A weekend in Newport
IF you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes. Well, Mark Twain, I waited a couple of days and I liked the weather a lot: bright blue skies, warm sun and a cooling breeze off the Atlantic during a September weekend in Newport, Rhode Island, on the northeast coast of the US.
Two days is not long to explore the delights of the town, so here’s my advice for a whistle-stop tour. Walk up and down the streets, past the variously coloured clapboard houses (some old, dating from the 17th century, and some new) that would make Porter’s Paints devotees swoon in admiration. Pause for a while at Trinity Church, built in 1726 by Richard Munday, who based his design on Christopher Wren’s London churches. Look inside where, in the centre aisle, there’s the only freestanding wineglass triple pulpit left in the US. See the gold-tipped nodding rods, used by wardens to prod anyone who dared to fall asleep during services.
In the so-called Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, rich New Yorkers and others used to summer in Newport, and these millionaires built huge mansions overlooking the ocean. So visit, for starters, The Breakers, the grandest of these summer ‘‘cottages’’, designed for the Vanderbilts in the Italian Renaissance style with 70 rooms for their amusement.
And then take in another Vanderbilt ‘‘cottage’’, Marble House, inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles; or stop off at Rosecliff, modelled on the Grand Trianon. Ostentatious? Certainly. Worth visiting? Definitely — if only from the outside.
Wander down to the wharf for some therapeutic shopping, and try to avoid the madding crowds of regulation yachties: polo shirts, faded pink shorts and Docksides. Take a trip round Narragansett Bay on one of the many boats that are for hire (Newport, after all, has hosted the America’s Cup a dozen times). One pound, two pounds, three pounds: eat a lobster of whatever size you want at one of the many places at the harbourside — bibs provided. Or oysters, clams, mussels, shrimps . . .
Go for a stroll along the 5.6km Cliff Walk; most of the shoreline path is easy to walk but occasionally a scramble over huge rocks is required, with drops of more than 20m to the crashing ocean below.
Finish off with a can of Narragansett beer. That’s a weekend well spent during any trip to the US.