Thursday, August 1, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: Getting around

I've been pondering what I should post about next now that the hubby and me are reasonably settled, but I haven't come up with any really interesting, knock your socks off ideas yet. I mean, it's been two weeks and two days (as of my beginning to write this). We still don't know many people in town and I'm still working from home (cross your fingers for me), but I think we're starting to get our bearings and figure things out.

Let me tell you a little about the Boston area. When the hubby and I decided we were going to move, we announced it as: "We're moving to Boston." That isn't exactly right. We're living in the greater Boston area, but the actual city we reside in is Somerville. MIT, were the hubby is conducting his post-doc is in Cambridge, which is about a fifteen minute bike ride from our apartment. See, Boston is actually made up of many smaller cities (like Toronto, I suppose) and they all seem to have their own mayors, parking rights, etc. Our current running route takes us out of Somerville and into Medford, and if we crossed the Charles River we'd end up in Boston.

Dotted throughout these cities are different squares where there's a hub of restaurants (mainly), shops and other businesses. We live closest to Union Square, but Davis Square is straight down the road from us, and Porter (where we go for our aerials classes) is about ten minutes by bike. To make navigating the cities fun, it would seem that streets converge in these squares at odd angles and there doesn't seem to be a parallel street in the area. Well, lots of the shorter streets that only run a block are two are often parallel to the next one over, but main streets like Harvard, Mass Ave, Cambridge, etc., are more shaped the metaphoric dog's hind leg. Oh, and streets change names even when they don't change direction--I think there's at least three Hancock Streets.

I would explain how one crosses the street here, but I don't think we've figured out any rules to go by except this: if the street is clear and you're not in danger of getting run over, go for it.

Thank fully there are bike lanes everywhere, which makes biking fairly stress free, and most drivers seem courteous to cyclists. After biking in Edmonton for seven years, the Boston area is a breeze. Plus, if you're just visiting the city you can rent a HUBway bike. The bikes themselves are kind of clunky, and it's impossible to bike very fast on them, but they came in handy while we were waiting for our belongings to arrive. Over all, I think our car is going to be doing a lot of sitting in our apartment parking spot.

Which brings me to my next point, parking. We're lucky to have off-street parking at our apartment. We're even more lucky that we don't have to pay an arm and a leg for our spot. The way it seems to work in the Boston area is this: you purchase a parking pass from the city you live in (it's actually pretty cheep, like thirty dollars/year) and then you can park where ever you like in your city (as long as it's legal of course, and it's not a metered spot). Sundays you can park wherever you like. The catch is you have to find a parking spot, which isn't always so easy. Another benefit to having a Smart car--it fits into spots no one else can use.

I think I'll leave it at that for now. I ought to post some pictures, which would mean I need to take some. Maybe if I have time over the next couple of days I'll bike around with the camera and take some shots.



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