So, the first thing I have to say is, the actual West Wing of the White House looks nothing like the West Wing, the TV show. The West Wing in the show seemed rather large, with cubicles and desks and glass-walled offices. People were always walking, always on the move, TVs in every corner broadcasting world news.
The real West Wing is all thick carpets and priceless art work and framed color photographs. The real West Wing is teeny tiny -- the walk between the Oval Office and the Roosevelt Room wouldn't last even half a quip from CJ to Toby. The real West Wing isn't cold and steely, but instead is beautiful and luxurious and elegant.
First things first -- how did I even get in? Well, last month, I received a hurried email from Sam along the lines of "West Wing tour. Send me your social security number ASAP. Details to follow." And faster than you can say "identity theft," I had signed up for a tour led by his friend from church. The cool thing is though that anyone can tour the West Wing (except, you know, terrorists) because not only can executive staff lead tours for their friends and loved ones, but there are tours for the public throughout the week. For more information, click here.
On our tour, we got to visit the press briefing room (!), the colonnade (!), the Roosevelt Room (!), the White House mess hall (!) and OH MY GOD THE SIT ROOM (!!!). Ok, so we weren't allowed to go into the Sit Room. But we did go into the mess hall, and then when we turned around, we were staring at the door of the Situation Room (!!!!!!). Of course, having not gone in, I am still imagining that there's a Big Board with flashing lights and a giant conference table, but whatever it really looks like, just being on the other side of the door was a thrill.
We also got to peek across the threshold of the Cabinet Room (the President's chair is a couple inches taller than everyone else's) and the OVAL OFFICE (!!!!!!!!!!!). The Oval Office is yes, oval, and actually quite small. Also, we learned that each President gets to redecorate it, and this President has made some nice choices, with sunny yellows and sky blues to "symbolize the optimism he feels for the country." He may have missed his true calling as interior designer.
The whole tour took two hours, in part because we absolutely geeked out and took a ton of pictures in the places we were allowed to take them (no inside venues except the press briefing room) and to look at the priceless and magnificent art that is absolutely everywhere. It is a thrill to walk the same hallways as every president since Teddy Roosevelt, to breath in the history and the politics and the excitement, and and to pretend to be CJ Craig.
Get your reservations for restaurant week next week! I should be back up to speed in time to blog Indebleu, Butterfield 9 and Lima. And maybe the Park at Fourteenth? Stay tuned.