We had a chance last Saturday to do the Grand Tour without leaving Washington, but because of lines and distances, it turned out to be more of a Petite Tour. Still, well worth it.
This is our third time for an Embassy Open House event. Each one becomes more crowded and less rewarding in terms of free food offered at the Embassies. In the past, generous tasting amounts were offered, but now the trend is towards food for sale with very small samples (if any,) for free. I did my research and planned a route focusing on tasting as varied a menu as possible.
That said, we did not start in Sheridan Circle, where the embassies are densest. We had done that for the last two tours, and decided it was time for a change. Besides, I wanted to see the UK Embassy. By the time we reached it on the last two attempts, the line outside was way too long.
We managed to get there just before the official starting time of 10:00 a.m. There was already a line, but not an unreasonable one. It was brilliant! We spent 1 1/2 hours enjoying the gardens and visiting the trade bazaar booths, the Jags, the Bentleys, the cricketers… For food, they were setting up to sell (sell!) British specialties, but not expecting to be ready to serve until lunchtime. The whisky tasting tent tenants, however, were more than happy to serve us some whisky punch with ginger and lime. Just the thing for strolling in the gardens.
From the street, the UK Embassy looks unimpressive – a modern building behind a fence – but inside the fence one finds several acres of gardens surrounding a building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens to resemble an English country house. We progressed through a small woodland to the back of the house and the kitchen garden, planted with herbs, strawberries and the biggest fig tree I’ve seen in this area, already laden with good-sized fruit. Fig envy ensued. The gardener claimed it’s only about 10 years old.
From the kitchen garden we could get a glimpse into the Embassy, where a table had been set as for a formal dinner. A display outside included a menu from an actual dinner honoring President George W. Bush. It was a very British bill of fare indeed.
A walk lined with perennial borders, like a cottage garden, led past a lawn hosting trees planted by members of the royal family to the Gertrude Jekyll steps. If one stands in the circle at the bottom of the steps and speaks, an echo effect like the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s can be heard. Of course we both took our turns standing and declaiming.
Then we got to admire the formal rose gardens, and the lovely landscaping effects that complemented the building so nicely.
Then we looked at the time and realized that we had spent a long time in Britain. We hotfooted it up the road to Finland.
Coming: Adventures in Finland, Belgium, and Slovenia.