I am embedded in one of the crimson velvet love seats in the art deco-era Hedley Club Lounge at the Hotel De Anza in downtown San Jose, gazing up at the floral-painted, wood-beamed ceiling that seems a mile away. My hands are curled around a cup of Egyptian chamomile, the steam swirling into a small fog bank. Nearby conversations involve something about cell block gnomes or Sherlock Holmes, I can't tell which. The experience is all very pleasant and civilized.
But I'm not here for civilization. My quest is for something more primal: fire.
The Hedley room has a massive wood-burning fireplace, large enough to incinerate a Smart Car. And on these chilly winter days -- assuming there's no Spare the Air alert in effect -- few things are more appealing for the coldblooded among us than a hearth full of flames, drawing us like moths to a cashmere sweater.
But if you don't have a fireplace in your home and space heaters just don't cut it, you might consider one of the many public-access "hot" spots -- the charming fireplaces found in Bay Area hotel lobbies, restaurants and pubs. There's even one in a public library in Mill Valley.
Some are wood-burning, therefore unavailable on the aforementioned air-sparing occasions. But some have gas flames rolling over ceramic logs, providing atmospherically correct, guilt-free warmth and ambience any time -- so you don't have to give a hoot, 'cause they don't even pollute.
From quaint to modern, swanky to rustic, here are a few places to light your fire. If you know of others, let us know, and we'll print an extended list online. Send your suggestions with "fireplace" in the subject line to email@example.com. Please note if it's gas or wood-burning.
Hedley Club Lounge: The wood-burning fire at this Hotel De Anza lounge gets going around 4 p.m. Bartender Harold Martin recommends an equally warming accompaniment, the popular brown Betty -- hot spiced brandy and hefeweizen foam. There's usually jazz on weekends. 233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose, www.hoteldeanza.com.
Le Bateau Ivre: The name may mean drunken boat, but this is a cozy little restaurant and coffeehouse in an 1898 farmhouse. The wood-burning brick fireplace is in the rear dining room, so after 4:30 p.m., you may have to go for a meal to get near the flames. But during the day, you can take a coffee or cocoa and sit by the fire. 2629 Telegraph, Berkeley, www.lebateauivre.net.
Mill Valley Public Library: Surprising as it may seem, there's a wood-burning fireplace in the midst of a library, surrounded by comfy chairs and big windows that look out on the redwoods. The fire doesn't blaze all the time, but when it does, this is a really nice place to be. 375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, www.millvalleylibrary.org.
Pelican Inn: This is the fireplace by which all other fireplaces should be measured. The behemoth in the dining room is a wonderful 16th-century-style Inglenook fireplace outlined in rough wooden beams. Blackened antique fireplace tools that resemble medieval torture devices dangle above the flames from real burning logs. 10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, www.pelicaninn.com.
Twenty-Five Lusk: This historic 1917 brick-and-timber warehouse was originally built as a meat packing and smokehouse facility. Now it houses a swanky modern restaurant with two 1960s-style, ceiling-suspended gas fireplaces in the downstairs lounge that look like shiny UFOs. 25 Lusk St., San Francisco, www.25lusk.com.
The Pub: This coffee house, pub and tobacco shop is in a little old house and feels very comfy. A small stone gas fireplace in the living room greets you as you walk in the door. There are overstuffed chairs and little tables with people reading actual books. 1492 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-1900.
The Mountain House: Set amid towering redwoods, this restaurant and bar is rustic and casual. As you walk in, there's a big, brick, wood-burning fireplace to your right, with chairs pulled up close. 13808 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, www.themountainhouse.com.
The Lazy Dog: This new restaurant in the Willows Shopping Center has a great gas fire pit in the outdoor seating area. 1961 Diamond Blvd., Concord, www.lazydogrestaurants.com.
The St. Regis Hotel: For sophisticated warmth, cozy up to the long, horizontal gas fireplace embedded in the wall in the lobby-bar area. 125 Third St., San Francisco, www.stregis.com/sanfrancisco.
And if nothing else, you can always opt for a Yule log video on YouTube. There are several versions with looped images of crackling flames in a fireplace. Occasionally, a hand will reach in and push the logs around. Not very warm, but visually soothing.
Angela Hill brings her perspective to the Play page twice monthly. Follow her at Twitter@GiveEmHill.