We are in Newport, Rhode Island, watching the sun set over Bowen’s Wharf. We are seated at a seasonal bar that will close down in a week, according to our waitress. We are glimpsing the last gorgeous gasp of late summer/early fall, where dappled leaves meet sunny warm spots on the sidewalk and the pier. I am leaning into Newman’s warmth, one of my legs swung over one of his in our default bar-stool cozying position. I am looking into his eyes, taking in the moment. “Are you happy?” I whisper, and he nods, kissing me gently. There is nowhere else I want to be, and nothing else I need. I am grateful for this view.
We have driven here straight from work, several hours away. I negotiated highway traffic on I-95 while Newman nodded off next to me, the sun streaming through the windshield on a sunny fall afternoon. We arrived at the Mill Street Inn before 5pm, thinking it a good sign that there was one parking spot left waiting for us. After pulling our weekend bags from the car, we locked it up, knowing we wouldn’t need it again until Sunday.Our primary destination, the local Seafood Festival going on tomorrow, is only blocks away, as are plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants to keep us occupied tonight.
We are on vacation, even if it’s only for the weekend. Several years ago, Newman and I happened upon this festival and had such a good time that we have returned every year since. This year, sometime in early September when we were fighting the back to school blues, we decided to go big and get a hotel instead of making it a day-trip. We splurged and made a reservation at the Mill Street Inn, a small but upscale retreat that required a two night minimum stay.
It didn’t take us long to decide to go for it. Early in our relationship, fresh off the pain of divorce, Newman and I committed to making romance and connection a priority. Taking time to be alone together is something we try to do regularly, and if it’s not happening, one of us usually calls it to the other’s attention so we can rectify the situation. In the summer, it’s easy for us to get this time together, but during the school year, we have to schedule it. Sometimes, it’s just about taking a walk together or having a glass of wine on the couch with no TV or children or work distracting us before we go to bed. Sometimes, however, it’s important to commit to something more.
A young colleague at work told me wistfully that she was jealous of our plans, that her husband didn’t support her desire for more such getaways. I got the impression from her that even if they didn’t spend a lot of money, he didn’t seem to want to dedicate that time to them as a couple. It reminded me of my marriage relationship, and I suggested to her that it would be a good habit to establish now, before they had kids and it was harder to do. I feel very lucky that Newman feels the same way as I do and that we can afford the occasional break. I don’t take it for granted–the truth is, I can’t quite afford these trips if I were to stick to my desired savings plan, but what they deliver is so important to me that I am willing to commit. Each getaway is a splurge, but a splurge that holds great value.
We got very lucky the first time we happened upon the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival, and we’re only starting to realize how lucky. As it turns out, this is the best time of year to be here. The summer crowds have thinned out; there’s still enough foot-traffic for some interesting people-watching, if you’re so inclined, but there’s no real rush or wait or pressure when navigating the stores or restaurants. The weather is perfect–sunny enough to see the ships with a blue sky in the background but chilly enough for many of the women to be wearing variations of the fall preppy uniform: tall leather boots or wellies, skinny jeans, soft layered tees and fitted cashmere sweaters. Everyone seems friendly, comfortable, at ease with themselves and the scene.
The pub scene is lively, with its Hallowe’en decorations and tourists mixing easily with the locals. I have finally won Newman over with Dark and Stormies, our drink of choice for the weekend since every place seems to serve them. We have adopted a grazing method I discovered with Kristen years ago on our visit to New Orleans: starting early, stop in to a bar for one cocktail and an appetizer, then move on to the next. It keeps you light on your feet and engaged in the scene, and it’s rewarding and often surprising with the characters you meet along the way.
I can’t forget the food, of course, the main event for the weekend. I am basically a seafood fanatic, but I also like to keep it simple. Old Bay shrimp, fresh local oysters (for $1 each!), fish tacos, and a new favorite: tator tots with lobster and shrimp sauce. Delicious!
The benefit of having been here before is that I knew to get my fish taco early, so I was happily listening to music when this line developed. This is about one-third of the line for the tacos, which shows you how good they are!
Tomorrow we will head home, and I will make up the 11 mile run I put on hold to come here with Newman. Most likely, our Sunday night blues will be a little bluer after returning from such a lovely weekend away. It’s not a hardship, however; we are so very, very lucky to be able to live this life and do it together.