Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” but that doesn’t apply to people from Rhode Island. Tom and I went back to Providence this weekend for his 30th reunion from Brown. Tom was not only a student at Brown, but he was a townie too, having grown up in Providence, which added another dimension to our walk down memory lane. What was so striking, was how much has remained the same in the capital of the smallest state in the union. From Antonelli’s poultry shop where Tom plucked feathers from chickens as a part-time job – at the age of 10, to the thick crust Caserta pizza, and the thin crust Al Forno’s, to the incredible Italian specialities on Federal Hill, and Andreas’ Greek restaurant on Thayer Street, nothing had changed.
Brown reunions are celebrated along with graduation, turning the entire city of Providence (which isn’t that large to begin with) Brown. They throw an incredible party, called Campus Dance, turning the green into a ballroom, a tradition started in the 1860’s! The event draws crowds up to 15,000 with attire ranging from shorts and t-shirts to tuxedos and top hats. They always have a big jazz band, and the entire green is lit with hundreds of paper lanterns. The last one I attended was in 1993 and one of the highlights was seeing JFK, Jr. and his date, Daryl Hannah.
Instead of getting a hotel room 30 minutes outside of Providence (every room in town was booked), we decided to opt for an Airbnboat. When I reserved it way back in September, I thought how fun it might be, but when the time came to wheel my suitcase down the dock ramp, I started to question my decision. Tom, of course, was thrilled. I immediately popped three Bonine.
Turns out, sleeping on a houseboat is fantastic. I haven’t slept better in years. This was my view brushing my teeth. Not a bad way to wake up.
We even entertained a few old friends for sips and snacks.
The weather changed from a blazing 90 degrees to 55 and pouring. We thought about leaving early and heading home, but we sort of got attached to the little houseboat. It was pretty cozy bundled up under the covers watching Lost in Space while the boat gently rocked, and the rain pelted the windows. I was actually a little sad to leave Monday morning.
Our waiter at brunch said, “Providence is just like Boston, just friendlier and less expensive.” I’m not from Boston, so I can’t compare. But I think Providence is actually like nowhere else. I’m glad I get to call it my home-by-marriage. It’s a pretty special place, and they make some pretty awesome people.
Here’s a link to the houseboat.
Some not to miss spots while in Providence:
For old school pizza that hasn’t changed since 1953 Caserta Pizza
Italian specialty shop like no other (sit and have a coffee with the locals while your sandwich is made): Venda Ravioli
Breakfast at Brickway on Wickenden (we went twice).
Have fun. Be bold.