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Trip Report A few days in Newport

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JetBlue had a special of $97 RT from Houston to Boston, so I jumped on it! My mom and I flew into Logan and then drove to Newport, RI for a little escape from the Texas heat. For a long time, I had been wanting to see the mansions of Newport and this was the perfect opportunity. Travel dates were 9/14/13 – 9/18/13.

This was my first time flying JetBlue and I was very pleased. The plane was clean and I loved having a free checked bag. The plane was not full, so I was able to sit by myself, as was my mom.

Rental car was from Advantage, $125 for four days. The toll tag was a ripoff, an extra $5 per day plus the tolls. They first gave me a car with an inspection sticker five months expired. I started having flashbacks to last month with Thrifty when they tried to give me two cars with expired plates. What’s up with these companies these days? The whole process was very slow and I won’t be renting from either company again any time soon.

Finally we got a car that was current and hit the road. The drive to Newport was uneventful. We checked in at the Best Western on the outskirts of town and then headed into Newport central. What a zoo!!! I thought going in September would be a good idea, but it turns out there was an international boat show going on. Traffic in the main areas like Thames, America’s Cup, etc, was a nightmare. Parking was going for $20 and $30 all over the place. I was stunned. Finally, we found a lot off Mary Street that was more reasonable.

We dined at Busker’s Irish Pub. I love Irish pubs and will always seek them out on my trips. The place was busy, but we were seated right away. I had bangers and mash and it was really good. They had a musician/singer playing a variety of songs, which was pleasant.

After dinner, we wandered in and out of the shops on Thames. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting or tempting, other than the dessert place, “Cupcake Charlie’s.” I’m pretty much incapable of passing up a cupcake if it looks appealing and they looked nice here. I got one with vanilla cake/chocolate frosting/m&ms and it was very fresh and tasty.

We were pretty tired after a while from the long travel day and decided to call it a night.

The Best Western was one of the more affordable options in Newport. It’s clean and adequate.

Sept. 15
My mom wanted to go to mass, so I took her to the Jesus Savior church. While she was in mass (I’m bad, I wanted to go sightsee), I drove down Bellevue Avenue, parked by the 40 steps of the Cliff Walk and took a little stroll. It was a beautiful morning and the walk was very nice. I had to keep an eye on the clock and was back at the church by 9 am to pick up my mom.

We had breakfast at the Corner Café. It was cozy and pretty good.

Mansion time! I love cool houses, particularly old and/or fancy mansions. Our first stop was The Elms. This place had the best gardens, reminiscent of what you’d see in Europe.

Next stop, Rosecliff. Then, we headed to Marble House. The marble was amazing. Both Rosecliff and Marble House are wonderfully situated facing the water.

My mom was ready for a rest, so I drove her back to the hotel, stopping en route for sandwiches at Dunkin Donuts.

I dropped her off and then headed to Chateau Sur Mer. This is not one of the blockbuster mansions, but a smaller, older, unique home. It was more of a home than showplace and I would have really enjoyed living there as a kid (and today too of course). There’s a room with a bookcase that is actually a door. I love those kinds of things!

Unlike the previous three mansions which were self guided audio tours, this one had a mandatory guided tour. While I learned some interesting things, I must confess that it was too long at one hour. I prefer to go through a house at my own pace.

After completing the tour, I hopped in the car and drove to Fort Adams Park. I got out of the car and walked around a bit and also just sat at a picnic bench, enjoying the beautiful views of the water and watching the boats.

I figured I’d best go retrieve my mom by this time, so I headed back, picked her up and then we went to the Fastnet Pub for dinner. This was another Irish pub, but nowhere near the quality of Busker’s. Fastnet is a great place to hang out for a pint, but the food is really blah. We walked around a little bit after eating and then called it a night.

Sept. 16 – Our rainy day. Dark clouds had rolled in overnight and rain was forecast for the day. Bummer! We drove to Middletown and had breakfast at the Atlantic Grille. It was average stuff, like Denny’s or IHOP.

We then headed to the Breakers. We arrived at 9 am, along with two big tours groups, ugh. Turns out a cruise ship was in town for the day. Luckily, we were able to scoot in before one of the groups and eventually, the crowd thinned out as folks worked at their own pace through the rooms.

Wow! This place is amazing! The other places are great, but this place is just unbelievable. It’s hard to believe how much expense was put into a place that was only used a small fraction of the year. The Breakers is 138,000 square feet!

I would have loved to have sat on a bench in the great room and just soaked it in for a while.

After completing the Breakers, we walked down the street to Ochre Court, a mansion belonging to Salve Regina University. We walked in and toured the first floor, no charge and nobody around except for one workman. The rooms are very pretty and seem to be used for meetings and special functions.

We walked into another building that was once a mansion and now it serves as the location for the registrar and some classrooms and a student lounge. It was raining by now, but it was a soft rain, no big deal.

My mom wanted to do some shopping, so we made our way back to the shopping area. We didn’t buy anything other than some sweet treats at Kirwin’s. Oh yeah, I also picked up another cupcake from Charlie's. Just couldn't help myself!

I had heard about an antique architectural salvage place called Aardvark’s and we headed there next. It was kind of cool, featuring old doors, stained glass windows, random old pieces of furniture and décor, etc.

We then proceeded across the toll bridge to Jamestown. What an expensive bridge! $4 each way!

Jamestown was really nice and the weather had now cleared. It was a lot more quaint and quiet in comparison with the downtown area of Newport. We saw the music artist James Taylor in one shop. I would have never known him, but the shopkeeper told me.

After checking out the shops and doing a little driving tour of the area, admiring beautiful homes, I took my mom back to the hotel. She was done with mansions, and I wanted to hit one more. I was able to coast in just a few minutes before the start of the final tour for the day at Kingscote.

This is an older home jam packed with stuff the owners collected over the years. It has a beautiful staircase and several lovely tall clocks. Like Chateau Sur Mer, the guided tour is mandatory and it lasted an hour. I think 30-40 minutes would have sufficed, but the guide was very nice.

I picked up my mom afterwards and since we were tired, we just went to a chain restaurant down the street called Ninety Nine. I had never heard of it before. It was not good at all, oh well.

Sept. 17 – Time to say goodbye to Newport. We returned to the Corner Café for breakfast and this time it was not very good. Very disappointing! After we were done, we made a final drive down Bellevue Avenue and then cruised Ocean Drive, enjoying the amazing views and fantastic homes.

We checked out of our room and then headed to Marblehead, MA. We did some shopping, including getting some goodies at Shubie’s, a fun little market. We made a visit to Castlerock, a place I enjoyed on a previous visit. That drive is fun with the nice houses and the water views.

We then moved on to Salem. I had been three years ago and it seems a little depressed now. While there were tons of witchcraft oriented stores before, now it seems like that’s all there is. Nice shops that we had visited before are gone and replaced by yet more witchy, kitschy junk. I didn’t like it at all.

We had actually wanted to spend our final afternoon/night in Boston, but the hotel prices were sky high. I had been trying to get a deal through Priceline for three months, but had no luck (I wouldn’t go higher than $200/night on my bids). I ended up booking the Springhill Suites in Peabody. It is a nice hotel, but I really was sad to not be in Boston.

Sept. 18- Easy drive to Logan and returned rental car. There had been a fire at the airport the previous day, but fortunately, our flight was not affected. It was a great flight back and I’m officially now a fan of JetBlue.

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