As a yearly ritual, my girlfriends and I always try to find a different city and state that we can all take a weekend trip to. This past May (2012) we decided on Newport, Rhode Island. Angela found an adorable and reasonable bed and breakfast that we stayed in, I mapped the route and packed my SUV, and Caitlyn brought the snacks and water!
We drove from our hometown in Upstate NY to Newport, which was about a 5 hour drive. As I wrote in my “Driving Tips & Resources” page, if you’re going to take a road trip that is only for a few days, make sure it is 5 hours or under. You don’t want to be sitting in the car all day only to spend one or two days at your destination! The drive was beautiful, as was the weather for the entire weekend.
We pulled into our B&B, The Belle View Inn, and were greeted by the owners, Lorna and Tom. My friends and I all studied abroad, and we half-jokingly and very lovingly referred to them as our “host parents.” We were warmly greeted with chocolate chip cookies that were fresh out of the oven and milk! They showed us around the B&B, gave us a few pointers and a small map of how to get around (everything is within walking distance from this B&B,) and then Lorna gave us our keys and showed us to our room. By room, I mean our own private apartment on the top floor. It was gorgeous! We had a full kitchen, full bathroom, living room with a TV, and two bedrooms. The master bedroom had its own balcony that looked out over the Tennis Hall of Fame courts to the right, and beautiful gardens on the left. Hands down, this was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in.
We unpacked a bit and decided to walk around the town to get a feel for where we were and find a place for dinner. We strolled through Thames Street, which is the main street in Newport with great boutiques, gift shops, restaurants and cafes. We walked into a few boutiques, one of my favorites being the Pink Pineapple, and found a place to eat dinner. We settled on an Irish pub, Busker’s, because of the live band that was playing that night. We had a delicious meal (I would highly recommend the Lobster or Irish Mac and Cheese,) and settled in with a few draught beers and listened and danced to the music.
We called it an early night because we wanted to get up early and have the whole day to explore Newport. When we woke up and went down to breakfast, we found a delicious spread of bagels, croissants, danishes, yogurts, fruit, granola, cereal, oatmeal, and juices. We were talking about what we were going to do that day when Lorna came in to give us some suggestions. She highly recommended the Cliff Walk, which would get us to the wonderful mansions. As she was a part of a B&B club, she had discount tickets to the mansions: 3 tickets for the price of 1, which was only $20! Since there are so many mansions, she suggested the world-famous Breakers, the Elms, and the mansion where the Great Gatsby was filmed, the Rosecliff. What excellent suggestions, they were beyond breath-taking, but more on those later.
As we started our walk over to the Cliff Walk, we stumbled upon a Soap Box Derby race for children! It was adorable. The whole town was involved and these kids and their parents decked out their soap box cars and were so into it that we stopped and watched five different races…so much fun! I also decided that I am so going to encourage my future kids to do that, it looked awesome.
We finally made our way to the Cliff Walk, which is just gorgeous. It reminded me a lot of Newport or Laguna Beach in California with the beautiful cliffs, views of the ocean, and the waves breaking on the rocks. We walked for a few miles, saw the 40 Steps (an even more amazing view of the ocean) and finally got to the Breakers Mansion.
The Breakers Mansion is by far the grandest mansion of all. I really don’t even have words to describe its luxury and magnificence! The Breakers was a Vanderbilt mansion. The stunning terrace overlooks the cliffs and the ocean, which is truly mesmerizing. As you’re sitting outside, you can see and hear the waves breaking on the rocks, hence the name, the “Breakers.” A modest and cozy 70 room home, the Breakers is now a designated National Historic Landmark. I still can’t get images of the gold plated everything in this mansion, and the intricately mosaic tiled walls, floors, and some ceilings.
The Elms Mansion was, like the rest of the mansions, a summer home, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Julius Berwind. Unlike the Breakers, it was not covered in gold or intricate tiles. The Elms, however, seems a little more modest (if you count a grand ballroom, salon, dining room, breakfast room, library, conservatory, marble grand hallway, modest.) The Elms, to me, seemed like it came straight from France with its French and Venetian paintings and dark wood paneled walls.
Finally, the Rosecliff, or, the Great Gatsby Mansion! As a former English major, this mansion was exactly what I had expected from my favorite book. Commissioned by Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs in 1899, architect Stanford White modeled Rosecliff after the Grand Trianon, the garden retreat of French kings at Versailles. My favorite aspect about this mansion is the fact that it is open for booking weddings or parties. While we were there, they were actually setting up for a 6pm wedding! Can you imagine how gorgeous that setting would be: getting married in front of the ocean while the sun sets and a reception at a real, historical mansion?! *Sigh*
After our mansion tours, we took a stroll through Salve Regina University, located right across the street from the mansions. I never knew this university even existed. If I had known, I definitely would have gone to this idyllic school for my undergraduate degree! Finally, we made our way back to Thames Street for some lunch at Peaceable Market for some freshly made salads and sandwiches.
All of that walking brought us back to our B&B to rest and freshen up a bit for another night out. We headed to the famed restaurant, Scales and Shells. This restaurant has the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life (it probably has something to do with the fact that they drive to local fishermen to pick up the freshest and best catches of the day!) A unique feature about the restaurant is the menu is written on a giant chalkboard in the middle of the restaurant. They do not take reservations, so be ready for a wait. On a Saturday night around 7:30pm we only had a half hour wait…not too bad!
And then it was Sunday. After another delicious and fresh breakfast from our lovely host mom, Lorna, we packed the car and decided to walk through the town once more. This time, we walked on side streets, Thames Street, and some neighborhoods to see the houses and get some unique souvenirs and gifts. My favorite purchase was a pair of painted, wooden buoys made by a local craftsmen that I’ve hung up at my family’s lake house in my bedroom there.
Overall, we had a fantastic time while not spending a lot of money at all! I would highly recommend Newport in the summertime, since we were able to walk everywhere comfortably. And, of course, if you are looking for a cozy and loving B&B, look no further than the Belle View Inn, Lorna will be sure to take care of you!
Cheers of Newport: The Preservation Society of Newport for preserving these striking, majestic, breath-taking, and historic mansions. Can you believe that all of the mansions were in danger of being knocked down to build luxury condos and shopping centers? If it wasn’t for the society, these beyond gorgeous mansions and incredible pieces of history wouldn’t be standing today. Save the history, people! Stop thinking about condo and apartment complexes!!
Jeers of Newport: I don’t really have any jeers! The city was clean, eco-friendly and very green. Everywhere you walked was spotless while the air felt fresh. The ocean was sparkling and the sidewalks were empty of trash, so I really can’t find anything bad about this city.
Mode of Transportation: Driving
Gas Cost for 10 hours of driving (5 hours each way) for a 4Runner SUV: $80
2 Night Stay in the Belle View Inn B&B (for 1 of 3 girls): $130
2 Dinners and 1 lunch (breakfasts were, of course free, and we brought our own snacks and water): $60
Mansion Tour Tickets (3 mansion tours for the price of 1): $20