"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call - Newport, RI

Friday, May 18, 2012

Port of Call - Newport, RI

Our recent cruise on the Crystal Serenity took us up the east coast from New York City over to Iceland and on to Norway ending in Dover, England. This was the first time we’d seen the New England coast from a ship. Our first stop was in Newport, RI.
The ship anchored outside the harbor and we tendered into the marina area. Close by was a tourist information center combined with a transportation center that made it ideal for getting directions and finding our way. We had researched Newport a bit on the internet and decided that we would like to see one of the historic mansions (there are several) and do a part of the three mile cliff walk along the oceanfront. Unfortunately our day started with rain.

Undaunted by the weather, we climbed aboard one of the trolleys used by the town’s bus system and rode through the main town past the historical district, through the campus of Salve Regina University and got off at the Breakers, the mansion built by the Vanderbilt family.

Inside the mansion, we were handed headphones and an audio tour that was quite well done and we proceeded to explore the luxurious and opulent manor that was to be the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt only lived a couple of years after the home was finished.

Innovative and somewhat modern conveniences are apparent everywhere in the home. The “new-fangled” electric lights had chains on them that could switch them from electric to gas should the power go off. The large stove in the kitchen did not have individual burners but rather a large flat metal plate that was heated for cooking—not unlike our glass plated stoves of today except ours are just flat burners.

Room after room (there is a total of 70) was ornately but tastefully decorated for the period which was dubbed the gilded age—perhaps because so much was actually gilded with gold. Bathtubs, while not gilded, had four faucets. Two were for fresh water and two were for salt water pumped in from the ocean.
The Breakers was only one of 60 mansions that line the streets of Bellevue and Harrison Avenues and Ocean Drive. Only a half dozen or so are open to the public. Some can be seen from the cliff walk.

 Newport was for many years the home of the America’s Cup Race and has quite a lot of other historical buildings worth looking at if you have the time. Unfortunately, when a ship stops for the day there is never enough time to do a place like Newport justice so we got out our bucket list and gave it a spot. We need to return, explore, and sample the chowder.

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