The Red Chair reports from Newport and the Cliffside Inn

Arriving at Cliffside

Newport – Day 1

There was so much to see and enjoy during my 3 days at the Cliffside Inn and Newport.  Innkeepers Nancy and Bill were great hosts, and I met some of the most interesting people at the inn and on my journeys around town.  The Cliffside Inn is in a very convenient location, and we were able to walk to many of the places that we visited (though I think Bill had some challenges finding a comfortable way to carry me around…comfortable for me that is!).

 

 

Enjoying the daily wine reception at the Cliffside InnI spent some time each day at the Inn, enjoying their really delicious breakfasts, and scrumptious wine and hors d’ouevres receptions at the end of the day.  Nancy, Bill, and Alexa spend time with all of the guests at their receptions, making dinner recommendations and suggesting some really interesting places to visit while exploring Newport…very gracious hosts.  Here I am enjoying a glass of wine with Nancy on the front porch my first  day.  I think she was surprised when I told her that my preference was for a glass of white wine, not red…I decided to mix things up a bit this evening.

 

Later that evening, we walked from the Inn down to Newport’s famed Cliff Walk and then over to Easton’s Beach for a little evening swim.   I was accompanied by two of the Inn’s summer employees who are visiting students from Poland; Natalia and Ola…both are really nice and Ola is a great photographer – as you can see.  Here we are at the start of the Cliff Walk, right by the beach, where I was attracting a little attention and flirting a bit.  Hey, what happens in Newport stays in Newport!

 

Here we are stopping to take in the  view along the Cliff Walk, just in front of the Inn.  That is Easton’s Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in the  foreground.  In the background, you can see the beach…where I am looking forward to taking a swim after this Cliff Walk excursion.  What a view!

 

 

 

 

Forty-Steps is just a half mile from the Inn, and the next stop on our Cliff Walk stroll.  Forty Steps is an historic location on the Cliffwalk.  During Newport’s Golden Age, the Forty Steps were a gathering place for the servants and workers from the nearby mansions. Here they would hold weekend dances and play the Irish songs and music that reminded them of home.

Today, visitors can walk down the forty steps from the Cliff Walk down to the waters edge below. There are great views of the ocean, the mansions and the cliff sides.

 

 

Finally, the long-awaited dip in the Atlantic…at Easton’s Beach; right near the Cliffside Inn where I am staying.  The water was comfortable and quite refreshing after my Cliff Walk excursion.

 

 

 

I think Natalia has been watching a bit too much of the Olympics this week.  I didn’t know quite what she had in mind when she told me, “I was the perfect height for her”, but I was soon to find out.  Ola must have know what Natalia had in mind, as she was “camera ready” for this event.  The gathering spectators shouted out, “Perfect 10″ and clamored for more.

 

 

Back to the Cliffside Inn, to relax and chat with other guests about the day’s activities and what we are going to do tomorrow.  I think Bill has a full day of sightseeing planned around Newport and, he says, a few surprises for me.  Ola will be coming along to document it all.

 

Newport – Day 2

A brief scheduled stop at Station 5 of the Newport Fire Department where I was inducted as an honorary firefighter. The station is Newport’s oldest active firehouse. Located at the intersection of Touro Street and Mary Street. The brick firehouse was built in 1867, but was renovated in 1895 and originally housed a horse brigade. It was not until 1913 that the department became motorized. The entire Newport Fire Department replaced horses with firetrucks and engines overnight. Newport’s millionaires funded the project because they wanted better protection for their expensive homes.

Personally, I like the color selection for Newport’s fire engines…just like me, very traditional.

 

Next stop, the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Newport Casino complex is as wonderful today as it was on opening day in 1880. It is a National Historic Landmark and shrine to the game of tennis, having hosted in 1881 the first U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships, the tournament that evolved into today’s US Open. The complex boasts the world’s oldest continuously used competition grass courts and the only competition grass courts open for play to the public.

Here I am, center court in the Umpire’s position, at the famous Horse Shoe court.

 

As we crossed Bellevue Avenue to enter the Newport Casino complex, I had this momentary flash back to 1969 and the Beatles Abbey Road album.  That’s Bill in front of me and a couple of Newport visitors we corralled for the picture.  This street crossing was a real traffic stopper!

 

I couldn’t travel in just any vehicle for my tour of Newport, so we boarded the Newport Trolley which provides a very informative tour of Newport to help visitors learn something about the Island’s history and the sights to see while visiting this City-by-the -Sea.  Oh, yes, and the trolleys are RED…like me!

 

Next stop on our excursion was The Breakers, the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages”.  Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, in 1893, the villa is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America.  Designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, the 70 room Breakers villa was designed in the Italian Renaissance style; inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin.  Plenty of security around, and we didn’t actually have time to take the full tour, so we opted for this picture of me in front of the imposing entry gates.

 

An often missed but, in my humble Red Chair opinion, one of the most interesting of the Newport mansions, is Rough Point; the Newport home of socialite heiress Doris Duke.  Rough Point is different from most of Newport’s other mansions which have been uninhabited by socialites for nearly sixty years. Rough Point was home to a living socialite well into the 1990’s and maintains an exquisite mixture of grandeur and homeyness that most of the other Newport mansions lack. The house has been preserved in time, nothing removed or added since the death of Doris Duke in 1993. Doris Duke was a world traveler and her house is filled with hundreds of priceless antiques that she acquired during her world travels. (I am told, however, that the drapes in her bedroom were bought at JC Penney.)  Mrs. Duke was also an extrordinary preservationist and a great benefactor to the preservation of Newport’s colonial era homes.

Here I am in front of Doris Duke’s camel topiary. Doris had a thing for camels, and had two pet camels that summered with her in Newport. She would often buy them peanut butter cookies in large quantities as treats. Baby was the more vicious of the two, often sneaking up and chasing the security guards around the estate at night, biting them if she got close enough.  I couldn’t get these camels to move at all…and a good thing because I couldn’t have run very fast to get away.

 

Continuing along to Ten Mile Drive, aka Ocean Drive, we stopped to enjoy some of the scenery and serenity.  I spotted a beautiful natural harbor, with several fishing and lobster boats at anchor.  The fisherman are up before dawn, at the docks selling their catch by early afternoon and in bed by sundown.  Pretty hard work, if you ask me. 

 

 

Now, this boat looks a little bit more rustic, well used, and more my style, if you know what I mean.  It’s got a good vibe.  If only this boat could talk, oh the stories it would tell about the big ones they caught and the bigger ones that got away!

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of a long day of sightseeing around Newport, Bill and Ola took me to join some other chairs out on the lawn of Castle Hill to watch the sun set over Aquidneck Island.  I felt a little under-dressed and somewhat out of place among the handsome white “Adirondacks”, until a very pretty girl in a red dress (imagine that!) decided to come over and sit down next to me…yes, next to me!  She was very conversational and inquisitive about my journey across New England and we had a nice chat while enjoying the view.

Neport Day 3

…A short day before moving on to our next destination…I was sorry that our visit with the Cliffside Inn and my tour with Bill, Nancy, and the staff was coming to an end.  I had another wonderful breakfast and then a delicious cup of coffee with a fellow guest at the inn, before heading out for the morning tour and a few more sights.

 

 

 

 

 

Along the way, I crashed a wedding (but not the reception!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped by Ft. Adams during the preparations for the Newport Folk festival.  Thought I might see Bob Dylan strolling around, but no luck.  I did see a guy that looked like an awful lot like Arlo Guthrie carrying a guitar around.  The last time I saw Arlo was in the one-room jailhouse in Stockbridge MA over Thanksgiving in ’67.  It’s a long story for each of us…don’t ask!

 

 

A quick photo op at the elegant and exclusive New York Yacht Club to take this picture…10 seconds before the well dressed security attendants came over to visit with us.  “Oh, hello gentlemen, we are just leaving!”

 

 

There I am next to the famous bronze “Wave” sculpture at the head of Thames Street. It was sculpted by Kay Worden in 1983. As you can see, there are two feet protruding from a big ocean wave. I walked around to the back to see if the rest of the body was there, but it wasn’t.

A believable old “sailor looking” guy, sitting on the wall nearby, watched me look around the back side of the wave, and told me that 1983 was the year that we lost the World Cup, and that there is a similar sculpture in Australia that has the rest of the body attached. Maybe I’ll go there sometime to check it out.

But for now I’ll be saying good-bye and hope to see you soon to the Cliffside Inn, and my hosts Bill, Nancy, Alexa, Ola (always with camera in hand), Natalia, Terrence (“T”), Nicol and Ada.  We had a great time together, saw the sights, shared some laughs, enjoyed some delicious food and beverages, and stayed barely 10 steps/10 seconds ahead of the inquiring security officers at many of our stops.  I guess they had never seen a Red Chair before…well that’s about to change!

 

Oh yes, and how can I say fairwell to the Cliffside Inn and Newport without mentioning my new best friend Koty, the really cool and really handsome inn dog.  Thanks for sitting in my lap and keeping me company Koty. 

 Cheers to everyone!

 

 

 

 

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