The day started early--we had to get the place cleaned up before Grandma arrived, and then I took L out to do the grocery shopping. I tend to forget that the one thing you cannot readily do with a four-year-old in tow is hurry. She wanted to see the lobsters, and look at the toys, and dawdle along poking at the dwindling snowbanks on the way home while I tried to cajole her into moving a bit faster, before my arms broke carrying all the groceries.
Grandma had arrived in our absence, bearing new clothes, books, and cookies as per her usual awesome self. We all had some lunch, and then D and I headed out to the highway. It felt incredibly weird to have no one in the back seat as we drove down to RI. Not one single request to listen to the Muppet CD, either. Once in Providence we found a parking garage without too much trouble and went out to take our bearings.
The first stop was Cellar Stories, where I bought a copy of Toujours Provence. From there we made our way to the riverfront park, where we were the only people in evidence.
It was a bright, slightly chilly day. The park is nice, with public art of varying comprehensibility, such as this blue figure in the water.
It also includes the Irish Famine monument, and on the other side the war memorials. I thought that the contrast between the World War I (background) and Korean War (foreground) monuments was quite striking.
We were suitably impressed by the high-water marker from the '38 hurricane, and then continued on our way. We had no real plan for the day, so we spent the next few hours just wandering. Saw the Brown campus and environs, slightly more lively than the downtown had been, visited their museum, poked along streets of old houses where if you squinted just right you might forget what century it was, stopped for a rest and a browse in the Athenaeum, and around 5 started thinking about dinner.
We had a couple of recommendations, but hadn't made any real plans, which given that it was Valentine's Day, might have been considered pretty foolish. We tried one of the two places we had heard of, found they were booked. Tried another one around the corner, which we had spotted in our wandering. Looked at the hostess' red velvet evening dress, looked at our jeans and sneakers, looked at each other and shrugged; the worst they could say was, "We don't serve ruffians," right? As it happened, they were booked solid, too. We headed back down the street, trying to decide whether we should head back toward where we had parked, and heard someone behind us calling.
It was the maitre d' from the second restaurant, following us down the street to let us know that there had been a cancellation just now, and he could seat us. Once we absorbed that he was actually talking to us, we nodded and followed him back to the restaurant, which was Mills Tavern. I can't say I think much of their Web site design, but dinner was wonderful, the service friendly and attentive without being overbearing (our waitress' name was Michelle, I think), and the bill not too excruciating for a special occasion. They did seat us off in a small side room, for which I certainly didn't blame them (and it was nice and warm) given our underdressed state, and we were far from neglected there.
We went the whole nine yards; D had oysters to start, I stuck with a seasonal salad, and then we went on to rack of lamb for him and braised short ribs for me. Mine had these tiny little roasted beets and onions along with it, and the beef was melting. I could have licked the plate. We split a chocolate mousse for dessert, which was good enough that the only words we spoke were the terse communications required to divvy up the liqueur-soaked raspberries. I think I had a Chilean malbec with mine; forget what he was drinking.
In a satiated haze, we walked back to the car and headed north toward Massachusetts. We arrived to find that everyone involved had a wonderful day, though the kids were a trifle wound up and disinclined to go to bed. Grandma stayed the night, and in the morning we all had pancakes before she headed home.
It was a fantastic day.