Some of my favorite memories from New England center around its’ coastlines. From areas like the South Shore, The Cape and Newport Rhode Island I have enjoyed special summer times with my family throughout the years. When I realized Rich hadn’t been to Cape Cod or Newport, I put this trip onto my calendar for our time here together this fall.
I planned an afternoon starting in Newport Rhode Island with my daughter, Heather. She wisely suggested we go on Sunday rather than Saturday, since there was some ‘weather’ in New England. I’m still not used to planning around the weather, but sure enough, Saturday was blustery and cold. So we hung out in Worcester that day, eating soup at a local Panera and working, while Heather studied. Then at her place, the fireplace kept us extra cozy through the evening.
On Sunday morning the sun was out as promised, and we headed down to Newport. We stopped briefly in the quaint seaside town of Narragansett, RI, which I understand contains a beautiful beach. As we had a busy afternoon, we skipped any sightseeing there, and picked up Heather’s boyfriend Ron, who lives there, heading off to Newport 20 minutes away.
We were hungry, and since the New England Patriot’s game was on, we looked for a suitable pub with a big screen t.v. We located one pretty quickly, and settled in for some beer, food and entertainment. After lunch, Heather and I went out to walk through the town, leaving the men to finish watching the game.
We walked through the beautiful, historic town, admiring the stores, coffee shops and restaurants that flanked a stately green town center. We walked along a cobblestoned street and glanced over to the Wharf area, where a Seafood Festival was going on.
Heather and I both appreciate beautiful architecture, so we spent about an hour walking through the residential section of the renowned Historic District, which features genteel old homes that were preserved by a group called Operation Clapboard some time ago. Thanks to these visionaries, Newport has one of the largest collection of Colonial homes of any city in the U.S.
Anyway, we breathed in the crisp, autumn air, enjoying a visual treat of gold, orange and russet leaves, set against a rich blue sky, with puffy clouds. This scenery was grounded by streets of neatly-kept New England seashore cottages and homes. I love the details that so many of these homes offer – with their mansard roofs, boot porticos, front porches, and massive chimneys. The respectful homes painted in dark brown, mustard and white clapboards speak to a by-gone era that remains classic today.
Eventually we made our way over to the famous Mansion District, where we looked through the massive wrought iron gate of The Breakers, as well as a few other historic stone ‘cottages’ that were built beginning around 1810, during the city’s Gilded Age. I was surprised to learn that the first people to have these homes built were wealthy Southern merchants, who wanted a summer residence that provided a reprieve from the hot summers of their home towns. We didn’t have time to take a tour of the mansion, but it was fun to stroll along the stately Bellevue Avenue.
About this time Rich and Ron drove over to meet up with us, as the Game had finished. We all drove around the corner and walked along the beachfront path called The Cliffs. This beautiful view affords pedestrians a glimpse at the back of the magnificent mansions, as well as a peaceful view of the Atlantic Ocean. In the distance you can see some of the Naval buildings that are part of the city’s heritage.
If you travel to New England, I highly recommend a few days or so in this maritime village of Newport. It is steeped in tradition, history and cultural diversity – including its’ roots in the slave trade, which helped build its’ economic base. It’s also intriguing to learn that Newport was home to a robust band of pirates for many years. It houses one of the country’s oldest Jewish temples, and also serves as a center for Baptists, Irish-Catholic immigrants and a diverse ethnic population.
Newport is diverse in other ways, too. Sure, it’s well-known for its’ yachting, mansions, cliff walks, and the like, which ensure a healthy tourist industry. But it holds a number of interesting facts. It has always been closely entwined with the U.S. Navy and a War Center, it played an important role in the Revolutionary War, and was once the capital of Rhode Island.
As the sun was dropping lower, it was time to bid farewell to Newport, so we said goodbye to Ron and Heather, and drove into the dusk, headed for our next stop in Falmouth, Cape Cod. Until then, happy trails!