February 17th, 2004


The Further Adventures of DX and msbelle

So, mansions got toured on Sunday. The sun came back out, but it was much colder than it had been, so being inside was good. We did the Breakers and Beechwood. The Breakers is the biggest of the big, what with being designed along the lines of an Italian palace, and it's really not a place I'd ever want to live, although I'd love to have their butler's pantry. I've taken the tour often enough that I remember many of the details about the building, although there were some new factoids that I don't remember hearing before. The most surprising to me was that the Vanderbilt family still has privileges to stay in the private areas of the mansion (i.e., the whole third floor). Another was that Anderson Cooper is the great grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

Then it was on to the Astors' Beechwood. Beechwood is quite a change after the over-the-topness of the Breakers. It's much, much smaller, and is much more homey. The thing about the Beechwood tour is that it is presented as a reenactment of the way life was in the house in 1891, just after the renovation. I've been before, but the show has always been different, and this time it was moreso than usual, because we were there in the dead of winter, and that's taken into account be the reenactors. If you visit in the summer, you will get to talk to some of the guests of the house, or perhaps a younger family member as you tour. In the dead of winter, the only folks around are the servants, because everyone else is down in NYC at the main house. The actors were amusing, sharing all the gossip of the house with us, but there were only two guides and a couple of bit parts, where usually there are three or four guides. Still, it was fun, as usual.

There was one odd bit of synchronicity between the two family homes in that they both lost sons of the family to sinking ships, one of the Vanderbilts on the Lusitania, and John Jacob Astor IV on the Titanic.

After that we got some hot soup for lunch, then strolled about Newport on a very bright, very cold afternoon, ducking into shops when we felt the need to warm up a bit. Monday was a day for sleeping in and watching TV, rather than braving the cold again. Besides some Firefly eps, we watched the pilot for Wonderfalls, which was great fun. Looking forward to more episodes of that. After that, I reluctantly took the funnest guest ever down to the bus station in Connecticut for her trip back home.

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