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Cambridge Used Books

Cost: $1.50 – $50,000.

The cost explained: The low end of this cheap used bookstore tour is to cover the cost of riding the T. The high end is if you happen to drop into James & Devon Gray Booksellers and decide to buy that two volume set by Saint Bonaventure (see below). Seriously, you can have a great time walking around a part of Cambridge that surrounds Harvard Square just looking into used bookstores and not buy a book. You will perhaps need to eat somewhere but there are lots of places to eat in and around Harvard Square. Yet you can eat frugal or fancy, depending on how cheap you want to keep your walking shopping tour.

The Outing: If you are staying somewhere in Boston and have ready access to the T, hop on the red line and take a trip to Harvard Square. There is plenty to see and do here. Some of the nicest outings are simply strolling around to see the many sites that are within a few minutes of the exit from the subway.

One thing that book aficionados might like to do here is to walk from bookstore to bookstore. Even if you are hooked on your ebook reader, you can still have a lot of fun going to see the stacks of quaint books filling those antiquated bricks-and-mortar shops. While there are plenty of stores that feature new books you can also peruse the used book stores too. This is, to me, the real book shopping adventure in Cambridge. Most shops have one or more specialties, and these tastes run the gamut from cheap paperbacks to rare treasures. There is no doubt the used book trade hear is augmented by the concentration of institutions of higher learning that Cambridge is famous for, including Harvard University. Let’s run through a quick overview of a few interesting used book purveyors:

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
Harvard Book Store is open every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This name is a little confusing as there is the Harvard Bookstore and then there are the Harvard University Bookstores, called The COOP, that are littered about Harvard Square. In the place we want to visit to find used books, there is an upstairs and downstairs. The down-the-stairs end of things is where you can find the used books. The store has a lot of used paperbacks. If you are looking for a book by a popular author or any recent bestseller, you will likely find a copy here.

James & Devon Gray Booksellers
12 Arrow St., Cambridge
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Need a copy of the 1495 thriller “Egregium opus subtilitate et deuoto exercitio precellens paruoru[m] opusculoru[m]. doctoris seraphici sancti Bonauenture. Prima pars. ” and “Egregium opus subtilitate et deuoto exercitio precellens paruoru[m] opusculoru[m] doctoris seraphici sancti Bon. ” by Saint Bonaventure? (Of course you do know the date makes these volume four, right?). No problem. Gray Bookseller’s has a copy on hand and it is only $50,000.

One section of their website begins with this: We are lovers of history and printing. We search the world for early printed books. Later in this same passage you learn: Because our speciality limits us to books from before 1700 in all fields, everything you will find at our shop is at least 300 years old. That’s right, all their books are date from before the 1700’s. How cool is that? Even nicer is the fact that they have a store and are happy to have folks come in and look around.

This should get you started. There are others listed here on the map that you can get from the link that is soon coming your way. You should be aware that some have closed their doors. The book business has gotten very tough. Here is a workable but not true to scale, printable PDF map showing the location of the local used bookstores.


Boston Harbor, Harbor Island’s Birding

On Saturday January 16, 2010 there will be a cruise that will travel to the outer Harbor Islands, Hingham Bay and the Weir River estuary.  The trip is a partnership between the National Park Service, the manager of many of the Harbor Islands, and Boston’s Best Cruises cruise line. Both Park Service personnel and a number of experienced birders will be leading the tour. The cost is $14 for a ticket to board the cruise ship. Reservations are encouraged and the number of tickets is limited.

The trip will be taken aboard the Voyager III and offers enclosed heated areas. There is also open deck space, which is better suited to the best bird viewing opportunities.

The Cruise departs from the Harbor Express Terminal (703 Washington St.) in Quincy or Long Wharf North (near the Long Wharf Marriott and Christopher Columbus Park). Boat departures from Quincy & Boston on the following schedule:

Depart Quincy at 10:15 AM
Depart Boston 11:00 AM
Return to Boston: 2:00 PM
Return to Quincy 2:30 PM

Please plan to arrive 20-30 minutes before departure time to allow time for boarding. Reservations are strongly suggested.

Please visit the Park Service website at: http://www.bostonislands.org/events_search.asp for more information.

Salem, MA

The Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum

The famous, or perhaps infamous, Salem is one small town that is know both far and wide. The 1600’s Salem witch trials and the notoriety those events still garner today means that the town features and attracts a lot of, shall we say, interesting people. There are places like the Witch Museum, the Salem Witch Trails Memorial, the Burying Ground Cemetery and a lot of other shops and associated witch, witchcraft and occult related stuff/places.

Salem also has other interesting places to see and visit. Many of these other entities bemoan the witch related crowds and merchants but all kinds of people come to town for all kinds of reasons.

The Peabody Essex Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country. The House of Seven Gables is found in town. This mansion inspired the novel of the same name. The author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, lived in a home that was moved and now resides right next to the mansion. Close by is the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. There you will find a sailing ship tied up at a dock and a small National Park Service building that holds maritime information.

Boston Common

The beginning of the Freedom Trail is the Common. It is here that the British Troops in the Boston area were camped during the Revolutionary War. It also happens to be the oldest park in the United States. It has seen time as a place for cattle to graze, was the location of public hangings, and has been the site of many public speeches and celebrations.


The park is bordered by Tremont, Beacon, Charles, Park and Boylston Streets.

MBTA Access:

Park Street Station

More about the Common

Almost 50 acres in size, the park today is part of the Emerald Necklace, which is a system of interconnected parks that are strung throughout the city.

Today, Boston Common is the anchor for the Emerald Necklace, a system of connected parks that winds through many of Boston’s neighborhoods.

The park has ballfields, a tot lot and one of our favorites – the Frog Pond. The pond has a spray fountain where children can swim and in the winter it serves as an ice skating rink.

Sail Boston

July is the time for the sailing ships celebration in Boston Harbor. Numerous boats from around the world come into town, tie up at a variety of locations and open their ships up for public tours.

Here is a good place to get the details on this year’s event: Sail Boston.

The Jersey Shore?

Most people that travel far from home would not think about visiting New Jersey for a beach based vacation. Yet there are a lot of people that live in New Jersey, New York City and Philadelphia that love what locals call “the Jersey shore.” Convenience plays a part in why these visitors flock there – all of the locations I mentioned are within a few hours’ drive of the coast – but the beaches themselves are also pretty nice. Nice white sand, wide beaches and seaside communities that cater to the summer tourist crowd.

Each of the seaside communities in New Jersey has its own unique feel, largely as a result of how that particular place had developed and grew. Atlantic City was from the start a flamboyant showy place that always tried to draw visitors with glitz, parades and fun. Then there are places like Ocean Grove, which began as a Methodist community. The people that originally came there were bound by strict rules about what they were permitted and not permitted to do. This has of course changed yet Ocean Grove still remains a quiet reserved place that is nothing like what you find, or once found, in Atlantic City.

A blending of these two kinds of beach communities is found in Point Pleasant NJ. It has a commercial boardwalk that features games, amusement rides, arcades, food stands and a few bars that host live music shows. In Seaside Heights, just 18 miles away, their commercial boardwalk attracts a lot of young folks and people that are looking to party. Seaside too has a decided rougher edge with the type of crowd it attracts. Point Pleasant though is a bit more sedate and most of the visitors to Point Pleasant are families. They come to enjoy the beach, relax and also enjoy the boardwalk. There is also a large residential section of town with many homes available as weekly rentals.

Most people who visit Point Pleasant either rent a home for a week or stay in any one of a number of hotels found there. One of the nicer family attractions is the local aquarium. It is relatively small but has both local sea creatures and a few exotic species that you will not find of the area’s coast. For shopping, the quaint downtown has many interesting old buildings that house a lot of different shops. There are also numerous seafood restaurants, which typically feature fresh local items on their menu, but you can also find places that serve other types of food too.

If you are ever visiting the area, you may want to consider a trip to the Jersey shore. It may be that you will find it a wonderfully unexpected change of pace

Boston Harbor

Some quick facts about Boston Harbor:

  • Home to the Port of Boston – a major shipping hub
  • Contains a National Park – “Harbor Islands National Recreation Area”
  • Has an inner and outer harbor
  • The Standells song “Dirty Water” was about the Boston Harbor – the harbor has been cleaned up a lot since that song was written
  • There are lots of boats, of course – you can go on a whale watch, board a cruise ship, go on a dinner cruise, visit old ironsides….
  • The harbor walk is a great way to see a part of the harbor