Monday, August 23, 2010

Rhode Trip

Magnet # 324:  Newport Sailboat

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

After Catherine and I finished up in Mystic, we headed over to Newport, Rhode Island for the rest of the day. The drive over was about an hour and we passed some charming New England scenes once we got off of I-95. Unfortunately, the weekend we were there just happened to be one of the busiest weekends of the year in Newport, its Jazz Festival, so the place was packed. We parked at the Visitor Center on the western side of the town and were planning on moving closer to the shops, but when we found out how difficult getting a spot there might be, we just left the car there after getting tickets to the mansions. We walked over to Thames Street, which seemed to be the best locale for buying souvenirs and spent around an hour there, just shopping around at the many stores in the area. I got plenty of magnets, of course, and Catherine did a little buying as well - she even got an item she'd seen before, hadn't bought, but had wanted ever since. After we were done shopping around Thames Street, we hopped back in the car and headed over to the east side of Newport, where its nicest historic mansions are gathered. Luckily, it was also much further away from the Jazz Festival so once we got away from the throngs gathering for that event, it was much quieter. Of course, there were still plenty of tourists who, like us, were there to see some of the most impressive Gilded Age homes in the country.

Catherine and I had bought tickets for Marble House and we were able to have a look at some of the nearby mansions as we drove down Bellevue Avenue and they were, of course, stunning. But Marble House was commissioned by William Kissam Vanderbilt is one of the most visited of all the mansions (technically, they're summer cottages).  It's also considered to be the most opulent - some might say over the top - of all of the mansions, with more than 500,000 cubic feet of marble and plenty of other expensive trimmings.  It really was incredible to see and I can't imagine actually living there.  Once we were done there, we headed over to the only house open past six in the evening, as it was getting late - the Breakers.  It's another of the most visited historic mansions in Newport and it was also built for a Vanderbilt - this time, for Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the brother of William Kissam Vanderbilt.  Incidentally, their younger brother, George Washington Vanderbilt II created the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.  The Breakers was named for the waves it stands near and it truly is one of the most incredible mansions Newport has to offer.  Again, we were amazed as we took in all it had to offer.  After the mansions closed for the evening I'd thought we'd travel along the Cliff Walk, which runs behind many of the mansions and is one of Newport's top attractions, but I was pretty tired and we just couldn't find the entrance to it.  Instead, we ended up driving all around the area, getting to see some of the newer mansions that have been built there, as well as its high school.  For dinner, we crossed over the bridge on Memorial Boulevard and ate at the Atlantic Beach Club, which my Dad had recommended.  I had a lobster salad that was great, but Catherine ordered the most interesting dish of the night - an ice cream treat served in a dish made out of caramel - it was delicious.  By then, it was getting pretty late, so we headed back to Connecticut, and we weren't alone - Catherine was amazed by how much traffic was on I-95.

I had heard plenty about just how incredible Newport is, and I wasn't disappointed.  I can see why so many people with so much money wanted to live there - and still do.  Unfortunately, as it has so much to offer, it's impossible to take it all in with less than a day.  Perhaps someday I'll have another chance to see this lovely town again and tour another mansion or two, but I'm thrilled that I at least got to see the Breakers and Marble House - and check out the shops, of course!

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