Monday, August 1, 2011

10 Wonderful Things about Back Bay

I'm feeling happy these days that we decided against moving to that little house in Cambridge. Which is not to say that we're sure we're staying in Back Bay. We'd love to, but this housing market is tight, with very low inventory and correspondingly high prices. And we want outdoor space, which is hard to find here, so we're looking in nearby neighborhoods, too. If the perfect little hovel with a garden or deck comes along, we're jumping on it, provided we can still walk to our favorite Back Bay hangouts. But Back Bay has a collection of beauties and conveniences that no other neighborhood can offer, and I find myself listing them as I wander about, enjoying my days here more than ever — feeling like I got a reprieve from the comparative inconvenience and "student charm" of that city across the river.

1. Elegant streets of preserved 19th-century architecture, brick sidewalks, old trees, gas lamps, and postage-stamp gardens.

2. Newbury Street: for shopping, restaurants, galleries, ice cream, and people-watching (most of all).

3. Boylston Street: for the Boston Public Library, shopping, restaurants, and Trinity Church.

4. The Commonwealth Avenue Mall, for scenic strolling under magnificent trees all year long.

5. Trader Joe's. Even sans liquor, we're spoiled rotten. I've got to live within walking distance of a TJs.

6. The Esplanade, complete with geese and gondolas.

7.  Hearing the cheers from Fenway Park when the windows are open.

8. TWO farmer's markets.

9. The Neighborhood Association, the Garden Club, and all the other organizations that keep our community green, clean, safe, fun, and well preserved.

10. Everything's walkable and convenient — including Symphony Hall, the MFA, the Public Garden, and other great neighborhoods, including the South End, downtown, Fenway, and Beacon Hill... no need to wait for the T or the bus if you don't care to.

I'm sure I've missed things, but that's my basic list. Feel free to add.

Classic Back Bay scenery, complete with a Denver boot.

There are indeed a few things not to love about Back Bay:

1. Housing prices, and how little you get for what you pay.

2. Parking. If you need a car, and don't own or rent a space, it can take you up to an hour to find a legal spot each time you drive.

3. Noise. Noisy neighbors in unsound-proofed buildings, noisy all-night parties on roof decks and in frat houses, and most of all, construction noise — like the jackhammering and bull-dozing that's been starting at 7 am in our alley all summer. I've gotten fairly used to it, but construction noise is Back Bay's theme song, a constant on all but the snowiest, coldest days.

4. The stigma of everyone supposing you're some rich snob if you live here. Plenty of us are middle-class and some are working-class. There are still rooming houses and run-down apartment buildings, student apartments, and condo buildings with tiny studios and one-bedrooms. There are halfway houses, too. We could use more diversity, but Back Bay is hardly Beverly Hills. On the other hand, we're all rich in having this gorgeous neighborhood on our doorstep, so no wonder others are envious.

5. We lack: a movie theater, an old-fashioned bakery, antique shops, a deli, a diner, more bookstores, a dance studio, a community center for all ages, and an Anna's Taqueria. But if we had all that, we'd never  get out to explore places like Brookline and Somerville.


  1. doesn't the boston common theater count?

  2. I think most of us have a love-hate relationship with where we live. I love my view but arggh, the neighbors! I love TJ's, Wegman's, and being close enough to DC to do museums and such...


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