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Monday, November 26, 2012

Checking out the competition

The family took the Metro today to Dupont Circle, a huge traffic roundabout in Washington, D.C. where Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire Avenues meet up with 19th and P streets; my wife counted ten roads in all running into and out of the circle. The surrounding neighborhood is one of those areas I would love to live in if only I could afford to do so: beautiful townhouses dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, along with plenty of bookshops, cafes, galleries and museums.

For me, however, the purpose for visiting this afternoon was to walk along Embassy Row, a long stretch of Massachusetts Avenue stuffed with embassies and ambassadorial residences. Many of these diplomatic establishments are housed in the same kind of townhouses mentioned above. Walking past these outposts, I was struck by how welcoming the majority of them looked in comparison with the walled fortresses so many American overseas outposts have unfortunately become in recent years. Every May in Washington there is the Around the World Embassy Tour, in which about three dozen of the diplomatic residences are open to the public for free peeks inside, along with the opportunity to sample some of the food, dance and music of the different cultures. It's a shame we won't be here the next time the event rolls around, but perhaps at some point in the future we will be in the right place at the right time.

Amber poses in front of the fountain at Dupont Circle. According to Rough Guide, the nude figures represent sea, stars and wind, and honor the naval exploits of one Samuel Dupont, who saw action in the Mexican-American and Civil Wars.

There were still signs of fall on some of the surrounding streets.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the most attractive structure on Embassy Row was the Indonesian Embassy at 2020 Massachusetts Avenue. Named the Walsh-McLean House, it dates from 1903. Across the street is another fine old building, the Cosmos Club (No. 2121), which I inexplicably neglected to photograph. You can see what it looks like here.

Amber with Mahatma Gandhi. This statue, to no one's great surprise, is located across from the Indian Embassy.

Another fine old mansion is the Anderson House, at 2118. Completed in 1905, it was originally the winter home of Larz Anderson, an American diplomat who served in Belgium and Japan. Anderson willed the house to the Society of the Cincinnati, a patriotic organization whose first president general was coincidentally the country's first president as well. Anderson House is now a Revolutionary War museum, and is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, which means we didn't get the chance to check out the inside today.

Estonia's embassy occupies a spot on a street corner.

Many of the embassy buildings had busts (like the one in front of the Bulgarian Embassy) or statues (like the one above outside the Greek Embassy) out front. In a major diplomatic faux pas, I neglected to note the names of these national heroes. I hope this breach of protocol will pass unnoticed.

The Embassy of Zambia stood by itself.

The Japanese diplomatic outposts on Massachusetts Avenue were some of the least impressive. The Chancery, in particular (bottom), seemed to have been designed by the same architectural firms commissioned by the State Department.

We walked as far as the Islamic Center, near the entrance to Rock Creek Park, before turning back toward the Dupont Circle Metro station.

Outside the Korean Culture Center, Amber did the Asian Squat Pose between two traditional statues from Jeju Island.

The Korean consular building, meanwhile, had a statue dedicated to Philip Jaisohn, the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

1606 23rd Street is the Residence of the Turkish Ambassador.

This 1909 statue dedicated to the Union General Philip H. Sheridan sits in the center of Sheridan Circle.

Tomas Masaryk, the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia.

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