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A Tank Away

Big-city romance

You don’t need to travel far to celebrate love

The city’s skyline from the rooftop of the XV Beacon hotel. The city’s skyline from the rooftop of the XV Beacon hotel. (XV Beacon hotel)
By Courtney Hollands
Globe Staff / February 9, 2011

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Two figures emerge from the shadows: A man and a woman slow dancing under the twinkling white lights clinging to trees on the chiaroscuro that is Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Snowflakes fall on the scene, as if we are in the midst of a schlocky but sweet John Cusack flick. I never thought of Boston — my home for the past seven years — as a particularly romantic getaway possibility. But I fell for her hard on that January night. This love story starts with a weekend free of commitments. We didn’t have a set schedule, just time to wander the city and find the spirit of St. Valentine in unexpected places: on bookshelves, at a Bay Village restaurant, in the songs of Ol’ Blue Eyes.

STAY

Outrageously comfortable beds, heated towel racks, and gas fireplaces make boutique hotel XV Beacon (15 Beacon St., 617-670-1500, www.xvbeacon.com, from $350) a cushy base of exploration. We never took advantage of the complimentary car waiting to whisk us away to a bar or theater, but I did ask for tasty cookies and milk to be delivered to the room at check-in (an extra $17.15). Looking for an intimate B&B? Book a room at the stylish Clarendon Square (198 West Brookline St., 617-536-2229, www.clarendonsquare.com, from $125 through the end of February), tucked into a South End side street. Check in and take a bottle of bubbly straight to the rooftop hot tub for expansive views of downtown. ’Tis the season for Valentine’s Day offers at area hotels. The, um, intriguing “Lust’’ package at the David Rockwell-designed Ames Hotel (One Court St., 617-979-8100, www.ameshotel.com, package from $305) is available through the end of the month and includes: a room for two, champagne, edible massage gel, an “intimacy kit’’ (we will leave that to your imagination), and late check-out. Ooh-la-la.

DINE

Lucky for the other diners, we resisted the urge to reenact the noodle-slurp kiss from “Lady and the Tramp’’ at cozy, candlelighted Erbaluce (69 Church St., 617-426-6969, www.erbaluce-boston.com). Instead, we had crave-worthy potato gnocchi with wild boar ($24) and organic radish and arugula salad topped with local goat cheese ($11). Look for special touches such as potted herbs on the tables and roasted chestnuts with the check. Grotto (37 Bowdoin St., 617-227-3434, www.grottorestaurant.com) is another Italian option and a perennial date pick. The subterranean spot has exposed brick walls and a nightly prix fixe menu: $35 for three courses. Duck into the NSFV (not safe for vegans) Butcher Shop (552 Tremont St., 617-423-4800, www.thebutchershopboston.com) for a late lunch or decadent snack. We relaxed with wine, a plate of pâtés and terrines ($19), and cheeses ($5 each) as M.I.A. played on the speakers. There’s really nothing better than huddling over steaming bowls of pho with your beloved on a frigid day. The comforting noodle soup ($8 for beef and tripe pho) is top notch at Chinatown’s Xinh Xinh (7 Beach St., 617-422-0501). My fortune? “Love is the only medicine for a broken heart.’’

DURING THE DAY

Pack puddle-proof boots for traipsing around Beacon Hill or the North or South Ends and hit a shop or two or just enjoy the eerie still winter casts on the city. Hoof it to the Museum of Fine Arts (tickets: $20, 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org) and explore new galleries or see iconic works in a fresh light on a free guided tour. I made googly eyes at the Eames chairs in the Art of the Americas Wing, and we lingered over a lovely photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, one of the hundreds of portraits taken of the painter by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz. Gorge your sweet tooth with a visit to Hotel Chocolat’s tasting room ($50 a person, 141A Newbury St., 617-391-0513, www.hotelchocolat.com, make your reservation online), where you will learn how to sample chocolate and get to nibble on different types paired with wines picked by L’Espalier’s sommeliers. Spend a quiet moment browsing the stuffed stacks at Commonwealth Books (2 Milk St., 617-292-0065, www.commonwealthbooks.com) in the basement of the Old South Meeting House. The poetry nook holds swoon-worthy verses by Nikki Giovanni and Robert Browning.

AFTER DARK

Settle into the Bright Family Screening Room at the Paramount Center (tickets: $10, 559 Washington St., 617-824-8000, www.artsemerson.org) and take in an indie or classic flick with your sweetie. Coming up are Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast’’ (Feb. 18-19) and the original “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’’ (Feb. 19-20). Toast marshmallows for s’mores under the stars — no, really — at the Fairmont Battery Wharf’s new Winter Terrace (3 Battery Wharf, 617-994-9000, www.fairmont.com/batterywharf), open from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There’s an ice wall, fire pits, spiked cider, and blankets strewn on the Adirondack chairs to keep Jack Frost at bay. Sip an oversize dirty martini (with extra olives, darling) as you sway to the trio covering Frank Sinatra tunes at throwback lounge Lucky’s (355 Congress St., 617-347-5825, www.luckyslounge.com) Saturday and Sunday nights. Expect wood-paneled walls, pinup girls in the bathroom, and plenty of “Witchcraft.’’ Prolong the retro magic with a nightcap at nearby Drink (348 Congress St., 617-695-1806, www.drinkfortpoint.com).

Courtney Hollands can be reached at chollands@globe.com.