Going to Newport, in the state of Rhode Island, in the USA, had always been “on my list”. A pretty seaside town, known for its yachting community, the incredible mansions, great food and shops. It had Mrs. O written all over it.
Located under two hours from Boston, Massachusetts, it was the perfect location for me to visit with my friend Lauren. Inspired by the current Gatsby craze (part of the film was actually shot there, and obviously easy to understand why), Discover Newport wanted us to explore all it had to offer… in true style.
We drove straight to the local airport, as a helicopter awaited us – it was my first time up in the air in one of these babies and I was a little bit worried. But I tell you something, it was a great way to see the area from above and understand how everything fits together. The trip, organised by Bird’s Eye View Helicopters, took around 15 minutes (and great value starting at $65). I liked what I saw..
From the airport, we made our way to the port. Why? Because it was time to get a different perspective of this quaint and pretty little town.
What perspective? Well, from the air, we moved to the sea. We had over 2 hours in our America’s Cup yacht, courtesy of 12 meter charters (2-hour harbour cruises start at $73). There was a “little bit of water” and wind involved (see below, my trousers were not originally two-toned). Newport is also known as the “Sailing Capital of the World”, and boy did we breathe a bit of the Narragansett Bay!
After our water sports experience, it was time to warm up a little bit, so we headed back to short and feasted on a delicious clam chowder, with a side of Margarita, why not?
And then, it was time to finally check-in at our hotel, which was the lovely Vanderbilt Grace. Originally bought by Mr. Alfred Vanderbilt in 1909 as a gift to his mistress Agnes (why not?), it has been beautifully restored by Grace Hotels. The result? A very stylish, yet very understated and comfortable boutique hotel experience.
Nothing says welcome like a glass of champagne on arrival. Grace does it to every guest and I was intrigued and surprised by the sparkling wine on offer (you know that despite the method used, if it doesn’t come from the Champagne region in France, it cannot be called that). Domaine Carneros is one of the most reputable brands (from the USA) and this particular vintage was produced by Taittinger, one of my favourite champagne brands. I found this detail most curious, and was even more delighted when I found a whole bottle welcoming us to our very cool 2-bedroom suite.
Our first dinner took place at TSK – Thames Street Kitchen, a “field to fork”, chef-driven eatery which offers locally sourced cuisine in a very relaxed atmosphere. True to its concept, Lauren and I “brought our own bottle” of Zinfandel, which was the perfect pairing to our great dinner.
We spent a very lazy morning enjoying our champagne breakfast (included in all room rates at Vanderbilt Grace) at the stunning garden area. Pretty sure you can also imagine how tasty evening cocktails can also be.
Time for some shopping – and there was quite a bit of exploring to do in town. One of our favourites? Sequin. Originally from Newport, and with pop-up summer shops in the coolest places around the States (think Palm Beach, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket), it was like going to a candy store. We coined the sentence “arm candy” and we did buy a few…
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. This time around, we headed towards the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which reminded me so much of the UK! It was at this place that the first US National Lawn Tennis Championships took place (which led to the event which is now the US Open).
No rest for the wicked… so it was time to check out some mansions! We enjoyed breathtaking views as we walked part of the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk, where you can take more than a sneak peek at the incredible mansions.
Our home for the afternoon? The Breakers, which is the “grandest” of Newport’s summer cottages, and the playground of the Vanderbilt family. I thought it was a fine piece of real estate and a very nice summer home. As you can see from the photo below, plenty of space for garden party!
After a great couple of hours, we knew what we needed! And cocktails was the magic word! We quickly changed and made our way to the stunning Castle Hill Inn, a Relais & Chateaux hotel located just off the incredible Ocean Drive. I was incredibly impressed with my watermelon jalapeño margarita (I was getting into Mexican mode…) and Lauren introduced me to dirty martinis. Yummy!
It was also here that we enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets ever – it rained, but then it stopped and it was simply stunning.
We had an incredible dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, where from the a-la-carte menu, you could “build your own” tasting menu (starting at $75 for 3-course or $105 with wine pairings). We were brave and went for the 5 courses.. and certainly were not disappointed!
I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our time in Newport. A weekend simply wasn’t enough, and I understand how so many people go back for more year after year.
One of the things I loved was how “unresorty” it actually felt – Newport has year round residents, and it isn’t only open for business 3 months of the year – and that says a lot about a place. Would I go back? I promise you I will next time I head over to that part of the world!
Disclaimer: A huge thank you to Discover Newport , who put together and organised this incredible itinerary for Lauren and myself. We were guests of Vanderbilt Grace who provided us with fab accommodation during our stay, and were treated by Bird’s Eye View Helicopters, 12 meter charters, TSK – Thames Street Kitchen and Castle Hill Inn. Our car was provided by Argus Car Hire. Opinions are my own – and I loved everything about this trip.