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What A Long, Spooky Trip It’s Been

It’s 11pm and I’m shivering in a cemetery in the woods of New Hampshire, trying to coax information from the spirit realm out of a creepy-looking wooden idol. The icy wind is whipping through the trees and the noises coming out of the darkness seem like ghosties just out of reach. What the hell am I doing here? I think to myself. And why didn’t I bring gloves?

What I’m doing is investigating the paranormal at the Mount Washington Hotel, a notoriously haunted location. I’m one of a group of weekend ghost hunting warriors who are all on a Strange Escape together. Some of us have been on one of Amy Bruni’s investigations before. The Kindred Spirits and Ghost Hunters star hosts paranormal trips to notoriously haunted locations all over the country. For this weekend, people have brought along their own equipment to record EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena, ghostly recorded communications), and other above-my-pay-grade tools like K-II meters, EMF detectors and spirit boxes. The pros say spirit boxes aren’t totally reliable, but they do add to the spookiness factor - which at the moment, in this cemetery, is high.  

I’ve dabbled in the paranormal before - I once went on a ghost hunt at the Sprague Mansion - but I wouldn’t say I’m a total believer. If anything, since that other hunt produced no credible evidence of the supernatural, I arrived this weekend feeling skeptical. The other escapees seem to be fully expecting (and very excited) to experience ghosts and get face time with some of their favorite celebrity paranormal investigators. (Those are a real thing. Just trust me on this.) Still, I’m open to the possibilities of the weekend. I guess you could call me para-curious.

The investigators with me at the Crawford Family Cemetery - as in Crawford Notch, one of the earliest settlers of the White Mountains - are Dana Matthews and Greg Newkirk from Planet Weird, who specialize in haunted …   More

Rhode Trips

Learn About Where the Food on Martha's Vineyard Comes From

Most of us know Martha’s Vineyard to be a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches and celebrity guests, but not many know what goes on behind the scenes. The island actually hosts over 42 working farms, 16 oyster cultivators and local artisanal cheese, charcuterie, honey, chocolate, coffee, beer and elixirs of all kinds.

If you’re interested in exploring this unfamiliar side of Martha’s Vineyard, check out the group Farm.Field.Sea, makers of experience that connect sea and soil directly to diners. The group is collaborating with the island’s farmers, food producers and fisherman to inspire people to think differently about the food they eat every day. Take a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard to be a part of Farm.Field.Sea’s Pop-Up conversation and dinner series GATHER, and discuss the island’s unique culinary culture at Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard and Featherstone Center for the Arts. Each dinner has a different theme and provides an intimate space where guests experience an authentic Island feast while learning more about the food on their plate, while benefiting island non-profits.

Be sure to check out the next event on Food and Waste with Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe's who helped found Daily Table, on July 27, and the event on Food and Art with Jennifer Rubell, an internationally-renowned artist who creates art using food and drink as the medium, on August 10.   More

Rhode Trips

A Touch of France in New England

A coastal destination like Plymouth, Massachusetts, right in the grey area between the South Shore and Cape Cod, isn’t exactly where you would think of going when it’s still winter coat season. But it turns out that if you can manage to stay inside, and that your primary sources of warmth are a fireplace and a hot tub, you’ll be just fine.

I was recently invited to visit Mirbeau Inn & Spa, a new French-inspired spa hotel at The Pinehills in Plymouth. A staycation in a spa hotel is exactly what the doctor ordered to cure my late winter blues, so my boyfriend and I took off on a sunny, cold Saturday to spend 24 hours in luxurious bliss.

Lucky for me, we were able to book our trip for the day after my birthday. I knew we were in good hands when the concierge greeted me by name before I gave it to him, and then wished me a happy birthday. Even better, when we opened the door to our Executive Suite to be greeted by classical music, a roaring fire, a chilling bottle of Rose with crystal glasses, and a tray of birthday chocolates. C’est bon.

The hotel is split into two buildings: the Manor House, where we were staying, and the main building housing the spa (more on that later) and two restaurants: Henri-Marie, serving fine French cuisine, and The Bistro, which is more casual. There was a wedding in Henri-Marie that night, so we watched the bride and groom float around with their families as we dined in The Bistro. If what we tried was their casual fare, their haute cuisine must be served by unicorns to top it.

We started with a Warm Beet Salad with baby kale and white truffle vinaigrette for me, and Calamari with honey and sweet cherry peppers for my boyfriend. We were enjoying them when our waiter brought out an order of Sacchetti, which he said were a must try: pear and mascarpone tortellini, mostarda fruit, grape must and chive fondue. The combination was unexpected and delicious - even my guy, who isn’t an adventurous …   More

Rhode Trips

One State and A World Away

Cross the state line into Massachusetts and enter a whole new world of luxury. Harwich’s Wequassett Resort and Golf Club is worth a visit in any season, but now that spring has arrived in New England and the weather is warmer every day, it’s time to get in the car and go. The tulips are blooming in their manicured gardens, life is back in the frog pond, and it’s finally warm enough to take a barefoot walk on the beach.

With sweeping views of Pleasant Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Wequassett was recently awarded the prestigious five star rating in Forbes Travel Guide - one of only six added to the list this year, and the only property on Cape Cod to hold the distinction. It’s not hard to see why. The property is home to a collection of historic buildings that hold 120 luxurious guest rooms and suites, with not just two pools, but two private beaches as well. The four restaurants offer casual and fine dining options for any meal. And the golf at Cape Cod National - an 18 hole championship course - is unmatched.

Twenty-eight Atlantic is the hotel’s signature fine dining restaurant, where Executive Chef James Hackney serves a menu of gourmet twists on iconic New England dishes. Thoreau’s, in the bar area of twenty-eight Atlantic, is a casual and delicious tavern. The Outer Bar and Grille serves impeccable coastal cuisine. Libaytion, a beachfront bar, is a place to relax and enjoy a cocktail in the summer months.

For fun, Wequassett offers boating and sailing lessons, kayak rentals, tennis courts and endless bike paths. The Children’s Center offers innovative and educational programming for toddlers through teenagers, and boasts a pirate ship playground straight out of a storybook. Swimming, sailing and tennis lessons will keep them engaged during the day, and at night there are movies and teen activities. The annual Cape Cod Jazz Festival starts June 30, and offers live music every Tuesday and Wednesday night through …   More

Rhode Trips

The Little Engine that Could

I’m just going to be honest here: I did not want to go up Mount Washington on a rickety old train. But given that my options were either driving, which any local will tell you to rent a car to do to avoid the significant wear and tear to your own vehicle, or hiking, which, just, no, a train it was. And so I found myself on a chilly, sunny fall day, standing at the platform, gazing up a cool 6,000 vertical feet.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway is an institution in the White Mountains. It’s been ferrying passengers up the East Coast’s highest peak since 1852. Thankfully, we’d be going up in a biodiesel engine installed in 2008, and not the original coal-burning train.

I wouldn’t say that I’m afraid of heights. I have distinct memories of my 10-year-old self on the Observation Deck of the World Trade Center in New York, pressing my forehead against the windows to get a better perspective on the 110 stories below. I’m just, to put it mildly, an accident waiting to happen. I fall out of chairs when I’m sitting still. I once fell out the front door of a bar that I wasn’t even leaving. So tell me I’m going up a single track up the side of a huge mountain, and all I see is possibilities for my imminent doom.

But, as a great poet once said, “a promise made is a debt unpaid,” and I had been promising my mother that I would ride the Cog Railway with her for juuuuust about two decades. So I got on the train. In the front row. And you know what? I’m really glad I did. The view was gorgeous, and we had the best possible vantage point for photography. It’s just one more time that I conquered my (considerable) fear and came out happier on the other side.

I expected the hour up to be difficult, but considering that the conductor sat outside the train on the front platform, I probably could have guessed that the trip would be easy and painless. We waved at hikers heading up to the …   More

Rhode Trips

September in Stowe


The quintessentially New England town of Stowe, Vermont may be a skiers paradise, but there are so many great things to do there, even when there is (blissfully) no snow on the ground. I recently spent a fall foliage weekend in Stowe, which was so picturesque and relaxing that on Monday morning when we were driving to work, my traveling companion and I both fantasized about turning our cars around and heading back to Vermont.









I was expecting Stowe to be a relatively sleepy town in the off-season, rich with scenery but not much else. It turns out my expectations were completely wrong: there is so much to do in the area, mostly involving food or drink. On the drive from the highway to our hotel, I was begging to stop every two minutes - for “the world’s best” cider donuts, at a distillery or gourmet cheese shop, at a farm-oriented general store. My willpower ran out at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory, where they offer tours, and there’s a “flavor graveyard” in remembrance of dearly departed flavors like Rainforest Crunch and White Russian.




We had to work off all of that Wayne’Swirled (a Saturday Night Live flavor mixing vanilla and caramel ice creams with a dark caramel swirl), so as soon as we checked into our hotel, we headed back out for a scenic hike.


Scratch that. We headed out for what I thought would be a pleasant, easy jaunt to Sterling Pond, but was actually a tough mile-plus up Smuggler’s Notch. Just past the pond - which, ok, fine, was beautiful, once my vision came back - is the trailhead for several ski runs on Mt. Mansfield. So yes, we hiked to a gorgeous pond. I just didn’t know we were hiking up an entire mountain to get to it.


Despite my best attempt to fall off the mountain on our descent (I wish I was kidding), we made it down. But I …   More


Pen Pals... Not Just for Prison Anymore

Surely, many people can reminisce on the pen pals they had in their early school days, but what ever happened to this now lost art?

With the help from Val Khislavsky, formerly the owner of PVD Pudding Pops, she is bringing back the beloved interaction with complete strangers. Just like you remember in middle school, the PVD Pen Pals are connecting the Providence community through a monthly pen pal organization. A quick sign up form is required, then you will receive an email with a PVD Pen Pal’s information and voila! This isn’t limited to Providence residents: anyone is welcome to join. The cool thing is, you will be writing to someone while a different person will be writing you. This is a way to broaden the pen pals throughout the city, and even the state. All matches are generated by a computer program, so the possibilities are endless. However, if you want to continue writing to the same pal, that is perfectly fine. Don’t know what to write about? A theme every month will help stir up interesting conversation, but you don’t necessarily have to stick to it. It’s all about a friendly connection with your neighbors.   More


A Super Plan

Back in 2012, in the wake of the 38 Studios meltdown, I used this very column to make a proposal to the RI Economic Development Corporation: $75 million to launch VagiTech, my company that would manufacture synthetic, on-demand vaginas. Predictably, the EDC did not respond. This past month, there was a major medical news story of four successful implantations of lab-grown vaginas. With that proven track record of success and business genius, I now submit to the State of Rhode Island, the City of Providence and any other interested party with a checkbook, my proposal for the Superman Building. I ask you to please refrain from “making it rain” until I’m finished speaking.

First up, there’s the matter of me acquiring 111 Westminster Street from the current owner, High Rock Development. The building is currently valued near $30 million. The most desirable option would be to simply win it outright in a high stakes horse race bet, but as that does not appear to be an option, I’ll take a little lesson from my business hero, Miami Marlins owner/former sheisty art dealer Jeffrey Loria. I will offer High Rock $5 million in cash (raised through a 99/1 public/private partnership with the City of Providence), outright ownership of the Providence Journal (which the State will seize on my behalf under eminent domain) and a lefty bullpen guy to be named later.

With that simple matter sorted out, my efforts will turn to redevelopment. My vision is for an innovative, mixed-use urban community, which is just my nice way of saying “dystopian hellscape of every bad idea in urban development.” The occupants will run the gamut of commercial, office, food service, residential, light industrial, hazardous chemicals, infectious disease laboratories, methadone clinics, those weird storefront churches and, of course, an Alex and Ani store. The first floor lobby will contain a combination frozen yogurt/hookah lounge, just one of my many …   More


Lady Project Profile: Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan is an award winning athlete whose educational initiatives encourage and support America's young girls.

In 2006, the two time Olympic medal winner was named the first U.S. public diplomacy envoy by Condoleeza Rice. In 2010, President Obama appointed Michelle to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Michelle is currently a senior adviser for public diplomacy and public affairs, serves on the State Department’s Council to Empower Women and Girls through Sports, and is on the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International. She is also a locally based leader living in Providence with her husband, Clay Pell.

Catch Michelle at the Southside Cultural Center April 12 as one of the Lady Project Summit's Keynote speakers. Buy tickets here.   More


Lady Project Profile: Tammy Tibbetts

Tammy Tibbetts

President and Founder of She's the First 

Tammy graduated from The College of New Jersey with a journalism degree that unexpectedly led her to a career in social entrepreneurship - specifically, founding an organization that sponsors education for young girls in developing nations. 

An obviously driven individual, she became the first social media editor of Seventeen magazine, and landed a spot in the industry's "13 Under 30" straight out of college. She began a social media campaign inspiring women to raise funds for girls' education sponsorships, and within 3 years this campaign developed into the skyrocketing non-profit, She's the First.

Tammy frequently speaks on social entrepreneurship and Millennial leadership, and she has been recognized as one of Fast Company's League of Extraordinary Women as well as one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Education.

Catch Tammy as one of the Keynote Speakers at the Lady Project Summit on April 12 at the Southside Cultural Center. Buy tickets here.   More


Spring Into Summer at the Billy Taylor House

The Billy Taylor House is holding a spring gala on Saturday, May 24 at the Rhode Island Convention Center to raise funds for the renovation of their building. This upgrade will better support youth workplace-development programs. The event will kick off at 6pm with a fashion show hosted by celebrity stylist Terrence Manning, followed by a presentation of the First Annual Billy Taylor Community Leadership Award. There will also be live music by Chachi Carvalho & The International Players, winners of the 2014 Cape Verdean Music Awards. Purchase tickets by April 15 for early-bird prices. 185 Camp St, Providence. 401-680-0220.   More


We Were There: Grand Budapest Meets Grand Newport

Newport's Vanderbilt Hotel hosted a special VIP screening of Wes Anderson's new The Grand Budapest Hotel on its rooftop. I may have attended this event in a completely backwards fashion. I had never before been to hotel, and I had only seen brief snippets of The Life Aquatic. Apparently, I’m a terrible Newporter and I usually just tuned out of conversations involving Wes Anderson. Who were they talking about again? Wes Craven? Wesley Snipes?

I am now fairly certain that The Vanderbilt Grace has one of the best rooftop views in Newport, and come warmer weather... Oops. Don't want to give away this best-kept secret right before the tourists come stampeding in... Um, I mean, “supposedly” there is an outdoor bar up there, open air seating, a panoramic view of Newport Harbor, and something about movie screenings with truffled popcorn during the summer. No reason to venture up from Thames Street, really.

I’m also fairly certain that if your local cinema both supports and encourages drinking Prosecco through a straw, then you should in turn support them. Cheers, Jane Pickens.

Oh, and I think I need a second opinion on this one, but if Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino had a one night stand in Paris, would Wes Anderson be their lovechild?

As the credits rolled down the screen, it became clear that the pairing of these two venues, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Vanderbilt Grace, made perfect sense for the event. There are some striking correlations between this fictional place and the boutique hotel. For instance, one might expect a stuffy, snooty, no Maxxinistas allowed type of atmosphere with any establishment rhyming with the word Shmanderbilt. However, upon walking through the door, it’s immediately noticed that every staff member of the The Vanderbilt Grace is incredibly friendly... like your dental hygienist on lithium friendly. I could only imagine that would be the standard of hospitality expected by Gustave H., concierge, …   More


High Stakes Scrabble…For Kids

You don’t need another reminder that kids, on the whole, are much smarter than you. They understand technology with an intuition that you can only dream of, rattle off facts faster than you can say “hold on a second, let me think,” come up with remarkably inventive ways of getting pretty much everything they want. They can also, more than likely, completely decimate you at Scrabble. This month, hundreds of tiny geniuses descend on Hasbro for the 12th annual National School Scrabble Tournament, April 26-27. Kids from across the United States and Canada will compete for a $10,000 prize. You might not be able to play – and you probably have better ways to spend your weekend than being shamed by a 7th grader – but you can watch the tournament via an innovative live stream.

But, if you are up for a friendly challenge, Julian’s still has their informal Monday night Scrabble league. Just show up with a board, sit down at one of their designated tables, and wait for an opponent to bring his or her best double word score.



Drive Like You Mean It

People of Providence, we’ve got to talk about your driving. It’s atrocious.

Look, I’m not going to get up on my high horse. I make stupid mistakes when driving and at some time or another I’ve been guilty of every offense I’ll enumerate here. But at least I’m trying, which is more than I can say for many of you out there. You need to hear these things, and I come to you as one of your own.

It’s taken me a long time to identify why exactly the driving in Providence is so bad. Of course, there are any number of factors that contribute to the problem, from pothole-riddled roads to the general awfulness of Rhode Island drivers, but there’s something particularly terrible about the driving I see in the city, and I’ve finally figured out what it is: nobody drives like they’re in a city.

City driving requires aggression and precision. You have to drive like you mean it. There are cars and people and obstacles everywhere. The conditions are always shifting. It’s constant start and stop. And people have places to be. New Yorkers, of course, have this mastered: they’re impatient, ruthless, even downright hostile – but they’re g. A good New York driver might just as soon run you over as smile at you, but they’ll never be in the way. They drive with purpose. To be effective while driving in New York City requires you to accept the possibility that somewhere along your way, you may need to intentionally kill someone. You don’t want to, and you’ll do your best to ensure that only those who truly deserve it get hurt, but it might have to happen. That’s driving with purpose.

People in Providence do not drive with purpose. They drift. They hesitate. They rubberneck. They expect others to compensate for their mistakes. Then there’s the infamous Rhode Island Roll-out – oh, lord, the Rhode Island Roll-out. You know the move: you’re trying to pull out into traffic so you gradually nudge your way out in a passive-aggressive attempt …   More


PVD Hoot Puts Musicians Before Beer

My first experience with PVD Hoot, Providence’s newest monthly open mic night, was on a particularly cold night after back-to back snowstorms. Most roads in the city looked like they couldn’t pick a plow out of a line up, but people came. That’s because since starting back in October, Hoot has established itself as an open mic not just of considerable artistic quality, but as one where the main attraction is the performer and not that night’s dinner special.

“A lot of bars and restaurants that have open mics are bars and restaurants that just happen to have an open mic,” says Hoot co founder Josh Aromin.

Sure there’s free beer and coffee courtesy of Narragansett and New Harvest, and Rocket Fine Street Food parks outside, but what’s important are the musicians, comedians and poets who show up to put it all on the line for the ten minutes they get on stage.

Adds Aromin’s partner, Sarah Mead, “The last thing you need is to be up there and have people talking and shuffling around. We want people to know we’re listening and we’re there for them.”

Performers are granted a level of attention and intimacy from the crowd that you don’t see at your run of the mill open mic night, and as a result Hoot has attracted a steady rotation of brave souls and curious onlookers. Aromin and Mead pride themselves on the caliber of both their performers and their audience. At one of their first shows, local musician Rich Ferri told the room not to expect the same quality of music from every open mic they go to.“It was the best compliment we could get,” says Aromin.

Here's a look at February's PVD Hoot:

PVD Hoot from Providence Monthly on Vimeo.   More


Providence Public Libraries Give Back

In these days when so many of us read on Kindles, iPads or even on iPhones, some believe that the printed book has had its day. Wrong! Physical books are essential– particularly for children learning to read. Many of us take for granted the piles of books lying around our houses. But this is not the case in many homes in Providence. In fact, all too many children in Providence have no books except for those they get in school.

This is just one reason why being able to borrow books from Providence Community Library (PCL) is so essential – whether to enable families to read together, to help children read during the long summer break (and prevent them from falling behind grade level reading), or just to allow children to explore the worlds of The Cat and the Hat, Harry Potter and more.

To ensure that Providence kids have access to books, PCL is holding a fundraiser, Books to Bank On, at the Knight Memorial Library, 275 Elmwood Ave., on April 1 from 5:30-7:30pm. Highlighting the party will be readings from favorite children’s books by Ed Shea, director of 2nd Story Theater; Bob Colonna, the director of RI Shakespeare Company; Anne Scurria of Trinity Rep and Barry Press, director of Living Literature.

Although Providence’s children might not have the luxury we will have of hearing their childhood books brought to life by great actors, with your help they will enjoy the needed experience of curling up with a good book at home. 



New Owners of an Old Favorite

Hudson Street Deli, the longtime favorite on the West Side, has gone through multiple incarnations since being Westminster Street’s go to grocer in 1922. As of last month, the deli once again finds itself under new ownership.

Bryan Rinebolt and Chrissy Teck - local residents who share a passion for community and wholesome eats - do not plan on implementing another round of drastic changes. Instead, the new owners will keep the current sandwich menu the same while adding a variety of options such as fresh pressed juices, healthy smoothies and more vegetarian/vegan/gluten free selections. 68 Hudson Street. 228-8555


Things to Do

The Great, Nearby Escape

Now that it’s safe to put the shovel and snowmelt into storage, fill up your gas tank and hit the road for a day trip. Check out this infographic for our top picks of nearby attractions.



Answers to the Great Providence Scavenger Hunt


1. Providence College.

2. Henry Barnard School.

3. Camille’s.

4. Westminster Street.

5. Justine’s, Providence’s only currently operating speakeasy.

6. The Cranston Street Armory, which once housed the National Guard, but is now vacant save when it’s used for party space. The two movies that used the Armory are Outside Providence and Underdog.

7. The Wedding Cake House, which is actually the Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House.

8. Antonelli’s Poultry on the Hill. Owner Chris Morris had his eye on the giant cock for years and finally bought it when the liquor store went out of business.

9. Broad Street. There’s a group of Latin American food trucks that do a booming business after dark there.

10. Johnson & Wales (Harborside Campus, to be exact).


11. The Knowledge District.

12. The Providence Children’s Museum.

13. Public Kitchen and Bar, housed in the Renaissance Providence Hotel, which was constructed in the 1920s as a Masonic Temple.

14. Local 121, in AS220’s Mercantile Block on Washington Street. The basement held a speakeasy during Prohibition, which is why their downstairs live music space is called The Speakeasy.

15. Grant’s Block, at the corner of Union and Westminster, which is also the summer home of Movies on the Block and hosts Food Truck Tuesdays year-round.

16. The Superman Building.

17. General Ambrose Burnside, whose statue sits in Burnside Park next to Kennedy Plaza. In addition to running successful campaigns in North Carolina and Tennessee during the Civil War, he was also an industrialist and a U.S. Congressman.

18. Union Station was the original home of Providence’s train station.

19. The Independence Trail, Providence’s answer to Boston’s Freedom Trail.

20. The trolley, which is what the tunnel was originally built for.


21. Governor Stephen Hopkins House.

22. The Providence Athenaeum, where literary giants like Poe, Thoreau …   More


Coming up This Month: Do Over Day

The Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau (PWCVB) will be partnering with our sister publication Providence Monthly on an interesting contest to celebrate the end of this ridiculous winter. Here’s how it works. You need to submit a story about an event that was ruined by the snow. If a romantic Valentine’s Day meal was snowed out and you’re the winner, PWCVB will spring for the meal. A fancy holiday party cancelled? They’ll pay for the appetizers. For more information on the details, visit their website. Sounds like Groundhog Day but with a happier ending.


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