Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Weekend in Washington, DC

Happy Hanukkah to all those that celebrate! Hope you are having a wonderful holiday.

Last Thursday, S., E., and I went to the greater Washington, DC area to visit S.'s family for a long weekend.  We planned the trip far in advance, and because I had never been to the White House on past trips to DC, I thought it would be a great time to visit while it was all decorated for the holidays.

The process to tour the White House is much more complicated in this post 9-11 world than in Thomas Jefferson's day when each morning visitors could just walk right in. Today, you have to go through your U.S. Congressperson's office and submit information for a background check.  You only find out if you are accepted for a tour about two weeks before your trip so it's good to have backup plans.

I was overjoyed that we were accepted for a tour, especially since we would be five out of the 90,000 people expected to go through the White House this season.

There was so much to see from the architecture, paintings, portraits of former Presidents and First Ladies, flower arrangements, antique furniture, not to mention the beautiful Christmas decorations.  It is impossible to adequately describe everything.

To add to the festivities, on the day we visited, an a  capella group from Smith College sang carols in the ground floor visitor's entrance and a group from a New York church played English hand bells in the East Room.  

Here is a view of the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room.  The theme this year was "Joy to All" and the tree was decorated with red, white and blue ornaments made by U.S. military families from around the world.   This tree was nearly 19-feet tall.

The White House gingerbread house complete with the First Lady's garden and beehive on the right and First Dog Bo on the left.  I just love gingerbread houses and this one is incredible with the painstaking details and stonework-like finish.  It is also huge, weighing 300 pounds.  Wonder what happens to it after the holidays?
A portrait of President Lincoln in the State Dining Room.  I thought the decorations in this room were delicate and airy looking and matched the plasterwork on the walls, the gold tablecloths, and the floral pattern in the carpet.  

Can you image what my cats would do to garland with glass ornaments?!?!? Remy would be hanging from the walls, breaking everything!

The State Dining Room is much smaller than you would imagine and seats 130 for dinner. Can you tell I read my White House brochure?

Here is the East Room, the largest room in the White House. The portrait is Martha Washington with the famous painting of George Washington on the other wall.  The Christmas trees are just amazing. You could spend all day looking at one to see all the different ornaments. Unfortunately, there are 80,999 other people wanting to see it too so time to move along.

Here is the famous portrait of President George Washington by Gilbert Stuart that Dolly Madison saved when the British burned the White House in 1814. The portrait was painted in 1797.

Yes, I paid attention in art history class.

And read my brochure.

In the grand entrance hall and cross hall of the White House were four large Christmas trees decorated with ornaments representing past First Ladies as well as ornaments honoring Gold and Blue Star military families.  There were also gold and bronze star metals on the trees.  A poignant reminder to remember our troops and their families this season.  
For more info about the White House history and decorations and to download a tour book and even  try a White House cookie recipe visit this link: 

There is also a super-cute You Tube video of Bo giving a tour of the White House decorations. 

For even more history about the White House visit the White House Historical Association website at this link: You can see decorations and Christmas cards from the Kennedy administration through the present. 

And because a post is not a post without one or more references to Remy, here is a statue at the National Gallery of Art that reminded me of a certain leggy kitty at home.


sunny said...

I'm glad you had such a nice visit. I've never been to the White House. Maybe we'll do that this winter!

Brenda said...

Sounds like you had a great trip. I would love to go to the White House someday.

Michele said...

Wow! What an amazing trip! I'm so glad you shared your pictures :-) We went to DC about 5 years ago and loved it, but we didn't get to go to to the White House. I'd love to go back and see it. Thanks again for sharing. You took some great pictures :-)

Linda said...

Envious! I watched a show on HGTV (I think) all about decorating the White House for Christmas this year. It was amazing to see all the people, work, and materials that go into it. What a wonderful time to visit!