Embassies Tour: European Union Edition

28Jun11

I started writing this post… a month ago. I toured the embassies themselves… almost two months ago. Wow, I’m really bad at this “timely updates” thing. Great Britain and Belgium were written a month ago, and so are quite detailed. Apologies to Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg and Estonia for the skimmage; I really just want to get this thing done.

Great Britain

I started the day at the British Embassy, one of the largest in DC (and possibly oldest?). When you enter you’re greeted by a waving Winston Churchill. At least, he looks like he’s waving in this photo. That, or hailing a taxi.

The word “compound” comes to mind with this embassy; it’s a sprawling collection of heritage buildings, new additions, and gorgeous gardens. A lot of it was open to the public, so you could wander through the grounds and then back around to the “swag tables” out the front.

This horse sculpture was just lying on one of the lawns. No other sculptures nearby. Just hangin’.

This dog sculpture was out the front of the ambassador’s residence. I guess they like animal sculptures?

They also have a phone box, just hangin’ out on one of the lawns.(Disappointing that it’s not TARDIS blue.)

Out in the display areas they had a place-setting from the Royal wedding reception set up; for some reason I didn’t seem to get a photo of that. Did get a photo of the embassy’s beehives though, because it’s awesome that an embassy has bees at all:

In that photo you can also see the staff t-shirts, which read “The Best of Britain,” done in the style of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” While I can attest that they were all very friendly, it’s possibly overstating slightly the caliber of your average embassy employee.

I think Scotland could come up with a slightly better slogan than this:

I find it hilarious that the British Army were talking about the war of 1812 in their display, particularly when in DC.

They were giving out free whiskey!

Which went very well with the sanger sandwich I bought for lunch.

Quick (and slightly random) shout out to the lovely woman at the British Council stand who gave me a free copy of the hundredth issue of Granta.

Belgium

Refuelled with sausages and whiskey, I made the hike up Mass Ave to the Belgian embassy. There was a bit of mass confusion out front with the three lines – irate woman was telling everyone queuing for free food, “YOU HAVE TO GO INSIDE FIRST OR THEY’LL DENY YOU WAFFLES!” – but I eventually got out of the sun and inside.

The building’s more modern than most of the other embassies in the area (although not as new as Finland, coming up next!). You could wander around inside, which was nice, although there wasn’t all that much going on. For example – the Belgian idea of an “attraction” was to open the doors to a random office and let you look inside. Thanks, anonymous embassy staffer, for letting me see your desk?

But let’s be honest here: all of us inside the building were really just there so we could get a ticket in order to get free beer on the way out, and a waffle in the car park. Mmm, free beer and waffles.

Finland

The beautiful Finnish embassy. Built in 1994 it was the first embassy in DC to get LEED certification (for green buildings).

At the back of the embassy is an enclosed balcony that overlooks a neighbouring park. It's a stunning space, made even more so by the light art installations by Stefan Lindfors they were showing at the time.

Another one of the light sculptures.

Finland also had food, but the line was long and the herring not really good enough to justify the wait. Good swag, though.

Denmark

Denmark was the winner of the day – not huge crowds (I passed a ridiculous line waiting to get into the Italian embassy), ridiculously friendly staff, and we get to tour the Ambassador’s residence! Even more exciting, as we were being shown around the Ambassador himself stopped by to say hello. Rock on, Danes.

Fun fact I learnt about Denmark on the day: their largest embassy is in Kabul.

 

They had a lego play area!

Patriotic coconut cake.

Luxembourg

By this time it was getting pretty late in the day and the lines for most of the embassies were insane. On my walk back to the metro I passed Luxembourg and the lines didn’t look too bad. Probably because there was nothing really to see inside the Luxembourg embassy apart from some cool colours on the ceiling.

Estonia

I apparently took no photos at all in the Estonian embassy, but I know that I went because I’ve got swag from them. I do seem to remember they were very heavily promoting “e-Estonia” – apparently they’re all about technology now? The things you learn when touring embassies…

The Swag Haul

Swag! I got all of this, plus lots and lots of free food. Best item of the day was the copy of Granta; the most random has to be the Belgium pamphlet about brussel sprouts.

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3 Responses to “Embassies Tour: European Union Edition”

  1. 1 Susannah

    That’s awesome!

  2. 2 Candice

    Fantastic photos, love it!

  3. 3 Sandro

    Love it all. Particularly like that the most serious threat the Belgians have is ‘we’ll deny you waffles’–I know Leslie Knope would be shaking in her boots.

    Supposedly the Finns had a whole decade of Embassy rebuilding in the 90s into the 2000s, which included their fancy extension in Canberra. All about vibrant, modern Finland or something.


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