London For The Frugalist

Our family loves to travel. Our family also loves to save money. Normally, these two things aren't compatible but our family, who are firm frugalists, have worked out ways to do to it. My mother can offer a dozen tips on how to traverse the world for very little. My father could probably add in a dozen more. And my partner, who is thriftier than a prisoner, could just about circle the world on the smell of an oily rag.

I have to confess that I'm not as talented at Traversing The World On $1 A Day as my Frugalist Family. But I'm learning. In fact, this week, I've been managing on a budget of around 20 pounds a day, excluding hotels. And just look at the glorious sights I've seen...

The just-opened Tim Walker exhibition of fashion photographs at Somerset House. One of the most magical photography exhibitions I've ever seen. Even the ways the images were displayed were ingenious. 

Just beautiful. And completely free.

The newly renovated Fashion Galleries at the V&A Museum. A beautiful, inspirational, memorable, utterly joyous exhibition of frocks, shoes, ballgowns, day dresses and other sartorial finery from the late 17th century to the turn of the century. 

Also completely free. 

(There were also two other magnificent exhibitions: Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 and Hollywood Costume, which cost a small fortune, but I think the Fashion Galleries were better.)

The fabulous stores of London's arcades. Most travellers know about Regent Street, and Bond Street, and Oxford Street. But I think the arcades are far more interesting. Just look at the two gorgeous gentleman I saw ambling along Burlington Arcade, above. 

Window shopping – always free.

The glorious autumn leaves of Kensington Gardens. Gloriously free.

The beautiful fabric shops of Soho. If you love fabric, these stores are like walking into textile heaven. And so cheap. The linens are less than 10 pounds. 

Not free, but oh, so cheap.

The 'intimate' rooms at Firmdale Hotels. If you're travelling alone and you can forgo a Queen bed for a large three-quarter-sized one, you can find great rates at Firmdale Hotels' famously glamorous urban retreats. They often reduce these rooms, dubbed 'single' rooms, to spectacularly low rates. I often stay at Number Sixteen for just 120 pounds. This was my room at the new Dorset Square Hotel. The really lovely thing, apart from the great price, is the fact that they face great views. Number Sixteen's single rooms have their own terrace. Dorset Square's face the park opposite. Bliss. (PS Look at Dorset Square's cute door handles – made from cricket balls!)

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