First things first.
Harvard Square isn't. It's a square in the London sense, which is to say a randomly-shaped starfish of a metastasized intersection that occurs where a number of secondary streets get caught in the gravity well of Massachusetts Avenue. There's a green, some statuary, a news stand, three exits from the Harvard Square Red Line T Station, and a bunch of gates into Harvard Yard, where you cannot park your car.
The architecture is chiefly brick--white and red--with the occasional more modern building. It's somehow both changed a lot and not at all since I set a story there. Today, I would probably mention Finale, Plan B., and Alpha Omega. (And Grendel's Den doesn't actually have neon, but we make sacrifices for art.)
I don't know Boston or Cambridge particularly well. I've visited a lot over the years, but I've never lived there, and I think it takes me about two years to get a sense of the soul of a place.
Businesses include the Harvard Bookstore (actually a bit up Mass Ave), a Lush and a Body Shoppe, Urban Outfitters, and Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe (home of all tea and all chocolate). And pretty much one of everything else, or maybe four. Ten or eleven, in the case of caffeine delivery options.
You can navigate the entire area by dashing from tea stop to coffee emporium, and--as usual when I go to a city where I don't live--I spent a good part of the time I was there eating my way across it. This year, Finale (which sadly I think is sort of overrated), Tealuxe, Felipe's Taqueria (carnitas burrito win, OMG), Charlie's Kitchen for burgers and Hoegaarden, and brunch this afternoon at Veggie Planet. Not to mention the pilgrimages to the sacred Au Bon Pain. (If you don't have a With Good Pain in your town, imagine something sort of like a Starbucks with all the suck and much of the pretentiousness removed. They have real food, you can order a large latte without beeing sneered at, and the pain au chocolat is not the best I have had, but it is in the top three. Not too shabby for a chain.)
Hey, all that tromping around in the cold burns calories!
(my balm and solace)
Anyway, the Harvard Square ABP has a glassed-in greenhouse where you can sit and drink your warming beverage while looking out at the university--and in the way of things, that greenhouse is inhabited by a couple of smart, fat sparrows who are much snugger (and smugger) than the sparrows still stuck outside. Also, it may be January, but the Harvard Square squirrels are not exactly on hardship rations. I dubbed this one the Little Matchsquirrel for his tendency to sit up outside the glass staring inside. However, my attempts to get a photograph of the xtreme cuteness came to naught.
The area boasts a couple of flatiron buildings, a feature of the Northeast and its crookedy streets which always soothe my soul. (Detail of a window sign from that second one. Very famous law firm, don't you know?) Other local landmarks include the Cambridge Savings Bank sign.
And, as you may have noticed, a metric buttload of snow.