Marshes of Rhode Island

As FromSwamptoSummit prepares for the next trip, coming up in July – three weeks in the U.K. with a weeks’ interlude in Northern Spain – how better to get ready than a weekend in coastal Rhode Island, otherwise known as the Farm Coast.

Daughter A and son-in-law N apparently decided to celebrate almost a year of marriage by treating both their aged parental units to a week-end in a lovely, classic New England shingled Airbnb, right at the edge of a salt water marsh. The weekend started, as such things frequently do, with a delayed flight. But at least we were on JetBlue, which is now ensconced in the Orlando airport’s new Terminal C. Somewhat antiseptic, with large soaring walls that could benefit from what at one point would have been called decoration – but this is made up for by the significantly improved food and drink choices over terminals A and B. So there was that, at least.

We arrived almost two hours late at the very pleasant Providence Airport. Small, and some of the best airport bathrooms I’ve experienced. Someday I’m writing a coffee table book called bathrooms around the world. In any event, N’s parents, K and S, picked us up and we hied our way on to the Westporter restaurant in, you guessed it, Westport, where we met up with A and N.

N is finally almost recovered from his horrendous February ski accident (I have spared my readers those details), and we were able to enjoy a long period of sitting on the deck before we could get a table. Delays were clearly the theme of the day. Highlight of the deck experience was when N managed to drop his phone at a completely vertical angle, causing it to make a grand exit between the deck planks onto the ground three feet below. Undeterred, K solved the problem by finding a break in the fencing below the deck and shimmying under to retrieve said phone.

Fortunately, the rest of the evening passed fairly uneventfully.

We awakened the next day to the promise of rain. We managed a short walk around the neighborhood, down to what they call a creek here and I would call a sound side marsh. Two brave souls were in waders fishing for striped bass, looking like something straight out of a movie about rural New England life.

Once the heavens opened, as promised, we were off to the Four Corners complex in Tiverton, a collection of home goods, garden, bakery and gourmet food shops. Our fun stop after that was to Sweet and Salty Farms, a local cheese maker. A and N had ordered cheese and it was sitting out waiting for us at the top of the driveway of their home in a cooler!

After lunch, how better to take advantage of a rainy afternoon in R.I. than to visit one of the “summer cottages,” in Newport. It was the opposite of our cheese pick-up. We selected Doris Duke’s Rough Point as our keyhole into the lives of the rich and famous. She lived there until 1993, and the house is a mixture of the unbelievably opulent and the well lived in. The solarium still has the sofas scarred with marks from her dogs and there’s a microwave in the kitchen. It’s like a time travel trip from the golden age to the jet age. Of particular note, her “quirky” bedroom which features mother of pearl furniture.

Dinner that night was at one of my favorite RI restaurants, The Red Dory, in Tiverton. Usually there’s a beautiful sunset over the ocean, but not so much last night. But the food was as good as ever.

Sunday dawned cloudy, but at least the skies had finished their tantrums. Our trip to South Beach inadvertently turned into a trip toward a bayside walk near Tiverton. It was a working fishing pier with a great stack of rusted iron anchors that looked like a piece of modern sculpture.

This part of RI is not called the Farm Coast for nothing. After miles of small farm after small farm, intersected by sturdy stone walls, we made it to South Beach. The signs all warned the beach was “under repair” and there was “no parking” on either side of the road, but that did nothing to daunt the large number of surfers obliviously leaving their vehicles behind to take advantage of the waves.

On our way to lunch at Evelyn’s Drive In (apparently featured at some point on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives), we drove past White Rock Farms, featuring locally raised beef. Outside of Albania, I can’t think of when we have bought meat at the same location where the animal was born and raised. It’s a seventh generation farm with solar panels and electric vehicles and a commitment to humane farming.

Evelyn’s was nothing less than a feast of fried seafood. A, N and K shared the “two pound seafood platter.” I had a “stuffie” – a Massachusetts/RI specialty that involves a quahog (clam) stuffed and baked with the clam meat, breading and seasonings. J had some of the best fish and chips we’ve had, and there were plenty of little neck clams and clam cakes for the table. Clam cakes must be New England’s answer to the hush puppy – they taste almost exactly the same but for the insertion of clams.

Not sure how we’re going to have any room for the steaks!