The Holiday Stroll 2015 – Part III

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The last day of our Holiday Stroll – Sunday – dawned brilliantly. This was the weather I’d hoped for when plotting out the whole weekend, and as such the original plan for keeping things to half a day in the South End was scrapped in favor of crossing the Charles into Cambridge. Kira was game for it, so we strode along the Southwest Corridor Park to the Back Bay T stop.

The leaves atop the trees were still gloriously aflame. The usual bite of December cold was tepid at best, and so the day had the feeling of early fall, with the addition of holiday sparkle. The best of both worlds.

Certain brownstones were decked out in cranberries and pomegranates – decadent displays that the wildlife of the South End had remarkably left alone. Perhaps even they courted the holiday spirit, allowing the beauty to be enjoyed by all.

We rode the Red Line all the way to Porter Square. Given the beauty of the day, I’d decided to go the Cambridge route, walking along Mass Ave – a lengthy stretch that had several fun shops along the way. Before we began, we stopped in Japan by way of Porter.

As we did with the previous day’s pho, we started with some stomach-warming elixir – the magic of ramen. It was our first time at Sapporo Ramen, and we were second in line (it’s so popular that there is always a line). We ordered up the House Ramen, and soon enough were sipping at the thick broth. I still prefer pho, but this was an energizing beginning to a day of walking.

The shops on this side of the river always felt more rustic to me, less refined than the uptight perfection that Boston Proper always strives for (and ends up all the more off-putting for it). These stores carried more whimsies and more enchanted objects.

The colors of this already-bright day popped in eye-arresting fashion, and I wondered, as I often do when in Cambridge, why I didn’t come out this way more often.

In a Tibetan store, Kira convinces me to try on a traditional hat trimmed with fur and embroidered with gold thread. It is, sadly, not quite my size, so I settle for a one-size-fits-all Tibetan yak wrap (in a fine fuchsia shade that will match my Jack Wills holiday bag perfectly).

There are further enchantments along the never-ending avenue, and when at last we reach Harvard Square, we have found the giddy wonder that characterizes the best of the season.

It was here, in The Tannery, where I found that exquisite bond No. 9 fragrance ‘New York Oud’ and sprayed it on my wrist, where it accompanied us on the rest of our stroll. Somehow, I will find my way to that fragrance, as it now comes imbued with meaning and memory – the kind of connection that makes a great fragrance into something life-affirming.

At the edge of Harvard, a tree lifted its bright fruit into the blue sky – an explosion of natural beauty that led us to a few more Tibetan stores en route to Central Square. I held onto the image, and the intoxicating combination of New York Oud and Tibetan incense, as we descended to the subway.

We emerged into the afternoon sunlight outside the Park Ave station. The sun glinted golden off the State house, and we took our time meandering through the Common before entering the Public Garden. The willows still held their golden leaves, and the sunlight was just dipping into the horizon. In these final hours of our Holiday Stroll, Kira and I slowed our steps and stopped for one last moment to take it all in.

In the lounge of the Four Seasons, the hum of early afternoon revelers was low but happy. Trees were elegantly appointed in the lobby, and though the outside was anything but frightful, inside was this dreamlike winter wonderland. This would be our final official stop for our stroll, and of course it wasn’t on the itinerary. We laughed at the piece of green cardstock in my hand, at the many lines that had been crossed out and replaced. It turns out that the best Holiday Strolls are the ones that go unplanned and unplotted. That was the holiday gift I got from this year’s stroll – along with some precious time with a good friend.

As the day dimmed, we found ourselves back at Braddock Park. Kira rushed off to catch a train, and I stopped at the foot of the stairs to observe the early descent of evening. The sky deepened in color. The night still emanated with the grace of fall. I didn’t dare knock on the door of winter. It would arrive soon enough, and without bidding.

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