Monday, April 19, 2010

The White House Garden and Grounds

I'm sure we sound like a broken record but at least we practice what we preach. Taking our own advice, this last weekend we were indeed "tourists in our own town" as we explored the White House Garden and Grounds. Somehow we'd missed it in years past, but not this time, as we were both alerted to this great opportunity through the Express and a litany of blogs and email newsletters.

The instructions were simple. Free tickets were distributed first come, first served at 8am that would assign a timed entry position during the day, starting at 10am. So the question that remained was, how early would we have to arrive? As rookies to this event, we assumed the number of tickets would be small and the demand would be high, so we planned on arriving at 7am. We even thought that this would be too late, and expected to come back and try again on Sunday. And since J and I met while sleeping outside for college basketball games, this was all familiar territory.

To our surprise, the White House accommodates far more people than we thought. Not only were we among the first 100 to get tickets, apparently they continued to distribute them throughout the day. Despite the rules posted, the early crowd was able to get multiple tickets and choose their entry time.

But enough of the logistics. Let's get to the gardens and grounds. After shuffling through airport-like security, the entire south lawn was open. Most of the attention was concentrated around the photos and signs staked into the ground that identified trees planted by Presidents and First Ladies. Visitors were entertained by "The President's Own" Marine Band and free to explore and photograph at their own pace. We spent about 1.5 hours and were happy to have been among the first to enter since we avoided some of the crowds and the nasty wind that was to come later in the day.

J Says

Though I've peered through the fence many times, I've never had the opportunity to walk through the gardens of the White House. It was definitely worth waking up very early on a Saturday (even if it turned out that we didn't need to). I was in awe as we walked in the shade of the White House. While impressive when viewed through the fence, it is all the more beautiful when viewed from a few feet away.

I stared up at each window thinking about all of the historical events that have taken place behind the glass. I remember Hillary Clinton writing fondly about the fan-shaped window (pictured below) in her book Living History.

I never noticed all of the intricate details of the house.

Or the huge variety of plants and flowers blooming in every inch of space.

Or Jacqueline Kennedy's garden on the southeast side of the house.

The gardens were blooming with life on this gorgeous April morning. Every color was vivid (and every nose was running!)

A personal favorite was this view of Malia and Sasha's playhouse located just outside the Oval Office so Dad can keep an eye on his girls while he works.

Tulips, tulips, everywhere.

Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden

I could get used to this view.

The Garden Tours are offered each April and October. We'll be back in October to see what Fall looks like at the White House. Perhaps this time we'll sleep in a little bit longer...

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