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Trip Report Day Trip Report to Providence, RI

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Providence doesn't get mentioned too much here. I myself don't consider it as a travel "destination," as a result, we've only visited Providence once in the last 3.5 years we've been back in the Boston area.

In any case, DH & I made a long day trip to Providence this past Saturday and had a great time.

Our first stop was Clemence-Irons House (c.1691) in Johnston, RI, just a few miles outside of Providence. It is owned & maintained by Historic New England, and opens for tours just 6 days a year. This simple house is a perfect example of a "stone-ender": a massive stone chimney takes up almost the entire wall on one end of the house. I have never seen a stone-ender before, and must say I was pretty impressed by it. It was built as a 4-room house, with a garret upstairs. The interior is not furnished, but over half of the woodwork is original. You can see photos of the house in the link below


[Historic New England owns another (larger) stone-ender, Arnold House, in nearby Lincoln. We didn't have time to visit on this trip, but since Arnold House is open every weekend throughout the year, we can easily return. http://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/arnold-house-1/arnold-house ]

After the 45-min guided tour by a very knowledgeable docent, we drove into Providence for lunch. We like Cafe Choklad from our previous trip. It is a small eatery near RISD and serves sandwiches, soups, and pastries. DH had a club panini while I had the black bean and corn burger.

After lunch, we walked over to the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum. The house is one of the many venues that participated in the Smithsonian Museum Day free admission program on Saturday. The Lippitt House normally is only open once a week on Fridays; however, it offered a special open house in honor of the museum day.


Because it was an open house, there were no formal guided tours. Also, only the first floor was open but not the upstairs rooms. The Lippitt House is a classic example of opulence in the Victorian era. It reminds me of the Victoria Mansion in Portland which we visited last year. What I find curious is that the Lippitts chose to use plaster on the ceilings and then have them painted to look like wood. The docent/volunteer told us that this was done to impress the guests. Surely it would have been cheaper to use wood, but to use plaster and then painstakingly paint wood grains and patterns onto the plaster? That's obviously a WOW factor! One of the rooms have wallpaper inlaid with gold leaf and aluminum leaf. Why aluminum instead of silver? Aluminum doesn't tarnish like silver. The wallpaper looks as good as it did 150 years ago.

I was really glad we came - since it's only open on Fridays, we'd never been able visit it if not for the special open house. Here are some photos of the house museum:

After we rested our feet in the lovely back garden by the fountain, we decided to take a coffee break. The mansion is quite close to Brown University, so we wandered there and got our caffeine fix at Blue State Coffee. http://www.bluestatecoffee.com/

At around 3pm, we headed to the RISD Museum. We've been here before and have seen its permanent collection. This time, I mostly wanted to see the current exhibition: Made in UK, which opened just a few days earlier. It was pretty enjoyable even though not every artist is famous.

In another gallery is a video installation called "Once upon a time" by Corinna Schnitt. It is a hilarious 25-min video in which a stationary camera is mounted on the floor of a living room. The camera rotates 360 degrees providing views of the entire room. At each rotation, an animal is introduced into the room. The film started with your run-of-the-mill domestic cats, followed by dogs. Soon, the room gets overrun by farm animals such as rabbits, ducks, chickens, goats, and even a cow. The once clean and tidy living room quickly becomes trashed, as the animals played, peed, pooped, and munched on anything that's green.

We met up with my cousin inside RISD museum. At closing time, we went for a walk before heading down towards the river to check out the WaterFire locations. Eventually, we made our way to Providence Place to grab a bite before WaterFire starts at 6:35pm.

We were standing on a bridge near the basin by 6:45pm. However, except for piped music, there was no sign of fire (though there were plenty of on-lookers). Finally, around 7:15pm, we saw boats coming around to light each bonfire. There are over 100 bonfires located along the river, each stacked with cedar logs. Soon, the river was blazing.

Although this might not sound that exciting, I thought it was pretty interesting to see WaterFire in person. More entertaining though, is that the river was packed with traffic. There are gondolas with tourists, sightseeing motorboats, and even dozens of canoes each one mounted with an illuminated koi.

[Gondola rates run $159 for 2 people for a 30-min ride on WaterFire nights. http://www.gondolari.com/acquafuoco.asp There was no shortage of passengers.]

I later found out that the canoes with illuminated koi was a one-time event. We particularly enjoyed watching them and were glad that we chanced upon it. http://www.waterfire.org/clearcurrents

The WaterFire stretches 1/2 mile long - we spent a good hour meandering along the banks and enjoying the views. It sure is a fun & unique experience!

[Note about WaterFire: it is on about 10x each year, during the summer months. The start time is determined by sunset. I was glad we picked this late date, as sunset is a lot earlier than say, mid-summer. Since museums close at 5pm, it'd be hard to hang around in Providence for 3+ hours until WaterFire begins, unless you want a very leisurely dinner.]

[Note about parking in Providence: I had NO trouble finding metered spots on "College Hill" along Prospect Street near Waterman St, which is just 2 blocks East of RISD museum on Benefit Street. As long as one doesn't mind scaling the steep College Hill, one will have plenty of spots to choose from for WaterFire.]

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