Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Tale of Two College Towns

I will freely admit that I love college towns. There is no much energy from both the students and the residents that a visitor can't help but get swept away by it. Thankfully, I got a chance to visit two infamous college towns - Cambridge, Massachusetts and Burlington, Vermont. Both towns are wicked awesome!

From my hotel room in Andover, Massachusetts, the drive to Burlington, Vermont is over three hours long, complete with MOOSE CROSSING, BEAR CROSSING and just plain MOOSE signs every 20-30 miles. My eyes kept glancing back and forth, making sure that a large brown animal with huge antlers would not think my car was a challenge to hit it. Thankfully, the drive was moose and bear free, and soon I saw signs for the University of Vermont surrounded by green everywhere. Thanks to one of my cousins, I was told to visit Church Street, the shopping place downtown; after parking my car and walking across one street, I discovered downtown. It seemed as though Pepperland was real after all.

Everywhere I looked, I saw musicians, hippies, Goths, freaks, tattoos, and everything else under the sun and I couldn't help but smile at the fact that I looked normal. Tea shops, bookstores, hip restaurants and even homeless people that didn't really look homeless (one asked me if I liked poetry) welcomed me with open arms smelling of sandalwood (or maybe it was my own sandalwood perfume!) and I enjoyed the embrace. I had found my people, my home away from home.

From what I could tell, Vermontians (is that right?) are very friendly, very laid back and very creative. So much talent in such a state yet it was well appreciated by me. So, I walked around, bought a book from Crow Bookshop and Phoenix Books, ate an enormous burrito with blackberry soda, enjoyed bai mu dan tea with a croissant and simply soaked in Vermont in its natural state. I even enjoyed the pier, situated at the bottom of a very steep hill, and stared in wonder at the mountains across the lake. I did not want to leave.

However, after much sighing, I decided to leave; after all, I had a hotel room in Andover that I liked!

The next day (today) took me to Cambridge after a several hour visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. All I have to say is that in order to visit the museum, one must set aside an entire day. Not kidding. When I finally left the museum and made my way into Cambridge, memories returned once more. The first time I ever visited Harvard was during an outing from classes at Andover. A group of us took the commuter rail into town and set our sights on Harvard Square. Yet, I was beyond shocked when I saw Harvard students playing hackeysack! I honestly thought that all Harvard students wore suits and tailored skirts and dresses to class, not shorts and flip flops! Today, however, was no surprise in seeing students of every race and gender walking around, dressed in whatever they wanted to wear as well as others who were unique in their own way. Once again, I had found my second home.

Newbury Comics was my first stop - CDs, DVDs, shirts, and anything else guaranteed to piss off your family is in the store. Wicked alternative! I walked through the store, trying to find some music only to find nothing, so I left and set my sights on Harvard Book Store, or as I like to call it, the bibliophile motherland. I had heard of this bookstore for years yet never thought I would be able to visit it. Well, that all changed today. I located the store and made myself known, all the while getting very friendly with the Bargain Basement! After leaving with a very modest purchase and a Frequent Buyer card, I decided to walk along the streets and just enjoy Cambridge life. Everyone was everywhere! Once again, I located cool restaurants, tea shops (DADO Tea is awesome - where I had my first Korean green tea!), and stores for everyone, plus I even walked a bit on Harvard's campus.

Cambridge is your typical college town, if one can even call it that since it is literally a stone's toss away from Boston. However, you feel as though you are in a different world just like Burlington - students and locals make their cities open and welcoming. Open minds - open ideas. Perhaps I sound a bit idealistic, but I've always felt that way about college towns. That's why I spend so much time in Oxford, Mississippi. The more I walked, the more I took in, the more I realized that I wore the wrong shoes. So, after getting lost several times in Boston, I finally said au bientot to Cambridge. Not goodbye but see you soon.

I know I will see both Cambridge and Burlington very soon. . . . . .

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