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Every so often, I remind myself that many blog readers are shivering in the southern hemisphere.  But I’m mid-summer (along with the majority of our applicants), so I’ll just apologize now for neglecting those of you south of the equator, while I struggle to keep the season from slipping away as fast as it might.

This isn’t a vacation-filled summer for my family, but Paul (my husband) and I put together a local mini-vacation this weekend.  With occasional chores and errands mixed in, we started on Friday with lunch at a dim sum place we like in Chinatown.  Then off to the Fuller Craft Museum, which we’ve never been to, and were rewarded with some fun exhibitions.  Once in that corner of the Greater Boston area, it was only a short hop to Ikea, which we escaped with only modest damage to our wallets.  Back home for a farmers’ market dinner — a nice salad and some grilled bluefish, all from the Davis Square market.

An early start on Saturday, and we jumped on the 9:00 fast ferry to Provincetown, where we had a nice lunch, a lovely dinner, and lots of walking around in between.  We also parked ourselves in the shade of the garden at the Provincetown Art Museum for a while.  Very vacation-y!

Sunday started slow — alternating work in the garden with a little relaxation — and then off to a late afternoon visit to Revere Beach with my son, Josh, and his girlfriend.  We fortified ourselves with pastries from Lupita Bakery (where Lupita always gives me a look of approval when I say I take my coffee with milk but no sugar).  After a few hours of reading, people watching (many soccer games in play), and walking on the beach, we had dinner (including a durian shake) at a Cambodian restaurant that is another of our favorite Revere spots.

Back to work today — but still enjoying the mini-vacation by writing about it.  The blog will return to admissions-related topics later this week.

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When Admissions life is quiet in the summer, I turn to my home life for blog inspiration, making the bold assumption that blog readers want to know about Fletcher’s neighborhood.

And this past weekend, we packed in a lot of the activities that remind me how nice it is to live in a mid-sized metropolitan area.  In addition to miscellaneous chores on Saturday, my husband, Paul, and I went to see “The Trip” (funny!) and followed my hankering for a bibimbap to a Korean restaurant for dinner.  On Sunday, we picked strawberries (21 pounds — many already consumed) and spent a few cloudy but relaxing hours at the beach.

But it’s Friday evening’s activity that I’ll most recommend for blog readers’ June 2012 enjoyment:  the Central Square Dance Party.  Stretching from Cambridge City Hall to the YMCA that featured in Jhumpa Lahiri’s story, “The Third and Final Continent,” the party starts at 7:00, when children occupy much of the dance “floor,” and runs until 11, when it looks like any other dance party, except better because you’re in the middle of a major street.  My favorite source of tips on upcoming Boston events, Johnny, agrees that the dance party is a must-do!  There are quite a few clips of the party (both 2011 and previous years’) on Youtube.  I like this one best.  Mark it on your calendar, and I’ll see you on the dance floor next year!

 

The final entry in the blog’s tourist-guide week goes to Peter, who takes you north and south with his suggestions.

It’s no secret that this region is somewhat obsessed with rivalries — from baseball (Go Sox!) and basketball, to chowder and cannolis, in Boston it’s all about loyalty to your team (or chowder purveyor).  While Massachusetts isn’t a huge state, it does have more than its share of coastline, which has helped create a rivalry of the geographic variety — the North Shore vs. South Shore. The North Shore includes coastal communities up through Cape Ann, while the South Shore extends down in the direction of Cape Cod — with Boston proper serving as the dividing line between the two.  The debate centers on important topics such as food, beaches, schools, traffic, and weather; and, it seems, everyone has an opinion.

Living in the Somerville/Cambridge area (north of the city, but just across the river from Boston), I’ve held out on choosing a geographic favorite for almost eight years, equally enjoying my time with friends down in Scituate and relaxing on Singing Beach up the coast in Manchester-by-the-Sea (yes, that is the town’s actual name).  It is hard to remain neutral forever, and eventually one thing tipped the scales:  the classic New England clam shack.  A few years back, I began to explore the various rustic seafood establishments scattered about the coastal communities of Cape Ann, and it has quickly become a favorite summer pastime.  I’ve enjoyed “No Nonsense, No Celery” lobster rolls at the Lobster Pool, overlooking picturesque Folly Cove, and delicious fried clams at JT Farnham’s, while sitting at a picnic table beside a salt marsh.  Even those with Southern (Massachusetts) leanings will (reluctantly) admit that the North Shore wins the debate in the clam shack department — in fact, there’s even a clam shack that is shaped like a clam box (the aptly named “Clam Box”).  While I still can’t say which establishment is the best — a classic New England debate in and of itself — I’m looking forward to conducting more delicious research this summer.

Note: Fletcher is on the Medford/Somerville line, which is just north of Boston and a short drive away from fried clam heaven!

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Continuing this week’s travel guide theme, I first want to suggest you check out the places Fletcher students have been visiting, in the second annual “Where is Fletcher” video.  On dry land, or underwater, those students get around!

But more locally, let’s hear from Kristen and Liz, who provide suggestions of activities that are easily accessible from campus.

Kristen recommends:
One of my favorite Boston activities is getting out and walking.  For an American city, Boston is very walkable, and taking the city on foot is one of the best ways to get to know each neighborhood.  Among my favorite pleasant-weather walks is to start on the Charles River near MIT and the “Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker Bridge,” and then wander down Mass Ave (no one here calls it Massachusetts Avenue — those extra syllables are too pesky).  Mass Ave has a great collection of watering holes (I particularly like the Miracle of Science), scandal-ridden ice cream shops, and Indian markets.  You can feel the personality of the street change from the quiet area filled with architectural behemoths around MIT, to the salty collection of characters at Central Square, to pure Cambridge academia at Harvard Square.

Liz says:
I don’t often get out into the city, as I live a little north of Medford, so I should really be taking suggestions from my peers on things to do.  However, there is one activity I’ve done a few times that I found to be fun and a bit different:  Afternoon tea at the Taj Boston (formerly the Ritz Carlton).  I know, it sounds stuffy and boring, but I’ve had a really great time, especially with a good group of friends.  The room is lovely and it has this sort of aura from another era about it.  I do enjoy tea, and they have a nice assortment to choose from.  (No Lipton tea bags here!)  Then there is the food.  I’m not much of a sweets kinda gal, but they have many different pastries, scones, and desserts to choose from.  Best, and what I really enjoy, are all the different types of finger sandwiches!  It’s a unique way to spend an afternoon in Boston with friends.  If you do get the chance, I certainly recommend trying it at least once.

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Boston is a very compact city:  Even if you’re here on a short visit, you can access out-of-town sites.  Laurie and Roxana want to sell you on a few of their favorites:

Laurie says:
One of the best things about living in the Boston area is that there are so many places that can be reached for a quick day trip.  Among my favorites is the southern coast of Maine.  Just jump in a car with a few Fletcher friends and, in about 90 minutes, you’ll be there.  I recommend starting with a long walk on Ogunquit Beach.  The beach is beautiful and you can walk about two miles along the sand dunes or the water.  The water is very cold (even in the summer), but that doesn’t stop people from riding the waves.

After your beach visit, head to Perkins Cove, where you’ll find some great restaurants with fantastic views, and cute little shops and galleries.  In Perkins Cove, you can take a lobster boat tour.  Or skip the tour and just eat some lobster.  From Perkins Cove, pick up the Marginal Way — an amazing one-mile path along the rocky coast.  Your next stop should be the Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine.  The lighthouse is stunning and the area near the lighthouse is a great place for rock jumping.  Not far from the lighthouse is Brown’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, one of my favorite ice cream places.  (Maine Blueberry flavor is a must try.)  On your way home, you can stop in Kittery, Maine for great outlet shopping.  I hope that you decide to take this day trip — you will not be disappointed!

Roxana recommends:
While you’re a student at Fletcher, one of the things you must do is take a day trip to Salem, MA in October.  My friends and I have made it an annual tradition.  Rich with the history of Colonial America, and the site of the original Salem Witch Trials, Salem is especially fun in October for the obvious reason — witches!!  During your October visit, you can go to the Salem Witch Museum or the House of Seven Gables, take a Haunted Trolley tour, walk through the Burying Point cemetery, have your palm read by a real witch, and so much more!  There’s something different to do each time you go.  To get the full effect of Halloween without all the hustle and bustle of Halloween day itself, plan your visit for any other weekend in October.  The street vendors, the crisp fall air, and the beautiful Massachusetts foliage make a quick trip to Salem a must while you’re here at Fletcher!

 

Paul and I have English visitors staying with us this week — his aunt and uncle, Penny and John, who have never been to the U.S. before.  Paul is quite the energetic tour guide, and they’ve covered a lot of territory since arriving on Tuesday.

If you prefer to do your touring over the course of, say, two years while in graduate school (or even if your time will also be limited), you may want some suggestions of what to see.  Fortunately, my Admissions pals have volunteered to supply the blog with their ideas!  I’m going to start with Jeff, whose list happens to include Penny and John’s plan for today while Paul and I are working.  Jeff (who enthusiastically ignored my suggested word limit) writes:

How does one keep a blog entry concise when there is so much to be said about the topic?  While you are visiting or studying at Fletcher, there are many things to do on this side of the river, but you also need to take time to visit the other side (Boston).  I’m sure the ideas that immediately come to my mind are already on your radar screen, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Freedom Trail.  I love walking, and Boston is a walking city.  The trail covers many of the attractions you’ll want to see while in town, from churches to parks to graveyards to shipyards; it’s a great 2.5 mile walk around the city.

If you are more of the museum type, one of my favorites is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Aside from the great artwork, the building itself is a sight to see — custom built with a beautiful garden courtyard in the middle.

Another place I enjoy visiting with out-of-town guests is the Samuel Adams Brewery, located in Jamaica Plain. (Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood of Boston only a few T stops away from downtown.)  The brewery tour lasts about an hour, a $2 donation is suggested, and tours culminate at the pub located inside the brewery with a few free samples.  While in the area (if you like nature), a stop at the Arnold Arboretum is a must.  The Arboretum is 265 acres, open from sunrise to sunset year round, with seasonal activities, walking tours and, of course, beautifully manicured trees and flowers.

Last, I would like to give a plug to the Boston Harbor Islands, made up of 34 islands, including 35 miles of undeveloped shoreline and 1600 acres of land.  If you are in town during the spring, summer or fall, and have a free day, you can hop on a ferry to one (or more) of the islands to hike, picnic, explore, kayak, fish, or swim.  Plus, there are two national historic landmarks on the islands:  Fort Warren is located on George’s Island and Boston Light is located on Little Brewster Island.  Only a few of the islands are accessible by ferry, while some can only be reached by taking a special tour.  However you get out there, it’s a nice way to take in a different view of Boston.

One last thing:  RESTAURANTS!  There are too many favorites to mention here.  Just stop by my office when you’re visiting, and I’ll be happy to chat.  Restaurants and food are among the most frequent topics of conversation between members of the Admissions staff.

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No, this isn’t a case of Admissions staff amnesia.  Many admitted students, waitlisted applicants, and prospective applicants will pass through our neighborhood in the coming months, and you may be wondering just where, exactly, I am (or, more generally, Fletcher is).

Fletcher is on the Tufts University campus in Medford/Somerville.  Medford and Somerville are two of the small cities ringing the bigger city of Boston, and the border separating them runs right through Fletcher.  Though a lot of students live in Medford (and I have my hair cut there), I think it’s fair to say that for social activities, students are oriented toward Somerville and beyond.  Here’s how it looks on a map:

The marker is pointed at Fletcher, and you can see all the different towns that surround us.  Notice that a little map like this one can also include Logan Airport, as well as Mystic Lake (convenient for biking, swimming, etc.).  So I’m not going to argue that Fletcher sits in the center of a giant metropolitan area, but I can tell you that there’s a fantastic variety of easily accessed spots.  You want to shop for local produce at a farm, hang out at a beach, and dine downtown in a single day.  Go ahead and make your plans — it’s all doable!

When people talk about Boston, they sometimes mean the city alone, but they’re often referring to a broader area, which could include the inner-most neighbors or more.  The population of Boston proper is just under 600,000, about 20th by size in the U.S.  The population of Boston plus its nearest neighbors (including Medford and Somerville) is about a million, and “Greater Boston,” stretching out a little further but still within easy commuting distance, is about 5 million.  For a small city, we’re rich with universities, museums, theaters, restaurants, and all the trappings of urban life.  But being a small city, it’s also easy to head out of town and hike, bike, and otherwise recreate.

We’re often asked what it’s like to be a student here.  Personally, I think there’s a great balance between the opportunity to focus on student life on a leafy campus and access to those urban trappings only a short subway ride away.  The best of both worlds!

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We have Norway maples around our house that provide wonderful shade in the summer, and hours of leaf raking in the fall.  Bagging leaves was, therefore, high on the agenda for the weekend, along with cheering on Kayla’s soccer team during the final game of the season, and doling out candy to trick-or-treaters for Halloween.

But between those activities, we still managed to squeeze in a few unplanned extras.  On Saturday, Paul and I decided to check out a new restaurant in Davis Square on our way to the movies.  We had barely walked through the door when we saw friends of ours.  Once we sat down, we spied one of this year’s MacArthur grant winners, whom we recognize because he works with our former next-door-neighbor.  On our way out, we passed Tufts president Larry Bacow.  Later, as we left the movie, we bumped into friends near the theater and, having walked them to their car, waved to yet another friend as she drove by during our trek home.

These are the days when, contrary to Somerville’s municipal status, it feels like a small town — the kind of place where you run into people you know wherever you go.  I like that!  But it’s also great to take advantage of all that Boston, our larger city neighbor, has to offer.

So off we went on Sunday.  Hopped on the T and soon arrived in Chinatown for dim sum.  When we walked out of the restaurant, I had a hankering for a cannoli.  (Doesn’t everyone follow-up dim sum with Italian pastries?)  A quick walk down the Greenway and we were in the North End, Boston’s traditional Italian neighborhood.  Warmed ourselves with coffees and yummy cannoli at a busy but mellow spot.

Back on the T in time for Paul to carve a pumpkin before the youngest trick-or-treaters started ringing the bell.  And we could hardly have forgotten about Halloween, as we passed witches, zombies, skeletons, one large elf, and a wookie on a Segway, as we meandered through this area where — depending on how you crunch the numbers — as many as 20 percent of residents are students.

All in all, a perfect small-town big-city fall weekend.

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I hope it was a good weekend for everyone.  It certainly was for us:  the Medford/Somerville metro area had fantastic weather — the type we look forward to all winter as we dig through the snow.  My husband, Paul, and I kept ourselves busy:  went to the theater, puttered around our small sun-starved garden, picked up after the high school girls varsity soccer team during their sleepover with our daughter Kayla.  But the event that establishes the flavor of the neighborhood is, without a doubt, the annual Honk! Festival.

So there we stood on Massachusetts Avenue on Sunday, watching a long and unruly parade of marching bands, clowns, people on stilts, and hula hoopers, many of whom displayed a clear political leaning.  It’s a joyful parade, a celebration following Saturday’s great music in Davis Square (and ending up at the annual Oktoberfest in Harvard Square).  Be sure to put Honk! on your calendar if you’re planning to be in the area next fall!  Meanwhile, check out this video, Louder than Words, made by Tufts students in an Experimental College class last year.

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Wednesday is the day for the Davis Square farmers market — just a 10-15 minute walk from Fletcher.  I won’t carry on about how I love this particular farmers market.  (I’ve done that once already this season.)  But I wanted to share someone else’s blog, which is completely dedicated to it.  Plan your visit to Fletcher for a Wednesday, and you can be buying fruits and vegetables just a few minutes after your interview ends.

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