Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Boston - Day 8, Newport, Rhode Island

This is the last post from our trip to the Boston area in 2002. I hope you enjoy this retrospective from my relatively unedited travel diary:

Saturday, August 3

We had a nice breakfast, and then we headed south to Newport, Rhode Island. If we'd stayed on the freeway instead of taking the “shorter” route, we would have saved ourselves at least an hour in transit. But we didn't. Traffic was horrendous, and both of us were on edge. Happily, the day improved after this sour beginning.

Overlooking the lawn, overlooking
the sea. Some lemonade, please, James.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
In Newport, we visited two of the magnificent “summer cottages” that line the rugged coastline. I was really looking forward to this, because I love to visit historic homes and see how the other half lives. Or at least how they used to live.

There are quite a number of these fabulous homes that are open to the public for tours, wedding venues, and so on. The astonishing thing, at least to me, is how many of them are still privately occupied for the “season.” Absolutely stupefying homes with caretaker's cottages that we would be quite comfortable in. What garden parties we could have on those expansive lawns, which are as large or larger than most city parks. The weather was gorgeous, if a bit sticky. Surprise. But that wouldn't have stopped me from enjoying a nice cup of tea, a cucumber sandwich, and some strawberry shortcake.

The two “cottages” we decided to visit were “The Breakers” (70-room summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II) and “Rosecliff” (modeled after the Grand Trianon at Versailles). You can read about the history of these homes by clicking on the links.
The Breakers, Newport, RI
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
The outside of The Breakers was being renovated, which was a shame. The scaffolding kind of took away from the grand impression of the place, but the inside was absolutely breathtaking. Beyond opulent. Photos can't do justice to it, so it's just as well that photography isn't allowed inside.

The play house at
 The Breakers. Seriously.
My husband took the
photo of me on the steps
 for size perspective.
The children's playhouse is a two-room cottage complete with fireplace, a wood-burning range in the kitchen (keeping in mind that this isn't modern construction), etc. It would be a great mother-in-law unit, actually. Except that the mother-in-law here probably had a wing of the big house to herself.

Rosecliff, Newport, RI
I think I see Robert Redford driving up...
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
At Rosecliff, lavish parties are still thrown in the tradition of the original hostess. In fact, they were setting up for a wedding that very evening. The wedding ceremony was to be on the lawn overlooking the ocean, with the reception to be held in the ballroom. The same ballroom where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis did the tango in the movie “True Lies.” The mansion Robert Redford drove up to in “The Great Gatsby.” Romance is in the air at this place. For a price.

The back lawn, taken from the house.
If you look carefully, you'll see the
water line way, way back there.
Photo by Chris. All rights reserved.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be a guest at one of these cottages back in the day: The stylish clothes that would have been worn, the trendy music that would have been played, the delicious food and drink that would have been served. Elegance. Sophistication. Drama. Lots of drama. Perhaps too much drama.

I couldn't bring myself to leave yet, so we decided to take the Cliff Walk, which afforded lovely ocean views and back lawn glimpses. We even saw a wedding (yes, another one). The walk itself seemed to have fallen into a bit of disrepair, with much of it being rather broken down, forcing us to climb up and down rocks. But we managed it, and without incident, too.

We got back to the hotel in half the time it had taken to get to Newport, and then we went out for lobster. All in all, not a bad day. And not a bad vacation, either. In fact, it was a marvelous one. New England is completely enchanting. I'd like to see more of it!

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