Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Art of Tourism

Providence Place
Despite all of the tourism we’ve technically been doing, today Brown 1 had an opportunity to go somewhere just for fun. Originally, we had been scheduled to visit Columbia University in New York, but due to difficulties we had to cancel it long before even leaving California. Because of this, we were left with a free day. We had breakfast at the Smallpoint Café, a small, cozy place just a few blocks away from Hotel Providence. Next we went shopping; picking up much-needed supplies for Brown such as laundry detergent, towels, and of course, snacks! We also explored some Providence Place, the local mall. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see much, only having about an hour. I hope that we can come back again sometime soon to do some actual shopping.

The Rum Runner
The weather today could not have been better, and it was reflected in everyone’s high spirits this morning as we headed to our destination, Newport, where we would be spending the day. Ms. Kaplan had told us that Newport was a classy, well-endowed area in Rhode Island. Lately I’ve been conditioned so that I always find it hard just to keep my eyes open every time I’m in a moving car. I’m pretty sure the rest of my cohort had fun taking pictures and making fun of me during my full-hour blackout, but I don’t mind. The first item on the agenda when we reached Newport was to tour Narragansett Bay and Newport Harbor on a small cruise ship called the Rum Runner II. The captain and first mate described the sights and attractions along the coast as we made our way around the bay, and everyone would jump up at the soonest photo op to try and capture beautiful moments while in a moving boat. At one point, we were cruising at such a relatively high speed (25 knots) that Ms. Kaplan’s hat flew away and into the water, never to be seen again. The magnificent view of the bay with sunlight glinting off of the water, and the cool splash of the ocean spray on my neck was a truly great feeling.
The harbor at a distance

The great gates to the Breakers
After our tour, several of us wanted to go to the beach, but for the time being, we went to see the Breakers Mansion, a part of the Newport Mansions by the Preservation Society of Newport County. Inside the grandiose-looking mansion, rather than having a tour guide, each person was given a headset and an audio tour, which played and directed us as we walked through it. The Breakers was the 70-room summer estate of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his family during the Gilded Age. As we walked from lavishly adorned room to room, I could not help but be impressed at its large-scale and the extent to which it was meticulously and painstakingly decorated and organized. The audio tour allowed me to understand how certain aspects of the Breakers fit in with history at the time. However, at the same time I thought that it was way too extravagant—a lot more than any family would ever need. In addition to that, the fact that he was only able to spend one summer there before becoming ill worsened the fact. How could one person be able to hold that much wealth while others suffered the other extreme? Why could he? Anyways, the place itself was still spectacular and superbly located, overlooking the sea.

The Breakers Mansion
The backyard

Easton's Beach
By the time we finished the Breakers, all of us were pumped up and ready for some fun in the sun. After a while of looking along the coast and finding nothing but rough rocks, we were discouraged and agreed to look for some food. Ironically, on our way, what would we come across but Easton's Beach? So we ended up spending some time there running, wading, exploring, sunbathing, etc. and had a wicked time! Later we dined at Anthony’s seafood restaurant, where I overestimated my hunger and ordered too much food. With the help of my cohort I was almost able to finish it, but not quite. Dessert consisted of various sorbets in their respective fruit shells. Overall, today was a great bonding experience for our cohort, and I feel like we grew closer as friends.

I love burying my feet in the sand
Getting back to Hotel Providence, which feels like home now, I realized that this is our last night here until the end of the trip. I felt the usual attachment and strangeness as I packed my bags, but it didn’t affect me much because I’m too excited knowing that tomorrow is the big day when we finally begin our adventures at Brown!

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