Is Newport the ‘shining city upon a hill’ that most immigrants associate with the U.S.?

For me it is a resounding YES!!! I visited the quaint yet elegant town of Newport in Rhode Island a few days ago. This title question never occurred to me when I was planning the trip to Newport or even when I was at Newport. Days after visiting this town, a very old experience of mine crept into my memory.

Before visiting the U.S. I always imagined it as a country where every single corner had sky-high buildings, gilded roads and mansions galore. Little did I know that the country that gave me this imagery had homeless children, people who call the bridge-overpass their home or chicken farm workers who were forced to wear diapers to avoid going to bathrooms! Newport, Rhode Island brought back the optimistic imagery that I had before I set foot in this country.

 

The Breakers mansion #newport #rhodeisland #mansion

For many Newport is a great place to go for beach or sailing or for mansion tours. To be honest here, that was exactly why I planned to go there as well! I bought tickets to go to the Breakers mansion of the Vanderbilts and one other mansion in Newport. I read a bit about the history of Newport and its mansions since I wanted to get a feel for the places that I visit. Since my brother was in Boston I went there with him. It was about one and a half hour drive from Boston.

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Music room at the Breakers

We parked outside of the Breakers mansion, it looked exactly like what I expected. We showed our tickets and got a headset for the audio tour of the mansion. As soon as I started listening to the audio tour a nostalgic feeling hit me hard. Exquisite carvings, high-end furniture, and marble walls brought back the memories of America that I imagined as a young boy in Sri Lanka. We also went to another mansion called the Marble house, most of its wall is made of Switzerland pink marble. One of the rooms in the Marble house was mostly covered with copper and the copper was plated with gold. The main dining room there contains pictures of French kings and looked almost like a dining hall in a castle.

Through the audio tour I learned that the reason

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Dining room at the Breakers

these mansion were handed over to the preservation society of Newport county was because Vanderbilts couldn’t maintain these huge mansion after certain time and obviously the descendants of Commodore Vanderbilt were not as rich as the Commodore himself. I guess that era is the vision of many people around the world have of the U.S. Although vast inequality existed during that age and even the word gilded age is  a satirical expression coined by Mark Twain to explain the situation during that time, seeing these mansions gave me a sense and hope that how great this country was and can be!

I have visited many places around the U.S. but none of them brought me that nostalgic feeling of the U.S. as Newport did. Newport will always be a special place in my travel experience!

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Vanderbilt family crest, Four acorns

 

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