State thirty two – Rhode Island

They say good things come in small packages. Well, since Rhode Island is the littlest of all the American states, we had a chance to test that theory. They also say that good things come to those who wait, and since we’d so nearly visited Rhode Island on our first American road trip in 2010, we could test that theory as well.

The harbour in Newport
The harbour in Newport

On both counts, Rhode Island passed with flying colours. It might be a small fella, but it still manages to pack a punch when it comes to coast line, with almost 400 miles to explore. We also found out that Rhode Island failed to ratify the 18th Amendment to the Constitution – the one that brought about prohibition, so we felt we’d be amongst friends.

St Mary's Church in Newport were JFK and Jackie were wed.
St Mary’s Church in Newport were JFK and Jackie were wed.

We arrived in what is affectionately known as “Little Rhody” from Connecticut and our first stop was the millionaires playground of Newport. We had toyed with staying in this gorgeous coastal town but every single hotel was outside of our modest budget, so we settled for a quick pit stop here. We walked around the harbour and through some of the pretty back streets and found it a quiet and pleasant place to be. We also walked up the hill from the harbour to the church where a young John F Kennedy had married Jackie Bouvier in 1953 – a nice little slice of history to start the day. We also took a stroll along the famous cliff walk, where you can see any number of mansions (and we mean mansions, these are enormous) belonging to famous American families like the Vanderbilts. They are obscene in their opulence, and expensive to get into, so we recommend avoiding the entrance fee and taking pictures from the cliff walk instead!

The Vanderbilt's Breakers Mansion.
The Vanderbilt’s Breakers Mansion.

We left Newport around lunchtime and had our hearts set on a dish we had somehow both managed to avoid eating on previous trips to New England – the lobster roll. But where? There are any number of places that claim to serve up the best in the region, so we just opted to go somewhere on the water and away from too many crowds. We landed on Evelyn’s Drive In in Tiverton, and what a treat it was. It’s about halfway between Newport and Providence and Evelyn’s is perched on the edge of Nannaquaket Pond, with several benches right on the water’s edge. We ordered our lobster roll and admired the view until it arrived, and it was certainly worth the wait. A chunky bit of white bread is split and a bunch of fresh, juicy lobster is jammed in between, served with the obligatory chips of course. We were not disappointed by our first try.

Tasty tasty lobster roll at Evelyn's.
Tasty tasty lobster roll at Evelyn’s.

But we couldn’t stop long, we had an appointment to keep with Rhode Island’s state capital, Providence. Once we’d dropped our bags at the oh-so-cool (and very comfortable) Dean Hotel not far from downtown we headed out on a very sweaty walk. It was unseasonably warm – about 30 degrees in September – and Providence has some steep hills! The State Capitol is worth a stop since for a very small state they have a very grand capitol – not dissimilar to the nation’s Capitol in DC in fact. From there we headed along the very pretty Benefit Street and up to Prospect Place Park to get a beautiful view over all of Providence. Then we swung by Brown University and headed back down the hill in need of some beer.

The view of Providence from Prospect Place Park.
The view of Providence from Prospect Place Park.

Our first booze-stop was actually back at our hotel and it wasn’t for beer. We had a tasty cocktail and a long chat about politics with a fun barman in the Magdalanae Room just to kick the evening off. Just along Fountain Street from the Dean is the Trinity Brewhouse where they brew a good selection of tasty beers on site. We tried the Rhode Island IPA and Tommy’s Red Ale, both of which were very nice indeed.

Rhode Island's fancy capitol.
Rhode Island’s fancy capitol.

Our dinner stop was a little walk away over the highway (there’s a bridge, don’t worry) and into Providence’s Little Italy. Angelo’s is a family-owned restaurant that’s been around for nearly 100 years and they’re still doing excellent home cooked Italian food. We had some delicious fried calamari followed by spaghetti bolognaise and a chicken and broccoli dish, with a big slice of cheesecake to finish. What more could you want? Its very reasonbly priced too – all of the above plus wine and beer came to around $50.

Top notch home cooked food at Angelo's
Top notch home cooked food at Angelo’s

After dinner we needed some more beer. We’d read about the E&O Tap in guidebooks but we weren’t sure whether to make the effort to walk ever further from our hotel now full of Italian food. We’re glad we did. It’s a tiny little bar nestled away in what looked like a student neighbourhood, but they had a dazzling array of beers on offer, including an Abita black IPA which went down very nicely indeed (even if it was a bit on the strong side at 8%!).

Booze galore at the E&O Tap!
Booze galore at the E&O Tap!

We were quietly surprised by Providence. Some towns just give you a really positive feeling and Providence is one of those. Good food, good booze and good people is a combination that’s pretty hard to beat. It left us wanting more, and left us feeling like Little Rhody had a lot to offer.

Rate the State:

Good for: Seafood, beer, unexpectedly cool cities.

Bad for: It is surprisingly tricky to find reasonably priced accomodation.

Overall:  9/10

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