Bristol, Rhode Island is one of the most picturesque communities in a state full of interesting cities and towns. It hosts the nation’s oldest and largest 4th of July parade and is festooned with flags, bunting and banners throughout the year.
It also features one of the best harbors on Narragansett Bay, formed by the main part of town to the east and iconic Poppasquash Point to the west. The entrance is protected from storms by Goat Island and Prudence Island to the south.
Last weekend, Carolyn and I did a home exchange with a family from Bristol. They brought their two kids to our house to play with our Golden Retriever, Max, and we brought our bicycles so we could use the East Bay Bicycle Trail and tour around through Colt State Park.
When Samuel Colt wasn’t manufacturing hand guns, he used this large parcel of land for his personal farm. By tradition, the grounds were open to the public and it became quite fashionable for people to visit this magnificent plot of land abutting the Bay. The State of Rhode Island acquired the land in 1961 and made it a state park for all to enjoy. Just 20 minutes from Providence, it is a very popular destination on summer weekends.
Sadly, the weather was not the greatest during our stay, but we managed to dodge the rain drops and enjoy our time anyway. On Saturday, we went to the weekly farmer’s market at Mount Hope Farm and bought some extraordinary fresh mushrooms. Then we spent the afternoon at the Herreshoff Museum.
During the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, Nathaniel Herreshoff and his brother John operated one of the preeminent shipyards in all the world. They made thousands of boats over the years and every one of them was designed by Nat, who carved his vision in wood. Then his dedicated craftsmen would turn his model into reality. Five America’s Cup defenders were designed and built here, including Columbia, seen racing here against Sir Thomas Lipton’s challenger. Back then, the yachts carried as much as a half acre of sail when everyone one of them was set out to capture the wind.
One of the strangest boats the Herreshoffs ever built was the catamaran Amaryllis, constructed in 1893 as a prototype America’s Cup defender. Looking like something from another world, the boat was judged much too fast by the New York Yacht Club and disqualified from competition.
How ironic that 120 years later, catamarans are now the vessels of choice for America’s Cup competition. “Visionary” is much too mild a word for the genius of Captain Nat!
We ended our journey on the deck of Aidan’s Pub on Thames Street and enjoying a luncheon of homemade clam chowder and freshly cooked clam cakes. Traditional New England fare served in a traditional New England setting. Perfect!
Thank you, Bristol. We’ll be back.