First of all, just wow. I visited Cambridge, MA for the first time ever to begin moving into my new apartment up there, in preparation for my predoctoral fellowship with the CfA. I begin early January 2020! I also visited so I could take it all in and start visualizing myself living here.
I was really nervous about visiting because it’s a city. I’ve always hated cities. I denied this for a long time but after moving to the Appalachia to pursue physics in undergrad, I came to terms with it. I hated Richmond when I visited for college tours. And that was apparently that. My love for the mountains and wide open spaces grew as I moved further south to continue my education in Clemson, South Carolina. By the time got here, I had done away with thinking about living in the city. I started picturing myself buying a house in South Carolina – far from civilization, no neighbors, no homeowner’s association; just rolling hills and wildlife. That’s what I wanted (and I still do!). But for now, we are taking a little detour.
Ugh ok. So I am an amateur photographer (for fun). This day, I COULD NOT get my camera to focus. This was the best I could get. Believe me though: with the moon out, the sparkling buildings towering over the park, and the colorful fall leaves, it was a gorgeous evening in downtown Boston.
And, oh man, was I in for a pleasant awakening. Maybe I still hate cities. I don’t know truthfully. But I do think I will love Cambridge. Where we live is a 10 minute bus ride to my work and a 10 minute bus ride to Harvard Square and from there, you can go anywhere! We have a grocery store just around the corner from our house. And, ironically, where we live in Cambridge is a lot quieter than where we live in Clemson. This is because in our Clemson house, the main road is directly behind us. We hear that traffic all day and all night. Only at about 3am does it cease momentarily for an eerie calmness. In Cambridge, I felt the same eerie calmness our first night in the apartment and then it hit me – it’s quieter here. Of course, that is some good luck. Oh also, we have a small backyard! That’s more than most city residents can say.
We have a fresh pond, literally called Fresh Pond, that is walking distance from our house, featuring a ~2 mile loop around the pond with both a dog beach and dog park so yeah – Ruca (the beagle) will LOVE it here. He also loves snow! Mars and Bella, the cats, on the other hand, have never even see snow. So that’ll be interesting to see.
And everyone is right about Cambridge. Even if you want a car, you simply won’t need one. Additionally, everyone is also right about parking: it’s a frikkin nightmare. I will have to become a MA resident in order to park my car on most any streets which should cost a few hundred dollars. Parking in general in Cambridge can be wildly expensive as well. However, my street is convenient. A $25 annual fee for a resident parking permit is required to be able to park pretty much anywhere in Cambridge and, luckily, my street is more residential and so there is plenty of parking. Anyway, I didn’t want my blog to focus on parking in Cambridge so, moving on.
Another somewhat out-of-focus shot from the local park right off the Park redline T stop in Boston.
So I hate most cities. What makes Cambridge any different? First, there are two things I noticed right off the bat:
1. It’s clean
2. People are nice
Maybe you have had similar experiences in other cities, and that’s great! I’m happy for you and I truly hope you love where you are located now. But personally when I visited places like San Francisco, Richmond, Anchorage, Atlanta, etc., I couldn’t help but notice how nasty the city and the people can be.
To me, people in the city look depressed. They look down and walk fast, never noticing the world around them. Trash is littered on every street curb and cluttered on every street corner. The traffic is, like, insane. No matter what time of day. People will honk when you slow down to take a turn! Like, they legitimately get annoyed in the city when you inconvenience them for you to safely try to make a turn. Are you guys aware it’s just part of being a responsible vehicle operator? I don’t get that, lol.
In Cambridge, I will admit, it doesn’t seem like a “normal” city. It’s compact and has skyscapers and all but it doesn’t quite have the living-on-top-of-each-other feel. It still feels open. Of course, it could be just me.
Though Cambridge still feels pretty city. Public transportation is well-developed and reliable. It’s expensive to live here. Housing is at least triple the cost what it is in the south and groceries, too. For comparison, Noah and I pay $725 to rent a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom HOME with a nice front and backyard and a shed. In Cambridge, I pay nearly $1,000 per month for a SINGLE bedroom in a four bedroom apartment, shared with three other roommates.
Other things I really enjoyed about Cambridge:
THEY CHARGE FOR PLASTIC BAGS (WHICH IS GREAT)
Didn’t see a single confederate flag while visiting! (also great)
DOG FRIENDLY. People are not obsessed with rules on animals. People nonchalantly brought their non-service animals into food establishments regularly. I. Love. That. Ruca would hate it though if I tried to make him socialize like that but, I love that.
Public transportation is awesome
Beautiful city in the fall (Boston, too!)
They use the mail slots on the doors still like in Harry Potter. They don’t do mailboxes on our street. I know this might still be a standard in other places but it’s not where I come from!
Other things I did not so much care for in Cambridge:
Housing expense. Note: It is very hard finding pet friendly AND affordable housing. Not impossible though (cause I, afterall, found a good place satisfying both).
Car owner expenses. Yes, I am bringing my car so I can still do weekend trips out of town if I’d like and(or) for emergencies. I do not anticipate to need it regularly.
And, that’s really it for me: Juggling finances in the city. For me, that is going to be the biggest challenge. But as for the rest, I am SO excited!
I can see both of our cats getting a kick out of our mail slot.