Providence was an exciting stop as I had not spent time there previously. I was greeted at the station by members of Grow Smart RI and the RI Association of Rail Passengers. Once again I found comfort in learning the history of activism in a community eager to gain younger membership and pass on their work to the next generation. As we meandered through some of the oldest streets in the nation and up into the belly of city hall, I took in how many modes of transportation there had been within the center of this town and my question ultimately came down to one I have been repeating to myself throughout this whole trip. Why has the United States given up so much public transportation in favor of single owner cars? My hosts gave me a clear cut historical analysis of this in direct relationship to their town, but it is a systemic question that needs answers at a local, state and federal level.
We stopped at the Intermodal Transit Center which, to me, seemed entirely bus focused as opposed to intermodal. There was no train or ferry schedule at the information center which can only be accessed through the side or back door, both of which barely clear ADA compliance standards.
Though the center faces the steps of city hall, the front entrance was blocked off and used for storage. The Grow Smart and Association teams both had strong feelings about this and I want to honestly reflect that in my blog entry here. Providence is a terrific city. Walkable, diverse, historic, with a respect for its origin and future. I hope very much that the advocacy of these groups continues to improve accessibility for all of Providence’s residents and those that live in the many communities just beyond the city limits.
After a long day of travel, walking, and learning, it was time for dinner. The Go Providence team had set me up with a reservation at Trattoria Zooma. I was joined by my coworker Joe as well as my dear comrade Tim McKenna, a native who has spent his adult life devoted to bettering his community through a number of groups and services. While breaking bread, and hearing the traditional methods used by one of Little Italy’s finest trattorias, I began to feel the rumbling in my stomach.
House White Wine, Fra Diavolo over Squid Ink pasta, Prosciutto Burrata Arugula salad and Pan Seared Scallops over Risotto were brought course by course and the three of us heartily thanked the owners for hosting us again and again. The two restaurateurs responsible for this feast laughed as our jaws dropped each time a new plate hit the table. I love pasta, I deeply enjoy making my own pasta so to experience a place where everything is hand crafted from scratch in house with such loving attention to flavor and detail warmed my soul and stomach simultaneously as did the wine.
As we waddled up to the train station to send Joe back to Boston, Tim reminded me to call it an early night as we had tickets to the first ferry bound for Bristol in the morning. The historic Bristol Parade is the longest consecutively celebrated 4th of July parade in the country and the ferry is the most efficient way in and out of this tiny town. Tim’s amazing wife Meredith had offered to shuttle me from the hotel to the ferry so I set my alarm and tucked in for a good night’s rest at the Omni.
Dawn on the 4th came swiftly and we headed to Bristol aboard the Seastreak. Reasonably priced for the holiday round trip fare and a swift smooth cruise took us to Bristol with ease. While we started scouting locations to film the parade, we passed by Empire Tea + Coffee and doubled back for a caffeine fix and light breakfast. Their tea menu was a pleasant change up after a solid week of coffee and espresso. I got a bold iced Rooibos with Almond Milk and a hint of vanilla as well as an affordable little breakfast bun.
As the sun rose so did the crowd. An array of tailgaters staged themselves for the event. Everything from RV Rooftop beer pong to a covered stroller brigade lined the parade route. The 4th has a different interpretation for each person in the States, and seeing the many different ways people celebrated, decorated, and adorned themselves was curious to me. Once the speeches, pledges, and songs had been performed, the parade began. It was truly a sight to see!
By the miracle of SPF, neither of us had burned during the festivities. As the heat met the water and the midday sun, we retreated back to the dock for a gin & tonic before the ferry. One of my favorite things about the northeast are all of the old times taverns. While the aesthetic can be found in other regions, the authenticity of these old emblems are a huge part of the character which makes up this area. Once we disembarked, Meredith met us with a smile and invited me to Del’s before their 4th of July cook out.
I wasn’t sure what a Del’s was – but looking at Tim’s smile light up with its mention, we piled into the Volvo and dipped a few minutes down the road. Let me just say this, Del’s is a treat and I already want more just typing about it. The texture is somewhere between shaved ice and slushy and the Classic Lemon is equal parts sweet and tart. As big mouthfuls of this light chilly treat dropped my internal temperature, I felt my second wind coming just in time for grilling.
We cooked up some Wahlburgers and hot dogs paired with an assortment of salads, sides, soft drinks, and Sam Adams. We always brag about Southern Hospitality but I felt truly welcomed by the McKenna clan. It was really wholesome to spend an afternoon doing something normal after so much time away from home. I had been missing my own large family so to be welcomed into a friends’ childhood home was really wonderful way to wrap up my time in Providence.