US school children warm to chic Carla Bruni

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy turned up the heat on her first trip to Washington as France's first lady, visiting a school in a poor neighbourhood and lunching at Ben's Chili Bowl.

The ex-top model later met US first lady Michelle Obama for dinner with their husbands - behind firmly closed doors in the Obamas' private residence quarters in the White House, leaving the curious guessing about how the glamorous four got along and whether their children joined them.



The White House put such a clamp on the dinner details that not even the menu was released.



Youngsters at Washington's KIPP DC charter school were over the moon at their visitor and her entourage of bodyguards and serenaded her with Ain't No Mountain High Enough.



Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy read them a book from the Madeline series about a girl living in France - in English, which the Italian-born French first lady speaks fluently. When eighth-graders asked her about her favourite museum she responded, to their delight: "If you come to Paris I'll bring you to the Louvre and I'll show you the Mona Lisa, and then we'll go to the restaurant."



Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy, who took up a singing career after quitting the catwalk and is now active in foundations fighting illiteracy and Aids, had surprised pupils at Juilliard Music School with a visit the day before in New York.



Yesterday, after the motorcade bell rang and her school visit ended, she joined her husband, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and his 12-year-old son Louis for lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl, a diner that has been a long-time fixture in Washington's black community and is a frequent stop for politicians and celebrities.



Barack Obama ate his first meal at the local landmark several days before his inauguration last year.



Mr Obama, standing alongside Mr Sarkozy at a White House appearance later, noted that the French were famous for their cuisine and remarked with a smile that the lunch choice - apparently a "half smoke" sausage - "shows his discriminating palate".



The Sarkozys' trip took on an air of a family holiday. Louis came to meetings on Capitol Hill with Senator John Kerry and House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Mr Sarkozy's gift to the Obama family was some Asterix comic books for daughters Sasha and Malia.



The Sarkozys' visit to New York at times seemed a loveathon, as they were photographed kissing in front of their hotel and in the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park, and clasping hands before and after the French president gave his speech at Columbia University.



The French first lady, though, remains an enigma for her many admirers, as well as her detractors.



She charmed the Queen but has spurned fellow first ladies during other international visits. She travels irregularly with her husband, and is reported to live in her Paris apartment part of the time instead of in the presidential palace.



But she and Michelle Obama appear to have established a rapport in their few meetings - often judged more as fashion face-offs by two fit, well-dressed and confident modern women than anything else.



Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy, in her three days in the US, has been photographed wearing at least six different outfits, from a wraparound black top and grey skirt at Columbia University, to wide-leg taupe trousers at the school yesterday.



Her hairstyles kept up, with a swept-up chignon at Columbia giving way to loose tresses at Juilliard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there