There will be no Whitewash at the Whitehouse

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Thursday, August 7, 2003

Hi everyone
Well according to CNN and your various emails we are not making you jealous with the heat!!

I would like to draw your attention to the last days details on our last entry. You know the one where we said we spent the whole day at the beach, well that has very much effected the rest of this entry. Travellers Tip No. 1 If you insist on using a new sunscreen ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.

We headed out into the sun at around lunchtime - which normally would be a stupid thing to do, but we had P20 one of the best sunscreens currently on the market. With a factor of 20 which is pretty good coverage for white Brits!! The down side to this is that the label says "Apply 90 minutes before exposure to sun" This basically means I was sunning myself full on in the midday sun with essentially no cream whatsoever in temperatures of 38 degrees C. Ow!

Anyway our diary follows which again has been subject to change, partly due to sunburn and partly due to a jazz festival!

Friday 1st August
As per above - lay in front of the TV all day as could not move for aching sunburn. This turned out to be quite an experience as never evr will I complain about there being nothing on TV in England again as that just isn't true compared to here. They have about 30 standard channel as opposed to our 4 (I never include 5 as a real channel) and there is nothing and I mean nothing to watch. The commercials are just always on. Something like Friends will start and after the opening credits it will go to a break, even before you see any friends. Then while you are watching and advert will spin at the bottom right hand side of the screen - it is truly a nightmare.

The adverts themselves are so unreal as well they slate other products during them and for medicines they have to disclaim what might happen if you take their product. So it will go something like this. For hayfever use Clarityn its 10 times better than Benadryl which is a waste of money and not very good anyway. (then at a hundred miles an hour) Clarutyn should not be taken during preganancy, side affects can occur such as vomitting, diahorrea, constipation, hairloss, sleepless nights, drowsiness, liability to crash your forklift truck, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, loss of apetite - Always read the label. You end up never ever wanting to take the product advertised ever again. The other thing we learned watching TV all day is that not only is Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for Governor in California but Jerry Springer is standing for Ohio?!?! Can you imagine it.

I used this opportunity of immobility to go onto the internet and try and book some hostel for Washington. I found that hostelling in the US isn't as cheap as you would imagine and the cheapest I could find was $27 (18 pounds) per person for a ten man dorm. Not one to look a challenge in the face I turned to my good old friend priceline!! I logged on and decided that if we could get a decentish hotel for $60 (40 pounds) then it would be better than a dorm. I chose the area I wanted to stay in made an offer of 40 (they don't have the pound signs on these machines!!) and said I would accept a 2 star. Within 5 minutes I was offered an upgrade to 3 stars to stay at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. I love priceline!

Anyway in the evening we headed over to Tania & Bretts house. They are in a band so they had a "jamming session" which was really cool and we spent the evening basically at a free concert eating burritos and drinking beer in the comfort of a cold leather sofa which did wonders for my burnt legs!!

Saturday 2nd August
Today Brett, took us to Mount Aggie which is the highest point in Maine which gave you a view of the whole of New Hampshire, I was please of the fact that you could drive to the top as my legs were not able to bend due to their crispiness so walking was a problem! We stopped for lunch and ordered some sandwiches at this roadside cafe, now Simon and I have been sharing one meal between us because of the pure size of food here but Simon decided he was reallly hungry so wanted his own so we got a sandwich each. Now Simon has a bit of a reputation for eating a lot but even he only ate a 3rd of his sandwich. I still get surprised by the size of the food here - its shocking.

We then headed back to the house where we started to pack our bags for the night train down to Washington - we didn't know what to expect of Amtrak and the train system here isn't as popular as back home, put it this way of everyone we had around us no one could tell us what the trains were like as they just don't use them. Before we headed off Ann made us a lovely Roast Beef dinner with Yorkshire Puddings which was amazing and probably the last Yorkshire puds we will have in a while. Ann & Brett then drove us down to Boston to The Amtrak station and we went to convert our passes into tickets. We bought 30 day passes back in England so all we had to do was exchange the vouchers for passes. You then use your passes to get tickets for each journey.

We got our tickets for Washington and decided to book our onward trip to Atlanta then to New Orleans for a few days time. We were told that the trains were fully booked. We had been told that pretty much turning up at the station would get you a seat as the trains are so under utilised so we were a little surprised to see they were booked the whole week. This was going to be a pain as we were going to lose our flexibility to travel when we wanted. I went to the information desk to ask how much time we should leave it and when we should reserve our seats. The guy there told me that we should allow at least a day?!? When I explained that I had tried to book tickets to New Orleans for 3 days time he laughed and said "Well thats cos of the Jazz" I asked him to explain and apparently there is the worlds biggest Jazz festival on this week Monday - Friday - Damn.

This actually worked in our favour as I would find out at the end of our 10 hour train journey......

The Amtrak was actually very good. Huge seats and loads of leg room and pretty quiet so we could have 2 seats each. They had a number of cafe cars on board with Dunkin Donuts and other recognisable names. I read the whole way to Washington. We went through New York which was beautiful at night all lit up. We had toyed with the idea of getting off here as it is one of our favourite places but it is only 2 years since we did it and didn't want to have to do it "on the cheap". We then passed through Philladelphia and made a scheduled 25 minute stop in Baltimore. The guy on the seat oppostite me who had got on at New York and slept the whole way, woke up in a frightened sort of "where the hell am I, shit have I missed my stop" kind of way, and turned to me in the broadest Stokey accent I have heard. "Xcuse me duck where are we" Couldn't believe it. We got chatting and it turns out he is studying Business Studies at Staffs Uni, lives in Newcastle under Lyme and is just over visiting some other Stokees in South Carolina! Small world and I am sure it is just going to get smaller.

Sunday 3rd August
We arrived in Washington at 7.30am (of which I had zero sleep because of my sunburn - Simon slept like a baby!!!) my ankles had swollen to the size of grapefruits and I could hardly stand!! We walked the 100 yards to our hotel which was very swanky and I thanked my lucky stars for not dorm'ing it. The hotel itself was brillint, overlooking Capitol Hill and had a rack rate of $200 - about 150 pounds so were quite please to be just spending $60 (40pound). I decided to catch a couple of hours sleep and try and get my ankle sixe reduced to at least a size 10. Simon had a wander round town to get his bearings and I prescribed myself a day of bed rest with a short walk down to the bar to eat as many of the nibbles you could get away with and to have a large gin (medicinal purposes you understand).

One thing I will say about Americans is they are truly the friendliest people I have ever come across. We left the hotel room and walked down the corridor into the lift and across the bar and was spoken to by 4 different people. Either just wishing you a good day or one woman asking me if I needed a bandaid as I was walkimg funny. We even got an email from a couple in New York who came across our Travelogue on the net that are planning a similar trip and they invited us round for dinner at their place in New York. People are genuinely really nice.

Monday 4th August
Today I found I could walk a little more than 10 paces so we decided to go out and see what Washington has to offer. We did this Trolley Ride in Boston which was a really good way to see the city you can get off and on as many times as you want in the day (a trolley is a sort of old fashioned bus/tram with no sides). The same company offered a similar deal in Washington and as a bonus one of the stops was right outside our hotel (which meant minimul walking for me!).

It was a really good trip and we took in all the sights. The really good thing about Washington is that everything is free! All the museums and sights and trips are paid for by the state so absolutely everything is free. There are somethings like the Washington Monument where you have to get a timed ticket to control numbers but the ticket is still free. Washington is the political centre of the US so all the governement buildings are here Department of Agriculture, Education etc so there are even trips to these places to. Even the FBI do a giuded tour if you want to.

We took a trip up to the Washington cathedral which is a really beautiful part of town with some amazing houses (made of brick instead of wood for a change) aparently there used to be a property tax that was based on how much frontage you had. So a street in a part of Washigton called Georgetown has this street of reall narrow houses that go back really far. One house we saw was pink and just 9 feet across. It had an upstairs room and a downstairs room and the staircase was outside. It was just sold for $400K (about 300K) so we are not the only ones with high house prices.

We decided to get takeaway food to the hotel tonight as my legs were not up for walking any further so we ordered in Chinese and they came in those little white boxes which has just been the highlight of the trip so far!!

Tuesday 5th August
We couldn't get a train to New orleans till Thursday so we decided to stay in Washington for another couple of days. I went to reception but they couldn't do me a deal less than $100 so I went onto priceline again and offered 40 pounds for a 3 star in Capitol Hill hoping we would just get the same hotel but no - we got an upgrade to a 4 star Marriott a few blocks away and just 2 blocks from the Whitehouse. Things were looking up still on priceline so Idecided to find out how much i could get a hostel for in New Orleans. The hostels here were cheaper at jus $19 a head so I had quite a challenge to find a hotel for cheaper....or so I thought. I offered just 25 pounds ($37) and got a 3 star hotel in the French Quarter overlooking the river!!

There are a number of benefits from doing priceline apart from the fact you don't have to share a room with 9 others and sleep on your bag for fear of it not being there in the morning, like, you get gourmet coffee in your room which saves you $6 every morning, reception has a bowl of fruit for guests to help themselves (which we take literally) the bar has so many bar snacks you could avoid dinner if you wanted to, concierge look after your bags after you check out for free which save loads in locker costs! Not to mention 24 hour reception, your own TV, swimming pool and everything else you just don't get on a budget break. I have now set myslef the personal challenge of avoiding dorms and cheap guest houses for as long as possible.

Today we took advantahe of all the free Smithsonian museums and spent the day in the Air & Space museum where we saw the first plane ever to fly across the Atlantci (looked kinda small) then to the Natural History Museum where we saw dinosaur skeletons and the Hope diamond which is just huge and it was alongside the seven best diamonds in the world. Never have they all been together before and apparently they never will again after this exhibition ends. We also went to the American History Museum where we saw movie memorabilia lije Harrison Fords hat and jacket from Indiana Jones and Judy Garlands slippers from Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.

We then found the Martin Luther King Library which is where we are sitting now, which has free internet access to all. We got library cards which are good for 6 months which means we can come here anytime and just use the facilities. I like this city!

Wednesday 6th August
Today, feeling a little more like walking we took a walk up to the Whithouse which is actually quite small. The official tour is closed since 9/11 so we couldn't go in, but they do have a virtual tour set up across the road that you can go and do. We then went to see the Holocaust Museum, which so many people told us to go and see. It is a very graphic and moving place and we had been in there for 3 hours before we even looked at the time. We then headed back to the hotel for a swim (physiotherapy for the legs) and headed down to Chinatown for dinner. We found this cool little place where they make your noodles in the window when you order them and you get a stack of food for just $5 and free drinks (although the only drinks available are green tea and iced water!!) It was a brilliant little place.

Thursday 7th August
Well that takes us to now and if you are still with me I will be surprised. Quite a chunk of text for you to take in. We checked out of the hotel this morning and are catching the Amtrak tonight at 7.00 to New Orleans. We are just realising the vastness of this country as this train journey is 24 hours long and we are still just off the East Coast. We got tickets for this afternoon to go up the Washington Monument which is the tallest monument in Washington. You get an elevator to the top which takes just 60 seconds and then you look at the views! So we will tell you about that next time. We are staying in New Orleans till Wednesday so a good five days to chill. Its Simons birthday on Saturday and we have money presents set aside to ensure we have a good night and it is the last day of the Jazz festival so we will no doubt fill you in next week on what we got upto.

Hope you are all doing well - take my advice and use sunscreen!!
Thanks to Dave for the large deposit!!!
and thank you all for your emails its great to log on and see so many messages waiting for us. Please keep it up!
All the best and lots of Love
Liz and Simon xxxx
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