Providence, RI

“Where are you going next?”
“Providence, Rhode Island.”

With one exception, every person I said that to made a face that meant ‘ew, why would you want to go there?’

So I wasn’t expecting to like Providence, which was fine because I wasn’t planning to explore it. I’d be arriving late Saturday night and going straight to bed, then working until I got into a cab to go back to the airport on Wednesday afternoon. Work was a conference, and I was staying in the conference hotel, so I’d planned to just spend the whole time in that single building. 

However, there were no books. This was a problem.

I lie. There were a few, but they were all either Bibles or Bible-based. And I spent the first eighteen years of my life being forced to read evangelical literature, so nowadays I tend to avoid it.

I had under an hour between work ending and having to get into a cab to the airport, so I asked at the front desk about bookshops and the person told me there were two within a mile radius. Perfect. I set off.

And that was when I discovered I really like Providence and I wish I’d been able to spend more time there.

The bookshops were proper bookshops. One, Cellar Stories, was a lovely second-hand one with labyrinthine rooms and higgledy-piggledy book stacks.

Whimsically, it was upstairs, despite having the word ‘cellar’ in its name.

Symposium Books was just around the corner, and it looked much more like a bookshop and much less like a library had got drunk and thrown up everywhere. Both setups work, I think.

Symposium had a lot of liberal / anarchist / socialist stuff going on, which I enjoyed. It’s run by an Irish lady and there are British & Irish chocolates by the till: you can buy things like Twirls and Snickers bars and so on. It felt like a little slice of home.

I bought a fridge magnet and a book. The fridge magnet teamed up with some of my badge add-ons from the conference and now sits on my fridge as a reminder of the Rhode Island trip.

In between the two bookshops was a church, and I love beautiful old buildings so I almost always end up in at least one church when I travel. This one was lovely. It had a labyrinth alongside it, as well, labyrinths being a feature of many spiritual paths.

The inside was just the way a church should be: ornate and dark, with dramatic stained glass windows and a kick-ass organ.

They’ve recently built an extension which is unusually sympathetic to the original design, and hanging inside it was this pretty tapestry, which told me the church’s name.

Once I’d done the church and bookshops, I walked back to the hotel via a car park, where I found some very impressive graffiti.

From what I can tell, Providence is a liberal, fun, arty place to be. It reminded me of Brighton in the UK.

Several people I met described it as an “LGBT+ capital” so it amused me when I took this picture and a little rainbow appeared at the bottom.

My wander around Providence was short but enjoyable, and given the chance I’d be happy to go back there and explore some more. I could easily spend several hours in Cellar Stories alone.

Have you been to Providence? What would you recommend if I go back?

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