Romantic weekend getaways tend to have a minimum requirement: that two people go on them. Imagine my horror then, when, with bags packed in readiness for our weekend at XV Beacon in Boston, Mr Smith announced he was too ill to travel. Obviously, I was livid. But after a couple of minutes of incandescent rage, I began to see his point. You can’t stay cross at someone with streaming, bloodshot eyes and a voice that lies somewhere between Darth Vader and Kermit the Frog for long. Leaving him with a family-sized box of Lemsip and a couple of bottles of Lucozade on the bedside table, I headed out of the door alone.
And that’s how I’ve ended up on the ninth floor of an elegant turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts building completely on my own, making star shapes on the enormous bed and contemplating how many other people staying in the hotel that night are here without their partners. What can a girl do in Boston by herself? I toy with the idea of running a bath and then, catching sight of the shiny plasma-screen TV set above the traditional gas fire, found myself wondering whether I should treat myself to an evening of shameless screen-gawping instead. Whatever I choose, it’s going to be all about me this evening. The city will have to wait.
My growling stomach won’t though. The only thing I’ve eaten today is the slightly sweaty packet of cheese and crackers I was given on the plane, so I take a deep breath, throw open my bedroom door and head downstairs in search of food. Walking into Mooo, the hotel’s stylish, upmarket steakhouse, I am met with a hubbub of noise. It’s strange how loud the sound of other people really enjoying themselves is when you’ve got no one to talk to.
The restaurant throngs with people chattering, clinking glasses and waving cutlery over sizzling plates, and I suddenly feel ridiculously conspicuous. Luckily, a waiter takes pity on me and leads me to a table set discreetly at the back of the room, from where I can watch the comings and goings without feeling too exposed. I order a leek chowder and, while I wait for it to arrive, I find myself admiring the attractive and well-dressed clientele, and the classic cream-and-brown décor of the dining area, amid which wooden tables and regal high-backed seats sit on a shabby-chic exposed brickwork floor, in equal measures. I particularly love the way that the enormous lightshades cast a golden glow on the diners below, making even the most ardent steak-chewers look like those holy light-bathed figures in Renaissance art.
I follow the simple and tasty chowder with a more complicated but equally delicious fillet of grilled salmon served with whipped potato, brussel sprouts and pieces of fresh, succulent Maine lobster. I struggle to finish it though. Even after my day of abstention, the portion sizes defeat me. Completely full, I ascend slowly to my room in one of the hotel’s exquisite original cage elevators. Once I reach the ninth floor, I’m tempted to go back down, just for the pleasure of coming up in it again. With their brass-bordered, glass-fronted doors, exposed mechanics and letterbox-red leather interiors, the lifts are a potent symbol of this most historic of US cities.
The next morning, thanks to blissful, uninterrupted sleep and jetlag’s natural alarm clock, I wake early and decide to head out to explore the city. My day flies by in a frenzied whirl of shopping – this Mrs Smith is now a firm fan of the vintage boutiques in the streets around Harvard University – and eating, though I do make an effort to burn off the calories accrued by all the carbs I’ve eaten by walking the city’s famous Freedom Trail. Following the red line incorporated into Boston’s pavements and pathways, and passing heritage sites such as Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s house and other great symbols of American independence, I feel like a modern-day Dorothy, on my own yellow-brick road adventure. I arrive at Boston Common just as it starts to get dark, and spend an enjoyable 20 minutes or so with a take-out coffee, admiring the beautiful luminous white glow of its ice-skating rink against the crisp darkness of early nightfall.
Back at XV Beacon, I stop for a while to talk local history with Jack, who has to be the friendliest doorman in Massachusetts. He makes a sad face when I tell him I’m here on my own, and then starts listing all the great restaurants and bars I should hit when I come back to Boston with Mr Smith in tow. His favourite, it seems, is the sceney bar Alibi, which is housed in a former jail. I tell him that, so long as I’ve got no one to go there with, there’s no way I’m going in, mate.
I’m too full of cupcakes and lobster rolls from my day of wandering Boston’s streets to even think about dinner, but I figure that, as I’m on a break, I should treat myself to a glass of champagne in Mooo before disappearing into my room. Sitting quietly at the same discreet table that the lovely waitstaff gave me yesterday, I savour the sensation of bubbles fizzing against my tongue and realise I haven’t given that much thought to poor Mr Smith, the sick man of Europe, all day long. Who can blame me? XV Beacon, it turns out, has been the perfect weekend partner – stylish, charismatic and ridiculously good-looking – but, hey, all good things have to come to an end. I resolve to head upstairs and call Mr Smith. Once I’ve had another glass of Veuve Clicquot, that is…