Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newport, Rhode Island: Vanderbilt Hall Part 2 and Learning a Lesson from Peter de Savary

Day two started HOT again in Newport and I found it VERY hard to leave such a nice, comfy room at Vanderbilt Hall for our stay here. We set out for breakfast at Benjamin's Raw Bar before mapping out what mansions to hit on our tour this year. We went to the big three last year: The Breakers, Marble Hall and The Elms. This year, we went for the more modest mansions but still grand and impressive: Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, and Chateau sur Mer. These mansions have guided tours every half hour. These mansions in Newport were the summer "cottages" of America's wealthiest from New York and Philadelphia in what's known as the "Gilded Age".

Gilded Age
: Between the years 1865 and 1901 was an era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States.

Massive wealth was spent on a summer house here. An extreme case of keeping up with the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Astors, Morgans, Rockefellers was duked out from
service à la russe (14 course formal French menu service) to sherbet ice cream b
eing served. Mind you, there were no freezers, ice was kept in an ice house up in New Hampshire during the winter and it was SHIPPED by boat, down river, to Newport in the SUMMER to keep such a treat frozen. How fleeting! It had to blow the tails off your guest's tuxedo so you can be ALL the talk the next day in this high society. This was every night in the summer. Your job as a high society doyenne was to shock and awe your guests. If you didn't rock their world, you didn't make the cut. These ladies fought tooth and nail to stay on the Social Register.

Social Register: A formal guide to the members of the "polite society" or old money. Gobs and gobs of it.

We sweated out the tours and made our way back to the hotel. A lengthy dip in the pool during a pouring rain (I love swimming in pouring rain) in which they served us beer outside under one of the roomy umbrellas so they kept "dry". We decided after to go to Monty's Bar and Restaurant for cocktails. It was a beautiful room. It has a very extensive American Illustration Collection hung on gold leafed walls. Ted and Lis
a, our super friendly bartenders, served us up a couple of Pimm's Cups. My first one, it was so good.

But the special treat of the evening was meeting the owner of this grand mansion hotel and a guest this very night, Peter De Savary.

He was in town and what luck to meet such a charismatic, out going, generous man. We met his daughter,
Lisa and his grandchildren. And of course Monty, the namesake of this fine gastro pub restaurant. His little dog that goes with him every where. He was such a gracious host, making sure we LOVED everything (which we did) and he offered us dinner there to try out a new entry he was working on with Chef Peter that was to be put on the menu the next night. How could we resist?? A baked potato topped with sour cream and caviar! Surrounded with the finest grilled baby carrots, beets and sauteed watercress. Wow, Pimm's Cup and Baked Potato with Caviar. Another plate elegantly licked clean. Serenaded the whole time by Christine, on the baby grand piano.

There's one thing I took away from meeting Peter de Savary. His generosity in his ability to make you feel so comfortable and relaxed. I had no idea who he was other than seeing one of his pictures on the wall from his America's Cup Challenge participation. He had great enthusiasm in his new hotel here and it showed. He was meticulous in his renovation and interior design., keeping it true to it's former glory but upping the modern quotient. The people he had working with him there: the always bowtied Alex, Arielle, Derrick, Jameson, Ted, Lisa, Peter the Chef, Rich, Ray and if I forgot someone that we met during our stay, you too! They were all on the same level: To provide us in the utmost impeccable service and relaxation. I was gobsmacked. It was all so beautifully done and they were all so happy to share it with us.

Now there's a lesson in good business: making you come back for more.

Is this what it was like back during the Gilded Age? It felt like it to me. We were treated like
we were one of the Vanderbilts. I was pampered, delighted and my every wish granted here. I can't wait to go to there again.......

Vanderbilt Hall Hotel
41 Mary Street
Newport, RI
(401) 846-6200

Benjamin's Raw Bar
254 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840-6613
(401) 846-8768

Isaac Bell House
424 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840-6924
(401) 847-1000

253 Bellevue Avenue
Newport , RI 02840
(401) 847-1000

Chateau sur Mer
474 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840-4114
(401) 847-1000

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