Saturday, March 21, 2009

Embassy Evening

Boo.  I am fighting a cold today.  Since when does a cold start with a mildly irritated throat and take 4 days to actually get started?  So, last night was a real Cinderella event because as soon as I got home, the symptoms started.

So here I sit, with my 1,000 mg Vitamin C booster drink from Nikki (perfect timing - I'm taking the second one tomorrow), a carafe of home blend spicy masala tea, a bowl of grapefruit, and a box of tissues, so that I can tell you about my lovely evening in very nice company.

There are many embassies around Dupont Circle, and on Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues.  The Indonesian Embassy is on Mass Ave.

The Walsh Mansion was built in the Beaux-Arts style at the turn of the 20th century by an Irish-American gold mining tycoon and was the center of society functions during the Teddy Roosevelt administration.  Over the years, it has housed various government offices, including the Rural Electrification Commission in the 1930s and the Red Cross in WWII.  At a state dinner there in 1919, Queen Elizabeth of Belgium presented Mrs Walsh with the Order of Queen Elizabeth for opening her home to Belgian relief volunteers during the Great War.

Their daughter, Evalyn Walsh McLean, was the last private owner of the Indian blue 44.5 carat Hope Diamond which I saw last week at the Museum of Natural History.

The government of Indonesia bought the mansion in 1951 for less than half the construction price and spent a great deal of money restoring it to its former glory, which judging from the ornate detail and plasterwork, must have been painstaking.  It is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

I wish I had taken a picture of the staircase and the giant stained glass skylight above it!

After receiving our glasses of wine, we entered the grand Louis XIV ballroom, stopped for a chat with one of the diplomatic staff, and wandered around the other public areas.  The buffet was laid out beside the ballroom in the organ room where, yes, there was a pretty impressive pipe organ.  The light fixtures were fantastic - not chandeliers, but something more unique.  There were glass cases displaying the varied national costumes of Indonesia, building models, jewelry, and traditional objects.  In the hall with the staircase there was a huge ornate masked dragon made of real animal hair and a fearsome wooden gargoyle that had been presented to the embassy by the Bank of Indonesia.

We enjoyed starters of traditional potato croquettes with a spicy peanut sauce, followed by a history of the mansion from a member of staff, a speech from the Ambassador which of course mentioned Obama's Indonesian roots, and then some entertainment.  We were treated to some gamelan music, 3 pieces.  One was called the dragonfly.  

Then a man in a googly-eyed masked did a dance that left me feeling unsettled, so I think he was supposed to chase away demons.  Thankfully he did not give me nightmares.

Then there was a buffet of rice, goat (?) curry, noodles, vegetables, chicken satay, and the most spicy chicken wings EVER.  Brain buzz hot.  It was yummy.  We ate at a table with two couples who were pleasant to talk to.

Then we got to try playing the gamelan.  I couldn't get the hang of it, but my companion evinced a clear ear for music.

We left around 9.30pm and walked to the Eighteenth Street Lounge, which is a large townhouse with a selection of rooms in eclectic and ornate styles of decor and music.  Every light fixture was different.  Every landing had a console table with mirror, lamp, and plant, and there were candles everywhere.

Of course we chose the jazz room with big antique sofas and settles, baroque picture frames, and the deepest red ceiling.  I think we chose a quaint Queen Anne sofa.  The music was great, but then a live band arrived.  They took ages to set up, but it was worth it and we were treated to some random scat-style jazz with a keyboard, trumpet, flute, conga drums.

My Cosmo


AmitL said...

Hi,Olivia-how've you been?Lovely pics,as always!!

Jo said...

Love the pics and I'm glad you had a good time! Sorry you're feeling so puny! I hope you get to feeling better soon! :D

michelle G said...

oh, I hope you get well sweetie, I enjoyed the pics.

Olivia said...

Amit - busy, but not as busy as you are. Glad you can see the pics.


Jo - feeling puny? Not sure I've heard that one before, other than in reference to size!


Mich - thanks sweetie. Next time I shall take better pics :)

Flighty said...

I'm glad to see that you enjoyed yourself despite having a cold!
Take care! xx

The Moody Minstrel said...

A cold that starts with a scratchy throat, takes several days to kick in full, and then winds up lingering on and on for weeks if not months? Sounds like you got a Japanese cold to go with the Japanese cherry blossoms! :-(

But you were still able to enjoy quite an evening, or so it would seem. Keep on smiling through it all!

Olivia said...

Flighty - well, at the time, I didn't know I had a cold. It really kicked in when I got home.


Minstrel - really? I was sure it was that. My allergies always turn into sinusitis, but usually start with sneezing, so the upper respiratory tract irritation confused me.

I did smile a lot and enjoy the evening because I felt great until the wee hours of the morning.

Palm Springs Savant said...

oh I am sorry you are feeling poorly, take extra good care of fun being ill in Springtime!

Selba said...

Interesting to learn about the Indonesian embassy's buidling... looks very beautiful inside :)

Haaaa.. could it be the spicy indonesian food that caused your cold? hehehe... Hey, no desserts at all? where were those coconut desserts?

I love that Balinese dance with the live gamelan... I find it exotic and sacred (because it is especially in the island of Bali).

Anonymous said...

A really interesting outing! Especially if you were in very good company ;) and there was a jazz band playing at the end!

Olivia said...

Rick - thanks for suggesting the chicken noodle soup on FB a few days ago though!


Selby - I would have thought the spicy food would kill the cold.

I forgot to tell you about the dessert - fried plantain, and lots of fruits - normal ones like strawberries, melons, and grapes.


MJ - I can't wait to go back to the Young Lions band that played a couple of weeks ago on U Street.

Glo said...

Hi Liv ~ So sorry to hear about your nasty snuffly cold :( Glad to hear it didn't interfere with your special embassy evening and 'all that jazz' which sounds and looks fantastic! I found a photo gallery site of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia DC ~ but March photos aren't up yet ;)

steve on the slow train said...

I hope you get over your cold soon--there's a nasty strain going around I hope you don't have. I've been to Thai, Vietnamese, and Burmese restaurants, but never Indonesian. The dinner and entertainment must have been quite wonderful. Embassies usually have top chefs and cooking staffs, so an invitation to dinner at an embassy is like going to a five-star restaurant for free. Thanks for the report.

Olivia said...

Glo - I think you're more likely to find it on Things To Do DC

Click on Photo Gallery on the right hand side menu bar, and you will find a pic of us on page 4! We were gawking up at the ceiling and then suddenly we looked down and whoomp! There was the camera, so there's a little deer in the headlights going on.

Olivia said...

Steve - not sure what the nasty strain entails, so don't know if I have it.

Hey, it was a buffet, business attire, so nothing fancy, but certainly a classy way to spend an evening.

Anonymous said...

Hope your cold is short-lived - have you tried any of the zicam products? Some friends of mine have found the swabs to be especially effective at warding off colds. As for your evening -- it looks enchanted! It's amazing you can handle the heat of super spicy foods and still taste anything afterwards ;-)

Olivia said...

Nikki - I've always wanted to try Zicam, but by the time I got to the pharmacy it was too far gone to be prevented.

It's especially confusing when what I started with didn't resemble any cold I knew.

Anonymous said...

LOVE how you finished it off, with the Cosmo. Your day, couldn't have sounded more exciting! Hoorah for adventures. :)