Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Field Trip: Providence Wrap-Up

This is my last Providence post for a while, methinks (at least until we visit the city again). I had a few more items I wanted to share and they all didn't warrant their own posts. So, here are some basic logistical tips gleaned from our three-day weekend for you:

We ended up at the Providence Biltmore. The Biltmore is the oldest hotel in Providence (built in 1922) and thanks to a recent renovation, is actually a pretty nice place to stay. It's built in an "L" shape which means that every rooms has a view of downtown (this can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about gazing into office windows).

As is frequently the case in old hotels, our room was quirky and tiny. I got our room through Hotwire and we only spent $75 per night, so I didn't really mind. Had we been spent the rack rate of $170, I mighta been annoyed. The pluses: the staff was (mostly) friendly, there is a Starbucks attached to the hotel, and the location is central and very easy to get to by car or Amtrak.

We ate a lot. I recommend a visit to every restaurant we went to. Chez Pascal was a nice splurge (although during the week there is a very reasonable prix fixe menu), Troup House had a gorgeous setting and great home-style food, and we happily walked (you can take a taxi or the bus) the mile and a half to Nick's for brunch (twice!).

We had sandwiches from Farmstead Downcity for lunch on Saturday. They were prepared to order and were quite yummy and interesting (albeit pricey). The breads were fresh, the tomatoes were heirloom and the cheeses were delicious.

Our only disappointment was Haven Brothers' diner truck. I wanted it to be great; the tradition behind Haven's is so appealing. They've been setting up in virtually the same spot near city hall since 1888. They serve from around 4:00 in the afternoon until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Clearly, intoxication to a level nearing the risk of blood poisoning is required to enjoy food from this cart. The hot dog we shared made up for its lack of quality with its staying power: we both woke up with indigestion and relish-flavored burps (charming, I know).

On the day we arrived, we visited the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum and Archive. It's really worth a trip and is an easy place to get to if you're coming in on Route 95.

We did a lot of walking about. I strongly recommend a stroll up Broadway (perhaps on your way to Nick's?). The architecture of the homes is just gorgeous. There are a few abandoned looking blocks on your way out of the downtown area, but perservere! Beauty awaits.

We walked from Nick's up into the Federal Hill area. Atwells Avenue is the historic center of the Italian population of Providence. Great food and coffee abound. We bought some wine from the well-curated selection at Gasbarro's. Broccoli rabe-stuffed ravioli was one of the prizes we brought home from Venda Ravioli.

We visited the Rhode Island School of Design's art museum. It's a fairly large collection, and I confess were a little fatigued by the time we'd strolled through most of it. What I would do next time is a pick one part of the collection and send my time there. The collection itself was fairly extensive and covered everything from ancient Egypt to Asia to portraiture to antique homes .... oh and there was some Modern Art too.

What We Missed (That I know of)
We are planning to head down to Providence again - we loved what we saw (and ate!) and still have more to see. Next time we'll be sure to visit the Brown University campus and explore a few more parts of the city. There are walking tours that sounds quite interesting. They are offered by the Rhode Island Historical Society.

On the food front: I must have a New York System hot weiner (can't believe I missed that - and yes that's how they spell "wiener"), we will probably want to visit Al Forno, La Laiterie and Gracie's.

How about you? Have you been to Providence? What should we see and do next time?

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