Obama in Europe

Did you know that Barack Obama’s first visit to Europe as US President actually begins tonight? I didn’t know that, but that’s only one of the interesting facts you can pick up (if you read Dutch) from Frank Poosen’s preview of the president’s visit published today in the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (The Obamas tear through Europe).

Yes, the US first couple (and the rest of their 500-person entourage) fly into London’s Stansted airport (misspelled in the article) sometime tonight, to be then helicoptered promptly to their hotel in London proper. Poosen adds that up to six helicopters will be taking off from Stansted at roughly the same time, each heading to London by a slightly-different route – it’s a helicopter shell-game designed to befuddle any terrorist stationed just outside the airport with an anti-aircraft missile, you see.

Oh, and the “Beast” is already there to serve them. Sorry, this is not some giant, hulking Secret Service agent, maybe sporting steel teeth, but rather the President’s custom-designed Cadillac: seven meters long, armored, built to withstand rocket and chemical attack. It could come in handy – let’s not hope too handy – because by all accounts London is going to be an unadulterated circus on Thursday, trying to run that super-important G20 summit in the middle of a city full of protestors.

The final tidbit Poosen offers up that you may not have the chance to learn about elsewhere concerns the dinner at Nr. 10 Downing Street scheduled this evening for the Obamas, presided over by none other than the Naked Chef himself, Jamie Oliver. Don’t worry, Oliver has agreed to wear clothes this time in honor of the dignity of the occasion – if he is there at all! You see, his wife is about to give birth to their third child, and he has made clear that even the Obamas aren’t enough to keep him from being present for that. But there’s a problem: Oliver isn’t going to be allowed to have any mobile telephone at hand while he’s at Nr. 10 Downing Street – security, you know – so he’s been trying to figure out some other way to get word, if it comes, that he’s needed at the hospital. I guess either Gordon Brown or his residential staff will just have to take the call from a landline.

From the G20 summit, the Obamas’ trip continues on to Strasbourg on Friday (plus a brief excursion across the Rhine to Germany), Prague on Sunday (but sorry, Poosen is wrong here: the president is in Prague on Saturday and Sunday), and then off to Turkey to fulfill Obama’s promise of making an early visit to a Muslim country.

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