Day 13 – Friday October 9th

A late start today, our first stop is Yale University….. the famous institution attracts so many tourists that it pays its students to conduct hour long tours… being run by students however, they don’t start until 10:30am!!
These tours start in the visitors centre with the showing of an excellent student produced film… I won’t link it here in case it breaks the rules, but search YouTube for “That’s why I chose Yale” and watch the first video – it’s well worth the time.

After the video, the student guide takes you on a walk around the campus, imparting knowledge of both Yale the University as well as Yale the student’s home and life…
The campus is just beautiful, although the University itself has around 200 buildings in New Haven, the tour sticks to the original central area.
Sadly we don’t get to inside any of the lecture halls or residential colleges (like we did in Madison a few years ago) but we do get taken into the library.

This building is interesting in that the original architect wanted to design a church for the University but they told him that as they weren’t really a religious institution they didn’t want a church but did need a library, what they got is a church with books!

Envy is an ugly emotion but I leave the tour more than a little green…. The facilities on offer here and the quality of an Ivy League education is something that I wonder whether those who matriculate here will only truly appreciate in the years to come.

When I was researching the next stop on this trip I was advised to call ahead as foreigners are not always admitted… accordingly a couple of days ago, I called and after e-mailing passport details for my Mum and myself I received confirmation that we would be admitted and given a personal tour.

Our destination….?

The United States Coastguard Academy at New London, CT

I wasn’t kidding about foreigners being admitted… when I called them on the phone I was told that “As Brits you should be OK, you should have Grandfather rights because we haven’t been at war with you for a while!”

The security on this academy is impressive… after having our passports inspected and copied at the guardhouse we’re directed to the museum building where the curator herself takes us around, explaining the history of the Coasties as well as their current role.
Unfortunately there is no tour or access to the actual academy (which is what I really hoped to see) but the museum is interesting enough.

Next up is a drive to Rhode Island…. This takes in some stunning bridges, sadly no way of photographing them though and the lateness of our start today means that we’re chasing our tails a little so it’s straight to the John Brown house as it’s already 3pm and they close at 4.

As the first mansion in Providence, when it was built in 1786 this house was incredibly opulent, subsequent remodeling in 1901 added luxuries such as a walk in shower directly off the master bedroom at a time when most didn’t even have indoor plumbing. The audio tour is interesting and touches on a lot of small facts like this both about the house and about John Brown himself (a slave trader and patron of eponymously named Brown University) it’s an interesting way to pass an hour.

Culminating in the famous Washington Wallpaper room… this hand stenciled wallpaper is a one of a kind and as the stencils wore out whilst making it is classified as irreplaceable….. George Washington was a visitor here, taking tea in this room with John Brown…. If walls could talk!

A quick dash across a rapidly darkening Providence brings us to the Rhode Island State House… we were actually here in 2008 but late into the evening so were unable to go inside.

No such problems today, parking is easy just opposite the entrance and we brave the rain shower to run inside for a look at another Capitol (I don’t know how many we’ve seen now but my “Capitol Collection” book seems to have a large number of stamps in it!

The NeoClassical design of the building’s exterior, complete with the 3rd largest self-supporting marble dome in the World, gives way to a thoroughly modern interior, with probably the most technologically advanced House and Senate chambers that we’ve seen.

The State Library is housed here as well, with a fantastic atmosphere and a really helful docent who, even though he’s closing up for Columbus Day weekend is only too happy to impart some knowledge.

Our final activity today is probably the stupidest thing we’ve ever done….. in all honesty I suspect Mum would have been quite happy to forget it, but I was determined and bless her, she’s game for a challenge too.

Whilst in the State House the weather has really closed in and it’s absolutely lashing with rain… a small issue since we have a 2 mile architectural walk around the city to do… ah well, we’ve got jackets on!

This walk is actually fascinating (you can find the details on the ‘Net, just search for Providence Trail) and it passes such gems as the first First Baptist Church, whose steeple has stood, unaffected by nature, weather or time since 1778.

We get back to the car just as the rain gets even stronger and after a few wrong turns find a back way into the shopping mall car park in order to get dinner before heading to tonight’s hotel in Niantic.

Disaster when we get there though… somehow it seems I never actually booked this hotel, I have no idea how that happened, but either way they have no rooms for us and are full… memories of Bismarck a few years ago come flooding back but luckily another motel a few miles away has rooms so off we go.

A good day.