We are always pleased when we don’t want to leave somewhere – it means we’ve had a great time and we look forward to returning! Such was the case as we pulled out of Gettysburg Campground at 8:30a Sunday morning, July 9. It was scheduled to be a two day travel to our next “destination” of Newport RI – and everything went according to plan. We thought the roads in Pennsylvania were rather unpleasant, but the highways in central New York were a disgrace – like running over a washboard for miles at a time. Toll booths provided the Captain a challenge with about 3’ on either side of Contessa, but in normal fashion, it was executed flawlessly.
In selecting our campgrounds, there is a plethora of sources and we are learning what to really read into the information. As well, there is often the draw of location vs the amenities of the campground – not dissimilar to marinas that we have encountered for years. Such was the case for our destination in Middletown – but after arriving at what really was a mobile home park, a field with trailers stacked together like sardines, limited power (30 amp) and the crowning blow of the sites not being level enough for Contessa, we elected to forfeit our deposit and head north about 10 miles to Portsmouth and Melville Pond Campground. They had recently installed some sites with 50 amp power and level gravel pads for Contessa. It turned out to be a great location being equidistant from Bill & Geri Weir and Tom & Peggie Perrotto with Gordon & Joanie Younce in the middle.
We were thankful we had traveled early, which gave us sufficient time to relocate and settle in – and still arrive at Bill & Geri’s home that evening for a delightful visit, great food and the launch of our days in the Newport area. By the time we took our leave that evening, we had maps, insights and a framework for our coming days.
With a lunch date with Gordon, Joanie, Bill and Geri, we spent the foggy morning driving Ocean Drive and getting the lay of the land. Castle Hill Inn Restaurant was delightful with a perfect location at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, a cozy room with floor to ceiling windows around three quarters of the room, great service, amazing food and lots of laughter, we savored time with great friends. Captain Bill also savored a Lobster Roll – the first of what will be many over the coming days & weeks!
We parted company mid-afternoon and headed to Fort Adams at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied the Bay, which gave them a commanding position to impact the entire northeastern seaboard. At the end of the War, President Washington directed the construction of the “first” Fort as a lynch-pin in the new country’s defenses. This proved to be crucial when just a few years later in 1812 and the War of 1812 brought the British forces back to the New World. They sailed into Narragansett Harbor expecting to reclaim the well-protected harbor. To their surprise, the fort stood as a formidable obstacle. Little did they know how few soldiers and munitions were actually present, but it was sufficient to have them turn back to seek other locations. Following the end of the War of 1812, Congress recognized the need for strong forts along the eastern seaboard for the nation’s defense. They contracted with a French architect to design highly defensible forts. Fort Adams’ construction began in 1825 – ultimately utilizing 4M unbaked brick, 50,000 ton of granite block, 65,000 ton of gravel and 800,000 ton of soil. Fort Adams, named for President John Adams, is larger than Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Sumter and Fort McHenry combined and had a garrison of 2,400 troops and 439 cannon. Tour guide Mike was entertaining, informative and very engaging with the Girl Scout troop that was part of our group.
The parade ground is huge! The red unbaked bricks on the top right were used around the embrasure – if an enemy cannonball strikes the unbaked brick, the wall absorbs the shock and is “easily” repaired. If the cannonball strikes the granite, it ricochets back its origin. The vessel bottom right is a replica of the Oliver Hazard Perry, commissioned two years ago – we loved the dinghy!
Downtown Newport is a delightful waterfront and the weather was conducive to a stop at the Midtown Oyster Bar, dinner at a waterfront dining establishment and a relatively early evening return to Contessa.
On Wednesday morning, we took the “city tour” which we are often prone to do when we arrive in a new town. Having delayed this activity until the second day because of scheduling & timing, we found that these are much more informative if you haven’t already spent a couple of days in a community. Regardless, it was enlightening while giving us the feeling that we “knew” the town. The tour did, however, include a tour of The Breakers, summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The opulence of the gilded age was breathtaking in this 70 room mansion – and made all the more amazing because, like many of the mansions of Newport, was only used about 10 weeks a year.
Cornelius, son of William Henry Vanderbilt, was New York society, expanding his inheritance through railroads and steamships. The French influence in design and furnishings was evident throughout the home, including all ten bedrooms! With our home so close to The Biltmore in Asheville, the home of Cornelius’ brother George, we enjoyed seeing the differences in an 80 room summer “cottage” and George’s 275 room residence.
The afternoon highlight was a quick but enjoyable visit to Gordon & Joanie’s lovely home – it is so great to see where people live when you know them from “somewhere else”. In this case, all three couples in the Newport area are part of our circle of friends from our Marathon Yacht Club days. Joanie had one hip replaced just a few weeks ago and will have the second one done in two weeks – she is doing amazingly well and has such a great attitude!
At 5:00p, we were joined by Bill and Geri, Geri’s son Chris, grandson Lucas and Tom and Peggie at our campsite to meet Contessa. From there, we caravaned to the US Naval Base, joined by son Jamie and partner Peter for a grand time on the outdoor patio of the officer’s club for dinner. Fortunately, our server was proactive and had a table set-up under the roof just before the rains came! Great fun and laughter – and we got a view of the Naval War College perched impressively on the crest of the hill and beautifully illuminated at night.
Martha’s Vineyard was our destination for Thursday – taking the Rhode Island Fast Ferry for a 95 minute run to this island of the Rich and Famous. Our trusty approach to touring failed us like never before – with an Eastern European driver/guide who’s presentation, while containing significant information, was laced with “ah” between every 3-4 words for 2 ½ hours! Regardless, the island is beautiful with its Victorian homes, great history and Native American village. Jackie Kennedy Onassis purchased several hundred acres in the 1980’s for $1.2M where she built an impressive enclave that can only be seen by air. Daughter Caroline Kennedy has 50 undeveloped acres of that property for sale for $45M, if any of you are interested in having a summer place on The Vineyard!
We had an unplanned “treat” on Thursday evening – a visit to Bristol to Tom and Peggie’s home to recover a package that was delivered for us to their home, but too late for them to bring to us on Wednesday. A fabulous evening of visiting over an amazing Italian dinner with Portuguese bread – we are so blessed!
With regret and a commitment to each other to return to Newport again, we planned our departure for Friday morning, July 14. There are so many museums and yacht building establishments we want to explore – we really didn’t scratch the surface of all that Rhode Island has to offer.