Keeping up with the Vanderbilts

Hello, my old friends!  I’ve missed you!  So much to say, so many things to catch up on…

I’ll just jump in with a few thoughts from our February break getaway in Newport, Rhode Island.  Newport, in case you didn’t know, was the summer playground of the gilded age.  Imagine the Rockefellers and Carnegies and Whatnots packing up their enormous households of servants and drivers, butlers and scullery maids, and decamping up to this little seaside town for the summer.  In the penultimate game of Keeping-up-with-the-Vanderbilts, they built ever more ornate summer homes to help stake their claim to social pre-eminence.  Many of these homes have been left now as historical sites, and are open for public tours (mostly in the summer).  February is not, strictly speaking, the ideal time to visit.  It is, after all, still New England.  But there is something to be said for missing the crowds…

Anyway, we packed up our own immense household, minus the servants and butlers, but with Clay as the driver and me as the scullery maid… (hey, did you hear that the driver is having an affair with the scullery maid?), and took off for a few days to see what Newport was all about.  It’s a lot like Marblehead– except that the grand mansions are grander and, being a tourist destination, it has actual hotels instead of just B&Bs.  We visited two of the mansions over the two days we were there, and we followed a portion of the Cliff Walk that follows the coastline past some of the mansions.  The photo above is a view of the most famous mansion, “The Breakers” from the Cliff Walk.

We toured The Breakers, dutifully wearing our headphones and listening to the commentary.  Claire was really into it.  But Quinn, not so much.  He had a headset split off of my player, which meant we were tethered together and I had a somewhat faster and more serpentine tour than I would have liked!  After the tour, I suggested that we name our own house, since that seems to be the way to go if you are a grand family.  Will’s suggestion for our estate was “Steve”– and we settled on that with very little debate.  Some people have The Breakers, some have the Marble House, we have… Steve!

It’s doubtful that Steve will ever be a historic site.  There are certainly no servants’ quarters or delivery entrance (just drop that package on the front porch, and I’ll go out the back door and around to pick it up, since it’s now preventing me from being able to even open my front door!).  But hey, it works.  And judging from some of the info on the guided tours– we’re a little happier and thus, much better off than some of those robber baron families!  Still wish I had a scullery maid, though…


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