Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island

Soon after I flew home from the Wild West of Wyoming, I found myself booking a flight to Rhode Island to help out with the grandchildren. I can’t say no to an invitation like that!  In fact, I got myself to Newport a day early so I could visit a few of the historic mansions built by American Industrialists at the turn of the century (c. 1900).

Rosecliff is a gleaming white mansion inspired by Le Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s private retreat in the gardens of Versailles, near Paris, France. Silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs commissioned architect Stanford White to design and build Rosecliff in 1899. It was completed in 1902 and was often the setting for lavish parties. This elegant home has a grand ballroom in its center that spills out to a grassy lawn, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You may recognize it as the setting for the movie The Great Gatsby. If you are very fortunate, you may have attended a wedding reception here.

I found it interesting to learn that the exterior may look like white marble, but it is actually made of white ceramic, which was made more quickly and economically in molds.

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Rosecliff was a private home until 1971, when owners Mr. and Mrs. J. Edgar Monroe donated it to the Preservation Society of Newport County.
#rosecliff, #historic, #architecture, #1902, #newport, #mansions, #newportmansions, #greatgatsby, #gatsby #makeanentrance
Stanford White’s heart-shaped grand staircase is unique and unforgettable.

This weekend, I’ll have the opportunity to compare Rosecliff with its inspiration, Le Petit Trianon in France, as I am currently visiting France and hope to tour Versailles this weekend.

If you are interested in touring Rosecliff or other properties like the Breakers, The Elms, or Marble House, refer to the Newport Mansions website for hours and admission fees.

Back to School at Hogwarts

It’s early September, and school starts a new academic year. Does your school look like Hogwarts? This sunlit cloister of Durham Cathedral in England looks a lot like Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school, because parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed here.

#durham, #durhamcathedral, #cloister, #harrypotter, #movie, #harrypottermovie, #school, #september, #sepia, #blackandwhite, #bw, #shadows, #architecture
Durham Cathedral’s Cloister was the perfect setting for Harry Potter’s school Hogwarts in the movies.

Rendered here in a sepia-toned, black and white photograph, we can appreciate the sunlight and shadows of the Norman architecture. I recall similar architecture at the University of Sydney in Australia.

My Absolute Favorite Castle, Alnwick

After touring Edinburgh Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, Durham Castle and Alnwick Castle in North England and Southern Scotland, my favorite one (hands down) was Alnwick Castle in England. All of them are interesting and worth a visit, and there are even more to see in the region — Stirling, Duane and more. I’ll tell you why I enjoyed Alnwick Castle the best.

#alnwick, #castle, #england, #besttour, #bestone, #uk, #northumberland, #downtonabby, #harrypotter
In addition to architectural beauty, Alnwick Castle offers multiple fascinating tours, which bring the castle to life.

Upon arrival on the castle grounds, I quickly joined the film tour where I heard fascinating details of the filming of Downton Abbey (Christmas scenes) and Harry Potter. Those are the recent ones, but other films include Mary Queen of Scots with Vanessa Redgrave, Elizabeth I, Robin Hood with Kevin Costner, and Hollowed Crown.

Soon after, I joined the History Tour where the guide explained which parts of the castle were built at what time, and the purpose of each. After the Norman Invasion of 1066, the English built huge stone castles. A substantial stone castle was built here in 1133. This castle was never taken by force.

#castle, #alnwick, #tour, #travel, #fascinating, #history, #films, #england. #northumbria
A restored section of the outer castle wall at Alnwick Castle. The grassy area is called the Bailey, and it would have had buildings on it in medieval times.

Next, I joined the tour of the castle interior where the Percy family has lived for the past 700 years. The interior was updated in 1750 and again in 1850.  Current residents are the 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, who life here five months of the year, starting in October.  The public may only tour Alnwick when the Duke and Duchess are not in residence, in the summer months. (No photos allowed of the inside). I took copious notes throughout each tour, just so I could remember the information.

About 5 pm, I was still feeling curious and walked down to the gardens, just in time to join the last tour of the day, the Poison Garden.  The fenced in section contains numerous poison plants, and the guide shared even more fascinating stories.

With no break for lunch, I was hungry, and luckily was able to buy fish and chips near the garden around 6pm. What a full day!

A Room With A View*

Before you have ever been to Edinburgh, Scotland, people will tell you, “Edinburgh is a beautiful city.”  You think to yourself, “why does everyone say that?” I wondered if I would come away from my trip saying the exact same words to others. I do.

My simple explanation is that the architecture is beautiful. As you walk the city, you may find yourself pausing to admire architecture right and left. Before we even left our hotel, I was enchanted with this view out our window.

#cathedral, #saintmarys, #stmarys, #architecture, #edinburgh, #scotland
View of Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland from our room in the Hilton Grosvenor.

The curve of the street leading to the Cathedral in the West End makes lovely leading lines. This photograph was taken in late evening dusk, around 10pm.

*With apology to E. M. Forster for using the name of his book title.

Christmas in Newport

The historic Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island celebrate Christmas with old world charm. At Marble House, Christmas trees adorn every room. Yesterday, even Santa Claus arrived to meet the children.

#Marblehouse, #Newport, #rhodeisland, #mansions, #Christmas, #gildedage, #stairs, #Vanderbilt
In the foyer, poinsettias line the grand staircase.
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At Marble House, the dining room table is set.
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Mrs. Vanderbilt will receive you in the parlor at Marble House.
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The chapel at Marble House provides a quiet atmosphere for reading and reflection.

You may also tour the upstairs bedrooms, the living room and the kitchen at Marble House. If you have time, be sure to visit the Breakers and Rosecliff, or six others! You will need a week to see them all and to walk the Cliff Walk while you learn about the Gilded Age of American history.

Harpa in Reykjavik

Like Sydney, Reykjavik Iceland has an architectural gem along its harbor, and it is a music hall. While I photographed Harpa from our ship as we departed the city harbor in the evening, I did not have a chance to visit the inside.

#harpa, #reykjavik, #iceland, #architecture, #harbor, #music, #july, #windstar
Harpa, the music hall, is Reykjavik’s architectural gem. Its surface is reflective except when the interior is lit. I’m sure the building looks different during the long dark winter months.

I have started to make my list of things to do in Iceland for my next trip. Iceland is a photographer’s dream.

Foggy Newport

Fog is hard to predict, but it can help you make some unique photographs. On Sunday, fog was literally rolling in off the ocean like smoke pluming from a major wildfire. You could see fog billowing past buildings, but you could not see the ocean. God giveth and He taketh away.

In this photo of the entrance to the Breakers, the Cornelius Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, fog worked hand-in-hand with depth of field to enshroud the background — the monumental building and allow me to feature the color and detail of the foreground lamp, to illustrate the artisanship of the late 19 century.

There is so much detail to take note of as soon as you enter the Breakers: colored and carved marble, ruby red drapes and a three-story great hall, enormous and elaborate chandeliers, and more. Perhaps that is why I enjoy this very simple image just before entering.

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Welcome to the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. Fog helped direct the eye to the lovely 19c. lamp outside the entrance to the mansion.