Our first goal of the day was to get out of our New York state of mind. At least for the moment – we are planning on hitting it again, on the way back down from Maine.
Getting out of Central Valley, New York, we were forced onto the freeway for a while. We hit several toll booths in short order, and this is what we learned: tolls were more expensive in Florida, but the toll takers were human beings. I’m almost sure there was no human DNA in the people who grunted and growled at us today as we went through. Welcome to New York!
The scenery was very nice in western Connecticut. The leaves are really starting to turn. We’re hoping for a great leaf-peeping when we get up to New Hampshire and Maine. I promise that I will at least make an effort to not be as boring about it as Gene Hackman was in The Birdcage. (Love that scene, though.)
By late morning, we were in Hartford, Connecticut, which we learned was the wealthiest city of America at one point in the late 19th century. It’s not any more, but it is still a well laid out, gorgeous city, with a plethora of historic buildings. We were there to see just one, though: The Mark Twain House. Or, the Samuel Clemens residence, I suppose, if you want to be really accurate.
So far, we’ve seen Hemingway’s House, which is impressive, the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, which was pretty good, and now we’ve added Mark Twain’s house. I like Hemingway and Poe’s writing, but Mark Twain was my earliest favorite author. I’ve always loved his short works best – The Stranger, The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg, The 1,000,000 Pound Note, etc. I think I’ve read everything he’s ever written, including his travelogues. In addition, he spoke out in favor of equal rights for all, which wasn’t a popular position in the late 19th century.
Here’s a shot of the outside of this amazing house:
And that’s just the back porch. The reality is, Samuel Clemens couldn’t have afforded to buy a house like this on his earnings as a writer. When this house was built in the mid-1870s, Twain wasn’t a famous author yet. He only had one book out, and it wasn’t a huge bestseller. However, he had married well. His wife, Olivia, was an heiress. They used her inheritance to build this house – all 11,000 sf of it.
I don’t have any pictures of the inside of the house. Stop me if you’ve heard this before – they didn’t allow photos inside. I wish they did, because there were some amazing rooms. The whole house was built in American High Gothic style. Two things: that means dark, and even so, I really like it. When we first walked in, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the dim, but when they did, it was amazing.
There were lots of large rooms – it really is an elegant house, but what I really liked is that it was still obviously lived in. The house is laid out as much as possible like it was when Samuel Clemens, his wife, and children lived there. It’s obvious that he doted on his children. The great sadness of his life was that he outlived three of his four children, as well as his wife. There was a servant’s quarters upstairs, but it was also apparent that his staff was more like family than anything else.
Here’s a shot of the front of the house:
There was even a statue of Mark Twain made entirely of Legos:
Since I can’t even build a square box out of Legos, that impresses me.
As nice as The Mark Twain House was, it wasn’t even the nicest house we saw today. That’s because after we left Hartford, we drove east to Rhode Island. And, not just anywhere in Rhode Island, but, Newport, home of the mansions. In the 19th century, the wealthiest people in America liked to head to Newport and build their summer cottages. Here’s one such “cottage”:
That, of course, is The Breakers, which is the Vanderbilt’s summer getaway cottage. Before we look inside, I have to make a confession: over the top elegance and showy ostentation really isn’t my thing. I’m a small-town boy with small-town tastes. Even so, The Breakers is impressive. Here’s a few shots of the interior, which they actually allowed us to photograph!
Those two shots are the same room – the grand staircase and the great hall. Or vice-versa. There’s a lotta lotta in that room, don’t you think? It’s like a Vegas casino, only real.
Nice chandeliers, yes? Electricity was very new when The Breakers was built, so note the glass balls hanging off the chandeliers. They contained rods that could light them with gas if the electricity went out, which it did regularly.
That’s the billiard room. Every house needs a billiard room with solid marble walls, right?
Finally, there’s the view. The Breakers is named that because of the waves that break on the cliffs in the front yard:
Dawn says that if I buy her The Breakers, she will never ask for anything else. I’m working on it. For now, though, she had to settle for a magnet with The Breakers on the front. I need to remember to take a picture of all the magnets she’s picked up on the trip and post it on the blog. It’s impressive!
When we first started planning this trip, one of the few actual requests Dawn had was to have a fresh, whole lobster. We made that happen tonight, here in Newport. I’m not a big seafood fan, so I passed, but Dawn loved hers. I hope to get her another one when we get to Maine in the next few days. Tomorrow, though – Massachusetts.
Cheers, and safe travels!