In 1636, a "renegade" preacher named Roger Williams fled Massachusetts and headed south. In a bit of irony, he was fleeing religious persecution, because apparently the Puritans fled religious persecution in order to persecute others religiously. Williams ended up founding Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, the smallest state in the Union. Rhode Island, aka "the Ocean State," is 37 miles wide, meaning you can pretty much drive across it in 45 minutes. In fact we saw more CT and MA license plates than RI ones in our short time there.
Nevertheless, Providence is a pretty cool town (third biggest in New England), and on the recommendation of our friends Ben and Morgan, we went to check it out last month.
We first hit up Fox Point for some coffee and then donuts at PV Donuts, a women-run decadent donut joint famous for their brioche donuts. Flavors include "butterbeer" and "bowl full of cereal" or something like that, if memory serves. They also boast a line going around the corner starting at 10 AM on a Saturday.
Next up, we took a big long walk. Providence feels a little like Boston, albeit more hilly, in that it's small and contained enough to walk...aka the anti-LA.
First across the footbridge spanning the Narrangansett River, which gives a great view of the skyline and downtown area.
Then, we had to hit up the local Rhode Island version of seafood, this time in the form of a Dune Bros crab roll (they ran out of lobster). It was delectable, although we're still trying to figure out if there are any meaningful differences between seafood in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Downtown Providence was just a stone's throw away, so we then meandered over there. Westminster Street is a beautiful thoroughfare that's been mostly blocked off to traffic, with leafy trees overhead whose branches provide for a nice pedestrian arcade. It caps off with a real life Superman Building – yes, that's the name of the actual skyscraper, and a number of other nice-looking public spaces including the State House. There's even a statue of Ambrose Burnside: the famous Civil War general whose skills in battle were less than stellar, but whose impressively hairy chops inspired the term "side burns."
However the pièce de résistance, of course, is College Hill, the home of Brown University and RISD. Brown in particular feels like a picture-perfect college environment: there's the beautiful quandrangles and the brick buildings nestled in courtyards next to each other, abutting a vibrant commercial road, Thayer Street. The green lawns are immaculate. The old Civil War era gates remind you that yes, this place has a pedigree which goes beyond the 1950's. The shaded alcoves in between buildings are just too perfect for reading and engaging in heady philosophical discussions with other 19 year olds ("but what IS free will, man?"). In fact, one of the buildings had enormous swings outside of them to embody the feeling that it's a playground for adult intellectuals. Swing away, you just might reach new heights.
All in all, Jen remarked that Brown felt the most like a prototypical college out of all of the ones we've seen. One thing we didn't really figure out though: why are there frat houses on Brown property (or at least, within the quandrangles)? Whatever the reason, they were the most well-kept frathouses we've ever seen...
All in all Providence was great, but we got tuckered out by the long walk in the summer heat. It did seem like a city that you could see in one day. Ultimately we fled to the mall (yes, Providence has one of those too) where we treated ourselves to a movie while we waited for the traffic to die down. Well--you can't be a perfect tourist all the time...
And that's our one day whirlwind tour of Providence!