Sunday, July 13, 2014

Confessions of a Chaperone VI

Marble-clad State House. Free-form pizza.  Platinum-plated walls. Lobster avocado tempura. House of Lanvin.  RISD art farewell.  Adieus amongst returns.

On Tuesday, I was able to hold a check-in with four out of the five cohort students.  I quickly learned that their finals’ week at Brown was going to be extremely busy: later that night we would be meeting for dinner at Al Forno, Wednesday night they had a scholar’s workshop meeting that they were invited to by Kisa Takesue (Director of Leadership and Brown alumna), on Friday they had both final exams and presentations in their courses, and on top of all that, they had two or three cluster or dorm parties to attend.  I was relieved that they all appeared rather calm and confident in completing all of these commitments.  Following the check-ins, Jing invited me to tour the Rhode Island State House to learn about Senate proceedings and check out the interior.  I had nothing to do until the Germany-Brasil World Cup game (and we all know how quickly that was over), so I decided to tag along.  In the first few days after our arrival to Rhode Island, our cohort passed the State House nearly every day to catch our site visit trains from the Amtrak Station.  Now we were actually going to see the interior.  I took a picture on the bottom step of what felt like a million steps leading up to the entrance.  Jing and I finally located the tour after walking around the entire building on one of Providence’s most humid days.   Thankfully, the complete marble interior of the State House had a cooling effect.  We learned that Rhode Island’s current President of the Senate is the first woman to ever hold that position.  We also learned that Rhode Island’s Senate is overwhelmingly liberal when considering party lines.  Considering that Rhode Island was founded on ideas of religious freedom that were perceived as very liberal in that era, the democratic majority of the Rhode Island senate makes sense to me.

Can you spot me in this pic?

This is a rare portrait of a standing Washington, worth thousands.

Later that evening was the long-awaited Al Forno dinner, also our last official dinner as a cohort before returning to San Francisco.  Al Forno was Jack’s recommendation, and what an excellent recommendation it was.  The restaurant is known for its hand-made ravioli and pasta noodles, meatballs, hand-churned ice-cream, wood-grilled meat and vegetables, and use of fresh seasonal products. For appetizers, we started off with free-form calamari and margherita pizzas – thin, delicate, savory, and absolutely delicious.  The idea of a free-form pizza is that no perfect circle with slices is presented, but a strangely-shaped whole pie is delivered, giving the guests the freedom to carve it out as they will.  I enjoyed this detail.  For my entrée, I chose the ‘Cheater’s Lasagna,’ and the meatballs and sauce were fresh and met my expectations.  The side of roasted vegetables I ordered may have been most impressive to me, as the flavor and variety of produce on the plate was surprising.  My palate enjoyed the pickled cabbage, whole beet, crunchy broccoli florette, and fresh black beans.  Healthy, but extraordinarily flavorful.  The milk-chocolate filled crepe anglaise was a perfect ending to the meal. As for conversation, I remember best our multi-lingual cohort immersion.  Arnold’s suggestion was that we have a continuous conversation, each of us in our different language comfort zones, to see if we could communicate without having studied the language being spoken.  As a foreign language teacher, of course I loved this.  Kevin spoke Japanese, Jack and I spoke French, Brandon spoke some Mandarin and some Cantonese, Jing spoke some Mandarin and some Taiwanese, and Arnold spoke Spanish.  It was fun to hear about their favorite television shows in their language, and even hear the translations for ‘fork’ and ‘spoon’ in each language.  Good suggestion, Arnold.  I wonder what the booth adjacent to us thought when they heard all of these foreign tongues?  
Italian soda - grapefruit.
The oddly-shaped free-form pizza.

On Thursday, I decided to return to Newport.  I knew that the students were busy with cluster parties and working on their final projects and presentations, and thus they wouldn’t miss me.  I longed to see Newport one last time before returning to the West Coast.  When I arrived at the Visitor’s Gateway Center, I took the 67 bus to Bellevue Avenue, and checked out the grounds and exterior of the Elms.  Gorgeous.  Here are some pictures:

Next, I walked on to see The Breakers, as I regretted not making it far enough in my previous trek to see it.  The interior of this house was just mind-blowing.  I learned that the Vanderbilt family, whose riches came to be from the famed railroad monopoly, lived in this extravagant castle.  The Gilded Age, in the lens of home interior, was the combining of French and Italian chateaux-style luxury with advancements in technology, and The Breakers is the epitome of this.  Thus, the textiles and furniture of this castle felt very old, yet the castle enjoyed modern technological luxuries such as built-in electricity.  What I remember most about the castle are the high platinum-plated walls, enormous baccarat-crystal chandeliers, and the luxurious prints that were unique to each room.  Many of these prints I would consider using or wearing (sparingly) even today.  Because of the ‘no pictures’ rule of The Breakers, I only have images from the balcony view of the Atlantic Ocean.  Fret not – this view is as stunning as the inside of the chateau:

Before leaving Newport, I wanted to spend some more time by the water, so I decided to enjoy a lunch-dinner at The Grill at 41 North, a seductive, high-end outdoor lounge tucked behind a hotel, port-side.  I chose a place next to the glass balcony, the late afternoon sun flooding in on my little cabana.  While waiting for my beverage, I had a gorgeous view of the port, white shiny yachts, sailboats, and houseboats looking silver in the reflection from the sun on the water.  I had saved up my food stipends for the day, so I indulged myself.  First came a half Maine lobster with pink peppercorns and green tendrils of a vegetable found on sushi rolls.  Next, was a lobster avocado tempura salad (can you tell I like lobster?) with a little frissé, and the freshest avocado imaginable, covered in a thin layer of tempura.  For dessert, I went with a citrus mousse, as tangy and light as its name. 

The lobster tempura avocado salad, decorated to look like an artistic tree.

And then came Friday – the very last day I would have in Providence.  I used this day to tie loose ends.  I paid downstairs for my laundry bill, a hotel luxury I decided to take advantage of, as no laundry cleaner was within walking distance.  (I wish you could have seen what care was taken by the Hotel Providence staff in laundering my clothing – each article tagged and pinned to a clothes’ hanger, a plastic dry-cleaning cover separating each piece from the next.)  I went to say good-bye to my new friend, Desiree, who works at Rosalina.  And finally, I spent some time catching up at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Art Museum.  I had only spent an hour there last time, and I wanted to be sure I saw everything that there was to see, including the Egyptian and Asian prints’ exhibition.  I will really miss RISD – it is so tastefully a mix of old and new art, and I appreciate how the exhibits and themes acknowledge artistry of every kind (fashion, film shorts, posters, pottery, furniture, tableaux…).  

A real mummy

A Van Gogh piece I missed from last time.
Bergdorf Design
Emanuel Ungaro design from the 60s.
House of Lanvin - worn in the 20s.

Friday evening, I packed.  I carefully took out all the garments I had hung in my closet, folding them and pressing them down into the four corners of my suitcase.  I collated all of the brochures from my tourist site visits and placed them in the front zipper of my roller.  I closed the caps on all my toiletries and zipped them closed in Ziplock gallon bags.   I was pleased with how many products I had used up, because I knew this would leave extra space and room for weight in my luggage. (Turns out, I was wrong.)  Into my packing, I heard the live jazz starting outside at Aspire restaurant.  I finished packing, and decided to try to make it to the end of the music.  I asked the bartender, Ashley, and she assured me the jazz would be playing for another hour.  I was relieved.  I didn’t want the answer to questions about what I did my last night in Providence to be, “I packed my suitcase.” There was a jazz singer with the ensemble this time, and she had a strong, rich voice that really enhanced the jovial evening mood.  I decided to order the same plate that I ordered my first night at Hotel Providence – the delicious hummus plate.  How funny it is that our lives complete circles – this was my first dinner while staying at Hotel Providence, and now my last.  I couldn’t get enough of the tastes in this appetizer – the sweet jam of roasted red peppers, combined with the creamy hummus and buttery pita is just superb. 

I slept soundly when I returned to the hotel and before I knew it, I was awake and heading up to Wayland Arch via taxi to meet the cohort with luggage.  And before I knew it, we were on a connecting flight to San Francisco.  What a voyage it has been!  It is hard to put into words how free and independent and happy this trip has made me feel.  My gratitude for this immense opportunity of chaperoning these brilliant cohort members, visiting Ivy League campuses for the first time in my life, and getting to live in a vibrant city has hopefully come through in my conversations with you all and in the pride displayed throughout my continuous blog posts and pictures.  I guess I will end with this: 

Thank you, Providence. Thank you, cherished Brown-I cohort (my dear Arnold, my circumspect Brandon, my sage Jack, my good-natured Jing, and my free-spirited Kevin).  And thank you, Ivy League Connection, for the memories.

Alana (the chaperone)

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Scott~~Although the journey had ended, we all know that this experience will be one of the best memories in our minds. I am really glad that we were together during the trip and that we enjoyed it.