Uacs.38 39.Providence.Ma05

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Information about Uacs.38 39.Providence.Ma05

Published on January 10, 2009

Author: sallymoe



A story about my visit to Providence, RI, including a bit about its history and modern renaissance.

DI idence INE V Pro B Y S A L LY M O E I t’s late June in the biggest city in the lit- about it, including the haunting music, tlest state in the union. Sunset bathes is left to chance. Programs list the selec- the evening in gentle tones of mauve tions—which include Fauré, Philip Glass, and gold as the skyline lights up around us. and Dead Can Dance, among others—and Somber volunteers, clad in funereal black, their times down to the minute. motor down Providence River in boats Night has descended. After a perfect din- named after heroes of Greek mythology, ner on Café Nuovo’s riverfront terrace with stopping every 20 feet or so to ignite the a front row-seat view of the festivities, it’s nearly 100 floating pyres. There’s a gravitas time to board our gondola. In the classic to this simple act that sets the tone for the straw hat and striped T shirt, the gondolier entire evening. smoothly guides his five passengers onto a Sparks caper on the evening breeze, and sleek, black, brass-trimmed gondola that mingle with the sound of crackling flames came all the way from Venice. and the rich aroma of smoking cedar. The There is a hush in conversation. Time next day my clothes will smell like barbecue. seems to stop. Warmly cloaked in one of This experience is WaterFire ®, Rhode life’s rare perfect moments, we float silently downriver, drinking in the starlit sky, glow- Island artist Barnaby Evans’ interactive ing fires and glittering cityscape reflected in water sculpture installed on downtown the river. Flutes are filled with champagne. Providence’s three rivers. And not a thing 38 | | AAA Going Places March/April 2005 Uacs_38-39_Providence_MA05.indd Uacs38 01.27.2005 1:01:01 PM

The Renaissance City We toast the balmy weather, the picturesque skyline, the evoca- tive music. We take photos of Providence owes much of its copious charm to its rich assortment of historic architecture, unique restaurants, picturesque parks, one another. For a nanosecond, and eclectic neighborhoods and shopping districts. And bring grinning faces freeze brilliantly your appetite...the city is a foodie’s paradise. in the velvety darkness. We pass beneath a low, arch- Providence Place Mall and the Convention ing stone bridge. Baroque chan- Center to the downtown profile. There is deliers hang at both sides, stud- still debate over whether Cianci’s numer- ded with drippy ivory candles. ous civic improvements outweighed his mis- Hidden from the street above, behavior, but there is no denying that it is they cast soft pools of light on not the same city it was 30 years ago. And A Methusaleh by American the walkways underneath. How Phantom of the malaise is retreating. In its place are a standards, Providence was offi- the Opera. Why haven’t I done this before? growing number of attractive public spaces, cially born in 1636, and is believed Things weren’t always so great. Reeling trendy shopping districts, a thriving arts to have the largest percentage of from a post-WWII downturn that drained and cultural scene, and scads of terrific res- buildings on the National Historic the already struggling city of opportuni- taurants—all seasoned by the city’s vintage Register of any American city. ties, Providence was gripped by low self 369-year history, diverse population and One of those buildings is the esteem and a gritty urban malaise. Which marvelous architecture. Rhode Island Statehouse, con- makes its turnaround all the more impres- So pay a visit to this Grand Dame of structed between 1895 and sive. The lion’s share of credit should go American cities. Cruise the harbor in the 1904, pictured on the preceding to Vincent Cianci, the notorious yet much 110-ft. Continental Sloop Providence. Explore page. It boasts the fourth largest RHODE ISLAND STATEHOUSE loved former mayor. After some 21 years Federal Hill, the city’s vibrant Little Italy self-supporting marble dome in as mayor, his Tony Soprano-like methods (start early, start hungry, and follow your the world, after St. Peter’s Basil- finally landed him in prison in 2002 for nose). Immerse yourself in WaterFire, and ica, the Minnesota State Capitol racketeering conspiracy, thanks to a hercu- take the gondola—that one’s non-negotiable. and the Taj Mahal. lean federal government offensive dubbed Poke through the Johnson & Wales Culinary Atop that dome is The Inde- “Operation Plunderdome.” Nonetheless, his Museum for who knew? culinary lore and arti- pendent Man: 11 feet and 500 accomplishments for the city were impres- facts. Take the Trolley Tour. Visit the Arcade, lbs. of bronze fortitude by art- sive: to name a few, he uncovered and redi- the first indoor mall built in the US. Shop ist George Brewster. Gripping a rected the two rivers running through some more on Wickenden Street. Try a new spear with his right hand, and an downtown to enrich the city’s ambiance restaurant every night (you won’t run out). anchor—the state symbol—with and social scene, restored City Hall and See a performance of the excellent Trinity his left, The Independent Man has saved the once-opulent Loew’s Movie Pal- Repertory Company. Tour the State House. weathered hurricanes, blizzards ace (now the fully restored Performing Arts Just don’t expect to be the same person and some 27 lightning strikes. when you return home. ■ Center) from demolition, and added the Tough peasant stock. 39 | March/April 2005 AAA Going Places Uacs_38-39_Providence_MA05.indd Uacs39 01.27.2005 1:01:20 PM

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