By: William Darrow
Dealing with heavy rainfall can sully the best of weekend trips, but Newport, Rhode Island proved an exception to this typically steadfast rule. In fact, the city feels built for rain, with architecture featuring dark, muted colors and slanted barn-like roofs. And although Newport has all the trappings of your basic American city — fast-food restaurants, big-name retail stores, etc. — it also possesses a gilded nostalgia that makes it feel more urban museum than a living, breathing, get-up-and-go-to-work city.
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
To get to Newport, I first took a train from New York City to Providence. Upon exiting the train station, I was greeted by the State Capitol Building, which looked as big and white and grand in scope as that other capital building in Washington, DC. Though I didn’t get to see much of Providence, I couldn’t help but wish that I’d gone to college there. The charming shops, refreshing breeze and brick streets combined to create a relaxing, intellectual vibe.
THE HOTEL VIKING
Traveling as a young man in his 20s with his folks who clock in in their late 60s, I approached this trip believing that that both parties could neverwalk away completely satisfied. Isn’t it strange, then, that my parents and I were able to enjoy, to an equal if opposite extent, the casual luxuries of the Hotel Viking.
Our suite, called Ochre Court, was both ornate and sleek. Holding down the ornate camp were wonderfully antique lamps, tables and chairs. Heck, even the toilet paper holder was ornate. All of these items felt like they could have been around longer than my folks, which they of course loved. In the sleek camp was super speedy wireless Internet (free of charge!) and two flatscreen HD TVs, perfect for capturing the undulations of the vicious greens at Augusta on Masters weekend. (Aside: isn’t it great when you always have something to look forward to watching on the TV when you get back to your hotel room?)
The Hotel Viking also had a charming little library, where you were as likely to pull out a book on seamanship as one on that “old sport” Gatsby.
On Friday night we had a meal for three at One Bellevue inside Hotel Viking. Quite a popular destination for pre-wedding parties (there must have been three of them during my two-day stay), the restaurant also cooks up some mean dishes, including some of the best crab cakes and meringue pie I’ve ever tasted. Although I ate in a slightly mortified stupor, as the light fixture above me looked like a spiky medieval weapon that could crush me if it fell, the food and service were remarkable.
THE BUS TOUR
We caught a charming little trolley just outside our hotel that does a 20-minute loop around the most scenic parts of Newport, including an incredible look at the island’s most famous mansions. Perfect for rainy day tourists who would just as soon avoid getting in their car to drive, the tour makes you jealous of the collegians attending Salve Regina University, a Catholic institution entirely ensconced in the gilded luxury of old world Newport.
As a fitness freak, I tend to hold these facilities to very lofty standards. Although Viking’s fitness area didn’t have one of my preferred indoor rowing machines, I was able to get on a bike and ride to the channel of my choice – CNN.
BUSKERS IRISH PUB
One of the first things I do when heading to a new destination is scope out the soccer pubs. Though I’m passionate for American sports, I can barely get through a weekend without watching at least one English Premier League soccer game. And with the sudden trendiness of the soccer pub, it’s a nice litmus test for the progressiveness of a town. Luckily for me, Newport didn’t disappoint. After wandering around in some early Saturday morning rain, my folks and I desperately needed a warm spot to relax. Buskers Irish Pub, which is right on the main strip, provided a cozy respite from the rain, with its comfortable booths, deep wood paneling and phenomenal clam chowder. After wolfing down two bowls, I could barely remember which teams were playing (it was Chelsea vs. Bolton in a 4-3 scorcher).
THE BLACK PEARL
If there is one restaurant that it is absolutely necessary to visit while in Newport, it would have to be The Black Pearl. The divine food, sailor-chic ambiance and salty wait staff combine to give the restaurant an air of the sublime. Though the final bill might be a touch pricey (most entrees are more than $25) my party had nothing but compliments upon completing our meal. Sipping my first drink of the evening in the restaurant’s casual side called The Tavern made me feel like I had just returned from an arduous journey at sea. But it was the Commodore Room — where the fancies stroll past tavern riff-raff — that really stole the show. Best lobster I’ve ever tasted and the key lime pie wasn’t too shabby either.
THE BREAKERS MANSION
While doing a self-guided tour of The Breakers Mansion, former summer home for the oh-so-humble Vanderbilt family, I was taken by a pair of cherubs carved in stone above an elaborate doorway. One of the cherubs, which ostensibly appeared to be floating peaceably, was holding a hammer in one hand and a railroad spike in the other. This confluence of old and new, majestic and industrial, heavenly and manly, encapsulated my thoughts on Breakers – and on Newport – as a whole. It was gilded, certainly, but in a distinct “roll-up-your-sleeves” American way. Though I didn’t care for much on the second floor at The Breakers Mansion, I absolutely adored the all-marble billiards room on the first floor. It made me long for my days of pool-sharking back home. Click here for more information on all the great mansions in Newport.
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- State Capitol Building
- Hotel Viking
- Salve Regina University
- Buskers Irish Pub
- The Black Pearl
Note: This trip was sponsored by Hotel Viking.