Rhode Island blues

Atlantic beauty

Rhode Island blues

 There are some great sights along the shore.

My visit to Newport city in Rhode Island state reminded me of the famous rock number ‘Roadhouse Blues’ from Jim Morrison’s album, ‘Doors’: “...Yeah, we’re going to the roadhouse, Gonna have a real good-time. Yeah, the back of the roadhouse, they’ve got some bungalows…” Listening to this song on the bus journey from Boston to Rhode Island’s Newport only elevated my first-reaction to this quaint city.

So true, this natural seaside beauty certainly has huge bungalows and mansions beside the deep-blue Atlantic. Tightly packed colonial-period houses of Newport’s downtown is a charmer. Interestingly, Newport was the summer playground of industrial barons of America’s gilded age from the 1880s to early 20th century. Such wealthy families as the Vanderbilts and Astors had their elaborate mansions (their summer cottages) along the rugged coastline. They liked to outdo the others, by throwing ‘extra’ lavish summer parties here.

The sea ennobled the landscape; the play of light on the rippling waves and on the mansions made for a fascinating sight. I remembered to note down interesting names of a few mansions: The Elms, Marble house, Rosecliff, Beechwood, The Breakers, Ochre Court and Rough Point — these truly defined the skyline here with a certain delicacy. Visitors who love architecture, design, and history would cherish tours of these opulent mansions that are open for public. 

To me, the attractive characteristic of this city was its ability to appeal to a variety of travelling styles; not many port cities offer this distinctive layout.

Surf’s up

Newport sits on the southern end of Aquidneck Island; home to miles of scenic coastline ideal for exciting sailing excursions, surfing, rejuvenating walks and ocean drives or bike rides.
  
Even as I touched the chilly-cold water of the sea, the sea gulls fluttered past me as if in fear. The gulls would walk with grace at a distance, adding to the glamour of the already-deep-blue-sea. After several failed attempts, I finally photographed a gull at close quarters; my joy knew no end.

At first sight, it seemed like a deep-sea diver; but apparently he was a surfer clad in similar attire. Surfing has been a mainstay in Newport culture over the years. Due to decent surfing conditions, enthusiasts can surf 12 months of the year.

It has spectacular waves coming from tropical storms and hurricanes in the late summer and early fall. And even when storms don’t make landfall, they are capable of bringing 10-15 foot swells from hundreds of miles offshore.

Residents love yachting and boating here. Newport has hosted America’s cup, the world’s premiere yacht regatta from 1930 to 1983. Even though the contest moved out of Newport later, yachting and boating remain deeply ingrained along Newport Harbour and at the city’s Museum of Yachting. Types of cruises in and out of local waters are offered.

The cliff walk

Number of walking tours reveals the history and charm of the city. Of the walks, the Cliff Walk turned out to be a favourite, perhaps because it skirts the edges of some of Newport’s famous mansions on one side with the rocky beaches dropping off, on the other. This 3.5-mile elevated, winding path along the shoreline had extraordinary views of Narragansett Bay and the rocky coves below.

The walk has a twist mid-way (the best part!), as one has to negotiate unpaved sections and rugged paths. I observed that this stretch attracted all manner of people for a stroll — some came to relish the dash of fresh-Atlantic-air on their face, some enjoyed the view from the heights and some clambered down to the rocky blue beaches. By the end of the walk, I had indulged a bit, in all the three. 

There is always something happening in Newport…it hosts events ranging from music and cultural festivals to professional sports tournaments. This complements the unique shops and galleries along the city’s wharves and cobblestone streets of the upscale touristy Harbour area, from where visitors can pick up bits of Newport style home.

While folk and jazz festivals are held in summer, other ethnic festivals are seen through all seasons; the Black Ships Festival in July, celebrating culture and commerce with Japan, an Irish Festival at Labour Day and Newport Winter Festival in January.

If you want to taste fine distinctive wines in an island setting, Newport Vineyards in Middletown is the place to go. The winery has grown to 50 acres of varietal and hybrid grapes and has hospitable operators — they offer a tour, five wines on the house and a wide smile. 

Imagine seeing this beautiful city from mid-air in a helicopter ride for some airborne thrill? The majesty of Newport is well-known but the view from the air magnifies the effect, sending visitors home with fabulous photos and lifelong memories.

As the journey ended, Newport made its entry into my list of “firsts”…Not to forget, Rhode Island as a state is already known for many firsts: First to act against British rule, first Synagogue, first successful water-powered cotton mill and the first ocean state to receive the prestigious International Star Diamond award.

This certifies Rhode Island as a world-class destination offering some of the best natural beauty, history, cultural attractions and culinary offerings. And why not, when it has a city like Newport which showed me bungalows and gave me a good time — Rhode Island Blues!

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