Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hiking Providence

The beauty of the hike is allowing yourself to wander.  And today started with one plan that drifted into another quite unplanned.

Down Smithfield way is the Powder Mill Wildlife Refuge.  The snowfall is long gone and today was predicted to be near 60.  So Into the Woods...

No offense meant to the good people of Rhode Island, but this was a fairly dull walk and there was no wildlife.  1 of 3 trails was closed because it passes through where National Grid was puttering.  A couple of good hills, but no view, and I was finished in an hour.  Sigh.

GPS recommended the Roger Williams National Memorial, and what is a good Baptist girl to do on a Sunday if not listen to the voices inside her GPS?  My park ranger's name was Sparkle.  I read it off her name tag without smirking, and may I say she was extremely helpful in suggesting how I could take in the sights that are not in fact open on a Sunday.  Founded by Baptists, and run by Catholics, downtown Providence still holds its Sabbath dear.  So here is how to hike Providence on a sunny Sunday without spending a dime and still see some pretty cool stuff.

The Visitors Center is on the river at the base of College Hill.  Hike up to Benefit Street and experience a hill tougher than anything the woods of Powder Mill had to offer.  This is the strip of Colonial Homes Still Standing.  Against the sparkling blue sky and the fiery leaves of this very tree-lined avenue, they were lovely to behold, even if only from the outside.  There are some nice views from this ledge, too, seen between the homes and at the wide intersections.

Benefit cuts through the School of Design campus, and there was lots of student bustle, and the sounds of artistic activity heard through basement studio windows coming up the side streets.  Here you will also find the Old State House and a Courts Building more gorgeous than court buildings need to be.  I bypassed the RISD Art Museum for a couple of reasons -- mostly because I wanted to spend the day outside, and because I was still carrying my hiking pack and wearing the wrong shoes to stand on a gallery floor.  So save that for another time.

I thought of a classmate of mine who had come to RISD.  In those days, I was still Bennington-bound (in my mind), and we talked of how we would be able to see each other as we transformed  into artistes, assuming that VT and RI are near each other.  I did not end up in New England for 6 more years.  He was always more the artist than I was, and he already knew how to wear a scarf , which I have never been able to pull off.    At any rate, for his sake, and for my ongoing exploration of responding to art, I will return there another day.

I barged right into the First Baptist Church because the door was open.  The actual members were still in the Fellowship Hall, since it was only about 12:30.  Oh, hi.  'm I late?  They sent me upstairs "where the historical elements are," adding that there was nothing to see in their multi-purpose room, though I told them I loved what they'd done with the place.  If you are used to touring European cathedrals and Catholic churches, the inside of America's first Baptist Church will make you think there must be more going on behind some other door.  On the other hand, if you are used to touring the puritan prayer houses of Olde New Englande, the ostentation of the steeple may scandalize you into driving the heathens right out of the Bay Colony.  This little side trip takes you back down the hill from Benefit Street and you'll have to go back up, so consider that in your plans.

The giant homes on this street were not open for tours today.  They are John Brown House - more museum than house, and at $8 probably not a bad bargain --  and Nightingale-Brown House.  You could theme your whole day in Providence around the Browns, and Brown itself (again, with the Baptists).  But if you arrive there unplanned, just walk around and take its picture.

I enjoyed my self-guided tour of the highlights of the Providence Atheneum, and its scolding librarian.  In the time I was there she chided a co-worker and patron for not being brave enough to perform their belly dancing publicly  (yuh-huh), gossiped with another patron about these kids today, explained to an inquiring student why she needed a letter of reference from her college to get a card (so we know you didn't run off with their books and will do the same here - words to that effect I can't quote directly), and positively spanked another student for disappearing to New York with a borrowed DVD and leaving it there -- and... most infuriatingly to her... it "wasn't even a good film." She seemed chagrined it was even in their collection (Space Balls).  As I was leaving, she argued cheerily with a group of visitors about the "preferred film version of Persuasion.")  I have no worry that she recognizes herself in this post; I am quite sure she knows exactly how she runs that ship.

What you'll see there is a great cram of musty old volumes, scattered random art, and a stunning wooden card catalog full of hand-written cards.  That in itself is worth the cost of admission, which is nothing.   Rarest book room is shown only by appointment, but there is plenty to wonder onto in the dark and narrow stacks.

They sky began to cloud, and the damp breeze picked up.  I tramped back down the hill and let pass the riverside walk back.  Since it's been standing 375 years, I expect it will be there for a return trip.

Hope you're enjoying National Blogpost Month.
Here's another NaBloPoMo participant for you to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Had a lovely trip to Providence about 30 years ago, but missed all those lovely things, except Brown - the university Brown. Your trip sounds better!


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