Tag Archives: Travel

Dining – Newport, Rhode Island

Following is a list of the places we dined at on our three day trip to Newport, Rhode Island.

Friday

The Black Pearl

1 Bannister’s Wharf, (401) 846-5264   www.blackpearlnewport.com

Good place for lunch, if taken outside at The Patio, located right on the water.  The Black Pearl also has The Tavern, a pub space, and The Commodor’s Room for elegant events.  The clam chowder is notably stated as the best in Newport.  I found it to be delicious if a little heavy on the cream.  I also enjoyed their Swordfish sandwich, a special that day.  The fish was Continue reading

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Newport, Rhode Island

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The Elms Mansion

Newport surprised me as being accessible, historic, fun and upscale all at the same time.  I had heard about it being a nice getaway where you can tour some mansions, so I was expecting a quiet, maybe even sleepy, seaside town.  I then heard about the annual jazz festival being one of the country’s best, which sounded like fun as jazz has become a recent interest of mine after going to a few concerts at Jazz at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

That was the initial plan: spend a few nights at a moderately priced B&B, do the jazz festival the first night, and then get to know the town a little bit.  I had no idea what a whirlwind of activity the trip would be, yet at the same time peaceful.

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View from Rosecliff Mansion

Transportation:  The best way to take public transportation there is to take an Amtrak from New York’s Penn station to the West Kingston, RI station; you’ll be there in about three hours at reasonable rates.  From the quaint West Kingston train station you can order an Uber which whisks you away across the Newport Pell Bridge straight into Newport and the front door of wherever you are staying (our cost:  $30).

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The Newport Pell Bridge

Lodging: the Yankee Peddler Inn is a well run bed and breakfast in a historic three story house with a front porch and sun deck.  It’s a five minute walk from the downtown area and about a ten minute walk to the wharfs so we were able to see everything we wanted to see on foot. Breakfast is run by a warm and welcoming host and consists of a continental breakfast included in the nightly charge.  Our room was painted a provincial sunny yellow, had a great bed and antique furniture.  While the bathroom was a bit cramped, overall the room and hotel were incredibly charming.

 

Yankee Peddler Inn – 113 Touro Street, (401) 846-1313  www.yankeepeddlerinn.com

Jazz festival: It spans three days, starting on a Friday night.  You can view the line up for each day online at www.newportjazz.org/lineup.  You can also purchase tickets in advance on the site.  The festival is located in Fort Adams State Park, which looks like its own little Island on the map.  You can get there by car but I like the way we got there – on The Newport Harbor Ferry which leaves from 39 America Cup Avenue and takes you there for $12.

Once there, we wandered around the grounds where several tented stage areas were set up with various performers on each stage.  The festival occurs mainly during the day, ending around 6pm.  The atmosphere is laid back and dress is casual.


We noticed many people bringing their own beach chairs, which is a good idea as the seating in each tent is limited to first come, first serve. Food and drinks can be found at food trucks along the perimeter and consist of what you might find at a beach boardwalk: hot dogs, cheese steaks, French fries, lemonade.  There is a beer tent that we visited but it’s located separate from the music tents and you are not allowed to take any alcohol with you outside the carded, taped off area.


However, they had outdoor seating where you could sit and enjoy your brew before heading back, and the music was loud enough to enjoy there in the meantime.

Some of the performers we saw were Maceo Parker and Leslie Odom Jr.

Maceo Parker

The Cliff Walk:  on Saturday the cliff walk was first on our list.  As it was cloudy and rain was forecasted for later in the day, we hurried off to try and finish it in the morning.  The Cliff Walk is well worth working into your plans, it is good exercise while you are surrounded by wild beauty and have stunning views of the ocean.


We were able to take the local bus (which is a clean and cute streetcar looking vehicle and cheap at $2 a ride) from the front of our B&B to the far top of where the walk begins.  On this end you are climbing over rocks, so wear good walking shoes with soles that have good traction, and do a few stretches first! While the walk evens out into a nice cement walkway as you approach the mansions, I do NOT recommend attempting it in the rain as you could easily loose your footing and slip.  Even without the rain, you often need both hands to steady yourself!

The Breakers Mansion viewed from the Cliff Walk

The Mansions: Extraordinary buildings made to exhibit the wealth of some the richest families of the early twentieth century, these mansions were meant to impress and entertain guests in the summer seasons.

Centerpiece at the Breakers

There are several ways to see the mansions, including guided tour buses, by rented bike or on foot although the walk can be lengthy.

We started with the Breakers mansion, by far the largest and most impressive of the mansions, at the end of our cliff walk.

Front gate of the Breakers

Elaborately decorated rooms, dramatic staircases and terraces with sweeping views characterize each mansion.  Interesting as well were the glimpses into the kitchens, servants quarters and the life and divide between the rich and those who served them.

Kitchen at Rosecliff

 

Each mansion provides a guided tour via headphones and guide you through each room, with options to hear more in depth stories if one chooses.  Due to the work of the Newport Mansions Preservation Society and donations to it, they were able buy and restore the mansions which had been abandoned and fallen into neglect.

View from Marble House

 

We divided touring the mansions into a couple of days – the Breakers on Saturday afternoon (a great rainy day activity), Rosecliff on Sunday and Marble House and the Elms on Monday morning.

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Ballroom from Rosecliff

 

Rosecliff is of The Great Gatsby fame, and deserves a reading or re-reading of the novel by Scott Fitzgerald, as well as a viewing of the movie made with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

Rosecliff back lawn

 

Sailboats:  one of the greatest pleasures of the trip was riding on a schooner!  Newport is known for the America’s Cup and being a hub for those who love to sail.  There are several companies that will take you and a small group out into the Newport Harbor and past sights like Jackie Kennedy’s old Summer residence, for around $35 per person.


Tickets are purchased in advance for certain times of the day they are scheduled to run, and can be bought right at the booths located along the wharfs.  There are also champagne sunset boat rides available.

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View of another schooner from the sailboat

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Jacquline’s summer residence in Newport, RI

 

St. Mary’s Church: This is where Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy were married on September 12, 1953.  It is now a National Historic Landmark.  Normally closed, we couldn’t go inside, but good to know that on Tuesdays it is open and offers a tour of the experience of the Kennedy’s wedding, named “Return to Camelot”, for a modest entrance fee of $15 per person.  A link to buy tickets  and more information can be found on www.returntocamelot.org

St. Mary’s Church

 

International Tennis Hall of Fame – 194 Bellevue Avenue, www.tennisfame.com

We took a quick stop at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  If you are a fan of tennis, you can find videos that talk about each of your favorite players from areas mounted to each wall on the 2nd floor.  There are also rooms that go through the history of tennis and how it developed in the U.S., including the beginnings and development of the U.S. Open Championship.

International Hall of Fame

The grass courts at the International Hall of Fame


Touro Synagogue – 85 Touro street  www.tourosynagogue.org

On our last morning we visited the Touro Synagogue.  We joined the morning guided tour, which was a short lecture given within the synagogue.  A history of the synagogue is a history of Newport, and of the strength of its people in committing to diversity and freedom.  Built in 1703, it is America’s oldest synagogue and believed to be the place where George Washington came to read his letter declaring religious freedom in America.

Touro Synagogue

We did a lot in two and a half days, and there is still much to explore.  Newport is full of early colonial history, sailing, the good life and charm, and lovely to visit.

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A Morning in Old Greenwich, Connecticut

I went to Old Greenwich, Connecticut for the first time in April, to cheer on my boyfriend Raj who was running the Greenwich Cup Half Marathon, something he’d been planning and dreaming about.  The day started early at 4:00am, as we rushed out the door in our sneakers to catch the Metro North train on the New Haven line.  We got to the Old Greenwich train station about 30 minutes later, and gazed nervously around us in the cold wondering how we’d manage the long walk to the starting line.  As luck would have it, someone was getting a ride and invited us to jump in.  That’s the camaraderie that is found so often among runners.  We chatted with the driver who had run the half marathon before and gave Raj tips.  We all got to the starting line just in time to register before the start of the race at 7am.

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The race began and ended on the beach on 1 Tod’s Driftway, so I stood in the sand while the runners lined up at the starting line.  Time ticked by as the sun rose, and then suddenly they were off!

I had about two hours to spend by myself, as my honey sweated and toiled up and down a winding path for twelve miles.  I decided against walking back towards the train station; there had been a downtown area on the way to the beach but it seemed too far to walk.  I was wearing a warm coat, but my sneakers unfortunately were not keeping my feet very warm.  Should have worn my Uggs, but too late.  I decided to make the best of things and enjoy the ocean view.  A pair of Adirondack chairs perched nearby welcomed me, and I snuggled into one of them for a peaceful hour.

As the sun climbed the sky, I went for a leisurely stroll along the beach.  Gradually, the runners started coming, their loved ones cheering them as they dashed past the finish line.  I strained looking for Raj, and finally saw him!  I got a great picture of him jumping over a puddle and giving me a thumbs up as he crossed the finish line.  He got his medal and I joined him in devouring the free bagels and orange wedges the race volunteers had set up.

Then we walked together down Shore Road and Sound Beach avenue in the direction of the train station, looking for coffee and breakfast.  We were happy to find a wonderful little bakery in the quaint downtown area called “Sweet Peas’s Baking Company”.  We had a great brunch there, a veggie omelette and smoked salmon toast with capers.  The best part was the take-away:  we got a carrot cake muffin brimming with chopped nuts, bakery fresh donuts, and a crisp baguette to go.

A lovely morning in Old Greenwich.  I would come back to Sweet Pea’s Baking Company just for the donuts!

 

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Prague in 48 Hours

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The golden city of Prague – it is many things to me:  my birthplace, my heritage, the first foreign country I visited as an American, a place to come of age in after the Velvet Revolution, and an old friend that I go back to visit time to time….just to keep in touch.

This past August I made another one of my visits, this time staying two nights in a modest hotel near Namesti Republic and stopping by all the typical tourist attractions.  It amazes me that no matter how often I do the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge etc. it feels like an exploration, a new discovery.  Perhaps because each time I go time has passed, life has happened and I’ve changed so the experience is always different.  To me that is the beauty of travel.  It is much less about the destination than how you weave your experiences back into the journey of your life.

DAY 1

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I’m sure you know about flying into the Vaclav Havel airport, taking a taxi into Prague and the hundreds of hotels in every price range located all over Prague.  I encourage you to get a room for around $100 a night, because that price goes far there and you might as well be walking distance from the places you want to see.  Walking around Prague is half the fun of seeing it.

“Prague – A Guide to the Golden City” by Harald Salfellner is a great comprehensive guidebook which can be purchased at a convenient bookstore on Wenceslas Square that also sells other English title books.  I got a map too.  I like walking around with my map like a tourist, and hopefully getting lost and winding down some unexpected street in the process.

The statue of St. Wenceslas on a horse is a popular meeting spot for those going out for a night on the town, and of course there have been several historic events at this square.  I love the lavish architecture of the hotels lining the square that have stood the test of time.  A walk through a short underpass below the National Museum brings you to Vinohradska street, and for me a passage back into time when I used to live in an apartment in the section called Vinohrady.  My grandmother used to live in Zizkov.  This used to be my life I ponder, as I walk up the incline.  I take a nice break in the park at Namesti Miru, then continue on.  Zizkov is now a trendy place both for living and nightlife.  There is also a new movie and shopping complex by the metro stop Flora.  If you plan to explore either of these, I recommend you take the street cars, which are fun and cheap,

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imageor take the metro, which is also cheap and easy to navigate as there are only three lines (A,B,C) which are clearly marked at every station. Tickets can be purchased at shops or ticket machines in the stations at a flat rate for 30 min, 90 min or for 110 Czech crowns (about $5) you can get a 1 day pass for unlimited public transportation.

 

Day 2

I stayed at the Clarion Hotel located on Hradelbny and practically around the corner from Starometske (Old Town), so I saved the Old Town for my last day and spent day 2 trekking to the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge.  I started out the day with breakfast at “Opapa” on Revolucni 7, a modern and tourist-friendly place where you can get breakfast or lunch at good prices and even pay with your debit card.  While the Czech Republic is part of the European Union, it does not use the Euro, so you need to either bring Czech crowns (Koruna) with you or scale the many exchange places scattered throughout new and old town for a good exchange rate.  Most hotels and restaurants, such as Opapa, also take credit cards so that makes it easier on the traveler as it’s never a good idea to carry around a lot of cash on you.IMG_1632

Here is a more complex than usual, but exciting, route for heading out for the day to see the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle:

  1. From Old Town head down Karlova to the Charles Bridge.  One of the best statues on the bridge to see is the one of St. John Nepomuk, who was famously thrown off this bridge to his death.IMG_1751
  2. Cross the Charles Bridge.  At Malostrana, make a right and visit the Kafka Museum on Cihelna.
  3. Have lunch somewhere here – restaurants with scenic views of the river are everywhere, with prices pretty much the same at each.IMG_1747
  4. Using your map, wind your way left through Mala Strana, a romantic neighborhood in the shadow of the castle not often explored by tourists.  Find your way to Ujezd and the place where you can take a ride with a trolley car up to Petrin Hill.IMG_1727
  5. You will need to buy a ticket for the ride up to Petrin Hill, however your reward is that you did not have to climb a hundred steps up to see the castle.  Enjoy the beautiful view of Prague from Petrin Hill; take pictures.IMG_1732
  6. Visit the Strahov Monestery and maybe take a coffee break at a nearby cafe overlooking Prague.  Then make your way in the direction of the Prague Castle; there will be signs.IMG_1720
  7. Enjoy the amazing Prague Castle; you will need to purchase tickets. Hopefully by now it is around 3pm.  The castle grounds will close around 5pm but there are less crowds now.  The lines for the tickets will be shorter, you can get an audio guide and take your time touring the church,IMG_1737
  8. as well as the Golden Lane, the old Jewish ghetto where Kafka used to write.IMG_1738
  9. The best part:  walking DOWN the castle stairs back to Malostranska.  Return across the Charles Bridge to the Old Town where you began.

Day 3

This is fun shopping day and wandering around the Old Town.  Plenty of time to browse all the gift shops, outdoor markets and modern shopping malls that have sprung up all along Namesti Republik and down Na Prikope towards Mustek.  I was in the mood for pizza for a quick lunch, and I recommend Pizza Nuova, located right on Namesti Republic.  It is a modern pizzeria with wood-burning ovens and excellent customer service.IMG_1621

Ham and Artichoke Pizza, at “Pizza Nuova” on Namesti Republik

 

 

 

Now that I was fueled up, I could tackle the many historical sites of the Old Town:

The Astronomical clock, dating from the medieval times when the clock mechanism was considered a modern day marvel, and it still works.

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The Jan Hus monument, leader of the Hussite revolution:

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The Church of our Lady before Tyn, where the Hussites would gather, The inside of this church is gilded with gold and extraordinary; it can be viewed by the public for free (closed on Mondays), but no pictures are allowed of the interior.

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and the site of the 27 crosses, where 27 Protestants were executed after the Battle of White Mountain.

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The Old Town Square is lined with outdoor cafes.  While on the pricey side, it is worth stopping by at one for a refreshing Czech beer and to do some people watching.  I did so to wind down on my last day and also to have one of my favorite traditional Czech foods, a hearty goulash with knedlicky (bread dumplings).  The sauce is beefy, savory and just a little spicy – so delicious and the bread dumplings are perfect to soak up every last bit of the sauce with.

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Beef Goulash and Knedlicky (bread dumplings) – Czech traditional speciality

 

 

 

I finished my trip with a concert at the Municipal Hall.  Concerts play every afternoon and evening here, and tickets can be easily purchased inside the day of the concert for a reasonable price (around $35 for mid-range seating).

Before the concert I browsed through the Kotva department store, which has been around in Prague from Communist times (although certainly renovated a few times since then!), and snacked on one of my favorite traditional Czech snack foods, “Chlebicky”, which are open face sandwiches made of various combinations of potato salad, ham, pickles, roasted peppers, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, herring etc.

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and then I stopped for a refreshing cup of tea at a new cafe that has become very popular with expats, “Cacao” on Celnici 4 about 1 street down from the Municipal building.  It has a large tea, coffee and snack menu plus free wifi.  Then it was off to the concert.

The municipal hall is located at Namesti Republic, where you can see the Powder Tower, and the Mucha mural at the top of the Muniipcal Building itself,

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At this particular concert, which lasted about 45 minutes, they played J. Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5, J. Pachelbel’s Canon, A. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and some gypsy tunes that seemed to play to the heart of the lead violinist.  It was an intimate concert hall filled with only about 40 people, so you had a great experience of hearing classical music in a salon setting much like it was originally heard in.

I went to sleep that night in my hotel with the melodic notes of Vivaldi’s concertos playing in my mind, and dreamed of another season when I can return to this magical city.