Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Square’

This weekend, my guy and I took a Sunday bike ride from his house to Harvard Square. We wandered the weekend farmers’ market, savored BLTs from our beloved Darwin’s, and checked out a new arts and vintage market (where I scored a gorgeous pair of earrings). He headed home after that, but I had one more stop to make: the brand-new location of a favorite Harvard Square institution, Brattle Square Florist.

As regular readers know, I’ve been stopping by Brattle Square since 2013, when I worked at Harvard and bought myself flowers at least once a week. Since I left the university, I’ve done my best to keep dropping in when I can, buying peonies and tulips and daffodils, iris and ranunculus and bright anemones – whatever is in season. I’ve bought amaryllis bulbs and sunflowers and multiple African violets, and Stephen, the kind-eyed owner, has tucked many an extra rose into my bouquets.

I was sad when I heard they were moving – but relieved that they found a new space right down the street, near the Ed School and now bright with flowers and houseplants. They moved in last week, and though the new space is smaller, it feels a bit like the old: exposed brick, buckets of blooms, some of the carved wooden angels from the old shop, and Stephen’s smile.

I sniffed and explored and bought a vivid bouquet: orange roses and three Coral Charm peonies, which change color as they bloom. I hugged Stephen and rode home, thrilled to see an old favorite transplanted and flourishing in a new place.

What local adventures are you having, these days?


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Once a week I go take photos for Instagram, chat to the guys, pick up a bouquet or two for my place. And soak in the lush green colorful loveliness there.

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It’s no secret I am a flower fanatic – I’ve always got a vase or two of fresh blooms around here, plus the geraniums I can usually coax to go through the winter. My Instagram feed is at least half flower photos, and one of the ways my guy and I fell in love was taking flower walks through Cambridge and Boston together.

Recently, though, I’ve been taking even more flower photos than usual: I’m running the Instagram page for my beloved florist. They’ve been without a social media person for a bit, and I had both time and inclination, so once a week, I pop in to snap some photos of the latest arrangements, and post them throughout the week.

It’s a fun creative challenge: the flowers are gorgeous, and I’m enjoying the chance to try out different angles and filters. The holiday decorations are coming in now, too, and they’re so much fun to photograph.

In a time where I’ve struggled to find community, it’s also nice to have a compelling reason to show up somewhere once a week. I always grab a bunch of flowers to take home – tulips or sunflowers or bright gerbera daisies – and Stephen will wrap up a rose or two for me. The extra bit of cash doesn’t hurt, but mostly it’s a fun excuse to stop by a place I love.

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The hardest part of quarantine, for me, has been the constant isolation. I live alone, have been working remotely since mid-March (until I was furloughed last month), and have been seeing very few people in person. (I do still get to hug my guy, and walk with a girlfriend or two once in a while. Thank goodness.)

I miss my friends the most, but I’ve also been feeling the loss of what sociologists call “weak ties”: those casual, in-person relationships with people like your barista or librarian or yoga instructor. And I’ve been missing the “third places” where those relationships often take place: communal spaces outside of home and work where people interact and enjoy each other’s company.

All that to say: the Harvard farmers’ market is back, and I am loving it.


The past few Tuesdays, my guy and I have biked across the river to Cambridge, to visit the half-dozen vendors set up on the Harvard Science Plaza. It’s a smaller group than usual, but they are cheery behind their masks, and the offerings are limited but delicious. We sanitize and keep our distance and browse the stalls with our eyes, and choose a few treats to eat on the spot or take home.

I showed up at this market all the time when I worked at Harvard, and that’s where I met Amanda, who makes fantastic tamales, salsas and chili beans. (She’s from Corpus Christi and she knows how tough it can be to find decent Mexican food in New England – plus she’s warm and friendly.) I am downright thrilled to be eating her products again, and I’ve loved seeing her in person, too.

It’s strawberry season in New England, and G and I have bought pints of them recently, plus crisp Boston lettuce and peppery Easter egg radishes. (Aren’t those colors gorgeous?) The latter, it turns out, are delicious with hummus, and I even made pesto with the greens last week. Weather permitting, we’ve sat on the benches or lawn nearby, eating strawberries till our fingers are stained red with the juice. I toss the tamales back in the freezer when I get home, but they never last long – and the strawberries and salsa both tend to disappear within 24 hours.

So many things are still strange and hard, but I am looking for joy where I can find it, these days. And fresh fruit + sunshine + time with my favorite person in a place I love = serious joy, pandemic or no pandemic.

Are you shopping farmers’ markets this summer?

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darwins mug heart table striped journal

When I thought about the shape of this freelancing summer, I knew one thing: it would still include lots of time in Cambridge.

I’ve been working on several projects for Harvard, which means I sometimes come into the Square for meetings and research. But, more simply and importantly: this is my neighborhood. I love it here in Cambridge, and whether I’m sending out resumes, writing book reviews or meeting friends, there’s no place I’d rather be than Harvard Square.

Tuesdays this summer, in particular, have fallen into a routine I’m loving.

First: a morning with my journal and laptop at Darwin’s, drinking tea, writing and answering emails. Sometimes I meet up with a friend and we co-work for a while, taking breaks to chat. Other times it’s just me: elbows on a green table, sunshine pouring through the plate-glass window at my back.

The sunset walls, the cheerful baristas, strong Earl Grey or ginger peach in a deep mug and a sweet-tart lemon scone: all of these are deeply familiar delights. I nod to a couple of other regulars, and either ease or dive into the work, depending on the day.

Around lunchtime, I close my laptop and head to the Harvard farmers’ market, where I get lunch from Amanda: homemade Texas tamales, elotes (street corn) slathered with garlicky sauce and spices, and a container of salsa roja to take home to my husband.

tamales elotes lunch

I find a shady spot, if I can, to perch and eat my lunch. The people-watching at the market is always a treat, and then I go pick up the week’s fruit from my favorite produce guys. I loved chatting with them about the World Cup earlier in the summer, but we also talk about the weather, the market or whatever comes to mind.

I run a few errands or go work at the library for a while, then frequently meet a friend in the afternoon for (iced) tea. Inevitably, I’ll run into another few folks I know (or see some of my favorite baristas), and sometimes I go by the florist to pick up a bouquet for my kitchen table.

Making the rounds, seeing my people, walking the familiar streets I love: this is my place. And on Tuesdays, especially, I get to glory in it.

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longfellow garden radcliffe yard

I have worked in Harvard Square for almost a year now, and in that time I have traversed what feels like every inch of it, most of those inches more than once. I spend most of my lunch breaks and other scattered pockets of time tramping down streets whose historic names are now familiar: Brattle, Dunster, Holyoke, Plympton. Oxford, JFK, Mount Auburn, Bow (which runs into Arrow, a tiny detail of a joke that always makes me smile). I am constantly filling in my mental map of the area with new detail. I had visited Harvard Square often before I took a job here, but now this is my neighborhood.

Sometimes I walk purposefully, like the local I am now, a denizen of this bustling metropolis filled with students and university employees and tourists. I go to the bank and the post office, head to the farmers’ market in warm weather, shop at the Harvard Book Store or the Curious George Store for birthday gifts or books. Sometimes I have errands to run, and I head out into the bitter cold on a mission, often rewarding myself with half an hour in a cafe and a cup of tea.

tealuxe interior cambridge ma

But sometimes I pull my camera out and gawk like any tourist. I snap photo after photo of the hidden and public angles of Harvard Square, such as snow-topped roofs on red brick buildings, some of them older than the state I call home.

snow harvard yard gate

The white spire of Memorial Church, tipped with a flying gold banner, beautiful against a sky of blue or gray or sunset pink.

memorial church harvard yard blue sky

Fresh tulips outside a florist’s shop, a musician busking in Brattle Square.

tulips harvard square

The sunken garden on Appian Way, adjacent to my building, and the larger expanse of Harvard Yard, the beating green heart of Harvard College.

harvard yard cambridge ma

I am learning to name the spires of Harvard as I learned to name the spires of Oxford: instead of Christ Church, Magdalen, Corpus Christi and St Aldates, there are Eliot, Adams, Dunster, Memorial Church.

The tallest one is also my favorite: Lowell House, bright blue and gold reaching into the endless sky. I love it because of the story of the Russian bells that fill its tower, and because I have actually been up inside it: my professor friend Ryan took me on a tour long ago.

lowell house tower

I walk around Cambridge the way I used to walk around Oxford: sometimes on an errand, but chiefly for the sheer pleasure of ambling, watching, enjoying, tasting, being.  It’s not always a postcard scene or a calendar photo. But it is bustling and vibrant, endlessly changing, endlessly fascinating. It’s beautiful and maddening and wonderfully interesting. And it’s mine.

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It’s still Autumn Colors Week over at Poppytalk, and today’s color is orange. It’s showing up all over Harvard Square this fall, starting in Harvard Yard:

Oct 2013 001

These chairs look so companionable.

chairs harvard yard cambridge ma autumn leaves

There’s also orange at the farmers’ market:

pumpkins farmers market

And in Radcliffe Yard:

tree longfellow hall harvard autumn cambridge ma

leaves autumn trees radcliffe yard harvard

At the coffee shop:

tealuxe emily deep valley maud hart lovelace

And on Cambridge Common:

trees cambridge common autumn cambridge ma

Where is orange showing up for you this fall?

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tea journal sunglasses

A quiet solo hour at Tealuxe. Catching up on journaling, answering a letter from my pen pal, and sipping Lady Londonderry tea (a lovely, light black tea with strawberry and lemon).

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I’m clearly in a Cambridge phase right now, as evidenced by my recent adventures there: brunch in Central Square and a wonderful book event at Porter Square Books. And thanks to a stellar event lineup at the Harvard Book Store, I’ve found myself in Harvard Square several times lately.

I nearly always arrive hungry, with a bit of time to kill between my arrival and the book event. So I wind my way down Brattle Street and end up at Crema Cafe for a snack and a hot drink.

crema cafe cambridge ma hot chocolate

A heart in my hot chocolate

It’s often crowded at the end of the workday, but if you can snag a table, it’s a cozy atmosphere with funky music, yummy soups and quiche, and whimsical designs in the foam on top of your cocoa (or latte).

crema cafe cambridge ma soup hot chocolate

There’s nothing I love more than a neighborhood coffee shop where I can curl up, sip something delicious, and read or write or people-watch as I please. (Or, as on a recent afternoon, exchange chitchat with the barista about Les Miserables after he calls out an order for “Cosette.”)

crema cafe tomato soup iced tea cambridge ma

Where do you go for a yummy, light dinner and a warm, comforting (or cool, refreshing) drink?

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