Saturday, October 9, 2010

The sun shines in Newport Rhode Island

Spending Columbus Day weekend in Newport, RI, home of the America's Cup (back when a 12 metre was a 12 metre). Thursday night at Castle Inn which reminded us once again why we like Relais et Chateaux. OMG. Our room was part of a row of cozy cabins overlooking Pell Bridge and Newport Harbor. Sailors are serious here. The wind was strong, major red flag stuff where we come from. Here a constant stream of sailboats of all sizes took to sea, sails full and plentiful. I'm not used to seeing fully rigged schooners with 4 sails up at once, awe inspiring. Meanwhile back at the hotel, we took a nap and went to dinner in a dining room surrounded by windows to the sea and a view of Pell Bridge lit at night. We ordered the five course meal with wine pairings, to save money. The theory was we would save all that money not ordering wine. Really?

Next morning breakfast in the same amazing room before heading into Newport to explore. We walked the Cliff Walk--3.5 miles of shoreline on one side and mansions from the Gilded Era on the other. Over the top enormous homes built by the scions of industry from the turn of the century (the last century). Bill Bryson describes them as the confluence of a wedding cake and your public library. Mrs. Vanderbilt's place, called Marble House, looks like she told her architect, "I don't care what it looks like, but make it BIG! Especially make it bigger than Mrs. Astor's place down the street." Bellevue Avenue is filled with these places, each more outrageous than the last. But Vanderbilt's tops them all.

Fittingly, we moved into town and the Vanderbilt Inn, built by some Vanderbilt to house his mistress and affair until he broke it off and she went back to England to kill herself. Mr. V gave the building to the YMCA, where it stayed until some Brit came along and rescued it, turning it into a lovely comfortable classy hotel, filled with an amazing art collection, mostly vintage illustrations.

Cocktails in the bar, delightful French rose (shades of Provence). Dinner at Fluke restaurant, worth it just for the name, food also good and cocktails to die for.

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