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Category Archives: Travel

Rough Point

My Mom and I went to Newport, RI to tour the mansions… and we toured them!  In 3 days, we explored 6 Mansions.  It doesn’t sound like many, but when you go on the tours, it’s a lot.  We covered: The Breakers, Rosecliff, Marble House, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, and Rough Point.

View from Rosecliff

View from Rosecliff

I am going to review them in the order I liked them… Meaning, if you only see one see the first one, if you can only see two, see the first two… You get the drift.

The Breakers Grounds

The Breakers is the best mansion to see.  The parking lot fills up pretty early, because it is the most popular of the mansions.  I am pretty sure it is the largest and most lavish of the Mansions.  From indoor fountains under the stairs to landings bigger than my apartment, this place is the epitome of the gilded age.  The audio tour was good – especially for an audio tour.

Entrance to Rough Point

My personal favorite, Rough Point- the Doris Duke house, had a live tour… which I like so much better.  The house was not as impressive as the tour guide’s knowledge, and Doris Duke’s story.  Her house was the most homey of all the mansions.  I loved hearing the stories about how some one actually lived in one of these giant houses.  Doris had her dogs running through her house and they were allowed on the outrageous furniture.

The Elms Grounds

The Elms is also a beautiful summer “cottage”.  I think this mansion had the most beautiful grounds.  The audio tour was well done, and the house was beautiful.  Completely worth seeing, unless you are starting to get mansioned out…

Marble House

Marble House was beautiful, and surprise, surprise, completely covered in marble!  It was surprising warm (in feeling, not temperature) inside, though.  The audio tour was well done, and told different anecdotes than the other mansions.  All of the houses did a fantastic job of giving you the idea of Newport in the gilded age, without being repetitive.

Chateau-Sur-Mer

Chateau-sur-Mer was weird.  It was a weird mansion, not as gilded as the other mansions, with much more dark, heavy wood.  Although it was very cool seeing the beginnings of the mansions of Newport, our live tour guide was an odd duck.  It made my mom and I laugh, and it was truly unforgettable.  The grounds are nothing to write home about… but I did like this house because it was so different.

Rosecliff

I disliked Rosecliff, and in fact, I would skip this tour.  This house was basically empty on the first floor, because it is still used for weddings and other private events.  The chairs stacked up on the patio really took away from the experience, on top of which, the furnished  rooms had all been redone in the forties.  It didn’t really reflect the Newport gilded age, and lacked the charm of Rough Point, or the unique experience of Chateau-sur-Mer.  It was a mehh for me.

The Elms

No pictures were allowed inside any of the Mansions, hence all of the outdoor photos.

http://www.newportmansions.org/
http://www.newportrestoration.org/

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The Courtyard

My mom and I took a girls weekend to the Fancy Fancy city of Newport, RI.  Normally, I don’t comment on the hotels I stay in, because, generally, a hotel is a hotel.  Well, The Francis Malbone House is a HUGE exception to this rule.  I LOVE this B&B.

For starters, the location is FABULOUS.  It is a little far from the Mansions or the beach, but it is smack in the middle of downtown, and a very short walk from the Wharf.  Parking downtown in horrible, expensive, and generally unavailable.  The Francis Malbone House has a parking spot for each room, right in the downtown area.  This alone would make it worth it.

Secondly, the rooms are quaint, quiet, and comfortable.  There is also a beautiful courtyard – perfect for reading, breakfast, afternoon tea, or a glass of wine after dinner.  But, this is only a small part of what makes this place special…

The real standouts are the breakfast and the staff.  This breakfast is included in the room charge, and seriously, DO NOT skip breakfast.  Or Afternoon Tea.  The food here is AMAZING.  There are two made to order dishes a morning – a sweet and a savory.  My mom and I ordered one of each and shared.  Waffles with fruit compote, perfect omelets, pancakes… you name it, it was delicious.  OUTRAGEOUS.  Not to mention the pastries, fruit, oatmeal, and everything else that was left out to nibble on.  I was so stuffed with breakfast that I only needed a snack for lunch… which was great, because I stuffed myself at dinner.

Not only was the staff friendly and attentive, Will had the BEST dinner recommendations.  It was surprisingly tough being a vegetarian in Newport, but the dinner recommendations were fabulous, for both my mom and I.  We were sent to places that locals go, not just the run of the mill tourist restaurants.  Being a self-proclaimed foodie, I was very happy to get the true flavor of Newport.  Believe me, I will be posting about all my dinners…

When you go to Newport, make reservations at the Francis Malbone House.  Call up- the staff is super friendly, and will give you amazing advice.  I am normally an online gal, but this staff is worth talking to…

http://www.malbone.com/

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Yes, I was laughing really hard - Thanks to the Guide!

The final leg of our trip was Sedona.  Sedona is one of our friend’s favorite places on Earth, and I can understand why… it is GORGEOUS.  We decided to enjoy the scenery by taking an off-road jeep tour.  There are several companies to choose from, but we went with Red Rock Jeep Tours.  The guide was fantastic, and the drive was super fun.  We did the “Soldiers’ Pass” tour – as it was one of their premiere/exclusive tours.  The pictures speak for themselves.

After the jeep tour, we headed up to see the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It was truly amazing.  Even the biggest skeptic would feel the urge to light a candle in the chapel, because it was so awe inspiring.  The chapel was built into the side of the mountain, with the pews facing the view.  It was truly a magical way to conclude our Arizona excursion!

Interesting Links:
http://www.redrockjeep.com/
http://www.visitsedona.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross
https://www.chapeloftheholycross.com/

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FnB is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to.  EVER.  And I have been to some fantastic restaurants.  Let me tell you – it was awesome.

I loved the relaxed atmosphere.  There is an open kitchen in the center of the restaurant with a bar set up around it.  Max and I ate at the “bar”; we loved it so much, we made reservations for the next night too!    Max also is a little mad I am letting this secret out – because with the way the food tastes and the friendly service, I could see this place booking up months in advance.

1) You have to get the Braised Leeks.  This dish has won awards – and may be the best thing I have ever ate.  Braised Leeks, Mozzarella, Mustard Bread Crumbs, and  a Fried Egg.  Max got this as an appetizer the first night, and I got it as my main dish the second night.  (The portions outside of NYC are usually HUGE for me.  I left stuffed even though I ordered two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entre.)  Long story short – you MUST get this dish.

2)  Fried Green Tomatoes.  I had these as my main dish the first night, and Max had them as an appetizer the second night. They were served with greens and feta.  They knocked my socks off.

3) Falafel… Some of the best I’ve had…

4) Cheese and Nut Bread.  It came with dates and apricot compote.  The apricot compote was fantastic – I don’t even like apricots.  This is the dish I had as an appetizer the second night.  It was really yummy, and probably the smallest (still not small) dish on the menu – which meant I wasn’t too full for the leeks!

5) Roast Jidori Chicken – served with spaetzle.  Max said this was AWESOME.  It looked and smelled yummy.  But, I have no concept.

6) The Steak.  It was really big and it looked good.  But, Max had this the second night, and I was way too into my leeks to remember anything else about it.

7) The first night we were too full for dessert.  The second night we saved room (as best we could), because we kept watching the butterscotch pudding being made and then served.  It looked WAY TOO GOOD to pass up.  Butterscotch pudding, whipped cream, and a little nutmeg sprinkled on top.  Perfect ending to a perfect meal.

We paired all of this with a local wine, called Dos Cabezas.   Umm, FANTASTIC.  The winery is further south than we were, so we couldn’t make it there this time…  Next time, we HAVE to go there.  It was pretty cheap too – especially compared to NYC prices!

Bottom Line:  Get your ass to FnB.  I don’t care if you have to fly there.  If you have no other reason to go to Scottsdale, go just for FnB.

(PS – it TOTALLY makes sense that the Chef had a restaurant in NYC before moving to AZ – just sayin’.)

Interesting Links:

http://fnbrestaurant.com/

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/10-best-restaurant-dishes-of-2010

http://www.doscabezaswinery.com/tasting-room.html

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After the Grand Canyon, we headed down to Scottsdale.  We were staying at the Westin Kierland Villas, which we got for a GREAT deal.  Seriously, we got three nights for the price of one!  The hotel was AWESOME.  Our villa even had a golf course view.  The pools were close by, and looked lovely, but it was a little too chilly to swim.

We woke up sorta early the following day – we wanted to make it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West before it got really crowded.  Well, that didn’t work out.  There were a lot of people there, but we still managed to get on the tour we wanted to!  We went all around the outside of the house, taking a ton of pictures, and we were able to see the inside – no pictures were allowed for pieces of the inside tour.  This compound was spectacular, especially for being built towards the end of Frankie’s life.  He was truly a man after my own heart – making ridiculous requests in the name of art!  These requests included: a call to the president re: the poorly placed power lines ruining his view, a perfect lawn in the middle of the desert, and cutting holes in the windows, because he didn’t want to move the urns two inches forward.  The tour was scheduled to take 90 minutes, but it took closer to two hours, due to the amount of detail the tour guide shared.  Max and I didn’t mind (although some people got all huffy and left); it was a wonderful place and a lovely tour.

After Frankie’s, we decided to take a trail ride in the desert.  We pulled up to MacDonald’s Ranch to see if they could accommodate the likes of us.  Max has only ever ridden a horse a few times, and I spent most of my childhood on horseback.  We signed up for the 3 pm ride, which lasted for two hours.  We got to see the sun setting on the desert- it was beautiful.  Max was a little apprehensive when he was assigned the horse named “Tequila”, mainly because he and real tequila just don’t mix.  Not to worry, all of the horses were perfectly trained and the wranglers (guides) were excellent at soothing even the most nervous beginner.

After riding, we started to think about dinner, we yelped the crap out of the area, and found a place called FnB.  It was so awesome, it gets its own post.

So, you will get the scoop on FnB tomorrow – Stay Tuned.

Interesting Links:

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=5639

http://www.franklloydwright.org/web/Home.html

http://www.franklloydwright.org/web/Tours.html

http://www.macdonaldsranch.com/

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This past weekend, Max and I went to Arizona!  We had 4 days, and the first stop was the Grand Canyon.  We flew from NYC to Phoenix, rented a car, and drove a very scenic 4 hours to the Canyon.  The drive wasn’t that bad, especially because they upgraded us to a Camaro!

Well after sunset, we arrived at our hotel, the historic El Tovar.  Built in 1905, its visitors have included: Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and now, Max and Lindsay.  We stayed in the Fred Harvey suite – one of the only rooms in the hotel with a balcony overlooking the Canyon, which was absolutely gorgeous at sunrise. (More on that later.)  We dropped our bags and headed down to dinner in the El Tovar dining room.  This room probably hasn’t changed since 1905.  It was a HUGE room with fire places at either end, and we were cozy sitting next to one during dinner.  You are probably thinking, why would you need a fire place in Arizona?  Let me tell you, it was cold.  And that is coming from some one that can stand the NYC winters.  But, cold is nothing a fire and a bottle of wine can’t fix.  Max had an awesome steak with a side a fingerling potatoes.  I had a sad excuse for pasta – it was the only thing I could eat on the menu, besides a vegan stuffed mushroom.  I wasn’t bothered by it though– places like that don’t usually have any choices for me.

We woke up early for sunrise – about 7:30 am.  I thought it was going to be earlier, but hey – with the time difference, it was like waking up at 9:30 am.  Except, there was the two hours before the time of rise, where both Max and I woke up in a panic every 5 minutes thinking we missed it.  We took a short hike and a lot of pictures.  At about 9:30, we headed in for breakfast, in the El Tovar dining room, again.  Breakfast was AWESOME.  I had the pancake trio – which was way too big – the trio included a blue corn, a buckwheat, and a buttermilk pancake served with the most DELICIOUS prickly pear syrup.  Max had some beef hash thing with scrambled eggs and peppers.  I wasn’t really paying attention, because the pancakes were way too delicous to focus on anything else.

After breakfast, we set out on a hike.  We were going to hike down into the Canyon, but the trails were ice impacted.  The safest bet was to hike around the Rim of the Canyon, following the trail that I have dubbed the Rim Job.  If you stayed on the path, it was an easy hike – it was also paved most of the way.  But, for the more adventurous view gazers, you could get EXTREMELY close to the Rim on the trail-ish area next to the designated Rim Job Path.  The views blew us away; we couldn’t stop taking pictures.  We hiked about 6 miles before returning to El Tovar to have a MUCH needed beer.  We each had a local beer, which were fine. I think they tasted really great, but only because we had been hiking for hours.

By then, it was about 4 pm, so we had to load up our gear and say goodbye.  We had a few more stops before we decided where to watch the sunset.  We drove out to Hopi Point, which was an over look, and then to Hermit’s Rest.  Hermit’s Rest (I forgot the name while we were driving there, so I just started calling it Hermit Crabs) had a couple of short hiking type trails, so we meandered around there for about an hour.  We headed back to Hopi Point, because the views were spectacular there.

Along the way, we came across some wildlife… Literally, we almost ran into it.  These things look like something out of Buck Hunter.  Seriously – does anyone know what they are?  I am open to sending a prize to someone who can tell me what these are…

Anyway, sunset was lovely.  We then popped in the car and headed to Scottsdale… More on that tomorrow!

Interesting Links:
http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/el-tovar-409.html
http://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/upload/2011SRwinter-guide1103.pdf

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