Newport, 2004

In order to get out of the city and away from the over marketing of Valentine's Day, Cris and I decided to go to a BNB in Newport for the weekend.
My pictures can be found here.

Fri Feb 13/04

I was running a bit late from work and barely had time to shower and change before Cris picked me up at 7pm. I'd tried to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home, but the store that I stopped into didn't carry the kind that I had in mind. He'd put the directions to the Ivy Lodge in his Pocket PC, and I was put in charge of navigating. It was an exercise in trusting the web directions, as they were a bit vague, and only made sense after you passed what you thought was the turn, went for a bit longer, and then found the real turn.

We eventually ended up on Memorial Drive in Newport proper, and turned down Bellevue Avenue, passing the bulky shadows of a few mansions before turning down a side street to get to our BNB. Ivy Lodge was lit up, and the innkeeper answered the buzzer when we arrived at 9pm. We pushed open the huge door and walked into the impressive foyer. Mr. McKenzie dug out our key, led us to the Library room, demonstrated the lights (with dimmer), the fireplace (gas, one switch operation), and the jacuzzi tub (with bubbles). We were a bit brain dead and sugar low, so we just smiled and nodded and hoped he'd stop talking soon. He did give us directions to a good restaurant, the India Grill I think it was called, and we walked down to Thames St and got a table there, no problem, though not before Cris presented me with a gorgeous bouquet of red roses. We'd been warned that the city was all booked up, and I had to be reminded that it was due to Valentine's Day. There was a family and a couple of couples at the restaurant this night, and the tables were just a bit too close together, but we were able to enjoy our grilled fish without too much distraction. My mango lassi was also quite good.

The walk back to the BNB was up a hill that we hadn't really noticed as we'd walked down it, but it was a bit more lively as we went back, more people on the street, but still fairly quiet. The cold had intensified a little, though, so we made it a brisk walk.

Sat Feb 14/04

We went out for breakfast at around 9:30am, as they stopped serving hot food at 10am. The large communal table filled up quickly after we grabbed a seat, and unfortunately my right hand dining partner had a very adenoidal voice, though his wife seemed very pleasant. Suggestions of things to do were shared around the table, the cliff walk was highly recommended, and again by Mrs. McKenzie when we dropped back into the common area to get some suggestions before heading out. She also preferred the Elms over the Breakers, due to it having more furnishings. We both had the poached salmon omelettes, which were quite good.

The day was surprisingly pleasant, above freezing and fine with a sweater under and open jacket, with bright sunshine in a blue sky, and just enough wind to dramatically billow my trench coat. We made our way to the nearby 40 Steps and an entrance to the Cliff Walk. We took some pictures there, then took off toward the Ruggles point, passing by an impressive grey building that we later figured out was Ochre Point, a building associated with Regina University. There were a few couples and a family or two sharing the walk, but it didn't feel crowded at all. After Ruggles, we passed the Breakers and then some other estates. We made our way around a few points, just going through the tunnel underneath the Japanese Tea House. The track was getting rough at that point, covered in ice and mud, so we decided to turn back. Coming back, we spotted some amusing signs that had been attached to the wooden fence that lined the chain link fence that kept the public on the cliff walk and off the private properties we were passing. The tunnel underneath the tea house was very cool and echo-y. We walked back to the last exit from the path, at Ruggles, and then walked around the front of the Breakers, and back to our BNB, much more quickly without the distractions of the waves crashing on the shore, the suited up surfers, the birds diving for fish and staying under a worryingly long time, the sun and wind creating a picturesque atmosphere with the town spread out along a series of points.

We stopped in and grabbed some cookies (we'd smelled them baking earlier as we were leaving, oatmeal chocolate delicacies) and a drink from the stock they kept out, and then headed out to find lunch. We ate at Katrina's deli, I had a really good pasta salad, and a Tazo iced tea, and then we wandered over to the Coldstone Creamery for ice cream with mix ins. We investigated the supermarket and a smaller specialty market to make sure that we'd be able to make up a picnic lunch that night, then wandered back down Bellevue Ave.

We used one of our vouchers from our Newport Winter Getaway package to tour the Elms. We had an audio tour and took advantage of the extra information to get a full tour. It wasn't very busy, we'd have at most one other couple in a room with us. We shuffled through until we were ejected from the servant's entrance. It was an austere sort of house, a childless couple entertaining on a coal fortune.

It was about 4 by then, we'd just gone through before the house closed for the day, and sunset. So we went back to the BNB and got Cris' car, and hopped in for a tour along Ocean Drive. We got out and walked down on the rocks at one point, watching a huge container ship tracking across the horizon. The rocks were worn into triangular points along mostly horizontal planes, good for walking upon, but I'd not want to trip and fall. The sun was going down, lighting the scene with a golden light. Time to sort out dinner, so it was back to the market, where we picked up some tarragon chicken salad sandwiches, clam chowder, strawberries, some Lady Grey tea to supplement my tea collection (and add to my series of odd towns in which I've picked up that brand of loose leaves), and some crackers for the cheese that Cris had brought. They'd set out some champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries for the guests. We set up a blanket in front of the fire and had a nice picnic, with wine and cheese to start. Much nicer than fighting for a reservation at a crowded restaurant which would try to enforce an ambiance of romance. Plus this way we could talk freely and celebrate a somewhat early three month mark in our relationship.

Sun Feb 15/04

We woke up a bit earlier this morning, and decided that instead of lounging in bed, we'd go early for breakfast, at just before 9am. We were the first ones to the table and had a bit of a wait before the OJ and Mrs. McKenzie appeared, but then we got our breakfasts fairly quickly, pancakes for Cris and eggs benedict (sans ham) for me. The fruit salad still had huge blueberries and strawberries left on top, so I grabbed a serving. We finished up packing, and checked out at around 10am, then drove over to the Breakers and did a group tour there, with about 20 other people. Our guide was a bit twitchy as she made sure that her voice projected to the whole group, but she was a fount of knowledge. The bedrooms were built on a more personal scale, with room for entertaining in Mrs. Vanderbilt's rooms, and room for the 5 daughters of the Countess to live and roam. The dining room was very impressive, huge high ceilings and life sized statues around the oval windows at the second story level. The Great Hall was reminiscent of a Venetian palazzo inner courtyard, this mansion more Italian than the French Elms. We walked down to the edge of the cliff to get a view back of the enclosed porches with other tours peering out from the second floor, after again being disgorged from the servant's entrance. The children's house was closed up for the winter. There were wooden dog silhouettes stuck into the lawn leading down to the sea, only painted black on the side visible from the house, but I forgot to ask the guide why they were there.

Then it was back into the car and off towards Boston to the Sakonnet Vineyard, as we had a voucher for a free wine tasting there in our Package. This was apparently the most dangerous vineyard ever, as the road was winding from the highway, with a sign for Dangerous Curves, sharp rock protrusions at the curves and the dirt surface was pitted with pot holes. And next to the visitor's center was a dangerous water hazard that could swallow small children. We did two wines before seeing the tour video, and then didn't get the tour as the power had gone off the night before and not come on again in the morning. We finished up the last 4 wines, with me doing the dessert ones, and Cris the reds. I bought two bottles (the 2000 Chardonnay that I'd tried, and which was on sale, and the Sirius dessert wine) and so did he, and I threw in a small bottle of blackberry jam as I had finished my supply before leaving home. Then it was off home, as it was around 2pm at that point, but we'd gone about 45 mins closer in order to get to the vineyard, so we were back at my place around 3. We snacked a bit in the car, and then ordered out at Cris and Chris's place during game.

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