I’m going to combine the Friday and Saturday visits into one so as not to be repetitive. Yes, we went twice since we had two sets of tour tickets from different congressional offices and because some of the group were not there Friday morning it made sense to go again Sat morning. Good thing! A lesson we learned – guided tours stop at 10:00am. You can still get in, but it’s a wander at your own pace thing with agents in some of the rooms who can explain the portraits on the walls, but you that’s it. Fridays tickets were for after 10, Saturdays time was 9:30. So if you go, request an early time to get a guide – it makes a HUGE difference.
The other thing to know – don’t bring anything! You don’t need anything except your ID. They allowed cell phones but they watched you turn them off and there was no way you were going to be able to sneak that puppy out and turn it on ;-) There are eyes everywhere! Also, no lockers. All of this is on the forms you get with you confirmation of a time but, you know, there is an idiot in every bunch right? On Saturday someone ditched a backpack on the grounds. Brilliant! It merely delayed the tour for a bit until they had gone around asking everyone about it. I assume a visitor admitted to ownership because it was only a momentary blip. On Monday though we were watching tv and the grounds were locked down due to an abandoned backpack! Media types were herded inside. The few who I follow on twitter indicated that it happened rather frequently. Groan. C’mon people! If you get lucky enough to secure a White House tour – follow the damn instructions!!
Lecture done :-) Here’s some pics of the rooms we went into that I snagged off the web since we clearly couldn’t take any of our own. Some cool tidbits of trivia will follow:
Those chandeliers? Stunning. Apparently it takes 30+ hours to clean each one piece by piece. Considering how they sparkled, I’d say it happens quite frequently too! I recognized this room as soon as we entered it. It’s where Obama has held some prime time news conferences and his health care town hall. As I stood in the doorway that led out to a hallway, I got a bit of a chill. This is the hallway:
Oops – guess I grabbed a thumbnail..but you get the idea. Red carpeted hallway leads into East Room and right inside the doorway (where I was standing at that moment) would be a podium where the President would stand for the press conference. I was standing where the President stood!! Weeeeee!
(yes, I know, the whole time we were in the White House we were going into places where ALL the President’s and their families have been and shoot, the entire family was right upstairs while we were there Saturday, but it was a particular thrill to stand in a spot and take in a view which was very recent. I was picturing the teleprompters & tv cameras and chairs full of reporters with the portraits of Mr & Mrs Washington on the wall behind them. Pretty awesome!
I am not even going to mention specific portraits in the rooms! I was impressed enough that the Secret Service agent could rattle them off. Oh, yes, our guided tour was conducted by an SS agent. He said they did the job because it helped to make them seem less scary to visitors. Good plan. Yes, he had the classic ear bud and was in the traditional dark suit. But he was not scary at all, in fact he was pretty nice & occasionally witty. He said he liked learning all the details of the house because then he could appreciate what he was protecting. Anyway, each room has portraits of President’s, First Ladies & the occasional landscape. The furniture is all original as is the china on display.
Yes, these rooms really are as beautiful as they look in photos. More so of course as you can really see the textures. The carpets are gorgeous too.
When we were there Friday one of the moms noticed people touching the wall coverings and furniture as they wandered through. Aack! Are they nuts? Well, wouldn’t you know it but while we were in this room and even AFTER the SS guide told us NOT to touch anything – we saw some yahoo reach out and touch the wall when the guide was talking about it! Ugh.
The Dining Room is unique in that it only has one portrait in it – Lincoln. The painting was given to the collection under the request that it be the only one in the room. Given the many floor to ceiling windows, it works perfectly in there.
From there we exited out the north portico. Once outside we could turn on our phones & that is how I got the pictures that I posted on the very first Quickie Report. Now the cool thing about the north portico is what is ABOVE it. Here’s a more clear photo of it off the web:
So we were walking out of that door under the hanging light. The center window is conference/sitting room which is where Lincoln gave his last speech before his assassination. To the left as you are looking at is Sasha’s bedroom and to the right is Malia’s. How did we find that out? Because on Friday as we looked up we noticed a butterfly cutout hanging in the window on the left. We asked the SS guide about it at the end of our tour and they confirmed that the bedrooms were indeed up there.
Since we were kept strictly to the east/north end of the house, we never did see anything in or around the West Wing. The girls’ swing set is not visible from any of the public places either. Which is nice because it otherwise felt somewhat as if we were intruding when it was pointed out in one hallway that the screen blocking it off is removed when tours are over and then the family has the run of the house and that they do go everywhere.
Now for the fun trivia – yes, even cooler than knowing where the First Daughter’s bedrooms are!!
The shortest President at the time, his wife noticed that people would not even see when he entered a room so she requested that a song be played to announce his arrival. Hence, Hail to the Chief was born.
President William Howard Taft – one of our larger Presidents was also a big baseball fan. He would regularly attend games. And part way through he would stand up between innings to stretch his legs. Let’s say – around the 7th inning? And since he was the President, everyone *else* would have to stand up too out of respect. Hence, the 7th inning stretch.
I just loved how two traditions that we’ve all just taken for granted as “we’ve always done it that way” and that seem so formal were born out of rather every day events & needs.
And that does it for Part 2. I promise more personal pictures in the next installment. I just had to document what I could remember of the White House before details seeped out of my porous memory. You’ll see that while we didn’t formally walk in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, we may have logged as many miles on our own not quite prepared for it feet ;->