Newport Jazz Festival, the beautiful cliff walks, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, luxery yachts, and tours of some of the most extravagant summer cottages you’re ever likely to see (although you or I would call these mansions). All that aside, what always attracts me to a vacation spot is the food and accommodations. With some 102 bed & breakfasts on the island, along with scores of local pubs and some great restaurants, Newport is also a destination to be considered for foodies.
In the end, this was an amazing trip; even if the weather did its best to scare us away. Following suit, in what’s been a year of constant rain and humidity, Newport was covered in a dense fog with cold winds blowing off the bay. There were times that you could have convinced me we were in Scotland. However, Newport isn’t just about the wharf and water-themed activities. The island is home to some of the most amazing mansions you will ever see, remnants of another time, where the blue bloods of our country would vacation for only two months out of the year. Many tours are now audio only, but a number of guided tours do still exist and they were excellent.
Rough Point, the home of Doris Duke, is run by the Newport Restoration Foundation and was one of the most interesting destinations on our trip. Unlike many of the other homes that have been empty for many decades, Doris Duke was still living in this home as of 1993, giving it a truly unique feel, as you can still imagine her in our time. What’s more, this wealthy philanthropist was also quite quirky, having not only one of the most beautiful art and antique furniture collections—but also camels on her property. It was a great tour of a truly beautiful home that’s full of history.
The Preservation Society at The Elms. The Elms was the home of Edward Berwind, who made a fortune in the coal mining industry. This home, completed in 1901, was gigantic and had all of the most advanced technology of the time. The Servants Life tour showcased how the other half lived with a tour of the inner workings of the mansion. False fronts, inlaid buttons and trellises covering service entrances made it to seem as if the house worked by magic—without us ever seeing a servant in the public rooms of the home. It also sported its own coal fired furnaces, large ice making machine, and an 82-stair climb up to the servant’s quarters. It was an amazing tour.
La Farge Perry House is a Victorian-era home located in the heart of historic Newport. An easy walk to all the attractions, fine dining, shops and the wharf. The rooms were beautiful, elegant, comfortable, and even larger than expected from the pictures we had seen. The breakfast was excellent, home-cooked and perfectly prepared. However, what truly set this apart from other Bed and Breakfast experiences was the warmth and hospitality that was not only ingrained in the home itself, but in our innkeeper.
Wharf Pub and Restaurant and The Fifth Element. Another to add to that list is the Salvation Café. Salvation Café was a relaxed, colorful and inspired location that reminded me of something you might find in NYC’s East Village. The menu was inventive and not afraid to list staple dishes (glazed short ribs) right next to dishes that tempted the imagination, like the rabbit sausage or vegetable and herb gnocchi.
On our list for next time, The Thames Street Kitchen and Tallulah on Thames. I’ve been assured that these two spots will easily make up for my fine dining let-downs at the Wharf.
The Newport Wine Cellar, attached to a specialty foods store, Le Petit Gourmet, with a selection of wines that I might have thought came straight from my cellar. Literally, the shop owner had a great selection of Italian wines that I love from Paolo Bea, Montevertine, Aldo Conterno, and Brovia. The store was staffed by knowledgeable and passionate wine lovers, and even one with his own new blog, The Penniless Wine Snob, worth checking out. These shops are definitely worth a visit, whether it be for a great bottle of wine or to put together your own picnic for the beach.
In this end, this was a great trip, and I would recommend Newport to anyone, rain or shine, looking for a unique vacation spot.
Find it on: Wine-Searcher!