19 May 2011

A gilded town

We docked at the Newport Yachting Center last evening, our first day on the water, the Narragansett Bay, rather short.  Our hosts are making it their business to find interesting things to do -- all of which are pertinent to our theme of the historic waterways which dictated the early years of this nation, as we bide our time hoping for passage through the Oswego Canal. 

Newport RI is a place I studied during an architectural history course in graduate school during the 1980s, the icon of locations for the seaside "cottage" of a mere 70 rooms for the wealthy folks from Manhattan and elsewhere who summered by the sea.  Many of the families who owned houses were financial, political, industrial powerhouses whose names are part of our historical lexicon.

We boarded Newport trolleys this morning in heavy fog.  The driver for our conveyance was apologetic for the weather but cheerful and energetic, encouraging us to look to the right, for example, and imagine the grounds and mansion behind the gates or to imagine the rocky island in the bay.  We enjoyed his stories, the information he imparted and his efforts to amend the tour to show us locations of interest we could see.

Newport is not all mansions, of course.  The area is a flyway for migrating birds and boasts a popular birding center.  The diversion to catch a glimpse of that center occurred on the way to second major attraction of the morning, Greendale Vineyards on the Sakonnet River.  It is a beautiful location offering lovely views across a long slope of grapevines, roses and apple trees to the water; a restored barn which serves today as an office and tasting room; an interesting family story and rich hospitality and, of course, delicious samples of six different wines.

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