Charming New England, part 3: Newport
THE LAST STOP ON OUR NEW ENGLAND TRIP IS NEWPORT ON RHODE ISLAND. HERE WILL ENTICE THE BEST STEAKS IN THE WORLD AND THE STUNNING CASTLE HILL INN HOTEL
Text: Christine von Pahlen
From Cape Cod one drives hardly more than one hour in southeast direction to Rhode Island. The smallest state of the USA, 120 kilometres away from Boston, is connected to the mainland by the Mount Hope Bridge. "Little Rhody", as insiders like to say, stands for a mild climate, gentle green hills, a few steep sea cliffs and its eternally long sandy beaches. Newport, the big island town on the edge of Narragansett Bay, had its best times in the 1920s when America's dollar nobility declared it its party hotspot. The Astors, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts commissioned famous architects to build magnificent homes on Bellevue Avenue, a long boulevard on the outskirts of the city whose houses all have access to the sea. What the rich homeowners casually called their "cottages" were in fact monumental buildings. The largest and with 70 rooms the most pompous is "The Breakers". Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the grandson of the railway king, had it built in the Italian Renaissance style. His brother William was more enthusiastic about the French Château style, the golden ballroom of his estate designed for 400 guests resembles the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles. The comparatively modest "Rosecliff" was the location for the movie "The great Gatsby". Newport itself is a carefully restored American small town.
Out of love for this place, Doris Duke, a rich American tobacco heiress, founded the Newport Restoration Society, buying dilapidated houses at ridiculously low prices and then renting them out again, perfectly restored. Today, the Foundation owns about 80 houses in the city. Their own former residence, the English Manor House "Rough Point", is now open to the public. The inventory, delicate small pieces of furniture made of nacre, ivory and tortoiseshell up to toiletries, is still there unchanged - one has the feeling that the landlady only went swimming for a short time. Eccentric as she was, she not only collected exquisite jewelry, Islamic art and rare wines, she also kept two camels. Probably the most important event of the year is the Newport Jazz Festival in connection with the Newport Folk Festival. For music greats like Duke Ellington it was a springboard, for others like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Johnny Cash it was and is a lovely tradition to perform there. Another famous boulevard is the 15-kilometer Ocean Drive, which leads past dream beaches, parks, private luxury villas to a few elitist private clubs and to Hammersmith Farm, where the young Jacqueline Bouvier celebrated her wedding with John F. Kennedy in 1953. Nearby is Castle Hill Inn. If you stay here overnight, you will experience the glamour of golden times. For sunset, the guests sit on nostalgic beach chairs on the English lawn by the sea and have a chat with Blueberry Vodka Lemonade, while a few yachts majestically head for the port of Newport on the glittering waves of the Atlantic.
Hollywood-style EXCURSIONS: ALL-ROUND TIPS FOR A VISIT TO NEWPORT
The Castle Hill Inn
Nine rooms in the main house plus beach cottages and beach houses in a contemporary maritime look. The Afternoon Tea is taken in the Agassiz Mansion. Double room starting at 440 Euros, relaischateaux.com
22 Bowen’s Wine bar & Grille
World-class steakhouse at the Waterfront. Locals recommend Prime Beef, but also Surf & Turf. 22 Bowen's Wharf, Tel. 401 841 88 84
Tennis Hall of Fame
Museum on the history of tennis. You can hit a few balls on the 13 legendary courts. 194 Bellevue Avenue, tennisfame.com