Following my visit to the library, I was off to the Newport Art Museum (NewportArtMuseum.org). The building alone is enough to make you gasp. The museum is based in the John N.A. Griswold house, an 1800’s mansion built in ‘stick style’ and looks like a mingling of something Americana and something Hansel and Gretel. The fourstory mansion holds antique artworks, historical paintings of Newport, and even modern and mixed-media pieces. When I visited, they had an exhibit from queer artist Caleb Cole (calebxcole.com). LGBTQ connections were popping up all over Newport.
After a morning of wandering, I was getting hungry. I made my way to The Chanler (TheChanler.com) for lunch. The Chanler is fantastic. It certainly isn’t cheap, but the food is phenomenal. I had lunch outside on their covered patio, which sits above the Atlantic Ocean. I started with heirloom tomatoes and pistachios, drizzled with herb-infused olive oil, followed by crispy calamari served with a grilled lemon and homemade aioli.
After lunch, Keith Chouinard, the Chanler’s director of sales, gave me a tour of some of the inn’s rooms. They’re all gorgeous and opulent, yet comfortable and welcoming. The bathrooms are marvelous, the linens are incredible, and before each guest checks in, the inn handwrites a welcome note, which is placed next to a bag of freshly-baked macarons. Yes, the inn bakes macarons, and that should give you an idea of what a wonderful place it is.
I left The Chanler wishing I could spend an eternity on their patio watching the waves below, but I was off to another mansion on a cliff. This time it was Rough Point (Newportrestoration.org), the former home of Doris Duke. If you don’t know who Doris Duke is, it’s time you educate yourself, because she’s a gay icon…the gays just don’t know it yet. Doris was the heiress to the Duke fortune (as in, Duke University). During her life, Doris was eccentric, eclectic, and energetic. The home is filled with historic works of art from all over the world, some of which are over 800 years old.
Doris was also a fashion icon, and some of her fanciful outfits are on display. Her bedroom is adorned with purple trimmings and mother of pearl on everything. The dresser, the chair, the mirror, the picture frames, and more, are all plated with mother of pearl. The collection was originally created for the King of Spain, but when you have Doris Duke money, obtaining the mother of pearl-encrusted objects fit for a king is no issue. She also owned two camels at Rough Point…because, why not?
Furthering the allure of Doris Duke are the elaborate rumors about her life and death. She had many supposed famous boyfriends, and there’s a heated debate about whether her butler killed her shortly after she made him the executor of her will. But one story is very much true. One night, Doris Duke “accidentally” ran over her (allegedly gay) best friend, killing him, right in the driveway of Rough Point. And that’s only a very small portion of her life story.
For my next two nights in Newport, I headed into the heart of the historic downtown district and stayed at the Inn on Bellevue (InnsOnBellvue.com). The inn is a historic building that is so quintessentially New England you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped into colonial America. One of the coolest and most unique touches to the inn is that all the toiletries are from Beekman 1802 (www.Beekman1802.com). If you have ever read the famous memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days, about the alcoholic New York drag queen who falls in love with a murderous hustler, then you’ll be surprised to hear that Beekman is his company. After his sordid time in the city, Josh Kilmer-Purcell found the love of his life, and the two inherited a farm in upstate New York where they created the luxurious Beekman brand.