Our New England Journey: Goodbye Mystic, Hello Newport, Rhode Island (New England)
4 Oct 2012 - Driving from Mystic, Connecticut to Newport, Rhode Island was an easy hour and a half along Route 1. Eyes feasting on historic homes and the foliage change from Greens to Rusts and Golds along the way, we were pulling over onto a metered parking spot just off America’s Cup Avenue in Downtown Newport by lunchtime.
Soaking in the vibe and street scene of Newport, this is what we love about discovering a new destination. And this one was once a very well heeled one. In the 19th century it was the hangout of obscenely wealthy industrialists like the Dukes and Vanderbilts. While they’re no longer in residence (or alive for that matter) today, their “Summer cottages” are in impeccable condition and are open for viewing to the public. But all that’s for tomorrow. Today, it was a leisurely stroll along Newport’s crooked colonial streets and harbor, checking out the boutiques and restaurants, and finally settling on a clam chowder and seafood salad at Clarke Cooke. After spending a bit of money on a dozen recycled drinking glasses at a charming home store on Bannister’s Wharf - the store is a non-profit store run by The Preservation Society of Newport County - we thought we’d hightail it to our accommodation before we could do any more damage to our credit card.
PS - Shipping cost of dozen glasses to Oz was only US$75.
Our accommodation, Ivy Lodge:
Ivy Lodge is located on a tree lined street in the “mansion district” of Newport. Looming impressively beyond the verdant hedge, this beautifully preserved and stately Victorian home makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. Walking up the footpath to the front door, edged with lawn like Green velvet, I couldn’t help the “Wow” that managed to escape from my lips. This was gorgeous. Then I opened the front door, spotted the breathtaking woodwork and Gothic foyer, and let out a gasp. Once upon a time, Ivy Lodge was once the summer residence for Dr Leroy Saterlee of New York City. Originally called “The Pines”, it was eventually purchased and lovingly restored by Daryl and Darlene Mckenzie. While Ivy Lodge may have been established as a summer residence in the 1880's, this is where the vintage aspect of the inn begins and ends, as we quickly found out the moment Host Darlene came out to greet us. With a mane of golden hair and a height that's only matched by her bright personality, she'd be the kind of gal you wouldn’t mind having a chinwag with over a couple of vodka martinis. And she is also a font of knowledge on all things Newport. Laying out a map for us on the dining room table and with pen in hand, she marked for us the best places to eat and best things to do. (Sigh) I can already tell we haven’t given ourselves enough time in these necks of the woods.
Dinner at Mama Luisa’s:
“It’s within easy walking distance. Just turn right on Narraganset, then it’s only 3 blocks away on Thames.” Pronounced “Tha-mez”, not “Tems”, I was emphatically told. OK, got it.
Directions to Mama Luisa’s sounded real easy. Except what the locals don’t tell you is that a block on the Newport “mansion” district can equal 2-3 normal city blocks. Think the Breakers (Vanderbuilts), The Elms (Edward Julius Berwind of coal industry fame), Doris Duke’s summer hangout and Chateau-sur-Mer (summer cottage of China trade merchant William Shepard Wetmore), and you’ll have an idea of the scale of the homes we’re talking about here. Add to that the fact that there are no street lights on these Über exclusive avenues to the elite, and you get less than an “easy” walk to our little Italian eatery. Still, it’s a favorite local secret that’s not even listed. What could be more appealing?
Stumbling our way there in the dark, I muttered positive affirmations to Peter like a mantra. Let’s make the most of it. C’mon, we’ll be building an appetite. It’s not as far as we think. In the end, even I was making myself ill.
Eventually, we made it to Mama Luisa’s and never did a bowl of pasta look so good. Climbing a steep set of stairs, we were shown to our table. Sharing a house salad for starters, Peter and I ordered the Tagliatelle de Pesce, Tagliatelle with scallops and prawns. Simple. Delicious. After a couple of glasses of wine each under our belts, a Tiramisu to die for, and Peter belting out a few off-key tunes en route to the inn, the walk home didn’t seem so daunting. But at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. It was September and no one was in residence in their mansions to hear us.