By: Chrysa Smith
I’m at 41 North. It’s the upscale nautical, boutique hotel right in the wharf in Newport, Rhode Island. And (like they say at McDonald’s) I’m loving it.
We’ve been to Newport before. And we always enjoy coming back. If you haven’t been, do. What a quaint shore town—home to the Tennis Hall of Fame, various yachting events and rows of mansions from the Gilded Age.
Besides being pampered, one of the things I enjoy is learning about the lives of the extraordinarily wealthy. (Well, I also enjoy learning about the mob, the early church and people from exotic lands). Maybe it’s because it’s so extravagant, it’s hard to believe. Maybe it’s that it’s the only time I’ll step foot into such magnificent residences. But I know it has something to do with being nosey and curious about the lives of people I’ve either read about or learned about in the history books.
Yesterday we went to RoughPoint. It was the summer home of Doris Duke—a tobacco heiress. Of course, we’ve been to the Vanderbilt and Aston homes, and while this one was different, even with it’s Louis XIV furnishings and Renoir in the bedroom, one thing always strikes me—loneliness and tragedy.
Maybe there’s something about the lives of the rich and famous because on all these tours, there have been multiple marriages, untimely deaths, lonely children and the need to close oneself off from those around them. Tall Privet hedges and stately gates let you know to stay clear, And to me, it’s sad. Instead of enjoying privilege, and I suspect they did with their lavish parties, there was so much time protecting their ‘stuff’, that it eventually caught up with them. In fact, at one point (well, partly due to new gov’t taxes and a changing world), the mansions were abandoned and fell into disarray. Luckily, the Newport Preservation Society and various foundations took on the enormous job of restoring and maintaining these for the public to enjoy.
Today I head home to my house in the burbs (with the neighbors who don’t mow their lawn regularly), my doggies (who have been known to leave remnants of their owning the house), my son (who tickles my funny bone on a regular basis), to streams of young men, many who’ve been friends with my son since early childhood (and still come to visit), my backyard flowering pots and my grocery shopping list. And I think I will be extremely grateful that I’m able to take a trip, enjoy some nice lodging and food and sightseeing. And visit Newport from a distance. I will never live a life or in a mansion like these folks did—and that’s quite alright by me.