Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Newport, Rhode Island

I had a free day today and used the opportunity to visit Newport. Being of primary school age in 1983 when Australia II won the America's Cup (the first time it had been won by a foreign challenger in 132 years), I always had a bit of fascination with the regatta and with Newport itself.

Newport is still undoubtedly a yachting town, but in the perfect spring sunshine it was also showing off all of its diverse architecture. Originally developed as a coastal escape for plantation owners from the Carolina's to escape the heat of the southern summers, Newport's popularity boomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as it became the summer playground of New York's societal elite - during a period known as the gilded age.

Newport today is a delightful mix of beautiful shingled and clapboard cottages....

... and amazing large mansions, also known as 'cottages'...

The last two photographs are of The Breakers and Marble House - properties originally owned by branches of the Vanderbuilt family. The interiors are completely ostentatious and so far removed from the notion of relaxed coastal elegance. There are many reviews that consider that these properties are actually of poor taste in their over-the-top decoration...but I found them an interesting display of how opulent the lifestyles during the gilded age actually were...true Great Gatsby territory!

I also spent a short time on the cliff path - enjoying the warmth and sunshine...

And on a side note, I always find it interesting how when one travels, one begins to appreciate the small things that can normally seem irritating. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with London buses (generally to do with standing on cold, windy streets waiting for one), but in comparison to RI's public transport system, London transport almost seems to be bordering on Swiss-like efficiency. I've been travelling on buses to and from the hospital for the past few days, and took the bus down to Newport today...and I have gathered that the actual timetable bears only a passing resemblance to the published one. Buses have run early, run late, or not seemed to have arrived at all according to the scheduled timetable. And as was described to me today, they are usually populated by an interesting group of 'characters', of whom a good 75% seem to be heavy smokers from what I can gather from standing for long periods waiting at bus-stops with these characters... But I'd have to say, that the over-riding benefit of the bus system is how affordable it is. You can travel from one end of the state to the other for $2 - RI is a small state, but I think that is very impressive!


1 comment: