It had been some months since we had One Perfect Day outside of Georgia. Truth be told, I had just vowed in October to stay the hell off the airlines until at least 2015. Fast forward to Friday, November 15, 2014, and Bob and I could have been seen strolling through Forsyth Park around 1:30 p.m. We were talking about scheduling and work, and how we really just needed to go play the next day. A breeze or a certain reflection of sunlight will sometimes tell you things about the world, much like the many and varied looks a woman can convey according to her mood, and this was one of those times. I imagine I probably had the dog look. You know, when a dog catches a whiff of something in the air, and pauses and tilts his head until he sorts it out? I had to sort it out.
The message was that the world was ripe for another game of Delta Roulette. And so, like any gambling addict, I was back to the airlines again. There are only so many places you can get to out of Savannah around 5:00 p.m., so that is how we picked Newport, much like our Omaha game last April. The real key to winning Delta Roulette is to not care where you go, you just have to have a desire to go SOMEWHERE ELSE. The objective is to be loose in the world. Bags were packed in less than thirty minutes, and we were gone. Reservations were made at the gate. This is wing and a prayer travel, and not for the faint of heart.
I cannot even imagine what this place must be like in the summer months. It was so crowded that we could barely even function in the town after lunch. Much like Savannah’s River Street, the closer you get to the harbor, the tackier and more crowded it gets. Think more Bellevue Avenue and less Bannister’s Wharf.
Mansions of Newport
The plutocrats of the Gilded Age built their summer cottages along the cliffs. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt built The Breakers in 1895 and they managed to keep it in the family until 1972, when the Preservation Society of Newport County purchased the home. Bob hates tours, so off I went by myself to take the audio tour, which was actually quite interesting. I imagine fans of Downton Abbey and Highclere Castle would be fans of this place.
For those of you who have seen George Vanderbilt’s (the Commodore’s grandson) Biltmore Estate in Asheville, you will not be impressed with this tiny cottage. The Biltmore has secret passages, a bowling alley, an indoor pool, and a library that taunts me to this very day. The Breakers is just a country cousin. I’m not in the habit of going to visit people’s homes and then picking apart how tacky they are, so I will suffice it to say that the view from the second floor looking out onto the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean was breathtakingly beautiful.
There is no accounting for taste, but the drive along Ocean Avenue and Ocean Drive is undeniably one of the most picturesque in America. No, I have not driven along every single road along the coast of America to be able to speak authoritatively, but I don’t need to. I know something great when I see it.
Exterior shots of The Breakers, as seen from Cliff Walk:
Exterior back view (from Cliff Walk) of part of Salve Regina University’s Campus:
Fans of Dark Shadows should swing by and gawk at Seaview Terrace (Carey Mansion).
After my tour, I walked through the backyard and toward the cliffs, where Bob was waiting for me. They had erected a fence to separate the amateurs from the professionals. Having no desire to turn all the way back and then exit through the giftshop, I scaled their pitiful fence that attempted to separate me from Bob and part of the Cliff Walk path. While ascending, I was thinking about Sylvia Plath’s “Two Campers in Cloud Country,” where she talks about finding comfort in meaning so little. I think she was writing about the great pleasure of just being. The greatest peace I ever had was when I came to terms with the fact that there wasn’t really anything more than that (all of our projects and life’s great works are essentially just things we are picking to fill the time and occupy our minds until we expire – sorry, but think about that for a minute), and I began to view our leisure time as a sort of church.
It was too cold for me to enjoy the full 3.5 miles of trail along the Cliff Walk, but I would make a special trip back up here in spring to do it. This has got to be one of the best places I’ve walked in America. Sadly for you, I did not take any pictures. I was too busy living.
Enjoying the crispest of New England fall days, listening, and watching the ocean hit the rocks. Over and over again. And thinking about winning Delta Roulette.