Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Adventure Away from the Valley - Newport, RI

Piper, the kitten, thinks that 5:15am is a good time to get up in the morning. And she didn't get the memo that today ended Daylight Savings Time, so she got up at her usual time... which turned out to be 4:15am with the time change. Mr. valleywriter and I tried as we might to get back to sleep - to no avail. So by 7am, we'd showered, eaten breakfast, watched TV and were decidedly bored. So we decided a day trip was in order and picked Newport, Rhode Island as our destination.

One of the wonderful things about living in the Pioneer Valley, or most anywhere in New England, is that you're within driving distance of a wide range of unique towns, cities and attractions. We occasionally take off with no particular plans for Boston, the Berkshires, Hartford, the CT casinos, etc. But Rhode Island had never made it on our list of fun, random day trips... until today.

Mr. valleywriter went to college in RI, so he'd been to Newport before, but I had not. On the way there, we actually stopped at his old stomping grounds, known as Bryant College when Mr. valleywriter was an undergrad, but now known as Bryant University.

After a little trip down memory lane (and a little dreaming about how it might have been had Mr. valleywriter become a professor - as shown above), we headed on down the rest of the state (yeah, RI is pretty small) to the island town of Newport.

Newport's history is long and illustrious. Founded in the 1600s, over the years it has served as a major port for New England, a haven for pirates, a base for the French military, a summer resort for the wealthy and a playground for presidents. (In fact, JFK & Jackie were actually married in Newport at St. Mary's Church.)

Some of the most famous attractions on the island are its incredible mansions. We toured "The Breakers," which was built in the late 1800s by the incredibly wealthy Vanderbilt family. This 70-room estate was their "summer cottage" away from the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue in New York City. The exterior and the grounds were the only things we were allowed to photograph, but trust me, the inside is just as incredible - if not more so.

After our mansion tour, we headed to the downtown area to check out the shops, and of course, eat! We didn't find a whole lot of choices for lunch, but that wasn't all that surprising given it was a quiet Sunday in the off-season. We settled on The Red Parrot on Thames Street. The many pages of their menu posted outside intrigued us with its mix of traditional seaside New England and Caribbean-influenced offerings.

After perusing the menu more fully inside (I think we counted 18 pages!), we both decided to go with some Caribbean-influenced choices. We started with the jerk chicken quesadillas with goat cheese and mango-pineapple salsa. The jerk chicken was milder than I expected it would be, but it was still pleasantly spiced. The creamy goat cheese and fresh salsa were the perfect match - absolutely incredible!
For the main course, I went with the Fire Cracker Shrimp Salad. It was a generous skewer of honey teriyaki grilled shrimp served over a salad of mixed greens, pineapple, mandarin oranges and crunchy noodles. It came with a side of Thai honey peanut dressing, but the salad had so much flavor, I actually used very little of the dressing.

Mr. valleywriter went with the "Rasta Pasta," which mixed blackened chicken & shrimp with red & green bell peppers and sun dried tomatoes in a Parmesan cream sauce over penne. I personally would've liked more kick to something called "Rasta Pasta," but Mr. valleywriter seemed to enjoy it.

We walked off lunch by checking out a few more shops (including an incredible little chocolate boutique, which will soon be getting its own post) before heading back to the car and back to the Valley. On the way home, we both remarked how Newport reminded us of a unique cross between Boston and Key West. Next time, i think we'll plan a little more in advance and actually spend the night down there so we can see a bit more. Definitely worth the trip!

1 comment:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I am drooling over that lunch! You know I have never made it to RI either, and Roberto and I were discussing that we need to go there next year when we are up!