By Caitlin Kelly
If I haven’t fled the computer and apartment and town every three or four months, I get restless!
So a quick and easy choice was the 3-4 hour drive northeast to Newport, RI, a town I hadn’t been to in decades, since a friend in a town near it loaned us her house while she was away for a week. She has long since moved away, but at a writing conference last year I met a fun young woman, a fellow writer, who spoke on a panel and with whom I later had coffee when she came to NY from Newport.
I found a very cheap and funky B and B right in town, and she and I hung out. Perfect weekend!
I was also very lucky to be there in the off season so I was able to park my car for three full days, at no cost, a block away on the street and enjoyed uncrowded tourism as the place is truly mobbed in the summer, especially with the jazz festival and folk festival.
Friday night we splurged on dinner at The White Horse, the oldest restaurant (1673) continuously operating in the U.S., and a building of tremendous history. The meal was great and the surroundings lovely.
This interactive game was amazing! It even uses a real wooden tiller to “steer.”
It can happen!
Saturday I went to the new sailing museum, which — as a sailor from childhood — I loved! It has fantastic interactive exhibits I completely enjoyed, a cut-open J24, a classic boat, examples of sail materials, great action videos, trophies, fab photos. I had a great pizza across the street and wandered Thames Street, (there pronounced to rhyme with James), lined with all sorts of shops. I bought two small lovely vases by a local potter and that evening sat at the bar at the Red Parrot, watching the busiest bartender ever manage his job with grace and calm.
Newport, as some of you know, has some extraordinary mansions — known as “cottages”, built by the country’s wealthiest. People love to tour them, but I was more intrigued, literally walking around the block from my lodgings, by row after row of elegant 18th c houses. I love history and architecture and the late 1700s is one of my favorite periods of design, so this was heaven!
A block north of my room stands St. Mary’s, an imposing red brick Catholic church right on the corner…where, on Sept. 12, 1953, a young woman named Jacqueline Bouvier married a handsome young Senator named John F. Kennedy.
I’m usually not easily moved emotionally by many official sights and monuments, but I was so struck by the humanity and intimacy of seeing the church where her new life began — and gave her barely a decade of joy and marriage and young children before being brutally widowed in 1963. Like everyone who has married in a church (as I have twice), there’s such a moment of excitement and nerves and anticipation as you stand at that front door and walk down the aisle to take your vows and begin a wholly new life. I could really feel it there.
That’s the spire of St. Mary’s in the background
Sunday morning I loved breakfast, again, around the corner, at Franklin Spa — opening hours 6 am to 1pm — and watched it filling up with locals and regulars. My friend picked me up and we drove to Tiverton Four Corners, to see a glamorous new cafe and two adjacent shops, Groundswell. So fun! On offer were glorious teas from French maker Mariage Freres and some of the yummiest pastries ever — including this astounding thing we had never seen before and LOVED. Basically a brioche full of whipped cream, called a maritozzi.
The spring sun was warm but the wind bitter; my friend very thoughtfully brought two thick blankets which we wrapped around our legs as we sat in Adirondack chairs around a propane firepit.
We looked at the gorgeous tableware and aprons and condiments for sale but I only bought some tea and a jar of ginger and jam.
We dined at The Clark Cooke House, which was wonderful — more oysters! My friends were very generous and used a gift certificate so it was free. I was so grateful to be so welcomed and hosted and shown around.
Monday morning was a visit to a place I’ve been buying from for many years, Fabric Connection, mostly to say hello to the staff. They have an amazing array of gorgeous fabrics and pillows.
I made a final quick stop at the beach — to sniff the ocean and grab a shell! — but the wind was sooooo bitterly cold.