Well, I checked off #49 of my 50 States in the United States that I’ve visited!
I’ve told so many people about my quest (which was supposed to happen before I turned 60) that people are now saying “How many is that?” and “Which state do you have left?” The state I have left, which I had a Land/Sea Excursion booked for in 2020 is Alaska. From what I’ve heard it’s spectacular, so maybe I’ve saved the best for last? What my AAA Travel agent Charlene told me when I put down the deposit for that trip was “Whatever you do, just do it.” I plan on doing it, just not sure when.
In the meantime, I checked Rhode Island off my list, the smallest state in the U.S., kind of ironic since Alaska is the largest. Growing up a short girl (5 foot two, eyes of blue) I always heard “Good things come in small packages” and this was true of Rhode Island. Also, whenever I mentioned Rhode Island, people inevitably asked “Are you going to Newport?” “Yes,” I answered.
they would respond, with a dreamy look in their eyes. I knew Newport was the place we had to stay on our visit to my 49th state.
Newport was where the wealthy New Yorkers, who resided on ritzy 5th Avenue back in Robber Baron days, came to summer. It’s a city in New England on Aquidneck Island, known as a sailing destination since it hosted the America’s Cup Sailing Regatta for many years. It’s also known for its Newport Mansions from the Gilded Age, situated on Bellevue Avenue, that are spectacular, with The Breakers being the most famous.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame is also in Downtown Newport, where they have grass courts and hosted the first U.S. Tennis Open. As a longtime tennis player, I really enjoyed visiting this place, learning the history of the sport and even got invited to play on the grass courts. There is also The Cliff Walk, which takes 5 hours if you walk the whole thing! We did two, one-hour walks and it was spectacular. I didn’t realize that you actually walk on the rocks at a certain point.
We did all of these attractions, but of course took a break to enjoy some delicious food, especially seafood and oysters. We started out our trip in Boston, where we stayed in the delightful North End, very close to Little Italy. Boston has a vibrant Little Italy, filled with Italian Restaurants and Bakeries.
On the back end of our trip, we stayed in Downtown Boston at the Omni Parker House, a historic hotel known for inventing Boston Cream Pie and Parker House Rolls. Alas, the restaurant wasn’t open when we were there, so I didn’t get to try either one. I did see, however, the table (#40) where Jack Kennedy proposed to Jackie in the Dining Room.
Favorite Meals in Boston
- Lobster Roll from Pauli’s in the North End. Zeke got me a lobster roll to-go, as I was getting a mani/pedi. What a treat! Unlike the lobster rolls in Maine, the version in Boston comes hot, drenched in butter and it was delectable, decadent & delicious. Yum! The roll was a little soggy on the bottom from the butter, but no matter, I ate the whole thing.
- Beantown Burger from Beantown Pub. I was a little tired from all the touring in Newport by the time we got back to Boston, so didn’t want to travel far for dinner. My plan to eat at our hotel for the Parker House Rolls and Boston Cream Pie didn’t pan out, so we got the Beantown Burger at Beantown Pub, near our hotel. Our Duck Tour Guide (quack, quack!) told us that this pub was a place where you could have a “Cold Samuel Adams while looking at a cold Sam Adams”, as the Patriot is buried in the cemetery across the street. This is exactly what I did, enjoying a Summer Ale. The Beantown Burger came cooked perfectly (a little pink in the middle), with melted cheese, crispy bacon slices, a mayo-based sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, fried pickles (!), on a soft, Brioche Bun. It was genius to put the lettuce on the bottom (so as not to get the bun soggy) and the fries that came with it were delicious as well.
- Tomato, Burrata and Pesto Salad from Neptune Oyster. Zeke wanted to try oysters throughout our trip (me too!) so we started with two dozen here and then split the Tomato, Burrata and Pesto Salad, which was a special. Delicious and all the cold summer feels you need when dining al fresco. Lauren tried the special- Sea Urchin Bucatini- very brave of her!
Best Pastry in Boston
- The Lobster Tail at Modern Bakery You can’t come to Little Italy in Boston without sampling an Italian pastry. There are two competing bakeries, quite close to each other- Modern and Mike’s. While you would think Modern is more recent, it actually has been around for more that 90 years. This is where we got a Lobster Tail, a huge crunchy pastry filled with a creamy, yellow custard interior. It’s a cousin to the popular Italian pastry sfogliatelle. We also had to check out Mike’s, which also has Lobster Tails but seems to be known for its Cannolis of many different flavors. I saw a lot of Mike’s white and blue boxes at the Boston airport, so it must also be a local favorite.
Favorite Meals in Newport
- Bag of Doughnuts at The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar Ok, stick with me here. This wasn’t your typical bag of doughnuts, but Lobster and Shrimp Fritters served with a chipotle, maple aioli that were one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life! They come in a paper bag, which you pour out onto a plate and dunk the brown fried orbs into the creamy sauce. Mmmm! We also got a dozen local oysters and the Native Scallop Chowder, all good but “nothing can compare to you” (cue Sinead O’Connor), oh Bag of Doughnuts.
- The Steak Board at The Lawn at Castle Hill Inn This restaurant was a short drive from downtown Newport, which in the summer is a bit of a scene, with parking hard to score. Our table wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we got a drink and sat out on the huge, grass expanse in Adirondack chairs overlooking the Atlantic. As I sat there, glass of Prosecco in hand, I felt like a character out of The Great Gatsby, except for the mass of other people who were also sitting out there, looking very Jordan Baker-ish and ruining my fantasy. For dinner, Zeke ordered local oysters (small and not worth the $4 a piece price tag) and The Steak Board with a 16-ounce New York Strip and french fries. It was amazing! Juicy, tender and glistening with a smear of kale Chimichurri and plop of herb butter atop the huge steak. It’s enough for two to share (which is what we should’ve done) and the fries that went with it, doused in truffle butter with an aioli… there are no words. One of the best steaks I’ve ever had (if not THE best) and a lovely last night in Newport, with a beautiful sunset to top it off.
- The New England Lobster Salad at The Clarke Cooke House We went here for lunch and it wasn’t just the meal, but the atmosphere that I loved. Very Newport & country-clubby- I’m just off my yacht and going to play cricket later on after we go to the polo match-feel. At the bar, you could tell it was locals sitting there, eating clam chowder, drinking cold beer & joking with the bartender. Our table was situated overlooking the water and there were Sailing Photos all over, as apparently it’s an America’s Cup hang-out. We split chilled Rhode Island Oysters and I got The New England Lobster Salad, which was perfect for a summer’s day. A glass of rose would have paired perfectly with this meal of Mesclun greens, chilled lobster, heirloom tomatoes, avocado slices, corn and chunks of purple haricot verts, but I stuck with water, as drinking in the afternoon now makes me tired. Oh, the fun of getting older!
Best Drink in Newport, Rhode Island
- Newport Water at the Clarke Cooke House We liked the Clarke Cooke House so much, we returned after dinner that night for a drink. Now this is the kind of water I can get behind! Veuve Cliquot champagne, St. Germain & Grand Marnier, served on the rocks. It was under a category title “Drink Like a Local” and I did.
Best Dessert I didn’t Get in Newport
- Snowball in Hell at the Clarke Cooke House I didn’t have a dessert on our Road Trip except at the wedding in Plymouth, Mass- you have to have a bite of wedding cake, right? But if I did get one I would’ve gotten the Snowball in Hell, for $15, served in a chocolate goblet at the Clarke Cooke House. It’s a local favorite dessert that started in the 70’s, consisting of chocolate cake and cocoa whipped cream, rolled into a roulade and topped with vanilla ice cream, more chocolate, toasted coconut (the snow) and lit with a sparkler. Sounds like a party waiting to happen- kind of like Newport in the Summer.
Someone from Rhode Island told us his favorite time to visit Newport was in September, after the tourists had left, but before it got cold. After visiting in the heat of August, I can see his point. While I got the exclusive, preppy vibe from the locals, it was also overrun with mobs of t-shirt wearing, red-faced tourists. Parking downtown was nearly impossible, shops were crowded and restaurants packed. I’m not a fan of big crowds normally, much less given the world we now live in. My new mantra is “Newport in September”.
Up Next: My Attempt at Boston Cream Pie