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An Idyllic Spring-time Weekend in New England - Part 1

4/29/10 - Providence & Newport, RI

Hitting the ground running, we kick off our wedding weekend trip to New England with a visit to Newport, RI

When we learned that Scott's younger cousin Ben, from Boston, was finally tying the knot with his long-time girlfriend Melanie, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity not only to see some family from both Massachusetts and Michigan but also to add a new state to our lengthy list of those we've visited: Massachusetts' petite and often-overlooked neighbor, Rhode Island.  Being the travelers that we are, there are very few states remaining that we have yet to visit and Rhode Island was one of them so we were very excited to be able to add a new notch to our belts and eat lots of seafood along the way.  As the wedding festivities were to take place in Ben's hometown of Attleboro, MA it made sense for us to base ourselves in Providence, RI less than 30 minutes away. It was to be a brief trip; we would be away for just four days with two of them spent largely just getting to and from the east coast.  As it turned out, all of our advance research and planning more than paid off and we spent four wonderful days celebrating Ben & Melanie's marital union with Scott's mom, dad and numerous Brooks aunts and uncles, as well as enjoying the scenery and eating our way through the easily navigable and pleasantly compact state of Rhode Island. 


Upon touching down at the convenient Providence airport late on Thursday afternoon, we grabbed our carry-on bags, jumped in our rented Toyota Yaris (right on site at the airport - how cool is that?!) and headed directly for Newport - Rhode Island's vacation home to many of New England's old-moneyed-rich-and-famous.  A mere 30 minutes after leaving the airport, we parked the car on a quiet residential street in Newport and headed towards the water.  Although the wind was brisk at times and  the air a bit cool, Newport's Cliff Walk, the waterfront pathway from which you can see many of the stately mansions, was simply lovely in the waning afternoon light. 


After a brief but pleasant walk, we proceeded to our first planned food stop of the trip: the popular Flo's Clam Shack located just over the town border of Newport in Middletown, RI.  Housed in a charming 2-story, seaside Victorian-style building, Flo's parking lot was jam-packed even though not yet May (probably, we later discovered, because it was all-you-can-eat-crab-legs night), and after driving around the tiny town searching in vain for a parking space for 30 minutes or so, we ended up driving back to Newport, parking on the street fronting the beach and walking in.  If not necessarily for the food, it was definitely worth the effort for the ambience, if you can call it that.  At Flo's, as is apparently common at these Rhode Island fried seafood shacks, you walk in, order at the counter and get a number.  Luckily, we nabbed the last table on the enclosed upstairs deck and enjoyed our plastic cups of ice-cold Bud Light while we waited for our food.  We immensely enjoyed listening to the staff calling out the order numbers ready for pick up over a loud speaker (the operative word here being loud) in the most delightfully classic New England accents we had ever heard.  It was like free entertainment!  Although we had read positive reviews of the light fried quality of the seafood, we both decided that Caroline's Fisherman's Platter of fried goods - clam strips, whole clams, scallops, shrimp, scrod and clamcakes - that arrived at the table heaping and ready to spill over was a bit overrated (although Scott quite liked the whole fried clams).  Scott's thin, golden-broth Rhode Island Clam 'Chowda' and 'Lobsta' roll got higher marks.  Having read about them before leaving home, we were eager to try the clamcakes, which seem to be the unofficial state food of Rhode Island.  From the description, Caroline was hoping they would be more like the hushpuppies common in the Carolina Lowcountry, but they were a bit denser and doughier and were distinctly lacking in that delightful hushpuppy-corn flavor she so loves.   But apparently the food was good enough (the homemade cocktail sauce was sublime!) because somehow (disgustingly), we managed to finish it all!


Back in Providence, we checked in to yet another fabulous Priceline find, the Renaissance Providence Hotel, located downtown and directly across from the imposingly picturesque Rhode Island State House.  The hotel was, in its previous incarnation, the Masonic Temple and has been recently renovated into a beautiful and luxurious hotel.  Decorated in a pleasant mix of colonial New England colors and  patterns paired with modern design elements, our spacious, well-designed room left little to be desired and at $60/night we were ecstatic to have scored such a gem!  (click here for Part 2)

The Cliff Walk


Enjoying some late-afternoon sunshine on The Cliff Walk in Newport


On the road to Flo's Clam Shack!


Flo's Clam Shack - Fisherman's Platter


Yikes, what a pile (but we're always ready for a challenge)!


Our room at the Renaissance Providence Hotel, where Caroline caught Scott in the act of coming through the bathroom and jumping out of the double-sided closet!




The Cliff Walk in Newport, RI


The Breakers in Newport, RI


Enjoying the Cliff walk in Newport, RI


The Cliff Walk


Enjoying some late-afternoon sunshine on The Cliff Walk in Newport


Mansions of Newport


Taking in the views from The Cliff Walk in Newport


At Flo's Clam Shack, about to embark on RI Glutton-fest #1!


Lobsta Roll at Flo's


Ugghh! We ate it all!


Our room at the Renaissance: you won't find wallpaper like this in New Mexico!