APRIL: Newport, RI
Sometimes it’s the journey
A road trip with the right person can be all you need—even when traffic turns a four-hour trip into six. For my old college roommate Christine and I, the unexpectedly long drive was a chance to catch up, laugh, and count the number of times Justin Bieber popped up on the radio (23 going there and back, with Meghan Trainor’s “No” not far behind at 21). We didn’t groan, or curse the long line of cars in Connecticut, instead, we made the best of our car time and enjoyed the journey.
When we finally arrived at the Ivy Lodge Bed and Breakfast, a large, historic Victorian house, we stood in awe of the grand floor-to-ceiling gothic oak foyer with its wooden staircase, fireplace, stained glass windows, and gorgeous light fixtures. As we took in the charming entryway, an enthusiastic staff member named Lisa arrived to give us a tour. From the grand foyer, she led us into a cozy sitting room full of antiques and period-appropriate décor, a dining room stocked with snacks and beverages you can grab throughout the day, and then upstairs to our room. We stayed in the romantic Turret Room, possibly a little too passionate for Christine and I, but the fireplace, canopy king bed, and Victorian accents were perfect for a couple’s weekend. It was as if we’d stepped back into Newport’s Gilded Age.
Lisa was kind and energetic, she talked circles around us, pointed out the house’s best features, popped the staircase’s pineapple ornamentation off to assure us “don’t worry, this comes right off, everyone always thinks they broke it,” and in the same breath rattled off the best places to eat in Newport. Located just off Bellevue Avenue in the historic district, Ivy Lodge is just a short walk from downtown and the crowds of people popping in and out of the bars, restaurants, and shops on Thames Street. We decided to check out the Brick Alley Pub, voted “Best Restaurant” and “Best Bar” in Rhode Island. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who knew about its reputation—the place was packed. However, the hostess told us to try the upstairs burger bar where there’s usually no wait. Plumby’s Upstairs Burger Bar is Brick Alley Pub’s quick-serve “build your own burger” menu. After ordering at the bar, we took our number and snagged an open table by the window. We were not disappointed, our custom burgers (mine beef, Christine’s tuna) and fries were delicious.
In the morning The Ivy Lodge served made-to-order breakfast, including homemade granola, individually cooked eggs, and maple walnut french toast. Only two blocks from the Cliff Walk, Christine and I inhaled the beautiful weather, wildflowers, and views of Easton Bay. Since we started somewhere in the middle, we only walked a portion of the Cliff Walk before rounding back and passing many of the Bellevue Avenue mansions, which were once summer vacation homes for affluent Americans at the turn of the 20th century. Looking back, I wish we would have walked in the other direction where there is a larger number of historic homes sitting along the water.
The most opulent among these second, sometimes third homes, is The Breakers. Towering over the water and a different section of the Cliff Walk, this summer “cottage” is where the Vanderbilts lived it up during the warmer parts of the year. The largest and grandest mansion in Newport, The Breakers was designed as an Italian villa with 70 rooms, full of gold, marble, and elaborate ceiling and wall paintings and reliefs. The vastness and lavishness leave visitors speechless as they try and absorb the immensity of both the home and its grounds. Outside, multiple terraces spill into the grass and lead to beautiful views of the water.
With the impact of the gorgeous house hovering over us, we set out into the sun and onto Ocean Avenue (yes, we serenaded each other with Yellowcard, oh come on, don’t act like you don’t know the song. No? Just me?). We drove until the road ended and then we kept going unsure of what we’d find. But it wasn’t long before we stumbled across Fort Adams State Park, where we strolled for 2.2 miles around Fort Adams Bay Walk. This unknown discovery may have been the best part of our visit. Ambling along we were able to see the entire park, Fort Adams itself, Newport Harbor, Newport Bridge, and Brenton Cove.
Though we only really had about 24 hours in Newport, the Ivy Lodge was the perfect portal to the past, dropping us straight into the middle of the Gilded Age. But still, the Biebs aside, the best part of this trip was simply spending time exploring somewhere new with a good old friend.