After our recent visit to Newport, Rhode Island, my husband and I spent a couple of days in nearby Providence. Providence is a very different place from Newport, but it’s just as interesting in its own way.
We walked everywhere, starting downtown where the Woonasquatucket River is crossed by multiple bridges and lined with a pedestrian walkway.
The weather had turned grayer and chillier, which actually suited the cityscape pretty well. We liked the contrast between the city’s small-scale, historic architecture and its later, more industrial structures.
We did notice some signs of early spring, like this tree blooming outside the Providence Athenaeum. It reminded me of bittersweet…but I’m not sure what it was, exactly.
The interior of the Athenaeum, which is still used as a library, is a wonderful throwback, with tiers of book stacks, an antique clock on the wall, and busts of writers and philosophers looking down from high shelves. It even maintains its card catalogues. (Remember those?)
We took a stroll through the center of the Brown University campus, which was unusually quiet for a college campus, since all the students were away on spring break. (Where do Brown students go for spring break? I have no idea.)
Fortunately, the Rhode Island School of Design’s museum was still open. I enjoyed the galleries of American art, especially a selection of Hudson River School landscapes and this lovely portrait by William Merritt Chase, which I’ve admired in reproduction but never seen “live” before.
Of course, RISD has the coolest ladies’ room I’ve ever seen. Check out the Fornasetti wallpaper.
We also ate well in Providence. We stood in line to get a table at Bob & Timmy’s in the Federal Hill neighborhood, where the grilled pizza was well worth the wait.
We enjoyed a slightly more upscale meal at the bar of Local 121, located downtown on Washington Street. Local 121 takes a “farm-to-table” approach to its menu, and everything we had was delicious. We also liked the smart beer selection and the friendly bartender named Jonah, not to mention the building that houses the restaurant.
We stopped for coffee at a downtown spot called Small Point Café, and I purchased a big bottle of Rhode Island’s own Dave’s Coffee Syrup to take home. I’m going to add it to seltzer, and to coffee-flavored cocktails, and to coffee egg creams, and maybe I’ll just pour it over ice cream. No boundaries!
We came across some noteworthy independent boutiques in Providence. Of course, the one I was most excited about was the one that isn’t quite open yet: the Providence Perfume Company storefront on Wickenden Street. It will be opening in April! In the meantime, perfumer and proprietress Charna Ethier gave us a private tour of her work-in-progress.
I went into a bit of a trance in What Cheer?, a record store and vintage shop that sells everything you can imagine: old books and clothes and housewares, of course, but also endless boxes and drawers of old snapshots, Rhode Island historical ephemera, bits of jewelry, buttons, postcards, hotel keys, you name it. I could have spent hours picking through all these odds and ends.
We also made a pilgrimage to Swan Point cemetery, to visit the grave of author H. P. Lovecraft. My husband has read and admired Lovecraft’s work for years and years. I’m still a novice, but visiting the writer’s hometown of Providence has made me want to delve more deeply into his work.
We always enjoy visiting old cemeteries, wherever we go. That might sound ghoulish, but either you get it, or you don’t. I’ve been infatuated with historic funerary art (i.e., gravestones) since I was a teenager, and I found plenty of examples to admire at Swan Point.
I’ll end on a more cheerful note, with this song. I heard it on the radio just a few days before we left on our trip, and I still have it in my head.