A week­end in New­port

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LIZ AN­DER­SON THE SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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