Love letter to Providence

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When I moved to Providence from Boston almost four years ago, friends and co-workers evinced some surprise at the move, given that it was a move to a smaller city. However, as a friend of mine said then, ‘you’re not marrying Providence, you’re just dating!” That summed it up perfectly and I must say, it’s been a great relationship.

I know  about the problems – the public school system in Providence, the higher-than-national average state unemployment rate, the crumbling infrastructure (in common with a lot of other cities) – and certainly, there were things that I didn’t like about Providence. I’ve lived in cities most of my adult life, but I found Providence a bit more challenging in some respects. For one, the streets downtown where my apartment was were sometimes quite noisy, which made me realize that I had always lived in enclaves within a city. Providence is also more spread out than other cities where I’ve lived – I was used to being able to walk almost everywhere, but in Providence, I had to get on a bus or get a Zipcar to, for example, get to a good-sized grocery store.

On the other hand, there were many things I loved about Providence and Rhode Island. There were the obvious things – like getting more for my rental dollars, the vibrancy of having Brown University, Johnson & Wales, and RISD nearby, the wonderful restaurants, Trinity Repertory Company – but it was some of the less-apparent things I loved the most:

  • I can’t believe it was over a year before I went to Seven Stars, but after that first visit, I made many more for bread and biscotti and ginger biscuits. The staff was always indulgent and understanding about my desire to select the perfect biscuit.
  • I loved going to Body Kneads for massages and could afford to indulge in them more often.
  • The bike paths are spectacular! The East Bay Bike Path was the first I rode and when I learned to use the bike rack on the bus, the Blackstone River Bikeway became a favorite. There were other bike paths too, like the Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway (fortunately, there was a sign at the start of the trail with a pronunciation guide for the third word!) and the Washington Secondary Bike Path.
  • The cityscape of Providence is fascinating. There is a mix of new and old buildings, buildings converted from another use (the apartment building in which I lived was part of a complex created in old commercial buildings.) and interesting decorative elements, especially when one looked up above street level.
  • The RIPTA bus system is great. One of the best buys in town, in my opinion, is the $26, 15-ride pass.
  • The Providence Public Library is one of my most favorite places. It reminded me of the library of my childhood, I loved working in the reading room, and having access to the Ocean State Libraries system allowed me to go online, request a book and have it show up at ‘my’ library.
  • Rhode Island is a beautiful state. Before moving to Providence, I’d only made quick visits to Providence, Bristol and Newport. Once in the state and looking about me, I was astonished at how beautiful it is and how much variety there is. Of course, one expects beaches and bays and lighthouses from a state nicknamed The Ocean State, but there are also farmland and woods and marshes to go along with quaint and/or interesting towns.
  • I loved the drivers in Providence. Like anywhere, there are jerks on the roads, but all in all, I could not believe how polite the drivers were. I appreciated that drivers, seeing a pedestrian crossing a street, would indicate with a wave of the hand that they had seen you and were waiting for you to cross. I also appreciated that drivers did not instantly honk their horns when the light turned green if the driver in front of them didn’t immediately roar through the intersection. One time when a driver behind me did honk, I looked in my rearview mirror to see that he had honked to get the attention of the homeless woman across the street as he had money to give her.

Most of all, I enjoyed how friendly and polite the people are in Providence and the rest of Rhode Island. I liked that I could make a comment to someone on the street and get a response. I liked that salespeople actually greeted me when I entered a store. I liked having conversations with people on the bus and not having people treat a bit of friendliness as if it was a prelude to a mugging!

For what started essentially as a blind date, it turned out to be a wonderful relationship!

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