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Rhode Island: Providence, Westerly, New London, CT and Newport 2016

Updated on June 6, 2016

Ocean Club at Atlantic Beach

Saturday May 21, 2016

Well, we did it again, booking an early morning flight! So we got up at 4:30 and were at Hobby by 6:00, ready to check in. I guess we were lucky because, despite all the warnings from TSA, we got through security and were at our gate by 6:45. The flight left on time at 8:05 and we had smooth flying, arriving in Orlando 15 minutes early. We departed Orlando at 1:05 and again, smooth flying and we arrived 15 minutes early in Providence at 3:35. Obtaining our rental car, we were on I-95S and made it to Westerly by 4:45. Admittedly we got a tad lost once we exited 95 but we eventually arrived on Main Street Westerly in a light drizzle of rain. We parked in front of The Malted Barley and went in to have a light dinner and watch the Preakness Stakes. The Malted Barley is located at 42 High Street and we recommend it.

Jay ordered a beer flight (actually Cheryl selected the beers). By far the best was the Kentucky Bourbon Ale! This place makes pretzels to order and we split a bratwurst on a pretzel bun; yummy! Then we shared an asiago and parmesan pretzel with a spinach and artichoke dip; also yummy.

Tummies full, and kinda surprised that Nyquist, the Derby winner came in 3rd, we left, went grocery shopping and after getting all twisted around, located the condo, “Ocean Club at Atlantic Beach,” at 8 Crandall Ave. This is a two story shake frame building located one half block from Atlantic Street. The Beach is across the street from Atlantic Street.

We unpacked and then took a brief stroll along the Atlantic shoreline. We went to sleep lulled by the roar of the ocean.

Sunday May 22, 2016

Our goal today was to see lighthouses. After investigative work by Jay, we determined our best bet was to take the Classic Lighthouse tour from the ferry in New London, CT. So after again getting lost, we made it to the ferry landing in about 40 minutes. Everything is so close here! But have you noticed a theme? Despite everything being so close, we still get lost! They do not have street signs everywhere which makes it a tad difficult to follow directions. But we manage to get to where we want to go!

New London, CT ferry dock

New London's historic waterfront.

Once the third busiest whaling port in the world, New London is now home to the United States Coast Guard Academy and home port for the Coast Guard's tall ship the Barque EAGLE.

What a trip! The water was extremely calm and there were only about a dozen folks on a boat with a capacity of 150. The tour guide was awesome. We got up close to many lighthouses and he had stories about each one of them.

The Sea Jet

This was a big catamaran
This was a big catamaran

First, looking at the historic district shoreline, we saw Fort Griswold.

Fort Griswold is a tall granite monument that honors those killed defending the fort during the Battle of Groton Heights.
Fort Griswold is a tall granite monument that honors those killed defending the fort during the Battle of Groton Heights.

New London Harbor Light.

The oldest lighthouse in Connecticut, the original New London Harbor Light helped guide colonial privateers who sought shelter up the Thames River during the American Revolution.
The oldest lighthouse in Connecticut, the original New London Harbor Light helped guide colonial privateers who sought shelter up the Thames River during the American Revolution.

Next up was Avery Point Lighthouse.

The last lighthouse in the state built as an official navigational aid, it wasn't lighted until over a year after its 1943 completion due to concerns about possible Nazi attack during WWII.
The last lighthouse in the state built as an official navigational aid, it wasn't lighted until over a year after its 1943 completion due to concerns about possible Nazi attack during WWII.

New London Ledge Lighthouse was next.

A French Second Empire structure architecturally unique for a lighthouse, the Ledge Light is unusual for another reason - it's reportedly haunted by the ghost of an early keeper.
A French Second Empire structure architecturally unique for a lighthouse, the Ledge Light is unusual for another reason - it's reportedly haunted by the ghost of an early keeper.

North Dumpling Light has an interesting story.

During Prohibition, the keeper of North Dumpling Lighthouse was accused of signaling to liquor smugglers.
During Prohibition, the keeper of North Dumpling Lighthouse was accused of signaling to liquor smugglers.

Note the replica of Stonehenge on the island. Today, it's owned by the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, Dean Kamen. This gentleman actually signed a secession treaty from the US with his friend, Pres George H.W. Bush as a joke. He has a constitution, currency and a national anthem and the little island is completely self-sufficient, off the power grid. Kamen refers to himself as Lord Dumpling!

Next was Race Rock Light.

Built on a ledge where fast current and conflicting seas are the norm, Race Rock's foundations alone took seven years to build.
Built on a ledge where fast current and conflicting seas are the norm, Race Rock's foundations alone took seven years to build.

Little Gull Light was taken by the British in the War of 1812 and destroyed by the hurricane of 1815

The tower that stands today dates from 1858.
The tower that stands today dates from 1858.

Plum Island Lighthouse is also known as Plum Gut Light.

The 1869 historic granite lighthouse was decommissioned in 1978 in favor of an automated light that now sits a short distance away.
The 1869 historic granite lighthouse was decommissioned in 1978 in favor of an automated light that now sits a short distance away.

Next we passed Orient Point Lighthouse.

Also known as the Coffee Pot Lighthouse, the cast-iron clad and brick lined Orient Point Lighthouse was marked for demolition by the Coast Guard in 1970, but was saved by public outcry.
Also known as the Coffee Pot Lighthouse, the cast-iron clad and brick lined Orient Point Lighthouse was marked for demolition by the Coast Guard in 1970, but was saved by public outcry.

Officially known as the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse but fondly called Bug Lighthouse was up next.

Bug Light marks the entrance to Peconic Bay at the eastern end of Long Island. The original structure was on screw piles making it look like a water bug.
Bug Light marks the entrance to Peconic Bay at the eastern end of Long Island. The original structure was on screw piles making it look like a water bug.

We passed General Dynamic's Electric Boat Division

This is where the first nuclear powered submarine was built, and where subs continue to be built today. We saw one!
This is where the first nuclear powered submarine was built, and where subs continue to be built today. We saw one!

Mystic

After the tour, we picnicked at the waterfront. Back in the car, we headed on and stopped in Mystic.

The historic downtown of Mystic is referred to as the Mystic Seaport and is nestled along both banks of the Mystic River. There is a historic drawbridge over the river. We were lucky enough to see the drawbridge in action! The bridge is a bascule bridge and was designed by the chief engineer of the Otis Elevator Company! The counterweights are concrete filled and each weighs 230 short tons.

The Famous Mystic Pizza!

After strolling along the main drag, (and seeing Mystic Pizza!), we had an ice cream sundae then hopped back in the car and wound up at Foxwoods Casino. Foxwoods is only 14 miles from Westerly.

Have we mentioned how pretty it is along the I-95 corridor? This is part of the National Heritage Corridor and this section is called the Last Green Valley.

Foxwoods is run by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. Jay walked around a bit. The casino is rather sterile looking and not real exciting. But the drive there was very pretty! We spent only about an hour there and then headed back to the condo. We took a quick dip in the pool and spa.

Monday May 23, 2016

We headed off to the Westerly Armory. This is a museum that has a lot of military artifacts and other items donated by families in the area. Most of the displays are of WWII uniforms. There is one display of hand carved airplanes of WWII. There are two Civil War uniforms and several dresses from the early 1900’s. The Westerly band practices at the armory.

Near the end of the tour Jay spoke to the docent. Jay related the experience of his stepfather, Jim. Jim had joined the Marines while in his early teens (underage). Jim fought bloody battles in Korea and suffered from what is today called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Jim had nightmares and drank as a result. Jim terrorized Jay and his mother until she divorced him. Jay made the point that unless you wished to suffer from PTSD for the rest of your life, you will not engage in battle.

If you drop bombs from an aircraft you may not suffer from PTSD, however you’re mind would be affected. It is better to place God above Country and do not fight at all. There is no need to kill someone at the order of your commander. The person is not your enemy.

The docent said, I will do you one better, think of all the people who make money off the war. Jay agreed and called them, “Bankers.” Hopefully the armory will be used not to glorify war, but to warn people not to promote it.

The Armory looked like a castle.

Jay on the roof of the Armory

among the battlements
among the battlements

More of Westerly

We then explored the rest of Westerly. There is a pretty park surrounding the public library. The library was actually surprisingly busy. Unfortunately most of the historic homes were closed (they open Memorial Day for the season). But we were able to see the outside of many neat buildings.

We had lunch in a pizzeria in an old building (great salad and tuna grinder washed down with a Blue Moon beer). The pizzeria is called, “Pizzaplace, Pie & Suds.” It is located at 43 Broad St. Westerly, RI, (401) 348-1803. We recommend this restaurant.

We drove to Watch Hill, actually very close to our condo. Watch Hill is VERY wealthy. Driving around, we saw many mansions, including one owned by Taylor Swift. It is HUGE!

Taylor Swift's house

There were some condos with a private beach (although you can buy an annual pass good from Memorial Day through Labor Day). We then went past the Ocean House Ho

We walked the path through the exclusive neighborhood that Taylor Swift’s home is in to the Watch Hill Lighthouse. It is privately owned and not open to the pub

Returning to the condo, we walked down to the ocean and walked the beach for a while, letting the very cold Atlantic lap over our feet!

Tuesday May 24, 2016

Cheryl remembered that there is another casino in the area, the Mohegan Sun, so we headed that way (24 miles!). The day was rainy so it was a good game plan to spend it inside. So off we went. This casino has a lot more character to it and more to do. We browsed the shops (BareMinerals, Coach, Savorski, Tommy Bahama to name a few) and then had lunch at Lansdowne Irish Pub. We split a shaved roast beef sandwich. It was excellent. This casino is run by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

Leaving the casino, we went into New London. It was drizzly and most things are closed until next week. However, we did look into the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse which was being freshened up for the season.

Wednesday May 25, 2016

We decided to take the other lighthouse tour today. So off we went back to the Sea Jet. This cruise was the Lights and Sights Tour. In route, we enjoyed the scenery and also the beautiful sunny weather.

This tour duplicated a few of the lights we saw on the Sunday tour. This tour goes further east and not as far south.

We started with a look at the granite tower, Ft. Griswold. We then went past Ft. Trumbull and on to Avery Point, New London Ledge and North Dumpling. We then veered north to Morgan’s Point Lighthouse.

To help mariners enter the Mystic River and the harbor, the Morgan Point lighthouse was built in 1823.

Morgan Point had two women who were lighthouse Keepers when their husbands passed away. One of the female Keepers, Frances McDonald, who served from 1869 to 1871, passed her duties to her brother, Thaddeus Pecor, who went on to become one of the longest-serving keepers in history, with 48 years of service until 1919 when he retired at the age of 75. The lighthouse is now privately owned.

As we approached this lighthouse, we saw a replica 1930’s era wooden yacht! It was racing along speedily and our tour guide said it isn’t often that the owner is out running the boat on the water. He was headed towards Latimer Reef, the next light on our tour. This light is located on Fishers Island in the State of New York.

The Latimer Reef Lighthouse survived one the strongest nor'easters on record.

 The Great Blizzard of March 1, 1914 brought about the lowest barometric pressure recorded outside of a hurricane (952 millibars). The Blizzard proceeded to drop two-feet of snow.
The Great Blizzard of March 1, 1914 brought about the lowest barometric pressure recorded outside of a hurricane (952 millibars). The Blizzard proceeded to drop two-feet of snow.

We then sped along towards Watch Hill. We saw this light from land on Monday.

We now headed to Simmons Castle on Fishers Island. This island is part of New York and is very secluded. Since the 1920s, the island – which measures a mere seven miles in length by perhaps a mile at its widest point – has been the summer playground for the Social Register-set that includes the Rockefeller, duPont, Firestone, Whitney and Roosevelt families. Yet for all of its charm, few will see the place. There is no hotel or fancy stores. The social center of Fishers Island revolves around the two private clubs that allow very few outsiders in their close-knit circles.

You could spend millions on a house and never get into the clubs.

Simmons Castle on Fishers Island

The medieval-style seaside castle on the island was completed in 1934 by Grant Simmons. There have been two more owners since the Simmons family and is now in the hands of the William Lee Hanley family from Greenwich, CT.

Also on Fishers Island is Fort H. G. Wright. Fort H. G. Wright was a United States military installation linked with Fort Terry, Fort Michie, and Camp Hero to defend the eastern entrance of Long Island Sound. The fort was named for Union General Horatio G. Wright who was born in Clinton, Connecticut.

Proceeding south, we went to Race Rock and Little Gull Lights. We then sped back to the ferry landing. It was another great tour!

We decided to spend some more time in New London. We toured the Shaw Mansion (yippee, it was open!). We had an early dinner at The Exchange Café and shared a great fish and chips dinner. We took US 1 back to Westerly which took us through Mystic.

Thursday, May 26 We drove to Newport today. It is really a short drive up to Newport from Westerly.

You have an option to take a ferry over to the island or drive across the Claiborne Pell Bridge. As we had a rental car, we drove across the bridge.

Upon arrival, we parked at the visitor’s center and bought tickets for a 3 hour tour which included a visit inside The Breakers.
Upon arrival, we parked at the visitor’s center and bought tickets for a 3 hour tour which included a visit inside The Breakers.

Fort Adams

This fort was established July 4, 1799. After the War of 1812, there was a thorough review of the nation's fortification needs and it was decided to replace the older Fort Adams with a newer and much larger fort. The new Fort Adams was first garrisoned in August 1841, functioning as an active Army post until 1950. During this time the fort was active in five major wars (the Mexican–American War, American Civil War, Spanish–American War, World War I and World War II) but never fired a shot in anger. In 1953, the Army transferred ownership of Fort Adams to the Navy, which still uses some of the grounds for family housing. In 1965, the fort, and most of the surrounding land, was given to the state of Rhode Island for use as Fort Adams State Park. In 1976, Fort Adams was declared a National Historic Landmark, in recognition for its distinctive military architecture, which includes features not found in other forts of the period.

And of course, The Breakers is a fabulous house! We have seen it before and it is worth multiple visits.

This house is considered to be the grandest of the summer “cottages” in Newport. The Breakers was built as the Newport summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, a member of the wealthy United States Vanderbilt family. It is built in an Italian Renaissance style. Designed by renowned architectRichard Morris Hunt, with interior decoration by Jules Allard and Sons and Ogden Codman, Jr., the 70-room mansion has a gross area of 125,339 square feet and 62,482 square feet of living area on five floors. The house was constructed between 1893 and 1895. The Ochre Point Avenue entrance is marked by sculpted iron gates and the 30-foot-high (9.1 m) walkway gates are part of a 12-foot-high limestone-and-iron fence that borders the property on all but the ocean side. The footprint of the house covers approximately an acre of the 13-acre estate on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

After the tour, we meandered through the streets and headed to the Touro Synagogue.

Unfortunately, the last tour was at 1:30 so we missed it. But here is the history of the synagogue. The Touro Synagogue was constructed between 1759 and 1763 and is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States and is also the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America and the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era. (There is a Synagogue in the U.S. Virgin Islands which claims to be older. So there is a dispute as to fact).

In 1946, it was declared a National Historic Site. The first Jews in Newport had roots in the Sephardic Spanish and Portuguese diaspora, with some Ashkenazim (a Jewish ethnic division who coalesced as a distinct community of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the 1st millennium).

The town is packed full of historic buildings, both commercial and residential. We definitely need more than 1 day to see it all! Jay expected more high-end luxury shops, but most shops were mid-range.

Being hot and exhausted, we headed back to Westerly. We stopped at a beach bar/restaurant and it was very expensive and did not have a lot of seafood options so we passed on eating dinner there. Instead, we ordered a pizza from Toney T’s! It was good pizza. It is located at 49 Beach Street, Westerly, RI.

Friday May 27, 2016

As this is our last day here, we started off with a beach walk. Cheryl peeled off after about 40 minutes and walked back to the condo via a stroll through the Westerly neighborhood. She was hot and sweaty after her hour long walk. Jay was determined to make it to Watch Hill via the beach. (you can see the lighthouse as well as Taylor Swift’s mansion from the beach at our condo).

After almost 2 hours, Jay made is back to the condo, hot and sweaty. He made it to the Ocean House Hotel! He saw the back side of the houses we saw from the street on Monday and Taylor Swift's house.

On Saturday we packed up and had an uneventful trip back to Houston.

Conclusion

As I told the docent at the Westerly Armory, "Put God above country and do not fight at all."

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