After completing my first year of graduate(grad) school, I had a wonderful group of friends in the same academic program as me. We were all elated when the last day of finals came and we had all survived the most intense academic year of our young adult lives! That first year of grad school had been so crazy that I had gone a full 8 months without watching 1 minute of tennis. For those of you who I have yet to meet, me going without tennis is like me going without *gasp* purple… simply unheard of! So, once summer vacation commenced, I began looking for tennis tournaments near campus that I could attend. The closest tournament I found was in Newport, RI. I had never heard of Newport, but figured that any town cool enough to have a professional tennis tournament was cool enough for me! Boy, was I right!

I asked Justin, one of my friends  from school, if he wanted to come with me on an adventure to a place called… Newport. Although he wasn’t the biggest tennis fan, he was from the Midwest and was always up for seeing someplace new. He said of course he wanted to go and a few weeks later we were on the road to Newport. Minutes after crossing the final bridge into Newport, Justin and I looked at each other and said we had to come back just to explore the city.

Newport is the quintessential coastal New England small town. It is surrounded on most sides by water, so no matter where you are in Newport you are minutes from the beach. It has tons of tourist attractions, great food(the foodie in me was in pure heaven! If you’d like to know a few great restaurants that are wheelchair accessible and/or can accommodate some dietary restrictions, feel free to contact me) great little boutiques(which were fairly accessible in my manual wheelchair), and of course, TENNIS!!! Justin and I ended up staying down there longer than expected because there was so much to see!

Since that initial visit, I have been to Newport 5 more times and have introduced it to quite a few family members and friends. Towards the end of my grad school career, I was in the throes of writing my dissertation and was in dire need of a break from data, computers, statistical tests and anything having to do with the dissertation process. My mom and I were planning her annual trip to see me and she asked what I’d like to do. I said quickly and emphatically “I WANT TO GET AWAY!!”

“Ok,” she answered. “ ‘Away’ is a bit broad. Do you know where you want to go?”

I hadn’t quite gotten that far in my planning; I just knew I wanted to go away for a few days. After talking for a while, we settled on Newport. Since Newport is such a hub for tourists and destination weddings, I was certain it would have a few wheelchair accessible bed and breakfasts(BNBs). After 3 days of internet research, I came to 1 conclusion: I was wrong. In fact, there was only 1 accessible BNB in the entire town of Newport.

I promptly reached out to that 1 BNB(I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was about to expand my family to include the Newport branch. I am a firm believer that we have family by blood and by spirit. The Newport branch is my family by spirit.). The accessible BNB, Hawthorne House, is run by a married couple: Terri and Mike(their daughter, Christina, joins in the family fun when she visits with her adorable toddler). As a wheelchair user herself, Terri knew all of the questions to ask to make sure the BNB would fit my abilities. My mom and I arrived at Hawthorne House for our first visit and it was the perfect “home base” from which to launch our various Newport excursions and to have some much needed mother-youngest-daughter time. We explored the Newport Mansions, had a blast at the Tennis Hall of Fame and, of course, we became one with the beach!

Since that first stay with Terri and Mike, I have returned multiple times. Most recently, once I was strong enough, my friend, Holly, and I went down for a few days this summer. Holly had never been to Newport(once I discovered this, I told her this “situation” had to be rectified immediately). While I was still on bed rest this past winter, I set an intention for myself that I would have more fun and simply enjoy the gift of life. This most recent trip was just that: a fun celebration of the beauty of life.

As I ate a delectable meal on the beach and listened to a live band perform covers of U2 and Stevie Wonder at sunset in Newport, I thought back to grad school Allison and thanked her for saying yes to the adventure of discovering a new city with a friend. With that openness, I discovered my second home, my Newport family, and the best place to eat a great meal while watching a beach volleyball game in person! Go Newport!

The picture below was Holly’s and my view at dinner(just to the right of the picture was the live band)… pretty awesome way to spend a summer evening in New England!

Image of people eating dinner on an outdoor patio with beach and ocean beyond the patio.
Image of people eating dinner on an outdoor patio with beach and ocean beyond the patio.
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  • Victoria Gordon Findlay

    Wonderful blog entry. It truly is a great vacation destination.