My mom and I took a Sunday-afternoon drive up to Andover recently, a quick wander because I had tried to relive my early 20s the night before and was feeling a little too sleepy for a big adventure (read: I woke up at 11:30 a.m.).
When I was younger, I was a bit of a mumbler (OK, still am). Whenever I told someone I was from Hanover, I’d get the response: “Andover? That’s a beautiful town.” And guess what, hard-of-hearing folks from my childhood — you were right. The road into the town center, Route 28, is wide and lined with well-kept gambrel houses and mills, which appeared to run the gamut from successfully redeveloped to having seen better days.
It was a cold and raw day, and we had no agenda for the afternoon. We parked half a block away from the library, which has a statue of a stern-looking polar bear and its cubs on the lawn. Cute, but without explanation for its significance. First observation: Andover appears to have a great many boutiques, particularly for women’s clothing. Second observation: Andover also appears to not like doing business on Sundays.
Seriously, you guys? You have a world-class prep school down the street and a beautiful few blocks just made for an afternoon stroll. Retailers who keep bankers’ hours just boggle my mind. People are off on Sundays. Students with money are off on Sundays. On the way up to Andover, my copilot mentioned she wanted to stop in Dress Code, a shop that’s often featured in the Globe Magazine and Boston Magazine.
Even some of the restaurants downtown were closed. It’s as if the town elders determined, years back, that the masses were to spend their Sundays calmly seated in pews, and not driving the local economy.
That said, some neat shops were bucking the trend, including Nest, an accessories store filled with reasonably priced and trendy items, caught our eye because of its seasonally appropriate window display.
Irresistibles, a women’s clothing chain, has a large store on Barnard Street; the store is very well laid out, especially if you’re a person who needs help putting outfits together (I’m not). We would have loved to check out Bobbles & Lace, The Andover Shop, Dress Code, etc…
Our last walking stop — again, it wouldn’t have been if anything else was open — was the Andovers Gift Shop, a haphazard collection of trinkets, gifts, decorations and other “various and sundry items,” as my grandfather would say. Aside from the overwhelming incense smell, the store was pretty neat, AND I found a pink elephant watering can that was made in Fitchburg (Cado, which bought a lot of Union Products molds, still makes them).
After that, we hopped back into the car in search of Phillips Andover Academy. Turns out, we probably didn’t even need to drive because it’s less than a mile from the town center. By the time we arrived, though, it had started raining. The sprawling campus was pretty deserted when we got there, but we took a good look around. The academy and its historic buildings are gorgeous (not so much the modernish housing behind the chapel), intimidating and quintessentially New England Prep School. Like many independent prep schools, the campus is well integrated into its surroundings and is not closed off from the public. If I lived in town, it would definitely be on my regular walking route.
And that was about it for our Andover trip. We didn’t see any open restaurants within walking distance (SERIOUSLY?) that piqued our interest. To be fair, Casa Blanca looked pretty cool to me, but my mom isn’t a big fan of Mexican food.
Over to North Andover we went, to The Loft on Route 133. It was a tough choice between that and Joe Fish next door for this Phantom Gourmet aficionado, but ultimately, I wanted steak. And steak I got (specifically, steak frites, one of the specials). My mom had the coconut-and-almond salmon. Both were fantastic.