A Risky Rhode Trip

We’ve suffered a great deal of loss in both 2019 and 2020. In fulfilling the commitment to take care of our parents and give back to them everything they so generously gave to us, we’ve spent the past few years practically living in intensive care units, emergency rooms, waiting rooms, other small rooms (the ones they take you to when they have nothing good to say), and fluorescent lit and underemployed rehabilitation centers. We are tired, exhausted really, and we feel somewhat medically trained. We are now equipped with a depth of knowledge we’d never expected to have, all due to prepping for and engaging in anxiety ridden conversations with those who really are medically trained, those we’ve put our trust in to keep our loved ones, our parents, alive and well. We are ashamed to say it out loud, that we are tired, for it is they who have fought battles harder than we’ve ever had to face. We can only hope we have been as strong for them.

It is evident then with all this time spent traveling to and from hospitals, that we’ve spent little time actually traveling. In the past year, we spent, without exaggeration, around 80 nights in hotel rooms in Baltimore City and its surrounding suburbs. I could write a guide book to eating well during an extended stay at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and I’m currently writing a detailed and emotionally wrought narrative on what happens when a routine surgical procedure goes terribly wrong. I can write about things I’d rather not write about and now, I have all the time to do so. It is just when we could technically push play on travel again that we are mostly stuck inside our home hiding from Covid.

On July 18, 2020 we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Newport, Rhode Island, eating an overly priced, but otherwise delicious dinner while overlooking the off ramp of a busy, Rhode Island highway. More on that in a few minutes. The truth is, we were supposed to be in Sorrento, Italy. 10 years ago while on our honeymoon, we walked the winding path lined with lemon trees to the charming town below, declaring with almost every step that we’d return to this perfectly picturesque town on our 10th anniversary. We’d never dreamed that a global pandemic would put a halt to those plans, nor did we ever expect to be banned from entering Europe.

We are not well-versed in New England, and we had never been to Newport, Rhode Island. We’d heard it was beautiful, and my research had proven that to be true. With every Relais & Châteaux property I perused, I fell in love with the elegance and the rugged coastline views, to only then fall over in shock at the price for just a one night stay in one of these rooms.

I will admit that we haven’t left the house much since March, and we are only now feeling somewhat comfortable venturing out. We are hardcore maskers who trust the word of Dr. Fauci and believe that science is real and that humans should rely on it. Without getting political, we feel lucky to live in a state that has taken this pandemic seriously and is not rushing to reopen. We also acknowledge that businesses are suffering greatly, so we’ve put all of our efforts into buying local, ordering as much take-out as we can eat from our favorite restaurants, and tipping generously. We outdoor dine at places that demonstrate that they are responsible, and we wear our masks when waiters and waitresses approach our table. They deserve to be protected too.

So I mention all of this because while we are yearning to travel the world like we used to, we are anxious about doing so. When you’ve spent almost an entire year watching someone you love go on and off and back on a ventilator, you realize that you would never want to be on one. It stresses us out to think that irresponsibly touching our face or breathing closely next to someone else might put us or someone we love in a situation like that. And that has been enough to keep us home.

Then we got bored, and we decided it might be okay, maybe even safe, to go to New England.

Before we left for Rhode Island, I started following their governor on Twitter. I even signed up for her daily emails. I wanted to be informed and it helped me feel better to know we were one of the few states allowed to enter without a required quarantine.

Newport is lovely. The people are friendly, the food is divine, and the coastline is the kind of place you go to when you want to forget about your suffering and just be quiet. Or have a good cup of coffee.

We realize that during our short stay and the current circumstances, that we didn’t experience all that Newport has to offer. But we can tell you about what we did see and what delicious things we ate while we were there. We can only hope to return when life and travel gets back to normal.

Newport Marriott

For the past few years, we’ve been SPG Platinum and then Bonvoy Platinum, and as a result of the number of nights we’ve put in in the past year, we have now reached Titanium status. While we were saddened to see SPG go, and were skeptical about becoming Marriott people, we are happy to report that we are quite pleased with the new arrangement and have found the Marriott experience to be delightful.

The Newport Marriott was beyond our expectations. Clean, bright, and situated right on the harbor, it was the perfect location for two people looking to explore downtown Newport. The safety protocol put in place to protect its guests was apparent from the minute we walked in the door, with hand sanitizer stations, masked employees and guests, and an easy check-in experience with the added protection of plexiglass at the front desk.

We only stayed one night, but I wish we’d stayed here the whole time. It was an easy walk to all of the restaurants and shops with a convenient location and a view that screamed, “You’ve arrived in Newport. Check out these sailboats!”

Surf Club, Newport

This is the first place we stopped to have a drink and take in our surroundings. After a four hour drive and a GPS that took us over the George Washington Bridge, the Surf Club’s outdoor venue was an inviting space for us to pull up a chair, sip an ice cold Narragansett, and take a deep breath. We didn’t eat here, but we salivated at the look of the food at nearby tables.

Midtown Oyster Bar

A few days after my mother-in-law’s surgery that went horribly wrong, I promised her that I wouldn’t eat another raw oyster until she got better and could eat them with me. I kept that promise from July 1, 2019 to July 16, 2020. Although I was tempted on several occasions, I did not indulge in any oysters for over a year. I hoped with all my might that we’d get to share a cold plate of oysters with her again, but sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.

Midtown Oyster Bar didn’t see me coming, but I had an oyster craving that needed to be fulfilled and this was just the place to get me the goods. 2 dozen oysters and a bottle of crisp, white wine on their upstairs deck was what seemed to be the most appropriate introduction to Rhode Island I could have ever arranged. I just wish my mother-in-law was there to slurp those salty mollusks with me.

Salvation Cafe

This is one of my favorite finds on this trip. I found it through the extensive research I do prior to going on any trip, and for some reason, I felt gravitated towards eating here. I am so glad we took the chance on this place because the quality of the food was superb and the outdoor dining was so cozy. Here we had the best fried calamari that we’ve ever had, and a fish burrito that provided just the right combination of carbs and fish to coat my belly after all of those oysters.

The Black Pearl

I know everyone says that the clam chowder here is the best clam chowder there is, and that’s because it’s true. It’s damn near perfect, actually. If you haven’t had clam chowder here, then you haven’t had clam chowder. The broth is creamy but light, and the clams are chopped and numerous. I mean, more numerous then you’d expect for a cup of soup. It will blow your mind, and after a rain soaked walk along the coast, it’s the only thing you need.

Nomi Park

Oh, Nomi Park. This is a tough one to write about. I told you I’d get back to that overpriced yet delicious dinner that overlooked the off ramp of a busy Rhode Island highway. Nomi Park’s food and cocktails are phenomenal, but the prices are steep. It’s a newly opened restaurant that’s part of the newly opened Wayfinder Hotel. The Wayfinder is an old hotel that has been renovated into a chic, exceptionally well-designed boutique hotel. This is where we stayed for the remainder of our trip, and well, we learned a very good lesson. Don’t stay at hotels that have only been open a few months.

While it is situated outside of downtown Newport, adjacent to a closed casino and that busy off-ramp, the Wayfinder’s Instagram, website, and glowing reviews will have you saying and justifying to yourself, “It’s okay that it’s not downtown. There is a pool, and cute rooms, and an overly inviting lobby.” No, it’s not the Relais & Châteaux, and well, it’s not even the Newport, Marriott, but it’s different with definite potential. It’s just not ready yet. They are definitely experiencing some growing pains, and I’m always hesitant to write negatively about a place on our blog. I will reserve my judgment for now (they did open during a global pandemic) and just say this: give this place some time before booking. One day, I could see it being great (it’s just going to take a few years).

The restaurant is serving up quality food though, and because you can’t eat anywhere else without driving or getting a Lyft, you are tempted to eat there frequently. We were never disappointed with our meals, and the sardines were one of my favorite things I ate while visiting Newport. Served in a tin, the sardines are presented like tuna salad, only prepared with a delicious saffron aioli, crisp celery, and grilled sourdough. It was truly one of the best things I ate on the whole trip.

Cliff Walk and Ocean Drive

Paul and I can never avoid the rain when we travel, and Rhode Island proved to be another one of those trips where it poured on our parade. We traveled Ocean Drive and then walked the Cliff Walk in the rain, without the raincoats that we always pack, but, unfortunately, forgot to pack. We returned the next morning to walk it in the opposite direction, and the sunshine made all the difference. The mansions on this walk are quite extravagant, and we got an education in finally realizing where Salve Regina College is located.

So, Newport, it wasn’t the trip we dreamed of, but it was something more than what we expected. We hope to see you again, unmasked. Until then, I will continue to gawk at your Relais & Châteaux offerings and your luxurious sailboats from afar, with hopes of someday seeing you again, in a white adirondack chair, sipping a cocktail on “the lawn.”

2 Comments on “A Risky Rhode Trip

  1. Sorry to hear that the past few years have been difficult on you and yours. And then a global pandemic gets thrown on top to boot. I loved the photos and the writing, and I very much appreciated your thoughts on taking the virus seriously for you and those around you. I’m in Seattle, where most of my friends are in the restaurant/bar industry – loved reading that commitment to taking care of them as they take care of us. Found your site through Paul’s comment at Daniel Milnor’s site. I love when that happens. Blogs are so much better than social media.

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