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Finding Harbor Together in Newport

by Kelsy Chauvin
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Dec 31, 2017

There's no better way to celebrate anything than with a vacation. Especially one with great oysters.

Those two sentences reveal my truth, that I prioritize temporal pleasure, and that traveling and eating well are vital ingredients to my happiness. With all the world's nonsense, I can always return to my own contentment formula, much of it owing to simple pleasures, like seafood.

This winter, however, I have another important ingredient in the mix: love. It sounds grand and a little cliché; but this winter, love is redefined. This season, Denise, my mate of nearly five years, and I are legally bound to one another. As of October 20, we are registered with the City of New York as domestic partners.

We're calling it "old-school gay married," harking back to the days before marriage equality, when becoming "DPs" was the most official two people in love, but of the same gender, could be. We'd contemplated marriage. But with marriage comes so many other decisions. Being practical lesbians, we decided to go a simpler route that would let us register at City Hall (actually the City Clerk's office) without feeling bad that nobody else was invited.

Strange how a little piece of paper with two signatures can feel so romantic, yet it is. We've always been an affectionate pair, but we're in high gear since becoming DPed. And after a fraught year that brought a big move, some family health issues, familiar work stress -- and, of course, the most harrowing political year of our whole lives -- we were ready to forget it all, and a honeymoon was just the ticket.

We decided to go with a weekend getaway, something befitting the quick, simple nature of our near nuptials. Newport, Rhode Island, seemed like a dreamy winter retreat that spoke to our interests. It's a little off the radar, offers some intriguing history and architecture, plus it's prime oyster season.

So we rented a fantastic car, a Buick Enclave Avenir, with seriously cool luxury/automated/high-tech bells and whistles that would keep us well mapped and on point to the Ocean State. Eastward from Brooklyn, we coasted along I-95, to New England's poshest harbor town, rocking Christmas tunes all the way.

Enter: Gurney's Newport, a swanky resort that in 2017 opened in the former Hyatt on Goat Island -- the small strip between Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. (Note: Allegedly there is a pair of adorable goats still roaming about.) Inside this curiously shaped building are polished rooms with balconies; nautically themed furnishings; a cozy bar; exceptional restaurant; and full-service spa. (Summer brings other outdoor waterfront areas.)

We arrived just as snowfall began. We handed over our Avenir to the friendly valet, checked in, and chatted with Hanna, Gurney's all-knowing concierge. Denise and I are not huge spa-goers, but this winter getaway was meant for romance and relaxation. The spa forced our toughest decisions of the trip: which treatments? Hanna recommended a set of "ultimate" massages, body wraps, and facials.

After settling into our room, we stood on the frigid balcony, peering across the dark bay at the mighty Newport Bridge. Glistening snowflakes caught the harbor lights like a light glitter shower, and we hugged each other for warmth and celebration. The private moment of arrival was upon us, and we felt the weight of everyday life diffuse into the night.

My favorite part of every journey is when the tires, tracks, and motors are behind us, and discovery lies ahead. It's my definition of pleasure. When traveling solo, I revel in the way a new location leaves me alone with my purest self. I can rely on my instincts, extroversion, and curiosity. On trips with my mate, Denise and I share many similarly adventurous qualities. (Though not all; she wouldn't be caught dead zip-lining or bungee jumping like me.)

In these first moments of arrival in Newport, our embrace felt like we were reinforcing our commitment, and preparing ourselves for a few sweet days of pure "us."

What followed was a series of delights that filled our weekend, and felt like a shining star on our official coupledom. We dined at the hotel's Scarpetta, where we agreed that of the rather succinct menu, we'd happily try all of it. Daniel, the accented sommelier, delivered ridiculously fine wine, over which we gazed sappily into each other's eyes and savored our sensory bliss.

Spa time melted away longstanding knots and exfoliated us into a heavenly state, leaving us caressing one another's cheeks for days (a great honeymoon souvenir!). When we finally drifted downtown, the holiday lights led us to boutiques and a secret pier where, as if on queue, sunset beamed off the water like the day's last warm gift.

Newport's mansions like the Vanderbilt's Marble House and The Breakers embody the affluence of the Gilded Age. We devoted a bit of our getaway to that other sort of romance -- Edith Wharton's sort -- in which the profusely wealthy lived free from need and full of glitz. Wandering these mansions in their full Christmas regalia felt like a peeks at America's "Downton Abbey." They are timeless places that have weathered more than a century's worth of celebrations and storms. Our human fate should be so strong, and so lucky.

For our final dinner in town, there could be no other option than Midtown Oyster Bar, which lived up to its name thanks to fine New England bivalves and some unforgettable sherry-cream seafood stew. I can't give the oysters full credit for being the night's best aphrodisiac. Some of that credit goes to the Boom Boom Room, downstairs from the historic Clarke Cooke House, where the DJ dazzled the merry crowd with retro and hip-hop hits.

We headed back to our hotel, and then home, rings on our fingers and exuding relaxation that from now on can be conjured by a simple replay. The significance of that Newport road trip will always be with us. We found harbor in a new port, together.

Road-Tripping with Buick

For 2018, Buick launched the first-ever Enclave Avenir. It's an SUV that feels compact outside but roomy inside, with slick finishes, and seats for up to seven passengers (though the five back seats fold up for extra storage space). I've never driven a car with such high-tech attention to safety, like a rear-camera mirror (which turns the rearview mirror into a screen for a complete view); lane-change and blind-spot alerts; and "surround vision" and sensors that tip you off to anything inching too close for comfort.

The cruise control was a dream on long I-95 stretches, and the "infotainment" system made use of Apple CarPlay (it works with Android Auto too), while QuietTuning noise cancellation dimmed the engine's and traffic's din. And especially for driving through New York, we loved the new air ionizer that kept road odors to a minimum. Like many New Yorkers, I appreciate a car-free daily life, but when I do drive -- or fantasize about owning a car -- this is one sweet ride.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBT interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.


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