July 31: Three (tiny) states, ocean views, and a Really Big House

This morning I left out fairly early, and was across the state line into Rhode Island almost immediately. I’ve wanted to go to the town of Newport for a very long time. As it turns out, it’s a major production to get through the town to the part I really wanted to see, but I did make it eventually. It didn’t help that I had to arrive the weekend of the Newport Jazz Festival, but oh, well.

First I drove out and around the scenic ocean drive, which reminded me of nothing so much as Seventeen-Mile Drive in Monterey, California. Big fancy expensive houses right on the waterfront, interspersed with parks where us normal people can get out and enjoy the views, too.

The bridge over Narragansett Bay onto Rhode Island (the island itself as opposed to the state name).
The bridge over Narragansett Bay onto Rhode Island (the island itself as opposed to the state name).
A funny sculpture in downtown Newport.
A funny sculpture in downtown Newport.
A view of the shoreline.
A view of the shoreline.
Cormorants perched on the rocks.
Cormorants perched on the rocks.
One of several egrets I saw.
One of several egrets I saw.

Then I went in search of a mansion I could visit, so I picked the biggest one I could find. Cornelius Vanderbilt had The Breakers built in the early 1890s as a summer “cottage” (and then only got to live in it for one summer before he died). It’s almost 140,000 square feet (no, that’s not too many zeroes) of Italian inspired architecture and more gilding and carving and fancy furbelows than you can shake a stick at. See for yourself:

The front of The Breakers.
The front of The Breakers.
The Great Hall at The Breakers.
The Great Hall at The Breakers.
One of the chandeliers in the dining room.  I thought this was a cool shot -- just don't ask me to manage a photo like that again [wry g].
One of the chandeliers in the dining room. I thought this was a cool shot — just don’t ask me to manage a photo like that again [wry g].
A doorway carving.  Note the signs of industry (a railroad, etc.) behind the cupids.
A doorway carving. Note the signs of industry (a railroad, etc.) behind the cupids.
That silvery stuff in the background of those goddesses is *platinum.*
That silvery stuff in the background of those goddesses is *platinum.*
One of the many, many, many hand-carved details.
One of the many, many, many hand-carved details.
That bathtub was carved from a solid chunk of marble, and had to be refilled with hot water several times before the marble warmed up enough not to soak up all the heat and leave the water cold.  Oh, and the four taps?  Hot and cold fresh water, and hot and cold salt water.
That bathtub was carved from a solid chunk of marble, and had to be refilled with hot water several times before the marble warmed up enough not to soak up all the heat and leave the water cold. Oh, and the four taps? Hot and cold fresh water, and hot and cold salt water.
Even the stove is huge at The Breakers.
Even the stove is huge at The Breakers.
The back facade of The Breakers.
The back facade of The Breakers.

It came with an audio tour so I didn’t have to follow a guide with a group of fellow lemmings, which was nice.

But once the tour was over, I realized I really didn’t have much else I actually wanted to do in Newport, and it was still way early in the afternoon, so I called and cancelled my hostel reservation and headed east (yes, east, not north) to Massachusetts, and the city of New Bedford, with its National Historic Site devoted to the ships that sailed around the world in pursuit of whales.

And my third state of the day (I didn't get a good photo of the welcome to Rhode Island sign, alas).
And my third state of the day (I didn’t get a good photo of the welcome to Rhode Island sign, alas).

It was interesting, although I could have done without the re-created cobblestone streets (I like my teeth, and I’m sure Merlin didn’t much care for being bounced around like that, either), but by then I was ready to find a motel (the rule is still two nights camping, third night in a motel, and I’m so glad I can do the former now!).

I had to drive up into Massachusetts a ways to find one that wasn’t way overpriced, but I did, and now I need to decide what I want to do in Massachusetts, whether I want to go into Cambridge to see the maps exhibit, or go to Cape Cod, or Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, or Old Sturbridge Village, or any combination of the above. It doesn’t help that I’d be pulling a Kentucky (zigzagging across the entire state, not that it’s all that big to begin with) to do them all. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning.