We sent Providence photographer extraordinaire, Cara Llewellyn to The Providence Biltmore Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton to experience the historic property, shoot some beautiful photos, and create a Curio Local Guide for Providence full of tips and local secrets just for you.
Name: Cara Llewellyn
Occupation: Associate Art Director & Telephone Photographer
Preoccupation: Bones, skulls, symmetry, and wanderlust
How long did you live in Providence? Providence was my very first city after leaving my parents' farm in Virginia to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. A perfect starter town for someone who grew up in the middle of the woods, I called Providence's tree-covered hills and canals home for 5 years and have enjoyed countless visits back ever since.
What is the best thing about Providence? The mix of people! And the food, definitely the food.
Can you sum up Providence? Providence is the perfect bite-sized New England city. It has a hint of the sea, a picturesque canal, what can only be described as an adorable downtown financial district, and stunning college campuses sprinkled throughout.
What is a perfect day in Providence? I would encourage an eating tour of the city. Fasting prior to your trip is highly recommended. See my 24-hour tips below for details.
What are the people like in Providence? With RISD at the foot of the hill and Brown University at the top, Providence exudes an aura of art, creativity, and learning. The cafes are chock-full of a refreshing mix of purple-haired design students, bespeckled English lit majors, and erudite townies who might just be listening to opera on their iPods.
If Providence was a person or character who would it be? Michaelangelo! The brilliant artist not the ninja turtle (although he's cool too). Providence definitely feels like an artistic genius in the rough, with a hint of mystery and old world Italian flare.
What was your impression of The Providence Biltmore Hotel? The Biltmore in Providence was as grand as it was accommodating. With its roots in old-world hospitality, the history of the hotel is immediately apparent as you walk into the multi-level lobby with a massive sparkling chandelier as the centerpiece. My room was ginormous, definitely big enough to run laps around (which I did immediately), and everyone who works there was super helpful and kind.
What was your experience like staying at the hotel? One of my most enjoyable hotel stays in years, the importance of all the details really stood out to me along the way. My favorite (and the most subtly charming) bit of the lobby is an old great glass elevator that is no longer in service, but which has a little plaque stating that this elevator is for time travel only. The deeply plush carpeting throughout the halls as well as floor to ceiling arched windows in the grand ballroom all come together to create a truly luxurious feel to the space.
If your best friend was visiting Providence for 24 hours what would you have them do? Okay, are you ready?! Here we go: Start the day off with a morning coffee kick from The Shop in Fox Point, followed by a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows old railroad tracks along the water, often with ocean on both sides. Finish your ride at Olga's Cup & Saucer for a delicious breakfast under a canopy of pear trees. After your meal I'd say it's time for a stroll along the canal, ending up at the RISD campus where you can explore their museum and the elusive RISD Nature Lab, but shhhh, don't disturb the furiously sketching foundation students.
Are you hungry again yet? Okay, get ready for the best chicken salad sandwich you've ever had in your life (think additions like dried cranberries, crisp cucumber slices, and goat cheese) at Small Point Cafe downtown, followed by a wee bit of shopping and perhaps a nap around the corner at The Providence Biltmore for good measure. Dinner will be at the hippest place in the city, and quick walk over to Federal Hill where the hidden gem of a restaurant "North" is your destination. Do not be deterred by a bit of a wait for a table here, the ham biscuits and dan dan noodles will knock your shoes, socks, and probably pants off too.
Alright, I know it sounds cheesy, but an after dinner gondola ride is not to be missed. Book your Venetian gondola ride early and enjoy a trip on the canal complete with a singing gondolier with a voice that any indie band worth their salt would kill for. If you're lucky your 24-hour visit will fall on a Water Fire night, where the city burns 20 cords of wood in 97 floating braziers along the entire length of the canal. Let the surreal city-wide opera music follow you as you make your way back to The Providence Biltmore after a day well spent.
For more local tips, secrets and local guides around the world head over to GlobalYodel.com!