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"Boston Blog VI (Harvard)"

On Wednesday, the snow arrived. About a foot came down overnight in Boston – other places got a lot more. This was enough to disrupt various airports, which meant the people who were supposed to arrive from Virginia that day couldn’t make it, so we all had the afternoon off.

Having been a day late on the way out, I’d missed my ‘mall’ time, so this was the day to make up for it. We plumped for the Cambridgeside Galleria, mainly because it was close-ish to Legal Seafood, and right next door to MIT. We put the shopping on hold because I wanted to at least visit the campuses of MIT and Harvard, hopefully have a bit of a look around.

Actually the first excitement was finding the mall. We got into Boston itself with no problem – the problem’s arose when it turned out the map I was using didn’t particularly reflect the road layout of Boston, particularly when it came to junctions, one-way streets, and whether turns were possible or not. In fact, we got to within about 300m of the car-park, and discovered it wasn’t possible to turn left, so instead had to go over the bridge and into some horrendously complex junction that ended up sending us in the opposite direction down the wrong side of the river. It must have taken us almost 20 mins of trying to negotiate the roads before we eventually gave up and followed the signs for the Interstate that lead out of Boston that we were fairly confident would enable us to get back in again in the right place to turn into the car-park! Of course, all this was going on with a foot of snow on the roads too – fun fun fun!

Anyway, romantic that I am, I thought it would be fun to walk to Harvard. It only looked like a mile or two on the map, and we had several hours to kill before dinner. I thought “let’s stroll to Harvard, and look around, then stroll back via MIT, and then do some shopping.” This would probably have been an excellent plan in the summer, but after a heavy snowfall?? Maybe not.

The thing is, America isn’t really geared up to walking. When it snows, the snowploughs come up in force and basically shovel all the snow to the side of the road, and great velocity. And what’s at the side of the road? The sidewalk!! So we ended up struggling through dirty snow/slush/ice water. On about 3 occasions I suddenly went up to my knees in ice slush, and the constant drizzly sleet/snow/rain didn’t really improve matters. After about 20 minutes trek, I got out the map and saw we’d managed about 1/4 of the journey. Really not good!!

We decided to get a taxi for the rest of the way – except there were none to be seen!! Not a taxi in sight. We carried and walking, and after a good hour (if not longer) we arrived at the Harvard campus absolutely soaked from above and below, and freezing cold. Once again hilarity saved the day, and we were in stitches for most of the ‘walk’ – the pair of us utterly inappropriately dressed, wading through icy water and sleet to a law school that neither of us knew anything about.

Anyway, we arrived at the campus, and saw the beautiful red-brick buildings, and lots of earnest looking law students striding around. I noticed one stream of students going into a particularly impressive looking building, and so we tagged along behind them, just to see where they were going.

Turned out we were in the Memorial Hall, and had accidentally joined a senior given a campus tour to prospective students. We found out all about Harvard, and the house system, and halls of residence, meals, and so on. Very interesting. We also dripped all over the floor, and found a heater to try and defrost against. The hall itself is most impressive – here’s what the Harvard website has to say about it:

Outside the Yard, the cathedral-like Memorial Hall (1878) commemorates Harvard men who died in the Civil War while fighting for the Union. The structure features 21 stained-glass windows from the Tiffany and La Farge studios. The building contains Sanders Theatre, a popular site for concerts, lectures, and performances. On the lower level, students gather for food, entertainment, and conversation in the spacious but cozy Loker Commons.

After about 10 minutes we’d had enough, so went back outside for a very short wander around, then off to a nearby cafe for hot drink + cake. The diligent students writing essays with a cold coffee nearby were duly noted! The cafe also happened to be next a taxi-rank, which sorted us out for the journey back to the mall. I’m afraid we decided to give MIT a miss – it had got dark by this time anyway, and, let’s face it, university campuses aren’t actually that interesting to walk around.

Shopping was fun – picked up some nice clothes. Came oh so close to getting a Wii. $250.00, and they had one in stock. That would have been 125 quid given the exchange rate I got. It would have been worth buying it just to sell it as soon as I got home. However I haven’t really genned up on if there are are region coding or importing issues, so decided it was a little bit too high risk. Oh so tempted!

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