Future and Past Collide in Cambridge

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer 6/12/2012

Any parent who has taken their child on a college visit to their alma mater has probably said to themselves, “What happened to the years? I don’t feel any older,” followed by “How can my baby be going to college?” We were no exception.

We anchored our stay in Cambridge, Mass., at the Charles Hotel, right next to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. When I was getting my degree next door in the late 80s, the hotel was brand new. You can’t tell its age, though, from the stylish lobby or from our junior suite. Both were fresh, up-to-date and comfortable. The junior suite was spacious, something critical when touring with teenagers. Some of the guest rooms offer a view of the Charles River, but our room had a city view. The hotel uses its early American quilt collection both as art and in reproductions on the beds. Staying at the hotel also gave us privileges at the Wellbridge Fitness Club, complete with a seriously great indoor pool. We ate at two of the hotel’s restaurants, Henrietta’s Table and the Rialto. Breakfast at Henrietta’s Table was a good place to meet old school chums and we enjoyed an interesting menu.

James Beard award-winning chef and owner Jody Adams was on hand when we ate at Rialto. As charming as her restaurant, the chef blends the freshest of local ingredients with regional Italian culinary traditions. The Rialto bar menu features a roasted duck sandwich, a tasty snack after a day of college touring.

Right across the street and at the other end of the foodie spectrum was Charlie’s Kitchen, a hamburger joint and dive bar, which has been serving beer and burgers for more than 40 years to local college students. I remembered the burgers as wonderful and the outside beer garden as a great place to let off steam after studying.

Two blocks away was Harvard Square, the heart of Cambridge. We strolled through the historic square where George Washington took command of the Continental Army. We were just looking for a latte but we settled for hot chocolate at Burdick’s Chocolates on Brattle Street. Decadent described this steamy beverage. The sweet rich chocolate gave us the energy to visit some of the town’s many shopping stops. Of course, we had to stop at The COOP (serving Harvard students and the community since 1882) for some appropriate Harvard trinkets. What started as a small bookstore has grown into one of the largest college bookstores in the country.

And if you can’t find what you want in Cambridge, Boston is just a few miles away. Using the subway system, we zipped into the heart of Boston in less than an hour.

With so much to see in historic Boston and very little time, we settled for a 90-minute land and water tour with the Duck, a corny but funny narrated tour on an authentic World War II amphibious landing vehicle, renovated for sightseeing. The Duck goes into the Charles River for 20 minutes. We learned lots about Boston from both land and river, but one tip: get to your tour early so you can take a seat at the back of the vehicle. We arrived late and had to sit at the front, where visibility outside the vehicle is limited.

Hard to tell where my daughter will attend college, but I enjoyed my trip down memory lane in Cambridge.