Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months.
Their lifestyle was supported by behind-the-scene efforts of a large domestic staff catering to their every need. Tours showcasing little seen servant areas (“Beneath the Breakers“) and servant stories (“Servant Life“) give fascinating detail. (Tip: These tours are on a limited basis, so I recommend getting tickets in advance.)
Holiday evenings at the mansions are alive with entertainment, complete with Christmas Carolers, Dinner Dances, Nutcracker Performances, and Bands of the era.
I’ve toured the mansions on several occasions (they are a little more than an hour from my hometown), but this was the first time I visited the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. Let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed. The mansions are beautifully decked out for the holidays through January 1st. (Photo Gallery follows.)
The Breakers was the Vanderbilt family’s summer “cottage,” located in Newport, Rhode Island. It is considered the most grand of the Newport mansions. The 70-room, 5-floor structure is now a museum managed by the Preservation Society of Newport County.
One Mansion, Thirty Christmas Trees!
Behind the Scenes
Architecturally inspired by The Grand Trianon (the garden retreat at Versailles commissioned by Louis XIV), Newport’s Rosecliff mansion is on a smaller scale yet no less grand.
Largest Private Ballroom in Newport, RI
Hers & His
Relaxing in Style
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Newport Mansions at Christmas time. It put me in a festive spirit!
What is your favorite tidbit of information about the Newport Mansions and/or life in The Gilded Age? Let me know in the comments below or by emailing me. I’d love to hear from you.
I celebrated a certain “big” birthday in the Caribbean. Cat Island, Bahamas is a dreamy place. It’s one of the six Bahamas Out Islands, which also include The Abacos, Acklins, Andros, The Berry Islands, and Bimini. It truly is my island paradise.
There are no high-rise hotels, five-star restaurants, shopping malls or casinos here. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend you opt for more popular Bahamas destinations, like Nassau or Grand Bahama.
Cat Island was right up our alley: Long stretches of powdery pink sand to ourselves, al fresco dining along the tranquil, aqua sea, unsurpassed Bahamian hospitality, and one incredible sunset after another.
This picturesque and friendly island is an ideal place for disconnecting from technology and leaving the daily hustle behind. Clearly, it was a perfect fit for this laid back couple.
Sea & Sand
We spent eight days at Fernandez Bay Village Resort in November for a much-needed escape from cold New England weather. The hurricane season had cleared out, missing the island as it usually does, and the resort had just opened for business. We enjoyed the company of two other couples, a solo traveler, and a young group from Germany who was island hopping by private plane.
With so few guests, the hosts upgraded us to the Royal Palm Cottage, a large private room with a wraparound porch just steps from the pristine water. The room was air-conditioned and had a private, open-air bathroom. How wonderful to shower with warm breezes and a view of the sky!
A Taste of Island Life
Every morning offered a full buffet breakfast to start the day off right. Our days were tranquil. We relaxed, swam, read, napped. When we felt like it, we kayaked, took a short boat ride, and walked along the shoreline. No pressure at all.
We especially loved Happy Hour with hors d’oeuvres (our favorite: Caribbean Lobster Salad seasoned with lime and cilantro) and the famous “honor system” bar. It was always stocked with Fernandez Bay’s famous Rum Punch, as well as beer and wine. Buffet dinners included Bahamian specialties, like grouper and fried plantains, served under the stars. We were very pleased with the food!
We arranged to rent a car for a couple of days to explore the island. It was relatively inexpensive. (FYI, even though we let our U.S. bank know we were traveling out of the country, the transaction did require a phone call to process.)
One must-see attraction was The Hermitage. We climbed Mount Alvernia to see the small but impressive dwelling built single-handedly by Father Jerome. Stations of the Cross led up to Father Jerome’s remote home, the highest point in the Bahamas. We took in breathtaking water views from a peaceful vantage point on high.
We also visited the Regatta, where we hear there is a booming nightlife. During the day it’s pretty quiet, but lovely just the same. It’s the gathering place for locals on the island. We passed an island party getting ready for a beach wedding. How romantic!
We found some of the most memorable sites off the beaten path. Beautiful ruins and colorful homes dotted the island’s curving coastal roads. We loved the natural beauty and meeting interesting people wherever we went as we toured the island from head to toe.
Greenwood Beach Resort
We happened at Greenwood Beach Resort to take a midday break and decided to celebrate my birthday in an island way with tasty pina coladas. Having just missed Open Mic (an informal music jam) at Greenwood the night before, the innkeeper broke out his guitar and offered another to Jim, so I enjoyed a private concert! Who would have thought?
The Atlantic side of the island was quite a bit windier than Fernandez Bay but just as lovely. For the more adventurous, Greenwood Beach is an excellent place for diving, snorkeling, and kiteboarding. Also, sportfishing–more specifically, bonefishing–is very good here!
If you’re looking for a private island paradise, this may just be it. It is certainly ours. Eight incredible days culminated with one colorful sunset after another. I’d love to say everyone should visit Cat Island, but part of its appeal is it is not overrun with tourism. It’s a romantic, remote, getaway…that’s for sure.
We were delighted to learn our trip to Italy coincided with Carnevale di Venezia. In addition to romantic gondolas navigating waterways of the Grand Canal and Italian baroque architecture, we were truly enchanted by costumed Carnevale guests. The weather at this time of year was cool and damp, but it was a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience the surreal world of Carnevale.
The private balcony on the third floor with sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, colorful homes chiseled into the mountainside architecturally reminiscent of Greek influence, and small shops with handmade linen dresses.
How could I possibly say no?
I immediately requested a second night at the Hotel Villa Gabrisa. Because it was the off-season, they were able to accommodate. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so lucky.
For 48 hours, I explored solo what’s traditionally known as a couples’ destination, savoring picturesque moments to myself without regret.
I only wish I had more time to capture beautiful Positano on camera. Perhaps next time, because I know I’ll be going back.
All six of us (two adults, four kids) piled into the car one weekend and headed north to Manchester Vermont. Our destination: the Wilburton Inn, a hilltop estate which includes a Tudor-style mansion and several other smaller buildings for lodging.
The multi-talented Levi family owns and runs the inn. They are on-site and always happy to engage in conversation. We enjoyed live entertainment and delicious farm-to-table dining al fresco on the patio. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the other guests.
We also ventured the 5.2-mile drive up Mount Equinox. The birds-eye perspective of the mountain range from the summit of Mount Equinox is incredible!
If you’ve seen the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, you’ll know that recently divorced, middle-aged Frances Mayes meets Marcello, a handsome Italian who takes her to Positano, Italy. They eat with his family on the beach, drink homemade limoncello, and have a short-lived love affair.
Having seen the movie many times–it’s one of my favorites–of course I had to make a pilgrimage to Positano while visiting Italy. (I also made the trip to Cortona, where Frances bought a villa; more on that later.) As I walked the beach and listened to the Tyrrhenian Sea roar, I imagined the scene where Frances and Marcello walked along together, flirting with the future. Later, navigating the winding streets of Positano, each with stunning views of mountains and sea, I kept an eye on the balconies above for a handsome Italian man to call down to me… No such luck, but I remained enchanted.
Avid literary fan that I am, I decided to read the book that inspired the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun by (the real) Frances Mayes. I was surprised to find it was very different from the movie I so loved! Once I got past that little disappointment, I enjoyed romantic descriptions of the Tuscan countryside and the true life story of Frances Mayes’ journey. I understood how descriptions of Tuscany and some quirky characters could inspire the movie. But, it is truly a horse of different color. Nonetheless, I found the setting, culture, and characters delightful. Mayes’ is a master at articulating the richness of the Italian countryside; No doubt, you will feel as though you are in Italy while reading.
I did a little shopping before going to fashionable Florence Italy to update my look – just a few things I thought would travel well: some trendy jeans, clean walking shoes, some tailored cotton shirts, a light weight Michael Kors jacket that squished down into a carrying bag should the weather turn, which came in soooo handy! After all, I couldn’t go to the “Cradle of the Renaissance” looking disheveled. I targeted “neat” because on most occasions, I’m more of a functional, practically-dressed girl. Fashion was really never my thing.
Beautiful Italian Women
When I got to Florence, there was something about the Italian women that truly inspired me. Many of them were so beautiful! I watched in awe as they passed me by, sunglasses glinting in the sun, tossing their shiny dark hair, smelling good, with big leather bags slung over their shoulders, and leather boots clacking on the city’s ancient cobblestone. What was it about them?
After a while, I noticed it wasn’t that the women’s physical characteristics were so striking (although I did envy their high cheekbones, big dark eyes, and olive skin); It was that they held themselves with such an air of confidence. What is it they say? “Confidence is the sexiest attribute a woman can have.” I saw it for myself in Florence. It’s 100% true.
5 Quintessential Fashion Accessories Inspired by Fashionable Florence, Italy
Now, you can’t buy confidence. But I suppose it didn’t hurt that they were sporting beautiful pashmina scarves and jewelry from the shoppes at Ponte Vecchio. Shopping in Florence was so tempting even I could not help but pick up a few must-haves as gifts from fashionable Florence. I narrowed it down to five quintessential fashion accessories one must bring (or take home) from Florence. I was ready for the transformation.
1. Pashmina Scarf
You can find gorgeous pashmina scarves inexpensively at street vendors in and around the Piazza de Santa Croce, a famous and bussling square in Florence. Soft and colorful with intricately woven patterns, they can be worn looped around your neck or gracefully draped over your shoulders like a shawl. Everyone wears scarves, even the guys wrap them smartly around their necks.
2. Leather Boots
You’ll find stylish, soft leather ankle boots in many of the store windows. You will be even more surprised at their affordability. A comfortable low heel makes a great finish to jeans while still looking classy — and you can’t beat the Italian leather. Regrettably, I didn’t splurge on the leather boots while in Florence. (What was I thinking?!) Knock-off boots were the first thing I bought when I returned home.
3. A Stylish Wrap
There is something so artistic about wrapping yourself in a fine poncho wrap and tossing one side assymetrically over your shoulder. There were many beautiful, woven styles in natural fibers, it was hard to choose which to take home. Again, the prices were so affordable! I settled on a black plaid that makes a tasteful statement at work or play to complete an outfit or serve at outerwear. I get compliments whenever I wear it, and It’s one of my prized possessions from Florence.
4. A Leather Purse
The rich smell of leather will likely draw you into more than one leather shop in Florence. Fine stitching, classic styling, and super soft leather makes it hard to leave the shops without taking a genuine leather purse with you. I expected to pay a lot more for the quality of the bag I bought on
Via dell’Oriuolo. It’s big enough and so well-made that I even use it to carry my laptop and paper notebooks on short trips. No regrets.
What woman’s mystique isn’t improved by a pair of great sunglasses! Whether you chose something Sophia Lauren might wear, or some cool Gucci aviators, no look is complete without them. I negotiated a good price on some cheap sunglasses (10 Euro!) with a little bling on each side and wear them year round. Even when it’s not sunny, they are still my go to hair accessory.
To feel truly transformed by fashionable Florence, I discovered you must embrace fashion. As I pull my wrap asymmetrically around me, zip up my boots, toss my big bag over my shoulder and throw on my dark sunglasses for mystique…There I am, finally: Perfectly confident and ready to take on the world.
As I fill my dish with an assortment of delectables from the complimentary breakfast spread at Hotel Villa Gabrisa in Positano, Italy, it’s hard to choose what to take and what to leave behind. It all looks so good!
Cut fruit, fresh mozzarella balls, slivers of ricotta pie, prosciutto, and bright clementines picked fresh from the trees outside. Even the glossy prunes, which I don’t normally eat, are delicious here. They are fresh, tender, mild, and sweet, with no weird “what is that?” preservative flavor. Not a hint of rubbery.
If only it were fig season, but no such luck in this off-season of February. Those odd-looking fig trees are everywhere; also olive, lemon, orange, all in living color and contrast to our aging grocery store produce in the states.
Breakfast would be incomplete without a slow frothy cappuccino — or two — served in bright hand-painted cups.
Today I bring my breakfast back to my room on the third floor, comfortably overlooking the Amalfi Coast from my balcony. Diffused light fills the air, as does the sound of aqua waves lapping the beach below, poised along the Gulf of Salerno and filled by the warm Tyrrhenian Sea.
I’m told the sand is black and sugar fine but have yet to bare my feet in it. The sun tries to burn through a morning fog, warm and moist, surrounding the steep cove. I am hopeful she will succeed, if only per una momento.
Housekeeping clamors in the room next door, reminding me I’ve lingered too long at my keyboard this morning.
With camera-in-hand, I will climb up and down what’s sure to be a thousand steps of Positano for the amazing scenes of the Amalfi Coast.
You can walk back and forth on the road for miles as it slowly winds up the cliffs of Positano, or find la scala (stairs) which cut through the mountainous tiers at a dizzying incline to reach the cliff top residences and shops quickly. Going down to the beach is waaaay easier.
Ultimately, as I sling my trusty camera across my neck like a purse, I know the best images will be those forever impressed upon my memories.
I couldn’t have been happier with the accommodations at this adorable two-bedroom cottage located on East Sandwich beach just steps from the ocean. Owners Tom and Ellen went out of their way to make sure I had everything I needed for an off-season weekend stay at their property, which has breathtaking views of the ocean. This space offers comfort, peace, and privacy, and is ideal as a beachy getaway for 1 to 6 people on- or off-season.
I enjoyed being an invisible stowaway on this couple’s two-year sailboat adventure from Canada down to the Caribbean. I learned a lot about sailing (of which I knew nothing), US waterways, procedures, risks, weather, islands’ culture and people.
I also loved the food, fishing and recipe elements covered in the book. The notion of this couple leaving daily responsibilities behind for a two year adventure was very appealing to me, especially as Jim and I are also freelancers. No doubt we would choose very similar off-the-beaten paths toward getting to know the “real” island life.
These two made it happen and reaped big-time personal growth (and no doubt, creative) benefits. Kudos! Reading this book was an excellent getaway from the daily grind, and I am so happy this couple successfully achieved one of their dreams and captured it so well. Thank you for sharing a most interesting and entertaining story. Very inspiring, indeed!