Where else can you take a leisurely stroll and evolve from the elite of fashion to the funk of street people besides Newbury Street in Boston? The eight blocks that comprise this stretch of hedonistic offerings is an interesting chance to see some historical architecture while witnessing the transformation from wealthy shoppers carefully parallel parking their BMWs down to the west end and its funky, trippy shops and free spirit attitudes. Add to that some excellent people watching and the stroll becomes a voyeuristic experience all around.
Although it was a dismal day for photos, I managed to capture a little of the Newbury street flavor, although admittedly my photographer’s eye flitted between the architectural beauties on the east end and the fu-fu shops and other oddities of life at the other end. There is no precise demarcation that delineates one from the other, but at some point along the way you definitely realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. The signs shift from the elite shops of Burberry’s or Louis Boston to CondomWorld and my favorite, The Gargoyle Shop. There’s a little for everyone in between, to put in mildly, if one persists and walks the full eight blocks of Newbury. Primarily interested in the rich architecture? Then check out the virtual tour here that I wished I had discovered before setting out.
After walking nearly the full length of Newbury St., we cratered at Trident Books and Cafe, sadly the only major bookstore left on the strip. The famous Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop closed its doors in 2004 following Waterstone’s demise sometime before that. But Newbury Street is not about reflecting on the past, but about enjoying the hedonism of the present. Whether your form of personal pleasure comes from shopping high fashions or quirky shops offering things your mother probably once warned you about, Newbury Street offers everything in a relatively short spurt of city blocks. I had anticipated going from coffee shop to coffee shop and bookstore to bookstore on my visit, but most coffee shops were closed and as mentioned, bookstores are officially on the endangered species list, although a few small specialists still exist. Still, we managed to survive the eight blocks to morph some hot cocoa and coffee into dinner at the Trident. We were simply too beat to walk anywhere else until we had some food.
When dark finally closed in on us and ended our time on Newbury, I wanted to return and visit more shops we saw and spend more time studying some of the excellent examples of Victorian-era architecture (this time with a little pre-study beforehand), notably a few of the churches. And since Newbury is just one block over from Bolyston on which the Boston Public Library resides, it’s not difficult to hit Newbury Street with a side of BPL and run out of day before curiosity. Next time, next time.