Since I expect this to be my one and only December in Washington, I am determined to experience as much of the city’s celebration as I can. On Saturday, my fellow Fellow, Maggie, and I set off for our first collection of experiences.
Our first stop was the windows at Macy’s. They are on a smaller scale than their more famous relations in New York, but we still smiled at the scenes depicting children watching scenes from It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. In the last of the windows, a more local flair was achieved with an apparently traditional DC Tyrannosaurus Rex in a Santa Hat delivering presents. The museum-style legend explained that the short fore-legs were particularly adept at tying bows.
Our next stop was at the White House visitor’s center. I had read that one of the best souvenirs of Washington is the official White House Christmas tree ornament that comes out every year. By going directly to the visitor’s center, we made sure to get the real ornament, which this year shows holiday revelers in an old fashioned car.
The main event of the afternoon was holiday tea at the Willard Hotel. The Willard is known as the “residence of Presidents,” since its proximity to the White House makes it a favorite place for former Presidents to stay when they are in town. The lobby was decorated as befitted an historic hotel, and we were especially charmed that the large Christmas tree was adorned with decades of White House ornaments. We found our own 2012 version along with many others.
Our indulgence for the day was holiday tea. From delicate little sandwiches of Oreo-sized bread with toppings to delicious scones to artistic sweets to be consumed in a bite or two, it was all scrumptious. A harp played background music while we savored the tastes and the atmosphere.
Following tea, we settled in the long hallway that connects the main entrance on E street to the entrance on the opposite street. We were enchanted to observe all the comings and goings of a wedding to be held in the hotel. The bride was applying finishing touches to her make-up as one of her attendants took charge of her train. The female attendants wore green satin sheath gowns, and the mothers of the bride and groom wore gowns that complimented each other beautifully- one in burgundy/black taffeta and the other in blue/black taffeta. The groomsmen were identifiable by their identically perfect pocket squares as well as by their tendency to travel in a pack. I missed the flower girl, but I did catch sight of the ring bearer, a young lad in a tuxedo who amused himself by tossing the pillow up in the air and catching it as he walked down the hall.
We had strategically scheduled our tea on Saturday because throughout December on every day except Sunday, there is a concert in the lobby of the hotel. Thus our brief interlude of sparkly people watching was followed by an extremely pleasurable hour listening to a chorus singing Christmas carols. Most of the singers were tucked into an alcove, which only further enhanced the splendid acoustics. I found the voices to be unusually well-balanced with a particular richness in the tenors and basses that added great warmth to the music.
We were not quite ready to call it a night, so we wandered back behind the White House, which was decorated by a red ribbon for World Aids Day. There is also considerable progress on the bleachers that will be used for the Inauguration.
As our last bit of exploration of the evening, we took the Metro out to our usual home stop and then went to see Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. The trees were decorated in a wide variety of colors and styles of lights, and there were some amusing light sculptures of animals. At one point, Maggie wasn’t sure if an animal was a beaver or something else, and I announced confidently that it was a prairie dog. Maggie asked how I knew, and I explained that I have walked in the zoo several times, so I knew that we happened to be right next to the prairie dog exhibit. I think she was torn between admiration at my insight and disgust that I had an unfair advantage of information in the dark.
As is typical of any outside event after dark, the vendors at the zoo were doing a brisk business in various souvenirs that lit up. Our favorites were the headbands of reindeer antlers that lit up in varying colors. No, we did not buy any!
All in all, it was a wonderful start to the holiday season, and we are looking forward to more explorations and adventures this month.