French president opens visit to U.S.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Celebrating the long-standing ties between their nations, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande on Monday toured the sweeping Virginia estate owned by Thomas Jefferson, the former American president and famed Francophile. Obama’s rare out-of-town trip with a foreign leader opened two days of events marking Hollande’s state visit to the United States.
Standing together in Monticello’s grand foyer, Obama said the elegant home represents “the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave us.”
The two leaders arrived in Charlottesville, Va., Monday afternoon after a short flight from Washington. Traveling together in Obama’s armored limousine, the presidential motorcade then wound its way through the rolling hills toward the white and brick mansion, with its signature crowning dome.
As the two presidents – both wearing overcoats on a chilly February day – strolled along the estate’s portico, Obama declared, “This is a wonderful visit.”
For Hollande, the trip to Washington was a chance to get an ocean away from his romantic troubles. The French president is traveling in the U.S. without a female companion, following his public split with longtime partner Valerie Trierweiler.
Hollande arrived in Washington on Monday and was greeted by Obama at the nearby military base where dignitaries are received. The two leaders then boarded Air Force One for the trip to Virginia, using a smaller version of the presidential plane due to size restrictions at Charlottesville’s airport.
Hollande’s state visit continues today, when he’ll be greeted at the White House with trumpet fanfares and a 21-gun salute. Following his meetings with Obama, the leaders will hold a joint news conference, then don tuxedos for a state dinner feting Hollande.
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