The White House: the place in which every US President since John Adams has lived, worked and entertained. Most importantly, it is also officially the place that two twins from England visited.
On Thursday morning, we set off with just an American cell phone to begin our adventure into the Obama residence. We had been told to wait on a corner close to The White House, until our phone rang, giving us instructions on where to go. It all felt a bit ‘Mission Impossible’. After getting lost and power walking around half of DC, we found the mysterious corner and waited. And waited.
Eventually, a very nice member of The White House staff called and came to collect us, taking us through a long string of security checks (note: do not try and pat the security dogs, nobody likes it. People will shout at you). After passing the checks, we were finally in, looking up at the famous balcony where Presidents have stood for hundreds of years and at the start of our self-guided tour.
The first thing that strikes you is just how enormous the place is. With 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels, there are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators. But despite its size, every room; doorway; staircase and window is beautifully detailed and crafted. Luckily, it was a lovely day when we visited, with sunshine streaming in, which made all the portraits and Christmas decorations extra glittery and sparkly. We were letting out tiny excited screams in our heads.
It looked like someone inside The White House had been working hard: to say the place was decked out for Christmas would be an understatement. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was how nice it smelt: of pine trees; cinnamon and berries (totally dreamy). There are multiple trees in every room: ranging from small delicate trees, to enormous towering trees. Each had a different theme, for example, there was one tree dedicated to the US troops in the Blue Room, which was decorated with 2,000 distinctive ornaments honouring service members. There was also a choir there, singing Christmas carols in the main entrance. It was a little like a Santa’s Grotto, but on a US Presidential kind of scale.
The first part of the tour passes the First Lady’s office (the urge to run in was overwhelming). You then pass The White House Library, where Obama’s daughters do their homework. The Library contains more than 2,700 books, each charting a portion of America’s history and is filled with hand-painted globes. A very nice place to do your homework and definitely better than the kitchen table where we did ours!
We then walked down ‘The Landing’, filled with personal photographs of all the presidents across the ages and here we were able to look out on the gardens, where Bo and Sunny, the President’s dogs, go for their walkies! This is also the spot where Obama takes Marine 1, his helicopter. One of the most impressive rooms we visited was the State Dining Room. Filled with three Christmas trees, this is the room that both President Lincoln and JFK lay in rest, after their assassinations. It is enormous and also the place where Christmas dinners and lunches are hosted, to around 140 guests!
You also pass The Blue Room; Red Room and Green Room, each filled with beautiful ornaments; furniture and china. The whole place was not too dissimilar to a British stately home, except potentially more important (although the British Aristocrats may disagree).
Our final leg of the tour took us outside the North Portico: the entrance where you often see the President greeting guests. Naturally, we pretended we were similarly important guests as we glided down the steps and away. After a few photographs outside and admiring this grand entrance, we were finished. It was such an exciting tour and brilliant to have been able to go inside.
Obama, we have serious house envy.