US & Canada

Obama chills with Branson: What about other post-presidency wind downs?

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Media captionBarack Obama is on holiday learning to kitesurf with Richard Branson

Whether after four years or eight, all US presidents must eventually confront the question: What happens when I leave the Oval Office?

For Barack Obama, the answer was a five-star Caribbean holiday - and a seemingly endless grin.

The former commander in chief has been pictured beaming on a beach in a backwards cap, flanked by an equally cheery Michelle.

The venue for this masterclass in chilling? Moskito island in the British Virgin Islands, owned by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard posted pictures on his blog of Mr Obama learning to kite-surf, and engaging in a play-fight with the businessman.

Image copyright Jack Brockway/Virgin.com/PA Wire
Image caption Barack Obama has been enjoying his newfound freedom on Sir Richard Branson's private island

The airline mogul said he invited the Obamas "for a complete break" on his private island after they left the White House.

Not every president wants a sunshine stay after the West Wing doors swing shut, however.

So which leaders picked elephant hunting, marrying a relative, and a sideline in oil painting...?

George W Bush - artist

When the 43rd president left office in January 2009, he ditched Washington for a quiet life between a house in Dallas, Texas, and his 1,500-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch.

Keen to enjoy his retirement, the sexagenarian took weekly painting lessons. His subjects included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, and the Dalai Lama - as well as his pets.

His inspiration was his great hero Sir Winston Churchill, who turned to art in his forties as a refuge from the tumult of politics.

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"When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so get to the bottom of the subject," the wartime leader reportedly said.

Mr Bush was less patient, telling his art teacher: "There is a Rembrandt trapped in this body. And your job is to find it."

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Media captionGeorge W Bush said he could only paint these portraits because he got to know the leaders so intimately

Theodore Roosevelt - game hunter

Despite being nicknamed 'Teddy' and famously refusing to shoot a bear, the 26th president took a year-long African hunting trip with his son, Kermit, in 1909.

The duo were accompanied by more than 200 porters, and scientists from the Smithsonian Institution.

They made their way round Africa dispatching over 11,000 animals - including elephants, rhinos, hippos, snakes, zebra, and monkeys among others - before shipping the carcasses home for scientific study.

Another exotic trip followed for Mr Roosevelt (and Kermit) in late 1913, when they joined Brazil's most famous explorer Candido Rondon to chart the course of the River of Doubt.

The 760km (472 mile) stretch was ultimately renamed Roosevelt River in his honour.

Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption Theodore Roosevelt visited Africa and South America when his presidency was over

Benjamin Harrison - husband to his niece

The aforementioned Teddy Roosevelt had no time for Benjamin Harrison, president from 1889-93, branding him "a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician".

But none of that stopped the 23rd president from wedding a woman 25 years his junior, who also happened to be his niece by marriage.

Mr Harrison's first wife, Caroline, had died of tuberculosis in 1892.

When he wed Mary Dimmick four years later, his two adult children refused to attend the ceremony.

Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd US president, married his widowed niece

George Washington - whiskey maker

America's first president lived only two years after leaving the job - and spent them making whiskey.

In 1799, the year of his death, his distillery in Mount Vernon, Virginia, produced nearly 11,000 gallons - making it the largest in the US at the time.

Also a livestock farmer, the founding father used leftovers from the whiskey-making to fatten his pigs.

As for the distillery - it's still going, selling its golden product to tourists at the Mount Vernon Estate and museum.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The distillery at Mount Vernon is still churning out single malts

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