Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Cheer?

In 1636, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island who left Salem, Massachusetts to seek religious freedom, landed at modern-day Providence and was greeted by Narragansett Native Americans with "What Cheer, Netop". Netop was the Narragansett word for friend, and What Cheer was an old English greeting brought to New England by English settlers.

Ben eats calamari and Clams Casino.

Providence was pretty fantastic, even and above seeing Ben, who I was forced to hug and kiss multiple times. As you can see, we ate well. At Hemenway's we ordered chowder and the giant seafood platter and couldn't finish it. We had bison quesadillas at Tortilla Flats and many good cups of coffee elsewhere. I said "what cheer" to several delicious local beers over the weekend.

Ben lives in spitting distance of RISD and Brown University on College Hill, so there were tons of cute (and head) shops, bars, arthouse theaters and good-looking coeds. Even a Tealuxe! Saturday afternoon we went to a complicated graphic design exhibit at one of the RISD galleries, and here is Ben in the gardens outside:

The exhibit was beautiful and meta and mostly over my head, but I was amused by this page from a deconstructed artist's book.

We had beautiful, crisp weather all weekend except for a bit of spitting drizzle on Sunday. Saturday night we went to a multimedia dance performance at RISD, very modern and interesting with atonal electronic music and multiple projections on the floor and the screen behind the dancers. At least I thought so; color Ben "a little bored."

Providence is enormously photogenic, even with my indifferent phone camera. Many of the houses by the waterfront (where my hotel was) have plaques identifying the builder and the date.

From 1882.

Four tasteful pumpkins adorn the lintel.

My hotel room overlooked lovely India Point Park.

We also visited the Providence Athanaeum, the fourth oldest library in the country. It is still a circulating library, and there were students studying in the quiet, cozy space, the silence broken occasionally by the hiss of the Keurig machine. They still have their card catalog out to browse, though they are online now, of course.

Catalog card from 1891.
Photos make it look kind of grand, but it is full of old wood and window seats. Both Ben and I immediately grabbed a magazine and sat down to read. It's that kind of place.

They had a financial crisis in 2005, and the board, after much deliberation, decided to sell their precious Audobon "elephant" folio - for $5 million. There was apparently a lawsuit in protest, but the sale went ahead, and now the library is thriving.  This is the Egyptian Cabinet on the main floor, built in 1838 to house their copy of Description de l'Egypte, now in their rare books room.

About as big as a coffin, cool manuscripts inside.

But enough about the library! We walked all over College Hill and downtown on Saturday, which eventually wore my feet out, and I had to sit down. In a shoe store.

Born Attila. They were $65 off!
Then I had to come home, only a few hours ahead of Hurricane Sandy. My flight was the last United flight out before they closed the airport. Ben got a lot of rain and wind, but never lost power, thankfully. He's coming here for Thanksgiving (yay!), but I plan to go back to Providence after Christmas. I'm so pleased he lives in such a wonderful city. What cheer, Ben!

1 comment:

  1. What cheer, indeed! Sounds like a marvelous time and a marvelous city. Glad to see Ben (and so happy to hear the hurricane left him unscathed) and I'm jealous of the presumably very fresh foods from the sea.

    Love your new Hun raiding footwear. Those boots are fierce!