Hey folks. Sorry about the delay in getting these posts up. We currently don’t have internet in our house, which makes these posts and all the photo-uploads that they require difficult. I’ll keep trying to get them up as often as I can!
I mentioned in an earlier post that our trip was kind of thrown together. The day before we left on our vacation, I was trying to remember the name of a place I’d heard about where they had a lot of huge mansions that had once been vacation homes for the mega-rich people during the Gilded Age. I love old buildings and architecture and I really wanted to see this place. Somehow we figured out it was Newport, RI, and we decided we would go there for a day or so. Ben searched for a bed & breakfast online, and found one that was offering a mid-week price break. Cool. So Newport made it onto our itinerary.
Wednesday morning we left Boston and went and picked up our rental car. Since we were using my credit card to pay for it, and I had just turned 25, I signed all the paperwork and stuff. It was pretty cool, I felt like a REAL adult. :-P Our car was sweet … a Dodge Avenger. We soon learned that you can blame a lot of irresponsible driving on an Avenger. If Ben was driving too fast (in my opinion), he would say, “Avengers don’t go slow …. THEY AVENGE!!” If I was having a hard time turning it around in a small space, well, it was just because Avengers don’t turn …. THEY AVENGE!! It became our slogan for the rest of our trip. After that experience I wish we owned an Avenger because it’s fun to avenge everything wherever you go. Also it had satellite radio, which was awesome. I love the coffee house station.
Here’s Ben, avenging.
Newport was only about an hour south of Boston, so we got there pretty quickly. Once we got there we didn’t really know where anything was, and the town is pretty squished together … so it took us awhile to figure out where we were and where everything else was. We finally located the most famous house there, “The Breakers,” which was the Vanderbilts’ summer residence. This place was RIDICULOUS.
I don’t have any pictures of the inside, really, because photography was verboten. But it had tons of enormous rooms, all of which were furnished with marble, mahogany, gold leafing, more marble, paintings, and yeah, more marble. There were sculptures everywhere, and the walls and ceilings were covered with ornate carvings and detailing, all of it dripping with gold of course. There was a huge grand staircase, the steps of which were specifically designed so that when the women descended in their gorgeous dresses they would look like they were floating all the way down. The bathrooms were all mirrors and marble, with massive bathtubs that had different faucets for fresh or seawater; bathing in salt water was said to be good for the health. Back in the day, which would have been around the turn of the century, the house would have been staffed by 40-50 servants. We learned that the footmen had to be at least 6 feet tall so they would look impressive in their uniforms. It was crazy to imagine living like that: waited on hand and foot, surrounded by absolute wealth, spending millions of dollars on parties all summer long. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that this house was built for them to live in only 6 weeks out of each year.
This room was on the second floor of the house, and it was kind of like an indoor porch. We were allowed to take pictures here. Look at that view! If I lived at The Breakers, I would just stay in this room all the time. Taking occasional breaks to float down the staircase, of course. Well, I would probably spend some time in the beautiful library and music room, as well.
Here we are somewhere along the “Cliff Walk,” which is a pathway weaving along the coast with the sea on one side and the mansions on the other. It was beautiful. In front of one of the mansions there was a pudgy little kid selling lemonade for a dollar a cup. Now, I was very thirsty, but a dollar per cup?! That’s just greedy. I guarantee you there wasn’t a drop of real lemon juice in the stuff either. I didn’t buy any. It was a matter of principle. :-D
After seeing The Breakers, we had time to tour one more mansion, so we chose “The Elms,” which is a slightly less over-the-top but still amazing mansion that was once home to the Berwind family. One of the Berwinds lived in the mansion up until 1961, and still had servants in livery and everything up until then. The Elms was built as half art gallery, half party house …. it was designed to show off the Berwinds’ impressive art collection, and also to be the site of some wild parties during the Gilded Age. And by wild, I mean the parties cost millions of dollars and were the talk of the town! For one party they released monkeys on the grounds, some of which escaped and were never captured. Yeah. I think if your party includes monkeys, it can be classified as “wild.”
Sadly, The Elms didn’t contain many of its original furnishings or artworks. In 1961 the house and most of its contents were sold at public auction. The mansion was nearly demolished to make room for condominiums or a strip mall, but the Preservation Society managed to save it and re-open it as a museum (whew!!). We heard this kind of story a lot in Newport … some mansions survived, but others didn’t.
After two mansion tours (by the way they had audio tours which were quite fabulous), we had had about all we could handle of Gilded Age excessiveness. We decided to go check out our bed and breakfast. Driving through the town of Newport is so fun because it is PACKED with old buildings which, unlike those in many towns, aren’t crumbling away, but have been restored and are being well taken care of. That made me happy. There were more bed & breakfasts than you can count (it is a resort town, after all), plus lots of restaurants, shops and all that. I could have spent a lot of time there.
Our bed and breakfast was called Admiral Farragut Inn, because sailors used to be quartered there, and it was over 300 years old!! I snapped these pictures the next morning, but you get the idea.
Our room was cute and cozy, and had absolutely the most comfy bed of the entire trip. It was like sleeping in a cloud.
As evening approached we headed to the beach to see the sunset. All the tourists had cleared out and we had almost the whole place to ourselves. It was so peaceful and absolutely gorgeous…
That night we walked around the town for a while and got dinner in an Irish pub, where Ben had fried clams and I had mini scallop burgers. SUCH good food. Then after an amazing night’s sleep on the Cloud Bed, we had breakfast downstairs before leaving. Breakfast was hilarious because we were seated with a very funny family. They lived in France. The mom was French, the dad was English, and the two daughters were American-born. I don’t think they meant to be that funny, but between the girls’ harping on their parents, their dad suffering in silence punctuated by an occasional witty remark, and the whole family debating energetically about whether English, French, or Italian sausages are the tastiest …. Ben and I were highly amused. Oh yeah, and the breakfast was good too. :-)
Then we jumped back in our Avenger and headed back up the coast to Maine! I was really pretty sad to leave Newport, but Ben’s excitement about seeing Maine was contagious. And that’s where you’ll find us next time. See ya then!