Tonight is our last evening here, our last vacation evening for the summer. Five days in Newport is a short vacation but somewhat adequate. I feel separated enough from the regular round to miss it and want to get back into it.
All of that is good.
I missed the latest SCt decision. Checking in on Facebook, I see it is about prayer in schools and that is a soap box I have climbed onto too many times. Not tonight; however, I do look forward to all the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, wild UU and pagan prayers that will be heard all over the USA in classrooms and on the 50 yard line next year.
We are sitting in a cafe on Goat Island with an overpriced menu and a drop dead view of the sunset on the water. Much like in Venice six years ago, we are paying to rent this precious piece of real estate for an hour.
We’ve seen four magnificent cottages and one topiary garden this week, and although I have mixed feelings about the extravagant life style that the cottages represent, we’ve totally enjoyed the full emersion into a page in Newport’s history.
We have stayed in a very old part of town in a very eccentric AirB&B. The landlord’s name is Walt and I imagine that we are staying with Uncle Walt. Not exactly like any commercial establishment I’ve ever stayed in, the digs are much closer to staying in the house of an uncle, maybe a single great uncle, who doesn’t come to family reunions and who you don’t know very well. It has felt safe and is clean, not a great place to decompress but we’ve spent most of our time outside.
This very old part of town is fascinating. Many very small colonial homes squashed together on tiny lots very close to the street. The streets are very narrow, probably perfect for horses and carts, challenging for cars. There are tiny gardens in the fronts and sides of the houses—roses and blue hydrangea are furiously blooming right now. Many of the houses are painted in deep rich colors window moldings and doorways matching the rest of the house. Yesterday evening on our way to some of the most innovative ramen I’ve ever eaten, we passed a small burial ground. Julia wanted to go in and we explored the graves a bit. Most were worn down to a few inches above the ground, some of the larger grave stones were illegible and we could read a precious few. Julia read one that posted the year of death as 1665. I checked what she read thinking that she probably got the numbers wrong, certainly it was from the 1800’s, but the second set of dates inscribed were for the ‘beloved wife’ with the date 1707. All of the grave that we could read dated from around the same time. I felt deeply the age of the place.
Up until today, when we drove around more of the town, I did not see many of the gray shingled cape cod style houses and thought how different this place was from the towns on the cape we’ve visited. However, driving around the newer parts of town today, we found plenty of weathered gray cape cod styled houses.
Driving around the neighbor where most of the cottages are, it is so interesting to see the mix of housing. From what our audio tours told us, many glorious homes were knocked down including once extravagant cottages because they were deemed white elephants impossible to maintain. Some large home have been turned into hotels and inns, some are just big homes of rich people who live here during the summer and some homes are rather middle class in size and shape. Lot sizes are all over the place—it is clear that no one platted this community. Our audio tours told us that married servants were not allowed to live in the servant quarters of the cottages and so, a street or so over from those gigantic houses are street of smaller homes that servants with families could rent for the summer. We also passed many gate houses, stables and gardener houses that have been updated and converted to permanent homes. Those buildings interest me the most! How I would love to see some of those insides; how I would love to find one of my own in my own neighborhood.
The audio tours of the cottages were splendid. Julia and I have listened to many audio tours in many museums and Italian houses over the years. I written before, oh, many years ago now when traveling was what we did during our summers, about the value of some tours and about how difficult they must be to write. Some were a waste of time and some were a deep dive into the past. The Newport cottage tours can be counted as the latter. Of course, there is no one to ask questions of—and I always have questions—but without the tours, one house would have melted into another and become boring.
Boats! Boats have been another discovery. We’ve seen sail boats with 60 foot masts and long yachts that are rather unimaginable to me. The sail boats we’ve frequently see playing in an around each other like a children’s game of tag in the back yard have been the most fun to watch. Again, a life I find hard to imagine
We are waiting for dinner, the sun is slowly going down, sail boats show off in the bay in front of us, the long bridge frames one side of our view and a yacht-insanely long, big enough to have small motor boats attached to the back, sits and we can watch people move about on the decks.