Monday, 30 July 2012

No 25 Newport, Rhode Island

Hi from Clare,                                                      Sunday 29th July 2012

We travelled up the Mystic River with Egret and stayed for two days at Mystic Seaport. This tourist attraction is a reproduction of an old seafaring village with more than 250 detailed buildings displaying the workings and daily lives of the seafaring families in the 1800s. There are museums, galleries, historical vessels and a close up view of a restoration being carried out on 1840 whale ship. As Eye Candy is an international vessel we were given free dockage for a night and free entry to the park. This also included free use of the bathrooms and laundry, quite remarkable really, but in our experience it is in keeping with American generosity.

View from our Mystic River dock & The Joseph Conrad Tallship

We arrived in Newport Rhode Island on Thursday after having a very pleasant 30 mile sail from Mystic. Newport is the home of the America’s Cup and where the 12 metre yacht Australia 11 won the Cup in 1983.

So we firstly had lunch on the veranda of Newport Yacht Club overlooking the harbour and soaking up the atmosphere. Newport is the busiest sailing harbour we have ever seen. There are white sails galore as there is racing everyday for a variety of classes ranging from small dinghies to the grand old 12 metre yachts. There are also tourist cruisers every afternoon and evening on lovely old schooners under full sail. These plus yachts coming/leaving the harbour, small craft motoring around, canoes and paddle boards and boats at anchor, keep the harbour master pretty busy.

The people at the Newport Yacht Club were very friendly and didn’t mind us coming in and wondering around. We were hoping to see some evidence of the America’s Cup but to no avail. At the same time we thought that although the club has been established for long time it wasn’t as grand as what we were expecting for the home of the America’s Cup.

Eventually we found the Newport annex of the New York Yacht Club. This is home of the America Cup and certainly grand enough. In fact we have been anchored just in front of it for three days and at first we thought it was a mansion. We wondered up and tried to get in to the Club, but that wasn’t going to happen. We did manage to get through the gate and onto the hallowed turf but we were turned away at the reception desk. The lady asked if we were staying with them (in one of their fifteen suites or moorings) but when we said no she was very apologetic and as nicely as possible told us we didn’t cut the mustard, even with CYCA membership – we were dismissed, only to be expected. (We must talk to the CYCA commodore – don’t let any NYYC members in) Sad really as we would have loved to see the Cup or even just the space where it lives.

The Newport Yacht Club and The New York Yacht Club
The town of Newport has many beautiful old buildings dating back to the 1700s and it is a thrill to just wander the narrow streets. I have to tell myself to stop taking photos of houses. But I am totally hooked; I think the architecture is brilliant. We went to the Newport Casino which is a National Historic Landmark built in 1880. It was a social club and public sporting facility and where the first US Tennis Open was held in 1881. It is now the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum. The building is clad with shingles which was popular at the time. It is situated in Bellevue Avenue which is probably one of the most prestigious streets in town. Towards the end of the 1800s the rich competed to own the most lavish mansion. These were built on huge properties along Bellevue Avenue as summer houses with some facing onto the Atlantic Ocean. The period was known as the gilded age as international architects, builders, painters and interior designers used gold, crystal, precious metals, marble (and this is just to name a few) to create the most spectacular, extravagant and as some authorities have said hideous display of overt wealth.

Newport Township

Casino/Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum

We went to “The Breakers” owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt and built in 1895. It was named such because you can hear the waves breaking on the rocks

Before we got to the mansion we came across a cute small cottage and I thought it must have been a gate house. But upon entering I discovered that it was “The Children’s Cottage” which is code for the children’s playhouse. All the furniture was miniature including a piano and it had two large rooms with big fire places. It was like a small house. It was probably terrific for the kids but couldn’t they find somewhere to play in the mansion.

Childrens Cottage and Grounds at The Breakers
The mansion is amazing. It has extensive grounds and is a four story mansion with 70 rooms needing forty staff to run it. Although built before the turn of the 20th century it had electricity and gas and both hot and cold salt water (for therapeutic benefits) and fresh water for bathing in some of the 22 bathrooms.

It had so much detail it would take months before you could see everything. For instance each ceiling was painted like the Sistine Chapel and the plasterwork was ornately carved into pictures. It had pink marble columns and whole walls made from one slab of marble, sweeping staircases and interior fountains and gold everywhere. Unfortunately no photos were allowed.

We decided after being turned away from the New York Yacht Club we would have lunch at the estate so we could say ‘we dined at the Vanderbilt’s’. We enjoyed a luscious salmon salad in a magnificent setting which was well worth the extravagance (see photo).

The Breakers and Dining at the Vanderbilt's


We expect to leave here Tuesday with favourable winds to continue on to Maine.

Love Candy xx