When you think “Rhode Island,” do you think “international flair?” Well, I didn’t either… until our recent Newport trip brought the worldly elements of the city into glorious focus! Leap along with me to see.
Newport is famous for its unbelievably opulent cliff-side mansions. One of our favorites was Marble House, pictured above, which is a 50-room mansion built by the Vanderbilt family in 1892 that features 500,000 cubic feet of marble. Zowie! Much of this marble was imported from afar. Our guide revealed that one Vanderbilt lady even that demanded a certain pink marble mine in North Africa that had been closed since antiquity be re-opened to produce giant marble slabs for her dining room! Only that mine had the right pink color. Oh my…
Foreign marble aside, the best international element of Marble House mansion is the Chinese Tea House the Vanderbilts plopped on the cliff behind the mansion. Indeed, the architecture did remind me of the Chinese tea houses I saw in Shanghai’s Old Town! But not only is the Vanderbilt Chinese tea house pretty, it was also used by Alva Vanderbilt to hold rallies for women to win the right to vote. Admirable!
Next, let us walk past the Tea House and onto the Newport Cliff Walk which stretches for 3.5 beautiful miles between the mansions and the ocean. The Cliff Walk is one of my favorite places in New England for its combination of nature, history, exercise, and, it turns out… diversity of visitors!
We were thrilled, as we walked and talked along the Cliff Walk, to pass tourists from nearly every continent. (Except Antarctica. Penguins may be scared of heights.) Since we had just returned from touring India, it made us happy to see several Indian tourists in brightly colored saris!
And what about European influence? In building their mega-houses, the millionaire families emulated European architecture in a ploy to boost their classiness. But Newport also has a geographical connection with the Old World, as the continent directly across the ocean is… Europe! Heck, if I had eyesight superpowers, when I stood on a rock at the furthest West point of Portugal in 2010, I could almost have seen New England. Now let us seek international flair at dinner…
On the recommendation of friends, Colin and I headed to Genie’s Lounge for a scrumptious Middle Eastern dinner. We were a day late for the belly dancing (bummer!), but the Persian style of the restaurant owner glowed through in the ornate rugs, aromatic teas, and yummy food.
Then it was time to scamper three blocks home to our luxurious room at the Hotel Viking (click for rates and availability). I posted a photo of our amazing room on my Facebook fan page and asked people to guess where I was in the world. “Italy???” responded four different people. Ahhh, Newport… You have international flair from head to toe!
So, which cities have YOU seen that have surprising international flair? Have you also visited Newport, and do you agree that it is a worldly town? Do share!
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We were guests of Discover Newport and Genie’s, but as always, all views and mid-air leaps are my own. Check out DiscoverNewport.org for sweet information on Newport lodging, dining, events, and more.