Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Something Newport

I had Monday off work (yay Catholics!) so Noe and I decided to drive over to Newport, Rhode Island. Newport is about an hour or so north east-ish from New London, right on the water. (I still don't understand why Rhode Island is its own state - or called an island - but I can't deny they have some nice coastline.) To reach the town itself, we drove over something that looked like a mini Mackinac Bridge.

Mini Mac?

Being a Monday afternoon, Newport was pretty dead. Noe and I bummed around by the piers for a little while and browsed some shops - including one where you could essentially buy your lobster fresh off the boat - but we got bored quickly and headed down to the Tennis Hall of Fame.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame

I had sort of imagined the Tennis Hall of Fame as a large estate on expansive grounds. It's not. It is in an old casino wedged into a row of shops across the street from a thoroughly modern strip mall.

It may not look like much from the front, but once you walk under the green awning, you're transported into an entirely different time and place. You step off the streets of Newport and onto the oldest grass tennis court in America.

That's more like it.

I have been intrigued by the idea of grass courts ever since I seriously began watching tennis about three years ago. I really had failed to notice up to that point that tennis was played on different surfaces. I guess I thought everyone played on hard courts, which I now realize is pretty stupid, considering the only tennis event I could have named back then - Wimbledon - is famously played on grass.

I want to play on a grass court because I want to see how the softer surface affects the bounce and speed of the ball. Since I have only played on hard courts, the idea of playing on grass is completely exotic.

I digress.

Ten bucks buys you admission to the museum and the grounds, so we poked around the museum first (Noe and I are such nerds, I know). The displays cover everything from the origins of the game - Henry VIII was an avid "court tennis" player - to the modern hall of famers. There's a large display devoted to the infamous Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs showdown, some fun displays of old-time tennis outfits, and a LOT of racquets.

I think I want the one with the bow.

When we were finished inside (meaning Noe had successfully pried me away from the life-size photos of Andy Roddick and Rafa Nadal) we explored the grounds.


I had no trouble at all imagining people in turn-of-the-century clothing sitting in the grandstands, taking in a game and drinking lemonade. I desperately wanted to run out on the courts, but the presence of two suspicious lawn boys kept my behavior in check.

On my best - reluctant - behavior.

Visiting the hall of fame reminded me how much I really miss tennis. I started playing right before we moved, played that entire summer, and haven't played since. Well, when we got home from Newport I went online, and lo and behold, I found tennis lessons through the Groton Parks and Rec department. I know I'm not going to luck out the way I did in Ann Arbor with Ryan and Gary, but at least, I'll get to play again. I start next week and I am already dreading how rusty I am sure to be.

Noe and I finished our day in Newport by walking part of the Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile stretch on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. We stuck around Salve Regina University and the Bellevue mansions - pretty nice digs.

Me on the Cliff Walk

The Breakers

It was a nice, relaxing day off made even better by the promise of tennis on the horizon. So far I'd say spring is off to a good start.

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