Travel Journal - Newport Rhode Island and Boston

Hi there,

Hope your summer is full of balmy days and a chance to relax.  I have to confess, not alot of sewing going on around here really these last few weeks, but perhaps a chance to catch up with my travel journal on the blog. I know that last post was a bit epic, so a little light sight seeing scrapbooking from the rest of our travels in the US coming up today.

Having been home for a few weeks here in Yorkshire, Boston and the US seem like a million miles away again.  For some reason, trips to America always feel like such an adventure.   Even now when travel is so easy and accessible and people hop on and off planes like buses, and images of everything in the world bombard our computer screens, so that nothing is unseen... a trip across the Atlantic still conjures up that feeling of exploring a new world.


Boston Harbour

It is quite different from Europe really and although it is easy because there are no language complications, life is not the same.   Perhaps one of the first ideas you encounter is simply that of 'space'.   There is simply so much space for everyone and as such, everything is purpose built.   It is also the land of the 'car'.  Life is geared around driving everywhere.  Large free car parks surround everything (ah...I hear you cry....if only.....).   We had a rental car and  you just sort of drive along the freeway and pull off here for this and there for that.  Town centres don't really exist in the same way as they do in Europe, where everything is crammed into a higgledy-piggledy space centred around an ancient church.  America is a sprawl.  However, on this visit, one of the days we rented a car and took a trip to Newport Rhode, Island and this was much more 'traditional' in how it was and completely lovely.

A seaside island and holiday playground for the rich and famous for generations, it reached its high point in the so called 'gilded age' when money and 'society' poured into it, building fabulous coastal homes in which to spend their summers.    


The 'Newport Mansions' are a collection of these houses that are now open to the public and you can drive around and chose which ones you would like to visit.  We saw two - both owned by the famous Vanderbilts.  An astronomical fortune made on shipping and the railways, amassed by the original 'Commodore' Vanderbilt  allowed his family to live like royalty.  They built palaces on fifth avenue in New York and summer houses on Rhode Island.  The first one we saw was called 'The Breakers'.

The Breakers

I know what you are thinking...'some summer cottage????'.  Exactly!!!! It was a magnificent house with a sweeping lawn down towards the ocean.  Built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1895 using materials brought from Italy, Africa and France, everything about it was amazing.   Constructed for Cornelius Vanderbilt 11, it is an ornate time capsule of the 'Gilded Age'.   Sweeping staircases, panoramic balconies and every kind of luxury imaginable.  Photography of the interior wasn't allowed but I am sure you can imagine and you can find images on the internet if you are interested.    Was it a happy home? I am not sure.  In fact it had a relatively short life in terms of being a family home.  By the 1930's it was already outdated, unused and shuttered up and in 1948 it was leased to the Preservation Society of Newport County.     The second home we visited was 'The Marble House' 

Marble House

This home was created by the infamous Alva Vanderbilt, who set out to create a house second to none.  Constructed between 1888 and 1892, it's design aesthetic was based on the Grand Trianon at Versailles.  No expense was spared.  It was one hell of a show piece.   The daughter of the house, Conseulo Vanderbilt accepted the proposal of the Duke of Marlborough here.....little did she know that her future home...Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, was a rambling, decrepit, drafty and uncomfortable place that may have been vast, but was not luxourious.  It was notorious for its lack of bathroom facilities and plumbing nightmares.  Here though, she lived an altogether golden life, albeit under the iron rule of her domineering mother, Alva.  But perhaps despite all the gilding, her life was not all it could of been - forced to marry a man she didn't know, for a title she didn't really want, she found herself in England and of was a disaster.   If you want to know more about this story, there is a great book called 'Conseulo and Alva Vanderbilt' by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart and it is a tremendous insight into the life of these people.    This mansion also had a relatively short life too - Alva closed it down permanently in 1919 when she went to live in Europe - staggering really.

Jackie Kennedy's childhood home is also on the island - Hammersmith Farm.  This is a private residence, so you can't visit, but as you drive past the entrance, it is hard not to think of the Wedding party held there after Jackie and John F Kennedy were married at the nearby St. Mary's church in 1953.   It also came to be known as the summer Whitehouse during his presidency.   There is no doubt that Newport, Rhode Island has seen many things.....and is well worth a visit if you should ever get the chance.

The last few days of our trip were spent in Boston.  


 It is a modern, vibrant city with just a hint of the epic historical life it had at the times of American revolution.

The famous freedom trail, documents the story of Boston's role in the beginnings America's quest for Indepence.  You can walk the trail comfortably in a day and there is masses of info on this posted on the internet, so I won't say too much, but here are few of my favourite images from the day.


On our last day in the US we chose to take a short ride on the Metro to the JFK library, which is housed at the University of Massachusetts.  It was well worth the effort.


A stunning building overlooking the water, it was a beautifully presented overview of John F Kennedy's life.  I wouldn't know where to start if I was to write about it, so suffice to say, it wasn't over done and it wasn't under done either.  If you weren't a probably would be after a visit here.   Surpisingly, my husband came home with two pictures for our walls at home and a glass paperweight for his desk....he's a fan!!! LOL!!!


So enough of our travels for a while.  Back down to earth with a bump now, broken only by the large stack of fabric on my work table. Hope you will join me in the sewing room next time.  See ya...... Ruby x