We'd had a few rumbles of thunder in the night but I woke up to the local news saying there had been a mini-tornado in Providence - very exciting.
Rough Point, Doris Duke's old home. I had hoped to be able to walk there but having discovered it was three miles from the hotel and on a day when it was going to be around 90 degrees farenheit and humid I thought it was the better part of valour to take a taxi. I had booked the 9.45 a.m. tour but it seemed no-one else had or indeed the 10.00 a.m. tour so I sat in the porch (for the slightly cooler air) reading Pride & Prejudice. I'm sure Elizabeth Bennet would have approved! When it became obvious no-one else was coming they treated me to a private tour of the house and I really enjoyed it. The house is very much as Doris Duke left it and I have to say other than changing her predominantly purple and mother-of-pearl bedroom I could have moved in right away. The house was originally built by a Vanderbilt and modelled on an English mansion (or an American's idea of an English stately home/country estate) and was extended by Doris's parents. It has some lovely furniture in it - mainly European and you could easily imagine yourself living and entertaining there - well I could. It was lovely to be able to ask anything about any of the rooms and the guide was so kind although any time something was British he kept saying 'But you'll know more about this than me" and I have to confess I generally didn't, including the coats of arms of all the barons who signed Magna Carta (featuring in one of the windows). Unfortunately it was so humid that by the time we had finished in the house I couldn't summon up the enthusiasm to walk around the grounds. Instead I walked along Bellevue Avenue (where many of the mansions are) to meet the trolley that would take me back into town.
Newport is an amazing place - many of the 'robber barons' built their 'summer cottages' there and spent a few weeks per year in a house which would have cost a fortune to build. This was, of course, the era before income tax! One of the things I find interesting about the houses is how close they all are to the main road & the only thing I can conclude from that is that they were there to be seen - if you've got it flaunt it. Last time I visited Newport I went to the Breakers and Rosecliff (which was used in The Great Gatsby). The Breakers is absolutely amazing, so over the top and Rosecliff is another mansion where I thought, yeah I could live here. Anyway, some photographs of Newport to whet your appetite:
|Gates at Belcourt|
|Belcourt - this is through the gates, see what I mean about how close to the road the mansion is.|
|The loggia at The Breakers|
|The Isaac Bell House (this was an early mansion & much less elaborate as you can see)|
|Private mansion from the street (it was quite secretive no signs, lots of cars so I like to think something quite exciting was going on inside!)|
|More of the secret house from the street|
|Door at Rosecliff|
|This was another private home (from 2011) - I have a feeling it may have been for sale but I didn't enquire about the price!!!|
Luckily the trolley came along after I had been walking for about 10 minutes and so I was able to get a ride into Newport centre along Thames Street (not pronounced in the English style but Thaymz - I remembered just in time). I was now running out of time before my bus back to Boston so I just had a look in a couple of shops, including the very beautiful Newport Historical Society shop. If you are ever in Newport on a hot, humid day it's worth going in here for the air-conditioning alone and it does have beautiful things to buy. Then I had lunch in The Barking Crab - a really lovely lobster (do you see a pattern emerging) pasta in a scampi sauce which I managed to splatter all over my front. Luckily a lot came off with a little soap and water. Then it was a 10 minute walk uphill back to the hotel (it was REALLY hot now), collect the bags and wait for the taxi back to the Visitor Information Centre and the bus to Boston.
I was back in Boston by about 4 p.m. Much as I loved Rough Point I'm not sure it was worth such a short detour but I did it and sitting in the air-conditioned bus on Thursday afternoon listening to my music and looking out of the window was probably a lot more pleasant than tramping round Boston where the temperatures where expected to hit 100 degrees fahrenheit and be very humid. (I think it actually maxed in the high nineties). Needless to say when I left the air-conditioned paradise of the bus and South Station the heat hit me like opening the oven door but I'm glad to say a taxi was waiting and took me back, in air-conditioned bliss, to the Copley Plaza where they were nice enough to put me back in that lovely room (and with a lovely, big bath for my tired feet!)
I had a habit this holiday of turning onto a film or programme about 20 minutes in and probably watching until nearly the end and so I continued to do that this evening, accompanied by the gentle rumble of thunder. The thunder was my friend though as I knew it was going to get cooler and a lot less humid the next day so I smiled into the darkness (it was dark around 6 p.m. mid June) and started reading Beloved in the bath.
The next day heralded another adventure. I have been looking into going to Marblehead for at least my last three visits to Boston. I've visited Salem before and that was quite easy, going once by commuter train and once by ferry. Marblehead, although very close to Salem, doesn't have the same options and I was going to have to get the ordinary MBTA bus. If you look at guidebooks they don't seem very enthusiastic about how good the buses are for tourists but if you look at the MBTA timetables there is a pretty regular service. I had also looked at the Marblehead Visitor Information and printed off a map which would take me on a walking tour of the main sites - great. Only it was difficult to marry up the map and the bus stops as mentioned on the MBTA site. Nevertheless, and in the spirit of all those who have conquered the American frontier, I took the T to Haymarket and even more daringly got on the bus whose route I didn't even have printed. Marblehead on the front was all I had to go on, OK it was a pretty good clue. I felt I wasn't getting off to a very good start when the driver got annoyed with me for wanting to pay cash - even though I had the right money I seemed to be taking too long to put the dollar bills in the machine (perhaps they should have coins like us then!). But I found a seat that didn't seem to bother anyone and clutching the map in my hand put on my music and watched out of the window.
There is a suburb (?) of Boston called Wonderland which is close to the airport and, in a children's literature kind of way, it was very exciting to go through it, although I saw no rabbit holes or young ladies in blue dresses. The journey was OK until we got to Lynn when eventually we seemed to be on the coast road so that the houses got nicer and there was a bit of ocean on the right. I was starting to get nervous at this point because the stops seemed to flash past quicker and quicker and to bear no relation to that piece of paper I was gripping. The houses got bigger and it seemed to me we must be in Marblehead. There was a group of shops and two young girls got off there, I was tempted to follow but decided I would wait until everyone got off. Luckily that was the right decision - there was a stop called Marblehead Centre, not marked on either my timetable or the visitor map and we all had to get off there because a tree had come down on the next part of the route. It was actually the perfect stop for me because the Visitor Information Bureau at the start of the walk was just across the road - what had I worried about! There was also a nice looking Starbucks and I was getting quite addicted to Carmel Frappucinos by this point (apologies to anyone offended by Starbucks or the desecration of coffee) and hadn't eaten any breakfast I seeming joined most of Marblehead's adult population and had a few minutes to prepare for my tour.
The Marblehead Chamber of Commerce has created an audio guide to the tour which you can download and then switch to your iPhone via iTunes - only I couldn't, so I was delighted that the lady in the booth was able to give me a map with more information on it and point me in the right direction.
Marblehead is a beautiful town as you will hopefully see in the following photographs. Like many of the towns along the North Shore it was a fishing port and it's claim to fame is that it was 'the birthplace of the American navy'. I knew I was in for another day of revolutionary history but that's what you get in these here parts. Marblehead went through a tough period in the 20th century but is now a very affluent dormitory town for Boston and a place for summer homes and for sailing. I took a couple of pictures of the harbour and you'll see the number of yachts. On the left is a mailbox which seemed to show the key attributes of Marblehead - on the top left is a building called Abbot Hall. It's claim to fame is that it is the home of a picture called 'The Spirit of '76' which is very famous but I have to admit to not going to see - I'm British! A lot of the houses were originally built for fishermen but they must have been massively extended over the years or there were some pretty wealthy
fishermen out there!
The building above is known as the Town House and is used for town meetings etc. It's on an island in the middle of a busy road - well it has been there since 1727!
This house is supposed to have been altered to allow the Marquis de Lafayette to get his coach round the corner. It was actually for a much less exciting reason but I can't remember why.
I stopped off from the tour to visit the Jeremiah Lee mansion (above). Even though it looks like stone it is actually wood which is, like in Nantucket, painted to look more sturdy. Again I was lucky enough to have the tour to myself. I really enjoyed it - it probably took about 30 - 45 minutes and there were some interesting things to see inside, including the original handpainted wall-paper. One set of the wall-paper is particularly interesting because although the flowers etc. have been drawn on they haven't actually been painted and the people in Marblehead don't know if that was done on purpose or what? I don't think I have seen that before. I was particularly pleased that the tiles round the fireplace in one of the downstairs rooms were from Liverpool - I must see if there is anything about Liverpool Pottery in the new museum (I think there is a small exhibit in the Maritime Museum).
I hope you can tell that I really enjoyed my day in Marblehead and now that I knew where the bus went from it was easy to tget back here and enjoy my journey back, through Wonderland, and into the city. And I have to tell you I (or rather my feet) were very glad of that sofa and bath tonight!
Next - I get up close (OK, closish) with friends of Shamu and my holiday takes a cultural turn.
Details of the hotel in Newport were in the last entry.
The bus back from Newport to Boston cost about $29 and took around two hours - traffic once you are just outside Boston is pretty bad. I used Peter Pan buses again (see below for link). They have about three buses a day and the waiting area in Newport is clean and light.
Because of the heat I took a taxi from South Station to the hotel. The taxis wait right outside - there is a rank. If it wasn't so hot I would have taken the T because the T station is part of South Station so very easy to use.
You can reach Marblehead using the normal MBTA buses routes 441/442. The fare was $3.50 each way but I might have been able to get a discount if I had told the driver I had a Charlie Ticket and I think you can use a Charlie Card to pay the fare.
There were plenty of restaurants in Marblehead but I had lunch at The Landing which is right on the harbour (sorry the website doesn't seem to be working to link but the address is http://www.thelandingrestaurant.com/). I thought it was more like a nice pub than a restaurant but the food was good and the prices were reasonable (although this was lunchtime).