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Travel lust: Cambridge

CHRISTINE BENVENUTO is the author of a new book, SEX CHANGES: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On and Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World, both published by St. Martin's Press.

Take me to the river

You don’t have to be a student to love Cambridge. Just over the Charles River from Boston, this college town — home to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — is also a lively small city unto itself, teeming with interesting restaurants, cafes and bars, great places to shop and many options for recreation and entertainment.

Cambridge

Where to stay

If you ever wanted to sleep in a firehouse, seize the chance to spend a night at the Kendall Hotel. Converted from a historic firehouse, the modestly priced hotel offers comfortable, attractive rooms, an enclosed rooftop solarium with views of the Boston skyline, a nice breakfast and a hosted wine hour at 5 p.m. weekdays.

Where to eatCambridge

For an afternoon break in Harvard Square, chocoholics go to Burdick's on Brattle Street. If you can snag one of the few, tiny tables in this café, order pastries and the richest café mocha you'll ever encounter. If you can't, buy a beautiful box of chocolates to go.

Located in East Cambridge, the Helmand Restaurant's dining room boasts a woodburning oven where you can watch your flatbread being baked. The restaurant's Afghani menu specializes in lamb, but their chicken is also excellent, as are their vegetarian offerings. Try Kaddo, an appetizer of pumpkin served with yogurt sauce.

What to do

Take a free student-led tour of Harvard Yard: The tours are an hour long and depart from the Harvard Information Center. Check the website for days and times.

Visit the M.I.T. Museum: This small museum houses a wonderful collection of fanciful machines and holographic images.

Ice skate in winter: Try the rinks at the Charles Hotel or Kendall Square.

Check out the Charles: Rent a kayak and paddle your way through the river that divides Boston and Cambridge. Or you can sit back and watch others do the work by attending the Head of the Charles Regatta, the biggest rowing event in the world, this year happening October 19 and 20.

Shop: There's something for everyone in Cambridge, from fashion chains like Anthropologie to one-of-a-kind gems like the Curious George Store, where the collection of children's books is matched by an eclectic array of t-shirts printed with the book covers — from baby-sized versions of the curious monkey's escapades to man-sized shirts sporting F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

Listen: Since 1958, the non-profit Club Passim has been offering up American music, from folk to jazz to bluegrass in a no-frills, community setting. Shows change nightly, so check the schedule at www.clubpassim.org.

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