Sunday, January 9, 2011

The White House

Guess what we did yesterday morning?!?!?

We went to the White House!!! Our friend Paul e-mailed us in May and asked us if we would be interested. Of course, we said yes! After asking both our Senators and a Representative, Senator Webb's office granted our request. We submitted our personal information and 6 months later we found ourselves standing in front of the White House!!

It was a beautiful morning for a White House Tour. We rolled out of bed at 6:35 a.m. to be out the door and on the metro by 7:30 a.m. Even though it was a SATURDAY morning, it was totally worth it. When we came above ground at the McPherson Square Metro, it started to snow. The White House is so beautiful in the snow!! (picture below from the 2009 December snowstorm)

We immediately walked toward the White House Visitors Center, a must for anyone going on a White House Tour! The majority of White House Tours are self-guided, a visit to the White House Visitor's Center will greatly enhance your visit. We watched a brief film on the White House and the rooms we were about to see.

At 8:15 a.m. we got into the security line to enter. We were quickly checked in and confirmed and started to walk up the south east lawn to a metal detector. Paul did a great job of informing all of us in the group what we could and could not bring with us. Besides the typical NO NO items for flying, you also may not carry in a purse, handbag or backpack. Therefore, us women, had to bring the minimum that could fit only in our pockets. Unsurprisingly, no cameras are allowed on the tour, but we were allowed to bring camera cell phones and take pictures once outside of the front pillars after our tour (hence the limited photos you see with this post).

This was not my first visit to the White House. When I was younger, I toured the White House on Scouts Day. I was about seven, so it was fun to go on the tour again and remember different aspects of the house. When you tour you enter through the ground floor on the east side of the building. The first hall way is filled with photos of first families during their time at the White House. Paul made the comment how interesting it is to see the photos. The last time he went on a tour was during Bush's Presidency. As you can imagine, the current first family is well represented in these photos. From there you tour the Vermeil Room, China Room and the Library.

The Vermeil Room displayed portraits of "recent" First Ladies. I found the statement "recent" humorous considering the majority of the portraits were from the mid 20th century. Each President (and First Lady) chooses their own China. Some choose lavish designs showing American Wildlife while others choose simple deigns. My favorite was Bill Clinton's but I also liked Andrew Jackson's and FDR's. To view the White House China, visit the White House Museum's Website.

Next, we ventured up to the first floor and immediately walked into the East Room. This is the largest room in the White House and has held various functions including formal dinners and seven Presidents laid in state in this room. This room also houses Stuart's famous painting of George Washington that Dolley Madison saved when the British burned the White House in 1814.

Next we walked into the Green Room. From the video we watched at the Visitors Center, we were immediately able to recognize several famous paintings, including one of Ben Franklin, Independence Hall in Philadelphia and one of the Mosquito Net by John Singer Sargent. This room also houses an interesting work table and a coffee urn from England with John and Abigail Adams monogram.

After the Green Room, we wandered into the Blue Room. The President often receives guests in the Blue Room and this is where the White House Christmas Tree is placed. My favorite part of this room is honestly the view of the south lawn. You can easily see both the Washington Monument and the Jefferson!

Next we viewed the Red Room which is still used today to entertain guests. Like many of the rooms in the White House, this room has been renovated many time. Next we discovered the State Dining Room, like the East Room this room holds various functions including dinners for 130 seated guests!!! My favorite part of this room was the mantle and portrait of Lincoln. The mantle has a long history, but my favorite parts are the two bisons (which were considered more "American") and a quote from on of Adam's letters to his wife:
I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.
Next we ventured into the Cross Hall and Entrance Hall. The stereotypical image of the President walking on the red carpet to make a speech occurs in the Cross Hall. This hall also connects the various rooms on the first floor of the White House. My favorite aspect of this room (and the Entrance Hall) are the various Presidential Portraits including Kennedy, Bush Sr. and Clinton.

The Entrance Hall is also interesting and I think overlooked by many as the last stop on the tour. This room houses a grand piano that has images depicting several eras of America music, Presidential Portraits, the Grand Staircase and a plaque commemorating the building, rebuilding, renovation and reconstruction of the House.

Well that concludes my tour of the White House. If you live in DC or are visiting from far away I would definitely recommend trying to get tickets from your local Congressmen. The Secret Service was very friendly and would answer any question you have about the House, historic and everyday! We learned so much about when the President and his family live, eat and their schedule to accommodate visitors like us. So, if you go, talk to the Secret Service!! They are a wealth of information and they love to tell you about the house and how it is used.

Have you ever been to the White House? What was your favorite part?