Two young 50-something females. One big adventure exploring the Americas. Have liquidated everything they own and packed a Saturn Vue with bare necessities to set out on this journey. Planting seeds at each juncture symbolizing their new growth. With an open mind and heart, ready to get a true view of this world.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Mansions of Newport

The morning is still overcast, forecasts for clearing still a day away. It's perfect for us as we are planning on touring the mansions today. My dear sister, Kathy, has a very good friend who is the curator at The Newport Preservation Society, Paul Miller. He is graciously planning on giving us a VIP tour this afternoon and we are eagerly anticipating a great time.

Prior to meeting him, we take a quick tour around. From our room, we have an incredible view of the cliff walks, the backside of the mansions we'll tour later. Setting out, we pass the cliffs and take in the breathtaking front views of these homes along Bellvue Avenue. Continuing this route flows us into Ocean Drive for even more incredible sights, the Atlantic hosting to our left all through the drive. The winds and mist keep us inside our vehicle for observation today but it's enough. Homes dotting this roadway are amazing, one can only dream of what this lifestyle provides. We meander up to a beautiful spot housing Castle Hill Inn before turning around to meet Paul. We are ready for inside beauty now!

According to direction, we find Paul at the magnificent Marble House, one of the Vanderbilt's summer homes. He is a wealth of information as we take a quick tour around. A new exhibit, The Treasures of the Gothic Room, is in the process of opening in a week and we have an insider's peek into this preparation. This is Paul's baby and watching him direct is yet another perk. How fortunate are we!! A quick glimpse at the Tea Room in the backyard overlooking the cliffs finishes this mansion and we move on.

From the Marble House, we venture to Rosecliff, a romantic "little" home, one of the last Stanford White creations and in the style of Versailles. I am particularly drawn to this place. Paul's wealth of knowledge is an amazing plus to our tour today and we try to soak in as much as possible.

The magnificent Breakers is next, a 70 room Italian Renaissance style palazzo, aptly named for the magnificent waves that break at the landscaped yard's end. As the largest of the Vanderbilt's cottages, it is truly a work of art and unbelievable to conceive what life here for a summer could mean.

Our final stop on our tour brings us to the Elms, a french inspired chauteau. Here we are allowed a rare glimpse of entry through the back side, showing the more appealing side of the architecture, and take a private tour of the servants quarters before making our way into the main house. Even the servants area is quite lovely given the grandness of the place. Life here was a world apart. As the homes were indeed seasonal, so was the hired help. Some kind of summer job!

Our incredible tour ends here but we convince Paul to join us for a cocktail. We agree on the Castle Hill Inn we had a taste of seeing from the outside earlier today. En route, we explore the other end of Ocean Drive and witness a small sailing spectacle as well as views of the Jamestown Bridge from the Fort Adams Park. The wind has continued to pick up and the waters are choppy to say the least. Absolutely stunning!

Cocktail hour at the Castle is wonderful and we enjoy getting to know Paul even better. He is a total delight and in addition to his artistic knowledge, he provides insight on what we should see and do in this beautiful area. He directs us to the Black Pearl down on the wharf for dinner and we experience an excellent meal and service. A walk after we finish is serene and lovely and the full moon over the Atlantic is the perfect ending to a magnificent day.

Everyone should see Newport this way. Thank you, thank you, Paul!!!!


  1. Susan, Did this tour bring back any memories to you of our visit there back in 1967 when you and Kathy had the opportunity to play the piano at the Marble House? Surely Kathy reminded you of that event and what a special privilege it was to be allowed to even touch that piano. How wonderful to have had a personal guide through all these fabulous mansions. What a day to remember.

  2. So glad you got to meet Paul. I met him in France when doing the "Furniture in France Study Tour" with conservators. He provided a wealth of knowledge for that trip as well. And he's just fun to hang out with! Wish I could have joined you - LOVE the picture of you two.

    P.S. so glad they don't let 10 year old girls touch the piano anymore!!!