"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Newport and Jamestown Rhode Island by Land

Even though we're parked in Bellingham, Massachusetts, at the Circle CG Farm Campground, we are devoting this week to seeing Rhode Island, which is a quick drive south on 495 and 95.  For such a small state, there's so much to see and do, but we've been focusing on Newport and Jamestown.

Newport is famous for not only its music festivals, but for its numerous 19th century mansions. Times have changed, and many of the mansions are now owned, preserved and managed by the Newport Preservation Society.

We chose to visit just the Breakers, originally a Vanderbilt summer cottage, thinking that was enough for one day. There are multiple mansion packages you can buy, and you can even add on another property for $5 after you've toured just one if you feel like you've got the time and energy for more. (We didn't.)

With the self-guided audio tour it took us about two hours to go through the house and grounds. Above is the view of the Breakers that faces the bay and below is the side entrance and gardens. The gardens at the Breakers are not such a big deal. 

There is no photography allowed inside the building, thank goodness. There are just too many things to take pictures of and the traffic jams would be impossible. But they do allow pictures on the upper, lower and side porches, so I was able to catch just a few of the details. This is an example of the mosaic floor on the porch.

...and this is part of the ceiling.

The mansion is representative of what Mark Twain coined, "The Gilded Age." The style of luxury can only be described as excessive, with gold leaf, marble, exotic wood and stone carvings, mosaics, hand painting, silks and crystals everywhere, and that doesn't even include the furniture. Even the mundane things are more ornate and larger than life. It is truly staggering.  Here is a detail of the side gate.

We had planned on taking the Cliff Walk around this end of the island after our tour, but it was threatening rain and we were pretty hungry. Instead we drove along Ocean Drive, around the southern tip of the island and were amazed at how many more mansions there are packed in this tiny area! I guess everyone who was everyone wanted to have a "cottage" right here. 

Ocean drive took as along the shore, past some newer, smaller and still residential mansions, scenic inlets and salt marshes before delivering us downtown. Parking was difficult, but we found a spot on one of the two one way streets that run through town, and then just walked down to the water looking for someplace quick and easy. We wandered out onto one of the piers, passing a restaurant that we thought was closed (it was way past lunch time by then) but the manager came out and asked us if we wanted some lunch, so we went in to The Pier. It was a pretty fancy table cloth kind of place and if we weren't so tired and hungry we probably wouldn't have considered it. But their lunch menu was very reasonable and the ambiance was casual despite the table clothes. So after our very tasty New England clam chowder and a shared Pier Burger in downtown historic Newport we headed home for the day.

The next day we met up again with Dick in Jamestown and he gave us the land tour. He was so generous with his time and we were so fortunate to have his inside knowledge of the island.  We started at Spinnakers again for sandwiches and walked over to the beach for a picnic and to let Kona have a swim. It was nice to have her with us after she spent the two previous days by herself in the RV. Then we headed south to Fort Wetherill State Park.

Wetherill has many viewpoints over rocky cliffs and inlets, as well as several beaches that are popular with snorkelers and scuba divers. The water here is very blue and clear for New England.  At one beach though, the water was cloudy with masses of some kind of sea life eggs or larva. You can just see it in the shallow water below. Talking about what's in the water today seems like as regular a pass time as the weather for the locals.  It is, after all, a fishing community, or was, and so its all about the ocean.

Here's the town marina inside Wetherill State Park. The area has a long military history because of its ideal location for spotting incoming ships and defending the harbor. It is no longer military, but does host fishing and recreational boats. 

Below are some lobster traps that look brand new and ready to go, stacked up against one of the old military buildings. 

A short drive further down the island is Beaver Tail State Park. The water here at high tide on a windy day can be hugely dynamic. Today is was so tranquil that swimming off the rocks was easy. The Beaver Tail Light is in the upper left of the picture.

The light house now houses an interesting museum about Beaver Tail Light and the many other light houses in Narragansett Bay. This is the fresnel lens that was once in the Beaver Tail light. It's about 5 feet tall.

 There is also a little aquarium with examples of the local fish, that I wouldn't bother going into again. It's really about the big views here. Here's another one off Beaver Tail, looking east toward Newport.

 We finished up our day with ice cream once again at Spinnakers. What a handy local eatery.

One final view of the Jamestown Harbor before we thanked Dick for another great day and headed back to Bellingham. 

We'll have a couple of down days now to do chores, write blogs and get ready to move to Cape Cod! 

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