Today we planned to go to Newport RI to see the Newport Mansions, and guess what. We made it! We finished our breakfast at the hotel, and were on our way. The drive was a little over an hour. Our plan was to take the tours of two of the mansions, The Breakers and Rosecliff. They are about half a mile apart from each other on the Long Island Sound. We parked our car at the Breakers parking lot and walked to the property.
The Breakers is a 70 room summer estate built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895. It is the most opulent of the Newport Mansions. It was built using imported French and Italian stone, marble, alabaster, gilded wood, platinum, and gold leaf. The main rooms were enormous and decorated to show off the wealth of the railroad magnate. We took the audio tour which lasted about 2 hours. It was amazing to see the over the top decorations and hear about the summers of partying these houses put on. We were told about the life of the family and of the extensive servant staff. After the tour and the required walk through the gift shop, we decided to stop for a little lunch.
After a sandwich in the café it was on to Rosecliff, a "smaller and more intimate mansion". Smaller and more intimate being a relative term. Rosecliff was built in 1902 for Theresa Oelrichs, whose Irish immigrant father was among those who discovered the Comstock Lode in Nevada. Designed by Stanford White the terra cotta mansion includes a 40 x 80 foot ballroom and a curving French style staircase. Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (you remember him from about a week and a half ago) provided the garden sculptures. Actually, many of you have probably also seen Rosecliff. The house and property were used in the films The Great Gatsby, True Lies, Armistead and 27 Dresses. Now I have to go back and rewatch those movies and pay attention to the backgrounds. The similar audio tour for this site also lasted about 2 hours.
We returned to our car for the trip back. We decided to make a side trip to see the field of sunflowers I mentioned yesterday. We found the site, and it was still amazing. The site is The Buttonwood Farms in Griswold, CT. The sunflower event is Sunflowers for Wishes and runs from July 21-29. We happened on it at the right time. We parked in a nearby field (their main lot and the roadside already being packed with cars) and walked to the sunflower field. There isn't actually a maze (they do that in the fall with a corn maze) but rather paths for people to walk to the main building. The paths are cut through the field of 5 to 6 foot tall sunflowers. They have hayrides, a cow train, a hot dog stand, and their usual year round attraction homemade ice cream. The cow train is actually small kid size cars made from metal barrels on their sides cut to accommodate a kid and parent, and painted to look like a cow, and pulled by a tractor. Quite a site!
After that, it was time to head back to Groton and dinner. We had the hotel desk clerk recommend a nearby Italian restaurant and we tried it. I had the spaghetti pie (kind of like lasagna all mixed up and served in the shape of a pie wedge. It was really good. The clerk is 2 for 2 on his recommendations. After dinner back to the hotel to turn in.
Tomorrow, we'll see.