Staying in Town and Partying Around the World

Okay, so you went to the fancy beach house and left us back in town for the long holiday weekend. Don't cry for us, Ocean City. We went to South Africa, Denmark and England -- without any traffic or jet lag.

First stop: the Library of Congress, where South African Airways threw a fancy bash Wednesday to celebrate the launch of direct service from Johannesburg to Dulles.

We walked in promptly at 6 o'clock to soak up as much VIP face time, champagne and great music as possible. Twenty minutes later a security guard was hustling us out mid-crab cake. The entire party was evacuated outside to the corner of First and C streets SE due to an "air incursion." In other words, another small plane in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Remember not to hire that pilot!" joked Caron Demars, an aviation negotiation specialist at the State Department.

"Well, at least you were able to smuggle out a glass of champagne!" said Rep. John Larson as a flock of lawmakers hurried past our party of revelers. For the next hour, guests finished off what was left of their drinks and hors d'oeuvres before heading back to the Thomas Jefferson Building. No need for small talk at this soiree. "Now I don't have to have any cocktail jokes," said a relieved Nonhlanhla Koza from Johannesburg.

Back in the Great Hall, Julian Bond chatted with South African Ambassador Barbara Masekela as a video montage of her country played overhead. "It's a long flight, and they have flat beds so you can lie down and dream of Table Mountain," she said. Then it was time for the spiritual harmonies of South Africa's Grammy-winning a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and papaya-mango salad with coconut shrimp.

Alas, no round-trip tickets in the gift bags, so we hightailed it to the farewell fete for Danish Ambassador Ulrik Federspiel, held Friday on the tall ship Danmark. One hundred guests boarded the ship docked on the waterfront in Southwest Washington to wish the ambassador well and bake in the late-afternoon heat. Luckily, there was a forgiving breeze and plenty of Tuborg to keep partygoers, including ambassadors from Britain, Norway and Iceland, diplomatically cool.

Things we liked best about Denmark: The blond, blue-eyed sailors who made sure we had our fill of shrimp and sausage. The three Royal Danish Tenors good-humoredly dancing in white tie, singing "New York, New York." And Interior Secretary Gale Norton, whose grandfather was a Dane. "You actually belong on this ship!" exclaimed Librarian of Congress James Billington. "We're all just impostors."

And since we couldn't zip off to London for Harrods department store's famous July sale, we dropped by the Hay-Adams hotel Saturday for a pink-champagne luncheon that gave 60 local women an excuse to wear hats, drink in the middle of the day, eat crab cakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries, and buy Harrods merchandise guilt-free, because a portion of proceeds went to the Crisis Homeless Center in London. Organizer Afrika Bell figured that if she couldn't go to the sale, the sale would come to her.

Technically there was a schedule, which nobody bothered to follow. "When I come, the sale starts," said Delores Barham, who dived right in. There were Harrods totes and scarves and towels for sale, on top of pink goodie bags with Harrods rose soap, makeup bags and body lotion. "This combines my favorite pastimes," said emcee Gwen Russell: "to hobnob and to shop."

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Champagne and Bargains. Happy Birthday, America.

With Laura Thomas