Escape to Newport, Rhode Island

Once an exclusive weekend getaway for Boston’s upper crust, Newport, Rhode Island has come to incorporate cheap ethnic restaurants, vintage thrift stores, and eclectic coffee shops while at the same time retaining its original historic charm.


Rest & Relaxation:

The simple, straightforward website and friendly phone service landed me at the Winsome Bed and Breakfast on Gibbs Avenue, run by natives Patrick and Valerie Druken.  The bed in my room had designer linens, and the room included full ensuite bathroom, antique hardwood furniture with plenty of drawer space, and cable television. A sink and mini fridge had been installed in a corner of the parlor, and next to it shelving that housed cutlery, mugs, glasses, and tea.

Each morning I woke to a hearty meal of eggs cooked to order, fruit and croissant (albeit not homemade, still delicious with butter and jam) and a full urn of coffee. (Whatever I couldn’t finish I stored in the mini fridge for a chilled afternoon indulgence.) Winsome’s location allowed plenty of respite from Newport’s touristy strip located further south by the harbor and marina. A scenic residential street lined with stunning Colonials and no longer than a few miles, has you walking east on Gibbs street leading you straight to the ocean. From here you can embark on the Cliff Walk, a cluster of jetties that lie right beneath several private mansions. The contrast of the stunning architecture and natural beauty makes the Cliff Walk a quintessential Newport experience.

Reject’s Beach:

If you continue down Gibbs street you hit Memorial Highway, a coastline road running alongside what the locals call “Rejects Beach”. Many of the other area beaches have capitalized on their close vicinity to high-end hotels and restaurants, charging for parking and admission, and becoming noisy and congested from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Rejects Beach proved to be a secluded oasis from its more commercial counterparts.  I enjoyed walking over each day with no other plans but swimming, napping and reading.

I spent the rest of my stay walking around Newport window shopping and stocking up on snacks for my room from the nearby 7-Eleven and Cumberland Farms. I found the best – and most unpretentious – curio shops and boutiques to be on Broadway, and wound up stepping back into my favorites a few more times before leaving. Empire Tea and Coffee (22 Broadway) has the best iced coffee around and a weekly open mic session in their back room. Empire also sells loose tea in canisters packaged onsite. Just ask, and a barista will let you smell any tea behind the counter before you buy.

Shopping:

Further down the road lies The Apothecary (6 Broadway) , an upscale skincare shop featuring brands like The Natural and Mario Badescu, not to mention handmade soaps and soy candles. Their facials have received much praise from local press, and for good reason. Their aestheticians get to know you on a personal level to give you a custom facial and recommend products afterward to match your skin type. Pan Handler’s Cookware and Cutlery (35 Broadway), offers high-end kitchen wares of all kind as well as more affordable accessories like egg timers and cooking utensils. The nearby thrift store Closet Revival (30 Broadway) is a great place to score last summer’s hottest items like denim skirts and cotton sundresses.

Food & Drink:

Some of the best places for food and drink can be found on Broadway, as well. Down a pint at Pour Judgement (32 Broadway) with the locals. who can be found unwinding here after a long, sweaty day. With a top-notch selection of drafts and excellent pub fare that includes turkey chili and black bean burgers, Pour Judgement’s down-home feel can be felt as soon as you pull up a seat at the bar. Be sure to also stop by Salvation Café, a fusion restaurant with an art deco design and laid-back, come-as-you-are philosophy. With an excellent wine list and inventive menu featuring lobster pizza, pad thai, and “crispy” spinach, Salvation Café is the kind of salvation Newport needed.

Things close up pretty early in Newport, but you can satisfy after-midnight cravings at A-1 Pizza (306 Broadway). Be sure to try a slice with chourico, a Portugese smoked sausage that Rhode Islanders take personal pride incorporating into local dishes. The newest restaurant on the strip, Café 200 (200 Broadway), has worked hard to drive customers away from the worthy nearby competition. The restaurant staffs bubbly, outgoing waitresses, menu specials like two-for-one lobster rolls, and a signature dessert: homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches dipped in chocolate. While I never imagined myself visiting Newport, after a mere few days I came home recharged, with stories of my own and enough salt water taffy to share, and a nagging longing to go back.

January 26, 2011

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