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!)