Newport, Rhode Island: A Town of Salt Kissed Elegance

Physician's Money Digest, October 2005, Volume 12, Issue 14

Those of us who dwell onthe East Coast are blessedwith an endless supply ofcharming beach towns. Wejust can't get enough of saltwater taffy,seashell collections, and seaside bistros,but after a while, the inevitableblurring together of destinationsoccurs. Newport, RI, however, couldnever be lost in the shuffle. Once youhave made your pilgrimage there, wedoubt you could ever forget the clusterof mansions that line its shores and thetaste of an elite and plush lifestylebeyond your wildest dreams.

Castles on the Shore

During our visit in mid-June thebustling of crowds had yet to reach afever pitch, despite the fact that theattractions were in full swing and theweather was very pleasant. Of course,the mansions are at the top of everyvisitor's list and it may be overwhelmingto choose which ones to tour.Among the opulent gems we explored,Rough Point certainly left an impression.

It was one of the posh residencesof heiress Doris Duke, redecoratedunder her direction to resemble anEnglish country house with warm richwoods and a smattering of medievalfurniture. Rough Point is a testamentto the hard work of the NewportRestoration Foundation (www.newportrestoration.org) and houses aneclectic and fascinating collection ofantiquities assembled by Ms. Dukethroughout her travels.If you are looking for a less traditionaland more animated mansionexperience, make your way to Astor'sBeechwood Mansion (401-846-3772;www.astorsbeechwood.com). You see,the Astors are alive and well and entertainingtheir good friend Cole Porter ata party to which you've been invited.The mansion is preserved in the year1925 by a group of young actors whoare part of the Beechwood TheatreCompany. As you wander through thisbeautifully maintained home, chatwith the many historic house guestswho are eager to share their "roaring'20s" adventures.

The Elms is another mansion offeringa unique attraction. You can enjoylunch there while taking in the views ofthe stately gardens. Then take a tour ofthis vast estate on a full stomach.

Even as a physician, you may feelless than adequate in the fiscal departmentafter having your fill of mansionvisits. Never fear, one of our favoriteNewport attractions won't cost you adime—the Cliff Walk (401-849-8048;www.cliffwalk.com). Put on your mostcomfortable walking shoes, because theentrance is located just past EastonBeach and spans 3.5 miles—7 milesroundtrip. Along the stroll you'll havebeautiful views of both the Atlanticsurf as well as the backyards of someof the mansions.

Perhaps after the Cliff Walk you willfeel athletic enough to explore anotherNewport gem, the International TennisHall of Fame (www.tennisfame.com),which houses the only public grasscourt in the United States. Play a fewsets or explore the extensive museum.With a range of exhibits, you really geta sense of the proud history of thegame and of the titans who have dominatedit. And we couldn't help butgive a second glance to some of theretro tennis outfits that women wore inyesteryears—complete with sequinedshort skirts. And you thought SerenaWilliams was a fashionista?

Cultural Gems

For art lovers, there is no end to thegalleries and antique shops in Newport.Not to be missed is the NationalMuseum of American Illustration atVernon Court (401-851-8949; www.americanillustration.org). Once hard tosecure a tour of this collection of popularillustrations, featuring paintings byMaxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell,and N.C. Wyeth, the museum now hasregular public viewing hours. Althoughthe exhibition consists of only a fewrooms on the ground floor of the mansion,you can easily spend hours lost inthis very accessible genre. Don't be surprised if a wave of nostalgia overcomesyou as you gaze at images as familiar asa home-cooked meal.

Speaking of food, there is no end tothe dining experiences that await you inNewport. The Cheeky Monkey Café(401-845-9494; www.cheekymonkeycafe.com) was recommended to us byfriends we met there. The food is asgood as the décor is entertaining. Assuggested by its name, throughout therestaurant you'll find monkey-likenessesof famous people, which will makeyou chuckle as you sip a martini andsavor some highly stylized cuisine.

While in Newport, you don't needus to tell you to try the seafood, specificallythe chowder. The Black Pearl(401-846-5264; www.blackpearlnewport.com) located on Bowen's Wharfannually serves gallons of their famous,award-winning version of this belovedNew England concoction. A bowl oftheir chowder with some warm bread isenough to fill even the most grumblingbelly; get a seat outside and watch thesailboats drift in and out to sea. Ifyou're feeling adventurous hop aboardone of the vessels docked at the wharfand cruise the shore getting a sailor'seyeview of the town. The AdirondackII (646-336-5270; www.sail-newport.com), a gorgeous schooner, will behappy to oblige you, offering a range ofdeparture times. As one of the localspointed out to us, from the water youcan see how many church steeples peekout of the hills. This is a tribute to thestate of Rhode Island's long history ofreligious tolerance.

The sea can wear you out, so it maybe a good idea to have some cozyaccommodations waiting for you afteryour voyage. The Hotel Viking (401-847-3300; www.hotelviking.com) is agreat pick with comfortable rooms anda location just far enough from the dinof the crowds and just close enough towalk into the thick of things in minutes.

If you want to live the high life amongthe mansions and are willing to spare noexpense, you may want to secure lodgingat the elegant Chanler (866-793-5664; www.thechanler.com), locatedright at the Cliff Walk. With rooms thatrival the swankiest mansions, you'll feellike a Rockefeller for sure.

Everywhere you turn in Newport,there is some new opulent experience todiscover. And the best part is that youdon't have to be a member of exclusivehigh society to vacation like one.