I’ve been posting regularly for weeks about what’s going on in and outside of NYC regarding COVID-related ups and downs, but after 3 months sheltering in place I feel it’s time for me peek above these fences and see for myself.
My dreams (already crazy & turbulent because of a lockdown…that’s a widespread thing apparently!) have also become even more vivid as of late, taking me back yearning to cross unknown deserts again.
So with nearly everyone I know in NYC already traveling, no ER shifts scheduled for the week, and a COVID-resistant cross country road-trip planned for this August, I’m compelled to take my life of monsooning into pandemic trial mode and research how domestic trips may remain safe and as responsible as possible, without negatively affecting other communities (as our previous monsoons have always been).
Because if our next wave happens to be now or our annual flu season mid-October, I want to make sure I’ve fully recharged by then and made the most out of our reprieve in NYC (…but you better stay <1% positive for COVID when I return!)…that is, before the inevitable happens.
So I head northeast this week outside the 50-mile radius of a bubble I’ve been holed up in for far too long, and I look forward to what dreams may come. I look forward to never letting my dreams be dreams.
This Monday at 10am, we first made a quick stop in Elmhurst, Queens to check in on my grandmother: This is what a COVID survivor looks like.
At 11:30am we then drove for about an hour and half north from Queens into Connecticut, which currently is less than 2% positive for COVID and one of the only 2-3 states in the country at the time of posting with continually decreasing rates of infection. Didn’t feel too unsafe leaving NYC.
Whenever I visit Connecticut, I always make a quick pit stop at my favorite Szechuan joint, Lao Sze Chuan in Milford.
If you’re ever there, make sure you order my personal favorite, the Chef’s Special Fried Chili Chicken:
And if you’re a vegetarian, mix in some rice with their Ma Po Tofu:
New Haven, CT
After half an hour in Milford, we then drove another 20 minutes northeast towards New Haven, where we stopped by at Frank Pepe PIzzeria, which was profiled on the first episode of David Chang’s Netflix show “Ugly Delicious.”
I realize that pizza has become a running theme when we also ate the “#1 best pizza in the world” at Savoy (also profiled in the same episode on “Ugly Delicious”) 2 summers ago in Tokyo.
And just as Brooklyn boasts its own unique style of pizza, so does New Haven: Compared to NYC, a “plain” New Haven pizza, or a “tomato pie,” is described to have a doughier, slightly thicker crust with oregano, tomato sauce, and grated pecorino romano cheese.
But Frank Pepe didn’t just invent New Haven pizza, it also became legendary for its white clam pizza:
Totally full at this point, we walked off our double lunch at the serene campus grounds of Yale University.
As the campus is now completely devoid of life because of COVID cancelling all summer classes, we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. There was not a single other soul here.
One of my favorite stories here when I was visiting colleges was that its architects reportedly poured acid down the walls of its buildings to make it look older and thus compete with the buildings at Harvard.
See if you can find the Women’s Table sculpture, conceived by architect Maya Lin (who also designed the Vietnam War Memorial in DC). Each number corresponds to the number of women enrolled at Yale University every year.
After a 30 minute stroll, we then took our final 2 hour drive of the day into Rhode Island, currently also with <2% positive rate for COVID-19 and one of two other states in the country with continually declining rates.
Once in Providence, we quickly checked into our first digs at affordable and yet boutique The Dean Hotel.
What do I think about hotel rooms in the era of COVID? Pick the right one and they’re by and large safer as they’re expected to be sanitized more often and thoroughly than private homes, especially in the era of COVID. After all, nobody wants that negative Yelp review and hardly anyone has been traveling anyway the past 3 months!
For me and my personal risk tolerance, they’re also way safer than any of the ERs I’ve been working in the past 3 months when I had a lack of PPE…
After a half an hour freshening up, we rendezvous’ed with my friends Lei and Maria (both of whom came on my monsoon to The Balkans 3 summers ago) who just so happened to be in Rhode Island the same days we were!
We first walked 10 minutes west to Federal Hill with an al fresco dinner at Il Massimo.
After dinner, we walked along Canal Walk by the water.
Crossing over to the east side of Providence, we gazed up at the hills that led to Brown University‘s campus.
We decided to stick to the water instead, walking south while taking in the magic of Providence’s skyline at night.
We walked all the way south to the water before reaching Plant City (where we returned the next night for dinner with my partner’s own high school friend Victoria!), a cutting edge plant-based (vegan) food hall/emporium.
I got the Pizzaiola, made with roasted cauliflower, tomato, and pepperoncini:
…and the Cacio E Pepe, made with almond parmesan with black pepper cashew cream.
From Plant City you can loop around along the new 28 million dollar Providence City Bridge Road:
“Is it always this empty? Or is it COVID?”
“It’s always this empty.”
Our night tour ended at the Providence Performing Arts Center, a famed 1920s theater that still hosts (at least until COVID) Broadway shows, plays, concerts, musicals & other performances.
Curious thing, there are bunny rabbits EVERYWHERE here:
The next morning we got coffee at Bolt Coffee next to our hotel and enjoyed more of charming Downtown Providence by day:
Newport, Rhode Island
After having our fill of Providence, we drove south 45 minutes to Newport, Rhode Island:
Meeting up with Maria, we went on the famous Cliff Walk and admired the majesty of the American Gilded Age with its jaw-dropping “summer cottages” facing the sea.
My favorites begin with Ochre Court, part of the Salve Regina University campus (where one of our monsooners from Egypt and co-worker at Mount Sinai Brooklyn, Grace Kelly, attended!)
The Young Building is next to Ochre Court, also part of the Salve Regina University campus.
The grandest of them all would be The Breakers, which once belonged to The Vanderbilts. I remember visiting 8 years ago on the way back after attending Lei and Maria’s wedding in Providence.
After nearly an hour walking along the cliffs, we quickly peeked at the gentrified shops in Newtown and grabbed a legendary lemon slush at Del’s:
Couldn’t help this one:
With a deluge approaching, we got back into our cars and drove past Easton Beach towards Bristol, aka, the “most patriotic town in America” for being home to the the oldest parade in America (their July 4th’s).
And did it rain by the time we reached Bristol 30 minutes later.
We took shelter with a late lunch at Thames Waterside Bar & Grill before returning to Providence and grabbing our aforementioned dinner at Plant City with Victoria.
On our third day, we checked out and met with Victoria for breakfast at the legendary Seven Star Bakery (especially known for its almond croissants) and walked around the area before pondering the equally legendary ice cream at 3 Sisters.
As it began to pour again, we quickly said our goodbyes and drove back downtown to finish up our last bit of sightseeing in the city. Luckily the skies began to clear over the Rhode Island State House:
Then as the sun returned, we ordered some of my favorite falafel at East Side Pockets for lunch before strolling along the empty Brown University campus on the east side of Providence.
If you venture a little westwards, you can get views over downtown Providence from Prospect Terrace:
With Rhode Island in the books, we now head up to my first time in Maine!
- At time of posting in Providence, Rhode Island, it was 20 °C - Humidity: 90% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: thunderstorms