornaments. the first shot is funny-because the 4 laughing peoples on the left side. And the helloween shot is very cool-I love this-since unify years we make helloween parties from 31.10. to the 01.11.-and children go from house to house to got sweets.

    • LOL – yes, that’s funny – I have no idea who those people are! 🙂 We have a few bags of candy ready for when kids come knocking on Sunday. Well, I *hope* they come knocking as I don’t want any leftovers!

  14. We used to have pumpkin carving contests at my other job. My boss once won by carving the twelve jurors from the O.J. Simpson trial. He used 12 little pumpkins instead of one large one, so the judges allowed his entry.

    • Wow – I like the originality of your old boss. This party is apparently quite a long standing tradition and in election years the pumpkins get wonderfully political. The hosts have a photo album showing each year and there have been some great pumpkins.

    • I was so glad that I was sitting at work when the email came in – or I should say I was so glad that it was my work email they had and not my yahoo one which I wouldn’t have checked until I got home and then I would not have been in the lucky 30. I was surprised at the rooms – from the outside it looks as though they would be bigger.

  15. your phone photos are great!!! I love the different pumpkins that were made. It’s much more of an art than when I was a child.

    I would have loved to go into the lung!!!! the COPD shuttle is too funny. COPD is an abbreviation for CHronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or in more layman’s terms, Emphysema.

    Looks like a fun fall day!

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