The weather outside is frightful, but my husband, Ben, and I stopped caring roughly two glasses of wine ago.
From our 12th-floor room in the Hotel Monaco in downtown Baltimore, we’re toasty warm and unusually relaxed. Not bad for the parents of four, whose daily existence often resembles a Lifetime movie.
But, then, a night at the Hotel Monaco will do that to a person.
Located in the former headquarters of the B&O Railroad, the eco-friendly Monaco, though part of the Kimpton chain, feels singular and exceptional. Credit for that goes largely to its stunning premises—a 100-year-old Beaux-Arts-style building whose storied past makes for an elegant, gorgeous present.
Think of it as the Anti-Howard Johnson’s.
We’re here for a quick one-night getaway. It’s not Valentine’s Day or our anniversary. In fact, it’s not an official occasion at all.
But when you’re stuck on the relentless work/home/kids hamster wheel day after day, the sheer thrill of sneaking away for 24 hours becomes its own occasion.
And the Monaco, with its attached restaurant, the B&O American Brasserie, makes an ideal cold-weather escape because we never need to venture outdoors to feel like we’re on vacation.
Or to experience something new.
“How often do you get to say, ‘I’ll have the rabbit’?” Ben asks rhetorically before happily ordering…what else?
We’re sitting at the B&O’s bar, whose ground-floor windows face the Blaustein Building across busy North Charles Street.
We’ve spent the past hour being wowed by the creativity of master mixologist Brendan Dorr—calling the Middletown native by his actual title, head bartender, doesn’t do him justice—as he brings us some of the signature drinks he developed for the brasserie, including the aptly named Freight Train (this used to be a railroad operation, remember) and the Queen Bee.
“Are you cocktail people?” he asks when we first sidle up to the sleek marble-topped bar.
The dimly lit area, downstairs from the B&O’s more formal dining space, is rich with textures, from leather and slate to wood and glass. It makes us feel way more sophisticated than we are.
In such a hipster setting, no one suspects we’re really just Mom and Dad. Or that we’re not typically “cocktail people.”
But, when in Rome, er, Charm City.
Actually, Ben savors many of the artisanal libations (several made with botanical spirits), while I mainly stick to a not-too-oaky Chardonnay and mentally calculate how much Excedrin we’ll need in the morning.
Next to us, an elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter sip white Russians and nibble a charcuterie plate. They’re down from New Jersey and sought out the B&O after reading about it in the New York Times.
They’re as impressed with the place as we are, but they’re even more amazed by something they learned earlier in the day.
“We knew Edgar Allan Poe was born here, and that he wrote the Raven,” they say, laughing and speaking over one another. “But the ‘Baltimore Ravens’? We never put it together until now. And we’re both librarians!”
At this point, Ben and I can’t even spell “librarian,” as we’re full of Brendan’s concoctions and the kitchen’s stellar offerings, including the aforementioned rabbit for my bunny-killer husband and a luscious Market Flatbread and Root Vegetable Salad for meat-free me.
We head back up to our room—a visit to the hotel’s glam lobby, with its uber-chic furnishings and double-sided fireplace, can wait until later—where we marvel at the fact that there’s just so much to, well, marvel at.
As if the fabulous views aren’t enough, the room itself is awesome without being ostentatious.
From the buttery leather wallcovering in the oh-so-lovely bathroom to the patterned damask Roman shades keeping the moonlight at bay, the eclectic flourishes make the place feel truly special.
And tucked inside it, so do we.
Our night at the Monaco leaves us rested and (almost) ready to head back to the all-consuming parenting trenches. Thanks to the funky boutique hotel in not-too-far-from-home Baltimore, we’ve managed to get away without really going away.
It’s just what we needed.
Make Valentine’s Day—or any day—more memorable by booking your own mini getaway! For more information on the Hotel Monaco and the B&O American Brasserie, which are within walking distance of the Inner Harbor, the Hippodrome Theatre, and other Charm City must-sees, visit www.monaco-baltimore.com.