We spent long days touring all of Washington’s attractions, and came back to the room and relaxed while watching political DVDs on the laptop that we had brought.
Here’s the beautiful thing…. Most of Washington’s best attractions are completely free. Even better, with a little advance work, you can get VIP access to a number of the biggest ones.
Just by calling your representative or senator (allow at least a couple of months lead time for this—six months would be reasonable if you are going in a peak period).
We went in the off season for tourists (February of 2001), which happens to be the on season for government.
Because of this, we heard actual debate on the floor of the senate, and we were able to sit for an entire case in front of the Supreme Court (Good News Club v. Milford Central School).
Our tour of Congress took 3 hours, and it was just my wife, myself, and a very cool aide for our senator. Eating in Washington can be as expensive or as cheap as you would like.
If you eat like a lobbyist or president, bring big bucks. If you want to eat like a government worker, it’s pretty cheap. If you have a kitchen in your room, it’s even cheaper (sign up for the Safeway Club Card to save more money). Either way, don’t skip the Senate dining room for the famous Navy Bean Soup and don’t miss the Victorian ice cream parlor on the ground floor of the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
My friends like to do different things while traveling which I also enjoy, but since I was on my own, I wanted to do stuff that they wouldn’t consider doing on a holiday. Like going to watch ballet at the Royal Albert Hall or see an opera at the Royal Opera House. They were also not the sorts who would be too excited about staying in backpacker hostels to save money.
I booked my flight with the idea that I would arrive early and have the whole day to myself in London. Unfortunately for me, the flight got delayed and I reached London at around 9 in the evening.
Since it was summer, when I finally got out of the airport it wasn’t yet dark, but by the time I reached London Backpackers (my hostel), it was really dark and I was petrified that I would bump into a mugger before I checked in.
Well, check-in passed without incident. I quite enjoyed my stay at the hostel. Although, if I had known there would only be a shower curtain between me and a bunch of strangers in the common shower, I might not have considered staying there.
The ballet, Strictly Gershwin was beautiful (at least for my untrained eye), but kind of romantic which didn’t make me feel very good about watching it on my own.
I also took a day trip to Oxford and fell in love with the place. I felt grateful that I was spending my 35th birthday walking around Oxford admiring the "dreaming spires". After spending a week in London drinking in the sights and smells, I took the National Express bus to St. Austell, Cornwall.
I was going to spend a weekend at the Boswinger youth hostel. The hostel was a lot nicer than London Backpackers and the best thing about it was that it was just a 5 minute walk to this beautiful cove.
Boswinger was such a dreamy little place and I made the best of it, I went for long cliff walks, I made friends with a charming Cornish lady. She even treated me to dinner at her place. Altogether I thought I saw the nicest places, experienced everything that I wanted to do, met the sweetest people and had the most amazing inexpensive vacation getaway ever.