Fall getaway to Providence

Bed and breakfast in Providence
The Old Court

After raking leaves for the first time this season on Friday, 21 October 2011, Janice and I went to the Midtown Smokehouse & Grill, a new restaurant in Needham, Massachusetts. The boneless Buffalo chicken had an Asian sweetness, the pulled pork and marinated turkey tips were lean but still juicy, and the pecan pie was a nice finish. The service was prompt and friendly.

Janice and I were glad to find Southern-style cuisine closer to home. Blue Ribbon Barbeque in Newton, Mass., doesn’t really have eat-in space, and while we like the buffet at Firefly’s in Framingham, Mass., it’s a bit far. Another good barbecue joint is Bison County on Waltham’s Moody Street. We still miss the Black-Eyed Pea back in Falls Church, Virginia.

On Saturday, we drove to Providence, Rhode Island, which we’ve passed through a few times but never really explored before. Janice had won a night’s stay at the Old Court through a WGBH (PBS) auction. The bed and breakfast was in a quiet neighborhood between downtown Providence and College Hill.

We enjoyed exploring the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). For a small institution, it has a wide collection of art, from Mesopotamia and classical Greece and Rome to medieval and Renaissance Europe, a bit of Asia and Africa, colonial and Victorian America, and some modern art. I’d compare RISD favorably with the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum rather than to bigger museums such as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Janice and I had a late lunch at the Brickway on Wickenden, which had fun décor and an extensive breakfast-style menu. We found College Hill, with its bohemian student population and shops, hilly terrain, and laid-back atmosphere, to be closer to places we’ve visited in Vermont or San Francisco than typical New England reserve. We also admired the historic architecture.

We swung through Brown University‘s pleasant campus, which reminded Janice of her grad school alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It was apparently parents’ weekend, since we saw relatively few students. At this point, we can pass for parents rather than coeds! From there, we walked downtown (unfortunately, we missed Water Fire by a few weeks).

We saw the Occupy Wall Street offshoot at Providence City Hall and the Rhode Island State House. I’m sympathetic to the movement, which is trying to become as focused as the anti-tax Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, but the tent city of underemployed college students, aging hippies, and homeless people wasn’t too impressive.

In marked contrast, we found Providence Place full of people. Like the erstwhile Natick Collection, the upscale boutiques and packs of roving teenagers held little appeal for us, especially with Borders Books & Music gone. We did like much of the art and furnishings at a craft show at the convention center next door, however.

After stopping by our B&B, Janice and I headed back to College Hill, where we visited Brown’s book store and the independent Symposium Books. We checked out a few eateries on Thayer Street before deciding on Shanghai, a good, if noisy, Chinese restaurant.

We got a nondairy dessert (for my lactose intolerance) from “Like No Udder,” a food truck representative of a recent trend in urban dining. The chocolate soft serve with peanut-butter sauce was smooth and excellent. After walking back to the Old Court, our dogs were barking, and we decided to pass on a Jack-o-lantern event at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

We could have gone to the Italian restaurants on Federal Hill for dinner, but that would have required taking a bus or driving my beat-up Honda Civic on winding streets through unfamiliar neighborhoods (Janice baked lasagna last night, anyway). The next morning, we ate breakfast in the B&B’s common room before heading back to Massachusetts for grocery shopping, housecleaning, and putting up Halloween decorations. Even a short weekend away was a nice respite, if not quite as grand as last year’s vacation in England.

Coming soon: Game scheduling struggles, midseason genre TV, DC’s comics and videos, and reader requests!