Exploring the mansions in Newport, RI

Alright time to wrap up this New England trip with my memorial day excursion to Newport, RI! Before we go into the fun times that were had we should discuss the events leading up to them. First the weather striking again with quite the rain on Block Island… so we determined we would take the 11 ferry off and get back a little earlier.

Turns out this was the plan of EVERYONE ELSE. So by the time we got on the ferry it was standing room only with only 1 covered deck. NOTE: Us sitting on the wet floor with Olive haha. So ya condensation built up on the windows so we couldn’t see outside and with the stormy weather, that boat was seriously rocking. SUPER miserable journey back to the mainland luckily only a 1 hour ride. haha

And then it was 40 min. to Stonington to drop the dog off at home and back towards RI to experience some Newport goodness. Above: The beautiful Newport Bridge (which we could see lit up at night from Block Island!)
First up: Rosecliff Mansion. When we looked at the time and realized we’d only have about 2 hours before the mansions closed, that made me choose what was more important to see. Katie who’s been a couple times, sold me on Rosecliff for A. heart staircase and B. Ballroom. She was speaking my language. So let’s get started. (I apologize now for the phone photos… my camera died  and I forgot the backup battery ON the charger at home. WhhoopS!)
The aforementioned “Heart” staircase 
Seriously stunning ballroom. The best part isn’t even shown as this ballroom was built to emphasize the grounds as well. On both sides are doors that open up to the magnificent lawn and fountain and the other side.. well the most spectacular lawn and ocean views. Talk about my type of dance floor. And while Rosecliff may not be the largest mansion on Bellevue Ave, it has the largest ballroom. (and probably the most beautiful room in my opinion.) 
Another angle to show off the beautiful ceiling
Again sorry for the crappy phone pics but this was my next favorite room in Rosecliff again for the ceiling. The other rooms were a tad bit less ornate. The audio tour takes you through most of the first level (dominated by the ballroom) and on the upper level through a couple of bedrooms before ending at whatever seasonal display they have going. Currently it is a display of fashion called “Pierre Cardin: 70 Years of Innovation” which opened just before we got there on May 27, featuring 42 original pieces from Cardin’s private archives that document and celebrate his prolific career from the 1950s through his 2016 spring/summer collection. We didn’t spend too much time walking around but a lot of the dresses were enjoyable to look at (But completely non-functional to wear) 

Going up the heart staircase. 
The impressive lawn and ocean views from the back of Rosecliff. 

And the back of the mansion where you can see the covered porch the ballroom opens up to. Rosecliff is known for its appearance in multiple films including True Lies, 27 Dresses, and the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby. It certainly makes an impressive Hollywood backdrop to me! And for the very rich, it’s possible to book your wedding at Rosecliff. (Someone out there who gets married here please invite me! I can only imagine how beautiful it would be!)

Front view. Bit of history: Rosecliff was commisioned in 1898 and finished in 1902 for the Silver Mining Success family: The Oelrichs, namely Therea Oelrich. It’s history isn’t terribly exciting (compared to others like Marble House and the Breakers) but it saw a number of parties varying from the very proper Oelrich to the last owners the Monroes who threw Mardi Gras esque fetes. It was definitely a beautiful mansion that only took 30-40 minutes to explore. 
Now: Onto the Breakers. The main event for when you have little time to see Newport Mansions, this is by far the most lavish of them so should definitely be on the list. 
Immediately walking in you come to an incredible foyer/ ballroom again with an impressive ceiling and cloud painting. 
On the left is where you enter in. The Breakers was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1893 to replace a MUCH smaller wooden shack that burned down the previous year. It took a whole team of architects, artists, designers and the like to create this 70 room Italian Renaissance- style palazzo inspired by the 16th century palaces of Genoa and Turin. It didn’t take the audi tour telling me it was styled after Italian palaces because walking through, this “summer cottage” would easily constitute and Italian palace. 
After the main room you go through the breakfast room and dining room, then a music room, billiards room, and library. 
The ceiling for the previous photo which is in the dining room. I was really wishing I had my better camera to capture this insane ceilings but I digress… I’ll just have to go back again to capture it better. 

Part of the music room
In the library note again the incredible ceiling and the even more impressive fireplace which was actually moved from a chateau in France. like Audio tour SAY WHAT? 
Under the main staircase is this peaceful little fountain. A lot of the house design borrows from aspects of the sea with seashells and mermaids subtly hidden in the artwork. I loved this great little fountain which was modeled to be like a private grotto. 
Some of the ceiling artwork in the breakfast room. 
Another incredible ceiling. I took more photos of those because where else in America do you see such amazing artwork?

The Billiards room which was floor to ceiling tile and was one of the more obvious “sea-styled” rooms in the house.

The Ceiling in the music room. 
Moving on upstairs to my DREAM bathroom… except maybe a bit updated. For example while that SOLID marble tub is way cool, they’d have to fill it and drain it multiple times for it to actually heat up as the stone was THAT cool. BUT plus side, all those knobs on the side there, ya they hook up to both FRESH and SALT water so if you fancy a healthifying (as it was seen back there) to take a heavily salinated bath. Then this is the tub for you. But seriously how fancy is this bathroom?! 
A close up of the ceiling from the upstairs balcony. 
Unfortunately didn’t take too many photos of the bedrooms upstairs cause let’s be honest my phone battery was now ALSO DYING at this point haha was literally taking trying to take photos with it hooked up to my massive external battery pack that disconnects constantly. lol wasn’t working so great but the upstairs was GLORIOUS! My fav parts were the bathrooms and the secret servant passages so they could move about without being seen. Fun fact about the closets? Ya the women during this Gilded Age wore 3-4 outfits a DAY! Sounds more like the golden age to me. I could probably change outfits that many times and be happy myself. 😀 
Other favorite part: the Upper Loggia (which is the weird light on the right of these photos) It was sort of an informal living room but could be open air with stellar views of the ocean and probably a very “cool” temp wise as it was floor to ceiling marble with the sky again painted on the ceiling. 
The much less fancy servants stairs that went on forever it seemed like. 
Katie and I descending the servant stairs (turns out the tour only moves about on old servant stairs) so here we are going down these stairs like the peasants we are. 
AHH the butler’s pantry was my DREAM! So many fancy tea sets and I want them ALLL! ( JK I probs haven’t mentioned it yet on this blog but I’m kind of obsessed with tea sets and tea parties. always have been. always will) 
 Me being dwarfed by the backside of this giant mansion! 
OK so bit of history about the Vanderbilts and the Breakers, Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt II was actually only able to appreciate it for 4 years ( a couple of which they didn’t holiday there) as he passed away shortly after it was completed. It then belonged to his wife who outlived her husband by 35 years and was left to the youngest daughter, Gladys ( of course because the youngest are ALWAYS spoiled.. speaking from experience) but JK it was left to her as she was the only child with no American property and was apparently the only one even interested in the property. It has stayed with her line before parts of the house being sold to the Preservation Society in 1948 for what would be 2.5 million in today’s money. The 3rd floor is still actually left private for people to live in. 
Also side note about one of her brothers, Alfred Vanderbilt actually perished on the Lusitania passenger cruise liner that was sunk by German U-boats at the start of WWII. If you’re looking for a good book recommendation highly recommend Dead Wake by Erik Larson which tells you all about it! 
By the time we were kicked out of the mansion right at closing time, it was starting to really come down. Good thing I had a rain jacket! If only I had rain boots. haha 
The beautiful Breakers gate. Some of the mansions you can walk around the exterior without having to pay but oh no, the Breakers will take your admittance fee at the gate! 
We didn’t let the rain deter us from a little Cliff Walk action! After reading Katie’s post about Cliff Walk this was pretty high on my list of wanting to do’s ! So I at least got a short section behind the Breakers in haha 
Getting rained on outside the breakers. 

We passed a lot of beautiful mansions on our walk, many of which area actually part of the Salve Regina University. ( Can I please go to the Princess Academy?! I mean their dorms are in castles!)  

We started the cliff walk right by the Breakers and finished our short excursion at the Forty Steps spot. (basically 40 steps right down to the sea… with how the weather was I didn’t make it much past the first couple) 
Walking back on the opposite side from Cliff Walk to the car and passing just a few of the university signs. 
We discovered pretty quick how starving we were in the rain and the goal had been to get me a lobster rolls which lead us to Flo’s Clam Shack (one of the closest options that was open late enough. WHY YOU CLOSING AT 5 LOBSTER SHACKS?) 

But as soon as we smelled the fried food in this place there was no going for lobster. Instead we both ended up with whopping plates of fish and chips and also got some clam fritters so I could still try something new. (PSA, it was all delicious) 
Breakfast bagel sandwich: $8
Ferry from hell : $13
Newport Mansions: for a Breakers plus 1 house ticket it ran me $27. Katie got an awesome price for a student membership so if you still have a student id, for sure check out those prices! 
Cliffwalk: FREE
Flo’s Clam shack: For the feast above it was $28 so about $14 pp. 
Newport Bridge that we had to drive over there and back: $8 fricken dollars total! An expensive bridge ya’ll, hope you enjoyed the photos! haha
Total for day: $70
And of course some gas costs thrown in there. 
All in all it was a rainy but great day! The rain helped keep our memorial day traffic and crowds down so that was a win and topping it off with some amazing fried seafood was the cherry on top of this great vacation! 
Next up: The polar end of the classy New England, FLORIDA! Haha I’m trading in my Newport Mansions for (dare I say it?) REAL  well castles. haha of the Disney and Hogwarts variety. Stay tuned. 

A love post about Block Island

As my previous pointed out we had a 7 PM ferry to block Island to catch so in that 1 day we went from NYC subways, taxi cabs, and trains, to ferrying on over to Block Island from Rhode Island. It was a chilly ride with light sprinkling and some serious heaving and surging forward and back. Like if you stood on the bow, you may have been doused a time of 2. Luckily it’s just an hour ride over.

Cutest little New England sight to welcome us in. 
The STUNNING house I got to stay in compliments of incredible friends with family connections. 
The house has 4 “rooms” and another open loft room. The 2 rooms downstairs were occupied by the couples on the trip while my lonesome self had the upstairs loft and rooms to myself. The room I used only had 1 single bed but… by the time I wanted to take a picture I had made quite a mess of the bed so decided to take a pic of this room instead. haha basically the same though. 
 Outside the 2 small rooms there is the open loft. 
With window looking right out to the ocean! What a view to wake up to each morning! 
So Day 1 on Block Island was explore by car day and 1st stop was at the Mohegan Bluffs which were named after the native tribe the Niantic indians chased the Mohegans over the bluffs in a battle for territory. The bluffs stand at about 150 feet high and are eroding constantly with at least 250 feet of known erosion. There are about 100 steps that get you close to the bottom, and from there a short trail to the beach. (The trail was fairly muddy so we descended as far as we wanted before heading back up.) 
The bluffs offer a great view of the Block Island Wind Farm which is the United State’s first commercial offshore wind farm and just began operations at the end of last year! (A fun fact that Katie loves to tell me is in the construction of the wind turbines, they actually had to stop for a day as there were loads of hammer head sharks swimming around the bases) 
At the base of the stairs looking out at the beach 

The memorial stone for the Mohegan Bluffs which is actually found at the lighthouse parking and not the bluffs parking. 
The SE lighthouse, located on the Mohegan bluffs of Block Island. This lighthouse was built in 1784 and is renowned as being the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses from the 19th century. So way to go Block Island. It really is a gorgeous lighthouse! 
Fun fact? Remember how I mentioned the Mohegan Bluffs eroding 250 feet? Well they actually had to MOVE this 2,000 ton structure back 300 feet in 1990 or it may have been lost. As it is still a functioning lighthouse, they couldn’t move it back further than that so we’ll see if it will have to be moved yet again!
Next up on the Block Island tour: North Light Fibers Mill to essentially see the animals. There’s a lovely range of animals to check out but my favorite (in fact most everyone’s favorite) is the Zedonk. Also plenty of Llamas roaming about. If you’re in need of some wool socks, highly recommend checking out the store cause they had so fantastic ones made exclusively with Merino wool for $25. Still regretting not getting a pair.  
Up next: lunch and a stroll on the Town beach. Both the sand and water were so inviting but man it was too cold for that! Still lovely and you can see one of the ferries. 
And as the sun set on our first day we headed down to Ballard’s for some BANANA mudslide action. Even though it was freezing and basically drinking a shake may NOT have been the best way to warm up, I couldn’t leave Block Island without trying one. 
And heading back from there we were treated to the most AMAZING sunset right from the front porch. From the house you get a great view of North Light! (photos coming up) 
None of my photos are edited so you can believe that sky really was that incredible! 
And the light reflected back on the house made for a great show of its own! 
Next activity? In all seriousness I was assured you can’t go to Block Island and NOT do a puzzle. So rather ambitiously, we started a 1,000 piece puzzle that night that wouldn’t even fit on our table completely. (the corners hung off. haha) 
Day 2 started with a lovely walk straight from the house to the North lighthouse. 
The North light is situated right on Block Island Point. The current structure is actually the 4th lighthouse to have been built in that spot and was completed in 1867, only 38 years after the first structure was onsite. It’s quite a bit smaller that the SE light but just as charming and much more beach accessible. 🙂 
So from there we went to the point which due to very interesting tide currents, creates a V-point. 

Looking back at the lighthouse from the point
So we did the car tour, so now onto the most natural way to get around the island: the bike tour! We started at the house and rode into town, making a stop (conveniently going up a hill for a break) at the labyrinth. 
It’s called the “Sacred Labyrinth” and is a narrow circular walkway lined with stones where you can “unplug from the distractions of the modern world and enjoy the peace and quiet of a walking meditation” by following the path. It was interesting, although I didn’t even make a full circuit before breaking the path. I guess walking meditation just isn’t for me. haha 
Biking along the road our first stop just as we were getting into town as at the Poor People’s Pub. It was a nice stop along our bike route although their Root Beer Floats I must say were quite overpriced. 
Then onto the iconic “OAR” restaurant for drinks with a view. They had such a fun outdoor environment with lawn chairs and lots of dogs! We finished our bike tour back at the Ferry terminal to drop 2 of them off making our One way excursion somewhere in the 5-5.5 mile range. 

Then we headed back for dinner and to laboriously finish the puzzle. (which we did… hours later haha) 

The last day we were up bright and early to close up the house and catch the 11 ferry (with everyone else) off the island. UNFORTUNATELY, it was only 1 enclosed single deck and pouring rain so everyone wanted to be INSIDE. Meaning our sorry butts getting there 10 minutes before leaving were left with the floor seats. haha The wet crowded floor that is also not helped by the ocean and the serious swaying that was going on. Needless to say I was glad I had some food in my stomach.. but not too much. It was a rough start to Memorial Day. haha

Block Island Costs:
The ferry from Pt. Judith, RI to Block Island: $12.50 each way
Various beverages from Ballard’s, Poor People’s Pub, and The Oar: around $10 average
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner we were blessed to have a kitchen so we cooked/ prepared stuff for those meals and thankfully brought most of the groceries with us on the ferry. (The food is crazy expensive at the stores ya’ll. Plan ahead!
And also thanks to my wonderful, amazing friends the lodging, car, and bikes were all covered. thanks again guys!

So not a bad memorial day weekend at around $55 plus grocery costs. Definitely recommend checking this little island off the New England coast a try! (But maybe wait till steadier weather cause those beaches really do look amazing!)

NYC posts- Brooklyn & Central Park

NYC Day 2: Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Central Park

Despite the late night Broadway show before, we were up early and determined to hit the rest of the list. So first up was Brooklyn. It took about 40 min to get to the Bagel Store on Bedford Ave between 2 subway lines and less than mile of walking.

Rainbow bagel with funfetti smear: perfection.

Like a kid in a candy store! (or a cake store! haha) That bagel was legit like eating cake since they use cake batter in the smear. It was all my dreams come true! lol and even though it wasn’t the cheapest bagel in the world, around 6.50 it wasn’t bad and their other bagels were a bit cheaper and just as yummy looking. 
The Bedford Ave store put is in an amazing position for our next destination of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was just a short walk through the super cool culture haven that is Williamsburg to the base of the Williamsburg Bridge. (also beautiful in its own right) And from there a cheap ferry ride over to the Brooklyn Bridge. 
Finally seeing some bits of blue sky and sun peek through after all the rain the day before! Here comes the ferry! 
After you get off at the ferry stop, check the cool park area around. Lots of green walking paths and you can get this stellar shot of lower Manhattan! 
And of course from the ferry dock you get a great glimpse of the bridge to come. 
Starting out on the uphill climb for the bridge. 
Even more blue sky! This may have been one of my favorite sites on the whole NYC tour. I love the architecture of the bridge and the history.. which is why there’s about 100 photos of it to follow.. 
The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and is the 3rd oldest bridge connecting Manhattan to surrounding areas. The first, King’s bridge has been demolished, and the 2nd oldest carries a water main aqueduct and is inaccessible to pedestrians or vehicles. So basically this is the oldest bridge there you can cross. It is also considered one of the oldest suspension bridges and at the time it was built was 50% longer than any other suspension bridge in existence. That is of course, because it is a hybrid bridge with both suspension and cable stayed bridge techniques. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. 
My favorite bit of interesting history is that when designing the bridge, they added in lots of secret compartments which the city rented out in order to fund it. Some of those were used as wine “cellars” because they stayed a consistent 60 degrees. 
Even though she looks a bit small, you can easily see Lady Liberty our on Ellis Island from the Brooklyn Bridge. 
Another great photo spot. Important to note that if you want photos without 1,0000 other strangers in your shots, the earlier you get there the better. I think we were there around 10 and it was definitely picking up with field trippers and sight seers alike. 
Looking over at the other beautiful Manhattan Bridge. 
One last shot with our flag flying high and bright. Nothing like visiting some of American’s beautiful historic landmarks to inspire some patriotism. 
Once we were off the bridge it was another short walk to Ground Zero, the 9/11 Memorial. 
2 of my fave. sky scrapers from the trip that we passed along the way. 
I really loved the memorial. I can’t really imagine a more respectful way to recognize the events that occurred on 9.11.2001. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the twin towers were struck and will never forget those who lost their lives to that terrible act of terrorism.
Even though it was one of the more crowded areas we came across in NYC, everyone was very somber and respectful which was wonderful to see. 
Then time for our last subway adventure when we learned just how important it is to observe ALL the facts that Google Maps points out. Ie. if it only says get on the C line, only get on the C line because if you get on the A line which yes… goes in the same direction, you may just have gotten on the express which will take you 8 stops passed the one you needed to get off at. Thank goodness we figured it out in the subway station so our $3 bucks were still good and we just hoped on the C to go back a few stops. Added maybe 20-30 minutes to our transit time but otherwise.. not too difficult to get from lower Manhattan to mid Central Park. 

Because now it was Central Park time! First up we wanted to check out the Loeb boat house and Bow Bridge. 
Such a peaceful and beautiful area! We discussed a possible romantic boat ride together but decided to not. haha (which turned out to be a solid idea as we DEF would not have had time) 
Most of the places we wanted to see was as the center of Central Park and the hotel Watson was at the SW corner. (We still needed to go back and grab out bags we’d checked there for the day) 
The Alice in Wonderland statue! There was a solid amount of people waiting to have their photo taken here so I just decided to grab a shot between modelers and move onto the next site. Very cool (and large!) statue though and pretty close to the boathouse area. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area! 
And you know I couldn’t NOT check out Balto although he was a bit further from the center, he was still pretty on the way as we headed south though the park. 
Here comes the exciting part as these next 2 photos I essentially took at a run. We realized that the absolute latest train we could take in order to get back in time to catch the 7:00 ferry to Block Island… left at 1:20. and ya we were still at the Balto statue at 12:40 deep in Central Park. haha at this point nothing would get us back to the hotel for our bags faster than going through the park… so walk/run we did.
Finally a beautiful day and we were running to escape the city! Back at the hotel it took all of 3 minutes to recover our bags and then google was saying the fastest way to Grand Central (1 mile) was by car/ taxi for a 10 minute drive. OF COURSE all the taxis near our hotel were taken so we ran along the side walks (Katie dashing into the street to check for taxi cabs like a mad woman) and finally the right taxi cab found us. Of course he heard us say CENTRAL PARK instead of Grand central station so he took us like 5 minutes out of the way but he more than made up for it by completely disregarding the traffic laws and other drivers on the road, thus getting us to the station with about 10 minutes before our train left. Luckily we had used the apps and bought our tickets from the cab so now we only had to figure out what platform it was leaving from.
COMMENCE both of us running around Grand Central, plowing down people like mad women but thankfully we were dropped off on the closer side of grand central. We made it to our train with about 5 minutes to spare and at that point I rewarded myself with a famous NYC Black & white cookie (purchased from the bagel store) and relaxed on the journey back to New Haven. 

BUT the excitement did NOT stop there! OH NO cause the connecting train we’d planned on turned out to be an unholy expensive AMTRAK train and NOT the Shoreline east train even though it was on their schedule. That coupled with a ticketing agent telling us the next train wouldn’t leave for another hour had us in PANIC mode. We checked everything from bus schedules to Uber prices but just when we gave into our defeat by purchasing Sbarro pizza (the worst pizza ever) we discovered the ticketing guy was WRONG and there was a train departing only 30 minutes later than we had expected. So rush we did and home we got just in time to throw more bags and be on our way to our next destination!

So there you have it my NYC experience, a bit of doom & gloom, to glorious broadway, to bagels in Brooklyn, sunshine in Central Park, and plowing down people in Grand Central. Certainly an adventure I won’t forget

Costs of the day:
Rainbow bagel with funfetti shmear: something like $6.50. I believe it was a dollar or 2 more than the normal bagels.
black & white cookie also from the bagel store: $3
Ferry from Williamsburg to Brooklyn Bridge: $2.5 pp
All activities were free today
oh! except for the wild taxi ride which ended up around $7 pp
The trains to get back was the same as day before: $24.75
And of course the terrible Sbarro pizza was like $6 but a girls gotta eat.
Total for the day: $49.75 just under 50

Miles walked: around 5.5 with almost about half of that just in Central Park.

A rainy day in NYC

NYC Day 1: Bright and early caught the train from Old Saybrook Connecticut ( free parking and closer to Stonington so less traffic concerns) to New Haven Union Station where we then transferred to go  on to Grand Central. (Above: a horrible lighting selfie in Grand Central… you’re welcome) 
Shoreline East train from O.S. to New Haven: $7.25
Metro North train from New Haven to Grand Central: 17.50

Union Station in New Haven was pretty cool
A much better photo of the incredible ceiling in Grand Central station
Grand Central Station
The hotel we booked for the night was a mere mile from Grand Central so even though it was lightly sprinkling outside the station, we decided to walk to our hotel. Not the best decision as it would turn out as that “mist” quickly turned to full on rain and while our rain jacket kept our top and backpacks dry, it did nothing for my head, legs, or the most regrettably: shoes. 

But luckily enough, Hotel Watson had a room ready for us 1.5 hours early so we were able to go right up, dry off and change, and formulate a new approach for the day as we had previously wanted to explore Central Park.
NEW PLAN: Take the Subway downtown to the Chelsea Market since that was inside and see if we could bide our time till the rain let up.

Impressions of Chelsea Market: Let’s just say it’s way cooler than I am. Tons of eating options and cute little shops. We ended up with Iced Coffees and a loaf of break for $3 for a snacking option. 
The markets were almost like a more intimate version of a mall with different art and cultures mixing into one. These 3 photos from inside were my favorite parts, especially this pipe waterfall that drained right into the ground. 
But sadly, the markets couldn’t go on forever and once again we were faced with going out into the bleak weather of NYC.  But blue skies or not, we determined to check out the new park, the Highline trail that had an entrance just outside of the market. 
The trail is approximately 1.5 miles long and foot traffic only. It’s an old railroad track that was just recently converted into an incredible green space with loungers and flowers everywhere. 
Above: The view looking out toward Jersey City. 
The rain teased us while we were up there giving us a mix of down pour to a fine mist. There were a few spots to take cover during the heavier rain thankfully, but overall, the rain never let up. 
You can see these bench loungers are actually built right over the old track. 
Looking into the city from the Highline Trail. 
Some cool benches I really admired. Since we hopped on the trail near one end we walked first the shorter distance and then headed off on the longer route, determined to see the whole thing. 

Many views of the city from the trail. As you can see it was a near perfect day to be wandering around a park. 

Overall I would actually say that Chelsea market and this park are worth checking out if you are in NYC. ESPECIALLY if you have some down time on a nice day as those loungers would be a lot more inviting in the sun. The park also has a few bathrooms, shops, and elevators so it is wheelchair accessible. Great facilities all in all. 

So from there the trail ended not too far from Hell’s Kitchen so we hopped on the subway to check out Times Square. and the rain rained on. lol but we checked out a few souvenir shops searching for the one magnet that would speak to my soul (none ever did. I am a connoisseur of magnets and NYC seriously let me down on this front) and grabbed a street gyro (which turned out to be pretty delicious.)
And from there on it was a short walk (like .7 miles) back to our hotel.

Then it was time for a HOT shower and another change of clothes into a dress and park 3 of 3 shoes I packed for my whole trip haha. I was so over having wet toes you don’t even KNOW. We had 3 of us, me the pickiest of eaters and also probably the cheapest, a vegetarian, and Katie… so what could we possibly end up with in NYC? The answer is Ramen. Previous reports had recommended Totto Ramen which just happened to be on our way to Broadway so we headed that way. Only Totto Ramen had a line out the door with a likely 20 minute wait that we likely didn’t have time for. 
BUT after some 5 confusing minutes of looking at a sidewalk menu we realized that the sign saying Totto Ramen Next Door was a LEGIT place and we had been studying its menu the whole time! No wait we walked in and had some delicious Ramen and were right on our way again. 

And then we were there. Childhood dreams becoming a reality: Seeing THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on Broadway. Show started at 8 so we got there 30 min early. PRO TIP: DO NOT EAT SALTY FOODS BEFORE SEEING A BROADWAY. Or at least if you do, chug plenty of water after. We were all so thirsty from the salty Ramen and the bottles of water here were $5! Crazy. 
Needless to say the show was INCREDIBLE. I would LEGIT see this show every time I go to NYC (although  I know there are definitely more incredible musicals to see) The singing, acting, and my favorite park the incredible stage props and backdrops made for a show I’ll never forget. 

Once out of the show we hit up a CVS/ or some other drug store to grab out weight in water bottles lol. Then we again walked back to the hotel (again in the rain which consequently soaked my 3rd pair of shoes)

It seriously didn’t stop raining ALL DAY!
NYC Day 1 Budget review: Trains total: $24.75
Subway 1 way ticket $3 (we used it twice so for the day: $6)
Loaf of bread and iced coffee: something like $8
Street Gyro: $7 
Ramen place: $12 plus tip so like $15 pp
Phantom Of The Opera tickets for Front Mezzanine seats: $100 pp
Hotel Watson for a 2 double bed room: $240/ 3 of us so like $80 pp
Total for day: Something like $240. (NYC ain’t cheap ya’ll!) 

Things to do in Coastal Connecticut

ok time for my last Connecticut post… the less historical visited sites and things to do. Starting with Mystic. As the weather decided to rain on my parade a large majority of the time, we decided to kill one evening by “happy hour hopping” in Mystic (one town over from Stonington) so first stop was: 
1. The Oyster Club where they had oysters for 1/$1. Consequently I tried my 1st and last raw oyster. It was terrible but the cocktail sauce helped. 
2. Pizzete were they have $1 slices of cheese or pepperoni pizza. You can go here if you’re on a budget but still want some “Mystic pizza” haha
3. The last place we were able to squeeze in before 5:00, the Engine Room. Pretty delicious cheeseburgers for $5 and a very cool vibe. Probably my favorite of the 3 we went to.
And of course happy hour being what it is, there were select beverages available for decent prices at each place also if you’re looking for that. 

Next up: Avery Point for some lighthouse action. Plus Katie really wanted to show me her old college stomping grounds. 1st impressions: small but absolutely lovely. 
The stunning Branford house that serves as the student welcoming center for UConn Avery Point Campus. 
Although the building was locked up for summer (I really wanted to go inside) I definitely appreciated all the pretty details of the building from the outside. (and admittedly walked around peering in the ground floor windows like a total creeper.)

A stunning sunset back in good ol’ Stonington 

Right around the corner from both Mystic and Stonington is Ender’s Island. (every time I heard it I couldn’t NOT think of Ender’s game…) It’s a cool little Monastic Caltholic retreat on it’s own Island… kind of. You drive over a very narrow little road to get out to it.

A few very lovely buildings, almost like a school campus that is almost entirely surrounded by water. 
Supposedly there is a store where you can buy delicious jams. I searched for said store but as I was on a bit of a time crunch and had a dog with me that likely would NOT be allowed into buildings… we just walked around the whole thing for a quick stop. 

And now onto the hike around Bluff Point state park in Groton. (Right around the corner from both the Griswold battle field and Nautilus museum. Groton is happening place ya’ll!

This state park is used for all sorts of activities including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and general beach going although it’s a bit of a walk to the beaches.

 A snapshot of a deer in the more wooded section of Bluff point. Apologize for the blurr but it was all I could get with a very excited hound dog ready to chase after it. 

Some of the coastal views from the hike. From May-October, dogs are allowed to use the inland trails but not allowed on the beaches due to bird nesting grounds. (this being a wildlife preserve and all) so we mostly stuck to the trail but the views were still great. 
The main path is a loop that will follow the coast out to the point and then head back down through the middle of the peninsula called the Groton X-Town trail. I admit, this hike was really more of a trail walk/run but counting it anyways. (there was mud and wildlife haha) As you turn to go inland there are all these beautiful old stone barriers (fences) going this way and that and just about blending into the scenery; remenants of when this peninsula was a little farming community. There is even a placard in front of some of the larger ruins that mark where the Winthrop House (circa 1712) is. 
Overall loop hike length: 3.5 miles 

And finally the last great activity was kayaking out in Old Lyme. We went in the evening on one of the few days it didn’t rain lol and it was absolutely peaceful. Nothing like floating on a river with some drinks and good friends. Thanks again Katie!

I love kayaking! 
And that’s it for Connecticut (for now) folks! Onto NYC and Rhode Island posts! 

Visiting the COOLEST Connecticut history sites

OK Time for the ULTIMATE CONNECTICUT HISTORY SITE TOUR! First stop: The Nautilus Submarine Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

I kid you not, this is one of the coolest museums out there. (AND IT IS FREE!!!!)
Hours of operation: everyday 9-5, closed Tuesdays.
They WILL kick you off the property by 5:15. haha

As the sub part of the museum closes a bit earlier than the museum, we hit that up first.

They have a 20-30 minute audio tour that guides you around the sub. We didn’t have to ask “Permission to come aboard” 
Tight quarters, steep ladders, and tight spacers. Do NOT recommend wearing a dress or flipflops. (My dad taught me well so you know I was in my closed toed shoes) 
Back on top with the “Don’t tread on me” flag. 
The entrance to the museum. I LOVE the contrast of the smallest sub vs. the largest marking the gateway to the museum. 

Overall AMAZING museum for history on the Nautilus as well as Navy Submarine uses. They have family friendly activities including being able to look through a periscope to see real time “outside the museum” as you turn in different directions.
Left: a crazy “bomb” planter that people would literally pedal to power and would use to put explosives on the ocean floor.

Nautilus cool history: One of the first subs to be powered by Nuclear energy (as opposed to Diesel fuel) which allowed her to travel far greater distances submerged under water and at faster speeds. She broke quite a few records in her day, most notably as being the first sub to make a submerged transit of the North Pole in 1958.

For those not cool with the confined spaces on the sub, there is a lovely model in the museum with explanations of the various sub compartments. You can get a pretty good idea of what life was like on the Nautilus without having to step foot on it. 

From Groton we headed across the water to Fort Trumbull in New London. Looking back across you can see General Dynamics (manufactures submarines!) 

Fort Trumbull was a HUGE fort that I bet would be SUPER cool to explore, but alas we were there before it opened for the year.
Hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 21 through Labor Day. For entrance to the visitor center museum and for fort tours, there is a fee. 

The fort is considered a state park however and you are still able to walk around and enjoy the beautiful outside walls and ocean views FOR FREE!  The park itself is open daily from 9-8. So bummed we didn’t get to tour around the fort, but hey free is free and the outside was QUITE impressive.

History of the fort: The original fortification (nothing like the current fort) was completed in 1777 and was attacked/ surrendered to the British in the Groton Heights Raid in 1781. (Much more on that later) There is only one small building from that time period left which housed the battery. The current fortress was built from 1839-1852 and served many a purpose throughout the years including a Union headquarters for recruiting and training during the Civil War, as a headquarters for the many other forts in the area in the time after the Civil War, as a Merchant Marine officers Training school until WWII where lastly it was used as a Division of War Research that developed Sonar systems. It opened as a State park in 2000. 

My next favorite history spot is actually back in Groton at the Fort Griswold battlefield which I explored one day while Katie worked so Olive accompanied me instead. (so yes Dogs are welcome here as well as long as they are leashed.) Fort Griswold is ALSO a state park and the battlefield is free to explore and open daily. The monument and museum onsite is also free and open from 9-6 but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays which means.. I didn’t get to go in them. 🙁 (also like Fort Trumbull is only operational in the summer from Memorial day to Labor day)

BONUS THOUGH: Fort Griswold has a CELLPHONE Audio tour. and it is AWESOME. You just call (860) 424-4005 and select which stop you are at. (Unfortunately you do have to call again at each stop but there are only 5… so not a big deal) It took me maybe 20 minutes to listen and explore all 5 stops. The main gate and cannons at stop 2 (with the monument/museum being stop 1) 

It’s a bit small in this photo, but looking across the way you can actually see Fort Trumbull.

A summary of the battle here is that on September 6,1781 the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold led the British in a raid on the Groton area with troops of 1700 men to take down both Fort Trumbull and Griswold. The British forces were divided into 2 groups of around 800 men. Fort Trumbull fell first, after which the British were able to turn their full attention on Griswold. There were only 166 American volunteers defending Fort Griswold so to say they were the underdogs is an understatement for sure. This realization didn’t take long to sink in, however the British offered no quarter so the Colonel Ledyard led his men to continue in the battling in the fort’s defense. The fort did push the British back a time or two, however they still were able to overtake the Americans. When the British asked who was in command, Colonel Ledyard handed over his sword and said “You are now” and was reportedly then killed with his own sword. While some men were able to escape using the various dry moats around the fort, over 80 men were massacred as the fort was surrendered and another 60 men were “mortally” wounded according to General Arnold’s reports. The British losses were  45 men killed and another 145 men wounded causing General Arnold to complain of the high casualty rate on their side. As this battle occurred towards the end of the Revolutionary war, it was one of the last British Victories as only a few months later, General Washington led us to victory in Virginia.

This is the main gate into the fort. It was recorded that one British solider was able to successfuly scale the fort’s walls and opened the gate for everyone else to invade. The fort has sunk quite a bit in but still remains pretty tall, especially with the dry moat running around the outer edge. 

On the other side of the fort is a smaller tunnel entrance. 

 I absolutely loved the audio tour (if you couldn’t tell) as I actually remembered all of that information (though I did fact check my memory when I typed it all up) so I definitely recommend the audio tour. There are a few informational plaques that have a summary of the day’s events at the entrance to the fort. There is also a memorial plaque dedicated to those volunteers who fought at Fort Griswold, and another plaque within the fort dedicated to Colonel Ledyard (where it is said he was killed with his own sword)

A view from one corner looking at the inner fort with the monument in the background. The monument is super interesting as well as it was the FIRST obelisk monument built within the United States and was constructed from 1826-1830. It stands at 135 feet tall and has 166 steps, 1 step for each volunteer that fought in the battle for Fort Griswold. (I really wished it was open but alas… I was there on my last day, a Tuesday.)

Sooo there you have it, a lengthy overview of the incredible historic sites/museums that were all within 30 minutes of Stonington Connecticut. I’m glad that I was able to glimpse a bit more of American history both Revolutionary time periods and modern while I was visiting out there. As I visited over Memorial day, it was so much easier to ponder these battlefields and the men who fought on them.
Again price recap: All of these places are FREE (with exception to tours in Fort Trumbull which I wasn’t able to do anyways) If you are in the Connecticut area, I highly recommend a visit to each of these places.

A few days relaxing in Stonington Borough

After the craziness of flying multiple times within less than a week and seeing SO many sites, a couple days of R&R at my gal pal Katie’s house was definitely due. She lives in the cutest little New England town called Stonington Borough. Monday,Tuesday, and Wednesday I spent the majority of my days sitting on the couch like a bum  blogging and trip planning but I did make it out on the town when it wasn’t raining.

As Katie lives right on the edge of the borough, no car needed to explore the town which is itty bitty and very walkable. Points of interest: Museum Lighthouse and Stonington Point (for history buffs) the shops and little streets for those looking for shopping or charm, and of course the cute little beach! (which I was dying inside that it turned so cold for the time I was there. I really wanted to swim!)

Stunning super expensive homes on the water
The cute Old Lighthouse museum

The museum is just before you reach Stonington Point and while I’d like to claim I went in, the $10 entry price was a bit steep to me for the size but for here’s a bit of info on it: The lighthouse itself was built in 1840 and was in active service until 1889 when beacons were added to the breakwaters, but even then it housed the light keepers until 1909 when it was abandoned. It was purchased by the historical society and made into a museum in 1927 and houses numerous lighthouse artifacts (from other lighthouses) and

other pieces of maritime history. Most interesting artifacts involve cannonballs and artifacts from when the British attacked Stonington in 1814 (part of the war of 1812, more on that later) It has been open 6 months every year since then (besides most of WWII which I found interesting) and visitors can climb the 29 steps to the top where the view lends itself to 3 states.
Hours of operation: May 5 – October
Open Daily from 10am – 5pm, CLOSED Wednesday

And as I was saying just past the lighthouse you reach the point with a fun little beach and wonderful bench area! I had a lovely relaxing sit watching a few divers come in on the beach.

(still wish it had been warm enough to swim.. or sunny to sit on the beach but alas, I was cursed with no great weather… more on that later. haha)

HISTORY LESSON* The battle of 1814 (part of the 1812 conflict still.. I know I know…. the years don’t match but yall the war of 1812 was actually.. longer than a year. Officially started in 1811, it went until Feb 1815 when a peace treaty was signed) 
ANYWAYS, so as alluded to in the memorial at Stonington point, on August 9th around 3 PM, the Brits arrived from Fisher’s Island Sound and stopped just off Stonington Point. Captian Hardy of the British sent a message via two rowboats offshore that the residents had 1 hour to leave as he did not want to “destroy the unoffending inhabitants residing in the Town of Stonington.” HOWEVER Those brave defenders of Stonington would not abandon their town and decided to fight so they pulled out their two cannons (Kept from previous skirmishes during the Revolutionary war) to return fire on the British. The whole conflict here lasted 3 days with the two sides intermittently firing at each other. Clearly the British were off to a better start as they had much better guns and many more cannons but after all was said and done, the Americans had a fire brigade so efficient, that out of the many buildings the British artillery flew through, not a single one burned down. The British in turn lost a few men and sustained enough damage to their ships, they turned around and left. 

The lovely beach at Stonington Point
If you couldn’t tell from the 1st picture in this post, I’m obsessed with those purple flowers (called Wisteria) It was EVERYWHERE, but undoubtedly this tree was my favorite
The very famous 2 cannons that defended the town in both the Revolutionary War, and war of 1814 1812

One of my favorite things about this town is how so many of the building have the date they were constructed and who the original family is plus their occupation. As this was a seaport you can imagine a large majority of the “big” houses were Captains, rope makers, and merchants. The oldest house I came across was 1767!

A picture of the lovely feline Abby who kept me great company while I blogged and laid about. 

Also I didn’t tack this onto Sunday’s Boston post (cause well it was after we got back from Boston) But I had an AMAZING time riding Katie’s horse, Bradley in Old Lyme. For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE animals and I’ve loved horses forever, Having such a terrific friend like Katie, finally gave me the kick in the pants to finally start taking lessons. Those lessons paid off big time when I got to ride her beautiful horse! (and not fall off him cause he was seriously HUGE)

So cost breakdown: (and I apologize cause this is INCREDIBLY convoluted as I’ve split my Connecticut activities into multiple posts with more to come.) Basically priceless on everything!
Lodging: Wonderfully comfortable bed in a guest room at Katie’s mansion of a cute old house
Meals: I ate groceries all day long and will have more info on the post on Mystic from when we went Happy hour hopping there: But I think we can just round to like $35 for 2 dinners out…. (This is not very exact… I apologize)
And walking around Stonington was obviously a free activity (with more Connecticut free activities to come!)
Total cost for Monday-Wednesday: $35ish