Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rhode Warrior

When you think of interesting places to go, Rhode Island probably doesn't immediately come to mind. It's super-small, wedged weirdly between Connecticut and Massachusetts, and takes like an hour to drive all the way across - the long way. And yet somehow Noe and I ended up spending the majority of our weekend in the "ocean state."

It all started on Saturday when we wanted to check out something new but still be outside (we had great weather here this weekend). We eventually decided to drive up toward Providence and check out the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

First of all, I know better than to go to the zoo on a Saturday afternoon. I may like zoos, but I don't particularly like children (especially large numbers of them at one time) and most zoos just happen to be crawling with kids on weekends. But I obviously wasn't thinking clearly and we spent a good portion of the afternoon dodging errant strollers.

(A quick note on strollers - what happened to the strollers that were around when I was a kid? The ones that were essentially one piece of cloth attached to some wheels and handles and folded up like an umbrella? They were also about the size of an umbrella. Strollers today are apparently gigantic hard plastic things with more storage space than my Ford Taurus. Seriously, these things wouldn't fit through your average grocery check-out lane. Are they really necessary?)

Anyway, aside from throngs of screaming children - one of which I'm pretty sure had chicken pox and should NOT have been out in public - the zoo was all right. Noe and I were a little disappointed - we both really like the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, and Noe is partial to the Indianapolis Zoo while I have a serious love affair with the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Roger Williams Park Zoo felt tiny and cramped - the spaces to view the animals were small and somewhat enclosed, unlike the nice wide walking paths of the aforementioned zoos.

Also, the animal selection was a bit disappointing. There were three giraffes and a couple elephants, but no big cats (save one snow leopard) or polar bears, my two favorite zoo species. Noe felt there was a lack of monkeys, although the few we saw were pretty active. The most amusing part of the afternoon was a tree kangaroo - a smallish, sweet-faced animal - who climbed up in a tree and wouldn't come down and hissed violently at the handler that tried to coax her to the ground.

After the zoo, we decided to drive a little farther north and actually head into Providence itself. Providence is sort of weird - it feels kind of squished into it's parcel of land near the highway - but it's a pretty cool little city, Brown University has a beautiful campus, and the area around the capital building has been fixed up in a way that reminds me of the Canal Walk in Indianapolis. We also noticed a lot of good-looking restaurants we want to go back and try (although on this trip we had to satisfy Noe's sweet tooth so we just went to the Cheesecake Factory). I'm anxious to go back to Providence in the evening, grab a nice dinner and see the WaterFire exhibit all lit up.

On our way back to Connecticut, we pulled off 95 to fill up the gas tank and drove the back way home. When we drove through Westerly, RI - the town right next to the CT border - we noticed an art show in the town park. Since we had an even more gorgeous day on our hands today (definitely mid-70's) we went back to Westerly to check it out.

The Virtu Art festival in Wilcox Park was small (well, anything is small compared to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, which are a total madhouse) but we saw some quality art. My personal favorites were a series of 8x8 photographic prints of strikingly-colored fruits and vegetables on black backgrounds. The artist, Charles E. Hull, was selling them for a very reasonable price. (View them here: I didn't purchase them today, but I may try to order them or catch him at another local art show - I want these for my kitchen!

After poking around the art show, we hit one of the local cafes for lunch. The Prime Time Cafe has a nice location overlooking the Pawcatuck River (it's actually in Pawcatuck, CT rather than Westerly, RI - the two towns run into each other).

Noe enjoyed his grilled "Luhan" sandwich - smoked turkey, bacon, mozerella, and tomatoes on the house-made bread - although he said they may have put too much butter on the bread before putting it on the grill. My pan-sauteed goat cheese salad was a little bit disappointing. The cheese was great - fried golden on the outside and warm and delicious on the inside - but the salad it came on could have been better. For one thing, I would have gone with thin slices of apples rather than huge cubes. Also, the apples were kind of grainy and the variety they chose was too mild - a more tart apple, such as a granny smith, would have worked better. The toasted walnuts were a little burned, and I was somewhat put off by the appearance of tomatoes in this salad - they didn't go well with the other flavors at all.

Service was slow - the restaurant should have staffed appropriately with an event in town - but our server was pleasant and helpful. I would be interested in giving this cafe another go, perhaps for breakfast or brunch, before I decide how I feel about it. And thus ended our second afternoon in Rhode Island, a place we never really thought about going but will certainly be heading back to in the future.

On a separate note: I hope everybody is having a good holiday weekend, and be on the lookout for some hockey blogging this week. Sorry to those of you who prefer my non-sports blogs - my team and my second-favorite team are facing off in the Stanley Cup finals, and I can't ignore it any longer. Go Wings!


John said...

Forget Prime Time, you need to make it over to Up River Cafe in Westerly, hands down the best restaurant in Westerly.

Amy W. said...

Yeah, we want to go there. We were just looking for a casual lunch somewhere in the vicinity of our parking spot at the time :)

Jennifer said...

I have been trying to talk Rod into taking me to the Toledo Zoo this Wednesday. God knows I enjoy children as much as you do. (What can I say? God has a sense of humor!) When I originally started planning this it was supposed to be in the mid 70's. Now it is supposed to be in the mid 60's. At least it is still supposed to be sunny:-D

I so think they still have similar strollers. I know there is something called an umbrella stroller, but I do not remember seeing them when I registered. Yes, I am registered for the large "travel" system. I am even selling my car and getting Dad's Chrysler 300m to accommodate said stroller!

Alison said...

I love that this is a post about monkeys at the zoo and a restaurant review all in one.

Stonington Greg said...

It was such a nice weekend for being outside. This was the first post i read. I think I am more of a Sidways/wine person then a zoo person. Though I have not been to a zoo in a while.

Amanda Lester said...

I really like that guys photos. Now I want some too for my kitchen

Becky Berry said...

My godchildren live in Rhode Island so we go out there twice a year. I haven't gotten to see much of the state (despite it being super tiny) but my oldest goddaughter dances for the Providence Performing Arts Center, which performs some really gorgeous ballets. I highly recommend visiting Newport if you have the chance. It's got some gorgeous mansions and really old houses, quaint shopping and a wide variety of dining choices, plus it's all on the water and you can take a sailboat tour of the area if you want to charter one.

If you love zoos and are ever in DC, try to check out the National Zoo. Admission is free and the zoo is HUGE. I think it's my favorite zoo by far, especially since I only have Toledo and Detroit to compare it to and well...if you ever go you'll see why it's so much better.

lilcoffeebean said...'s me - Lynny. I got a blog! Haha, i'm not too sure how often i'll be writing in it since it's not like I moved to a new place and really have many interesting things to write about, but i'm going to try hard...hopefully this will pan out better than my old xanga, lol.

The zoo sounds fun...I haven't been to one in years. The last time was probably in 7th grade or something! I'm sorry that you had to endure the children.

I liked your restaurant story...but I know what you mean about getting a salad with some random ingredient that just does not belong there.