It was still fairly warm and spring-ish when I woke up in Hartford Connecticut. We’d spent the day in Mystic yesterday and then had a wonderful dinner & a drink in a historic department store in Hartford last night.
So far, it’s been an excellent start to our New England Christmas road trip!
The best part of being in New England for the holidays? The beautiful, warm weather that welcomed us. Sunny skies, lack of snow and 8 degrees. Did I mention there was no snow here?
Oh yeah!!!! It felt more like Spring than winter (nice for mid-December, anyway). Sweet!
It’s downright balmy here compared to the bitter cold temperatures (and snow) we left behind in Ottawa (just in case you missed it in one of my previous stories on this road trip, this was last year– 2013).
Today we’re on our way to the smallest state in the U.S.A: Rhode Island. Snuggled between Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island also shares a water border with New York. So you could boat or swim there if you so desired (though it might be a tad chilly for swimming in December).
I’ve been to Rhode Island before, twice actually. Once was just driving through on a road trip and we did a brief stop in Providence to check out the town and admire the beautiful fall leaves (it was prime fall colour season and man, that town is pretty in the fall).
A few years later I did a road trip here to the island with a friend for an annual gaming conference (*geek alert*) called Templecon. My friend Al’s an avid gamer so he barely stepped foot outside the hotel all weekend. I, on the other hand, did manage to escape a couple of times to do some sightseeing in Providence. But overall I spent most of the weekend hanging around at the convention where I met lots of unique characters. Like these guys:
Needless to say, I had a pretty interesting weekend. I even got a marriage proposal from Bobo Fet (Sadly, I turned it down, he just wasn’t my type).
So, I was looking forward to spending a bit more time on the island this time ’round. We’re also going to visit Newport, the seaside city known for its elaborate mansions, resorts and yacht clubs. Although we probably won’t see any of those at this time of year since it’s more of a summer destination place. Still sounds like a cool little town to check out anyway even at this time of year, so it’s on the agenda for tomorrow.
It was early afternoon by the time we packed the car and started the drive toward Providence from Hartford. It’s only about an hour and a half away so we took our time driving through all the tiny towns along the winding highway. One of the highlights of a road trip….taking it slow! And that, we did.
First stop in the leisurely drive? A cool roadside diner to grab a coffee and breakie. Welcome to Chock Full o’ Nuts!
And indeed it was. Well, there was at least one in here and he was sitting right beside me. No wonder he was keen to try this place 😉 Hehe
We didn’t realize (until after this trip) that this cafe is actually a chain (from New York). I was disappointed to hear this as I usually try to avoid chain spots when I can. But at least the food was pretty good, it was just your typical greasy spoon breakfast.
It was the atmosphere we really enjoyed….an old caboose. I just love these old- style diners. Sadly they are quickly disappearing across the country. Only to be replaced by the big chain restaurants.
(note: updated 2014….this trip was taken was a little over a year ago and I can’t seem to find this place now. So it may have gone under already. I did read that many of the ‘Chock Full o’ Nuts cafes were closing. Hopefully this cool diner re-opened as a new small mom n’ pop resto).
So, with full bellies and an overload of caffeine, we were ready to hit the road again toward Providence.
We decided to stay in Warwick actually, which is just outside Providence. Most of the hotels in Providence were either booked solid or crazy expensive as it is the holiday season. Since Warwick is only a 10 minute drive from Providence (and thus, much cheaper), we figured it was worth the slight inconvenience to save a bit of money. And I’d already stayed in Warwick for the gaming conference a few years ago so I was quite pleased with the hotel (the Crown Royal Warwick).
It’s a resort and convention hotel so it has a few extras (pool, restaurant, gym) which were not used to as we normally stay in more basic motels or hotels.
After a hectic holiday work season we were both looking forward to kicking back and relaxing a bit and this hotel was perfect.
And a heck of a lot quieter than was I was here for Templecon a few years ago. During that gaming convention every inch of this hotel was jam-packed with gamers. Most in costume as the event had a ‘Steam- Punk- meets-Sci-fi’ theme. Totally crazy, but it was tons of fun.
It was a ghost town here compared to my last visit. Not too surprising given that it’s Christmas and a lot of this hotel’s business is usually conferences and business travel. So the friendly woman at the front desk offered us a (free)upgrade to a fancier suite….. Yeahhhhh! Awesome!
Since I forgot to take a picture of the room, here’s a photo of their basic queen room that I stayed in during my last visit.
Cowboy caught up on some Football, and looks like he’s up to trouble here. I suspect that he’s just had too much coffee.
We unpacked and got changed to hit the pool and exercise room. Since we’ve both been slacking off from our workouts leading up to Christmas (and on this trip so far as we’ve done a lot of driving) we were keen to pick up some dumbbells and get on the treadmill.
The hotel was so quiet that Cowboy had the pool all to himself. He looked like a 12 years old having fun in the pool…. Ahhhhh, men.They’re all
immature young at heart.
I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating… there is no snow here in Rhode Island. Sure it ain’t Florida, but the lack of white stuff was so nice that I was sorely tempted to stay here a bit longer. Maybe until March or so….(haha!)
And we’re off to Newport. It’s a seaside town about 20 miles south of here, so it’s not really a far drive at all.
Newport is best known as New England’s summer resort destination. It’s located on Aquidneck island so there’s a bridge so you can take to drive straight into Newport.
The bridge reminded me a bit of Confederation bridge here in Canada (the one that spans from New Brunswick to PEI) but this one is a lot smaller and wayyyy cheaper. This bridge is just a couple bucks to get on (compared to the $30 + you pay to get off of PEI) but I suppose it may add up if you live or work on the island. Not bad for a brief visit for a tourist though.
As soon as we got off the bridge we were in the main part of the town. We decided to check out the port/marina first. But it was a tad chillier and windier than it had been the last couple days, so we didn’t walk around as much as we would have liked. Or I probably would have been windswept out to sea (haha!).
This beautiful town is quite the summer resort place. Many of the late 19th century rich came here (most of them from Boston or New York) where they spent their summers on a sail boat drinking martinis and watching the sunset. Back then the town had many famous families, like the Vanderbilt’s, ‘summering’ here on the island.
Because we didn’t have much time here (and it was quite cloudy and cool) we decided to opt out of doing the mansion tours or cliff walk (both being the top attractions here in Newport). But we’ll definitely check them out next time we’re, most likely in the spring or summer.
We did, however, have time to check out a Newport winery while we were here. Priorities, people! Womp…Womp…
Newport Vineyards is just a 5-10 minute drive from downtown Newport and offered tastings and tours. It was surprisingly busy, but we lined up for samples and got to chat with the staff a bit to get the lowdown on their wines.
I tried a few samples and my favourites were their Cab Sauv and Chardonnay, so I grabbed a couple of bottles for the road (well, not for on the road obviously maybe some bad wording there–haha).
Cowboy had fun trying a few wines (even though he’s more of a beer guy) and roaming around their pretty lil’ gift shop.
Now we’re off to find a brew pub for Cowboy! As I have mentioned in many of my other stories on here, I love beer but don’t drink much of it these days as I’ve jumped on the Gluten-free bandwagon. Not because it’s trendy (I swear!) but beer usually gives me bad heartburn so I keep my tastings to a minimum. I sometimes try to sneak in a pint hoping my stomach won’t notice, but then I usually regret it afterward when I’m burping like a sailor. (It’s almost comical, really….well, for everyone else around me, anyway ).
Cowboy and I spent quite awhile trying to find Newport Storm Brewery. After driving around in circles around town and even somehow even accidentally going over the bridge and leaving the island (oops-we had to pay to get back on!). We finally abandoned our search and found another brew pub close by called Coddington Brewery. The beers were really good and the food was fantastic so we’re glad we found this place (at that point we were glad we found any brew pub!). This is a good one.
I may look like I’m going to drink this whole sample tray but I only had a sip of each. I ordered a Woodchuck Cider, which was very tasty. I love cider and had never tried this brand before. It was delicious!
This is just a wee taste of Newport. We are definitely heading back here soon, most likely during the spring season to tour the mansions and sit on a beach soaking in the sun at one of the beautiful resorts that line the ocean.
We headed back to Warwick and hung out in the lounge to relax by the fireplace (’cause it’s been a tough day of sightseeing, wine testing…ya know?).
I laughed when we walked into the lounge because last time I was here this bar was chock full of folks in costumes drinking beer and eating nachos. There was a huge line up to get in (all day and night) so it was nice to just walk in and grab a table this time.
We’re off to Boston tomorrow just in time for New Year’s eve. Stay tuned for my holiday road trip excitement. We’re going to see the Bruins play…ON NEW YEAR’S EVE. It doesn’t get more exciting than that, folks! 😀