Last January, the New York Times Travel Section ran an article on the truly fabulous places you can skate outside: on the premiere etage of the Eiffel Tower, 190 feet above Paris; in the torchlight courtyard of Somerset House in the heart of London; in front of Vienna's Imperial Opera House; and the couryard of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
If you find yourself mentally tipping over as your eyes skate down the list of alluring European splendor and terminates at the Charles Hotel, you're not alone. This teensy rink (just 54 square feet), with it's views of (as you skate counterclockwise), Eye Q Optical, Charlie's Burger Joint, JFK St., the parking garage and the facade of the Charles Hotel, is never going to warm your heart the way spinning towards the spires of MontMarte would.
But the rink does have it's virtues, which I've been exploring for the last week. To begin with, on weekday's it's almost always vacant before three p.m. So if you're a novice skater like myself, unable to turn properly, or stop at all, having no one on the rink means no one to plow into while you scream "I can't steer" or "I can't stop" or merely "Ahhhh!" I'm especially afraid of small children on the ice, anyone under hip height appears to me like a bug ready to be squashed.
At $5 for unlimited ice time, and another $5 for ice skate rentals, the rink is not cheap. Nor are it's selection of adult drinks, Irish coffee and Hot (rum) Toddy's at $6 a mug. But it has one essential virtue, the Charles Hotel is on the same block as my office, which means I've been able to dart out for a half hour rotation in the middle of the day. As the sun bounces back at me from the ice, the cheap bastard in me definitely finds it cheaper than therapy and anti-depressants for fighting off seasonal depression. (I bring my skates, saving $5 a pop).
What the Charles Hotel wishes it were, is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. Standing in the shadow of the gold dome of the Massachusetts State House, the Frog Pond offers 16,000-square-feet of ice. Where as the Charles Hotel offers convenience, the Frog Pond offers comfort; it's kiosk contains a warming room, restrooms and lockers for your street shoes. Its also cheaper than the Charles Hotel - Ice time for adults is $3, and children 13 and under skate free. Skate rentals range from $5-$7, depending on size. But forget about sipping an Irish Coffee. The rink and the kiosk are run by the City of Boston - no booze allowed.
The Frog Pond can get pretty crowded with care free kids on weekends and school holidays. But at night, its usually couples that dominate the ice. Skating at the Frog Pond is the most popular winter date in Boston, and the location is romantic.
The SG and I have checked out both rinks. Like me, SG likes the Charles for it's convenience, and that on a Sunday at 7 p.m., you're assured that your only companions on the ice will be adults sipping adult beverages. But for romance, SG likes the Frog Pond. That's where he picked up one of a Northern Gentleman's romantic gestures, kneeling at the foot of his beloved and lacing up her skates. And if there's anything this CB loves, its cheap bastard romance.
And that'll do just fine, until we can make it here: http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk/
Ooooh la la!