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Archive for the ‘Unbottled’ Category

 Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t do snow.  There is a reason that this blog is called 1000 Bottles of Sand as opposed to 1000 bottles of [insert other geological item here].  That’s because when I think “vacation” I think “warm sandy (preferably clothing optional) beaches.”    So you won’t find many (any?) posts here about me skiing (overrated), sledding (fun but not worth the hassle), or any other cold weather activity.  I collect sand.  From beaches.  Warm beaches.

That said, when I saw that our neighbors to the north had their very own Ice Hotel (the Hôtel de Glace), I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.  Because I’m nothing if not open to new and interesting experiences.   And it would save me the cost of a trip to the original Ice Hotel all the way over in Sweden.   Because if I’m going to spend that much on a trip…it’s going to be someplace I can be nude…comfortably.

So Friday I broke down and bought some thermal underwear, because the site was rather adamant about not wearing cotton (more on that later).  Then Saturday I packed a weekend’s worth of crap into my trusty backpack, and hopped on a plane to Quebec City, by way of Newark, NJ. 

The original plan was to rent a car and drive up, since the hotel was about 40 minutes from the airport, and getting a taxi was financially out of the question. I began to second guess this idea as I sat in the tiny little express jet looking down on many roads beneath me that looked like white rivers, as they had yet to be cleared of snow.  Images of the tiny little subcompact I had decided upon spinning around in the road like so many YouTube videos I had once upon a time laughed my head off at thinking how wise I was to move to a place where the road never ices over filled my head.  And of course during all this I realized that I’d left the “special” insurance card Canadians required from Gieco on my living room floor.

 As it turns out none of this mattered. Because the fuckers at Avis (Canada) don’t take debit cards.  No, it doesn’t matter if that’s what you used to reserve your car.  No it doesn’t matter if they can call the bank to make sure you have funds in your account. No exceptions…they don’t take debit cards.  Since in this day and age I, like most Americans (should be), am trying to cut down on building debt, said credit card was currently sitting in a block of ice in my freezer, I was shit out of luck.  So Dave Ramsey lied to me in Total Money Makeover…you can’t just get by on your debit card alone.

Fortunately my taxi driver had no such qualms, and I enjoyed a spin free leisurely ride up to the hotel in comfort.  It was almost worth paying 4 times as much as I would have with the rental.

Ok, so what was it like?

After getting dropped off at the front entrance, overnight guests are directed to the big lodge at the top of the hill, the Talik:

 
Talik Lodge

Talik Lodge

Not being a fan of freezing my ass off, I ended up spending quite  a bit of time up here, reading, working on crosswords, enjoying the (relative) warmth of the fire, and sipping on hot cocoa and coffee.  Here’s the thing about visiting the Hôtel de Glace: you really don’t need to spend a whole lot of time there.  Unless you are one of those outdoorsey (read nut job) types who think that hiking, sledding, or snomobiling in sub zero temperatures is loads of fun, you only need 1 hour to tour the place and then spend the night.   That’s it.

I arrived around 1pm, checked in and dumped my backpack in the locker they assigneed me downstairs in the lodge:

They also had powder rooms, a sofa, and showers down there: 

Powder Room

Powder Room

 Then I went for a little tour of the hotel.

 
View of the ice hotel from the talik Lodge

View of the ice hotel from the talik Lodge

 

Hotel Entrance

Hotel Entrance

 

Reception Desk

"Reception Desk"

 

Foyer (the chandelier changes colors)

Foyer (the chandelier changes colors)

 

Hotel Bar

Hotel Bar

They were supposed to serve drinks in ice glasses but they ran out by the time I made my way to the bar (fuckers). So I was delegated to the plastic cup crowd.  But I still thought it was neat that they had separate trashcans for the ice glasses.  They throw all the melted water into a lake somewhere.  I’m sure the fish are happy…or angry, depending on what kind of second-hand drunk they are:

trash cans

"trash" cans

 

Bar Guests

Bar Fireplace

 

Bar Guest

Bar Guests

 

Ice sculpture (seal)

Ice sculpture (seal)

  They had this slide you could go down. Naturally I made my bungled way down:

This is what it looks like when you do it right:
At 2pm I met up with the English speaking tour group.  Frankly, for being surrounded by so many English speaking provinces, territories, and country I was surprised at how few English speakers there were visiting the place.  But then again, Quebec City doesn’t have much else in the way of touristy stuff.  
Tour Group

Tour Group

According to our tour guide the hotel is made up of 30,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice. It is in fact based on the hotel in Sweeden, so that should save all of you other Americans a trip overseas.  Plus French is prettier to listen to than Swedish.  To make the hotel they actually use molds. 

Molds used to make the Ice Hotel (photos of the process were embedded in the walls of the hotel)

Molds used to make the Ice Hotel (photos of the process were embedded in the walls of the hotel)

 We couldn’t get into the chapel because they were cleaning it for a wedding later on that afternoon.  The tour guide made sure to note that should we ever be so inclined to be wed there make sure to tell our guests it’s more important to be warm than dressy.  You know…because this place is high on my list of wedding destinations.  Noting that we were all Americans she also made sure to point out that, this being Canada, they had several gay weddings there as well.   While everyone else looked away or rolled their eyes, I was the only one to proudly proclaim “Good for you guys!”.  And seriously….good for them.  What the hell is wrong with the States anyway?

Chapel Entrance

Chapel Entrance

 

Cleaning the chapel

Cleaning the chapel

They were very big on the logos there as well.  I guess it costs mucho dinero to haul in 30,000 tons of ice.
 
Only some of the guest rooms were themed. The rest were for poor schleps like yours truly.  Since any tourist could go in and wander around each room prior to closing I guess this was a good thing.  It was weird knowing that all those people were wandering around, lying on  the bed, spreading their germs in the same room you’d be sleeping in later on that evening.  Plus, later when I was sleeping in my bag, I realized I wouldn’t give a flying hoot about carvings and benches and such….I was too focused on staying warm!

Naturally while I was taking photos of the rooms my digital camera died.  So I had to switch to my camera phone, which takes crappy indoor photos.  Sorry about the quality.  First rule of photo blogging: remember to charge your camera!

logo room

logo room

 

green room

green room

 

Very cool carving on green room wall

Very cool carving on green room wall

 

Blue room with three beds

Blue room with three beds

 

Aztec Room carving

Aztec Room carving

Phoenix room

Phoenix room

Red Room

Red Room

This one had a loft, which seemed cool at first, but later that night as I was trying to squiggle into my own sleeping bag, and later out of it in a mad dash to the bathroom, it didn’t seem so appealing:

Loft

Loft

 Hockey was  a big theme this year:

Hockey Room

Hockey Room

Pee Wee Hockey Room

Pee Wee Hockey Room

Another hockey room

Another hockey room

They do love hockey up there

They do love hockey up there

Did I mention they love hockey?

Did I mention they love hockey?

After looking and snapping photos of all the rooms I was done; or rather I should say my fingers, toes, and nose were done.  So I made my way back to the lodge and settled in with a book and my crossword puzzles, trying to stay warm and not be annoyed by the family that had 4 small kids under they age of 7 (including a tiny baby….wtf!) running around making noise.   After 2 hours I was almost bored enough to go back outside to the Ice Hotel.  Almost.

At 5pm the English speakers gathered to get instructions on sleeping in for the night.  There was this tiny little French speaking girl who waxed on and on about how great it was to sleep in the bags…as long as we weren’t wearing cotton.  Seriously, they made a big deal about NOT WEARING COTTON.  She even said sleeping naked was an option if all you had was cotton.  Naturally this piqued my interest…though later on I was too terrified of frost bite on my nipples to follow through on her suggestion.  Besides, that’s what I had bought thermal leggings and a thin polyester shirt for.  I would have taken a photo of her, like one woman did, but I felt too bad for her to do it.  She had to sit there in front of a bunch of silly Americans and demonstrate squeezing into the sleeping bag…looking perfectly like a big orange caterpillar.  She had it hard enough; no need to worsen it by posting on a public blog.

It’s at this point I should point something out to all you love birds out there.  If you are the sort who loves wild and adventurous sex in unique places (trust me…I’m totally with you there), I have to burst your pretty little bubble about this place.  There will be no making of the whoppie in the Hôtel de Glace.  You get one sleeping bag each and, while it might be ideal to combine body heat considering, it is logistically impossible for you both to fit into one.  I’m not petite, but I’m no linebacker and I was snug as a bug. Besides…sweat would be a big no-no in the bag.  And those are parts you don’t want to have freeze off. 

After the instruction lecture it was off to dinner (not included).  One has to hike up a slipper snow covered hill to the lodge with the restaurant.  The food was overpriced and the service slow. I had Chilean Sea Bass, which was rubbery, some sort of salsa (so-so), and basmati rice (delicious).  My waitress, who had ignored me for the first 25 minutes, gave me free coffee with dessert to compensate.  I still tipped well.

They close the hotel off to people at 8pm to clean the rooms and place the sleeping bags inside. Then we are allowed to go to our rooms at 9m. I held off for as long as possible, unwisely drowning my freezing-to-death-in-my-sleep anxiety in cup after cup of hot chocolate.  I finally made one last ditch effort to empty my bladder, to no avail, and gave up.  I bundled up and headed to the hotel.  I saw that some people had decided to take a dip in the hot tubs, which were oddly enough located outside in the cold.  How they managed getting out and staying warm while making it back to the bathrooms to dry off is beyond me.

This is what my room looked like (compare to above).  No pretty carvings or colors but the good news is, according to the sleeping bag instructor, smaller rooms were more inclined to be warmer.

my bed with sleeping bag on top, unrolled.

my bed with sleeping bag on top, unrolled.

I sat and looked at it a long time, trying to strategize, getting out of my unnecessary clothing yet staying warm enough to keep the bag warm.  Finally I quickly threw off my shoes and coat,wiggled into the inner lining, then into the bag itself, reached down, pulled off my (cotton) socks, replaced them with (wool) socks,  zipped and velcroed everything up, and waited. 

I lay there on my back for while to see where my body was falling on the freezing-sweltering scale.  I tried not to focus on my bladder, which the instructor said is not a good thing to do as it will just make you want to go. And trust me, the last thing I wanted was to get out of that bag again.  I eventually fell in and out of a restless sleep and at one point checked my watch to find (happily) it was 4am.  At that point sleep was not an issue…but going to the bathroom was.  And a major one at that!

I broke down and jumped out of the bag, pulled my coat out of the sleeping bag sack, threw it on along with  my shoes and quickly ran to the bathroom.  Here’s a map to give you an idea:

Ice Hotel Map

Ice Hotel Map

The bathrooms were across the hot tub courtyard (yes, as in outside).  Fortunately they were blissfully toasty.  I debated going back to get my book and sit there in the dressing room reading for the rest of the night. Then the snooty French couple I had sit next to in the lounge came in eyeing me (Side Note: The people of Quebec are wonderfully nice people, not at all like the descriptions of the French I’ve heard.  Yes they are very proud of their French, and frankly not very good with their English, considering; but nice people all the same).  So I sighed and headed back to the cold comfort of my room.
Apparently some cold air had made it’s way into my bag because this time around my tootsies were feeling the draft.   Despite this I feel asleep and snoozed for a good two hours. I woke up at 7am and could take no more.  I got dressed, packed my things and headed back to the lounge to sip on much deserved hot cocoa.  At least I had lasted through the night. Unlike one man who seemed to have given up at some point and lay comfortably huddled on the downstairs sofa.  Sissy.
I ate my free breakfast buffet, enjoying the view of snow that I would be (happily) leaving in a few hours:
Restaurant View

Restaurant View

Then I got my taxi back to the tiny Quebec City airport, headed back to Newark, then home to my comfortable, WARM, bed.
Cliff Notes:
  • DON’T WEAR COTTON!
  • It’s not at all a comfortable sleep.  But totally worth doing (once)
  • The bar and restaurant make change in Canadian dollars. You’ll want it because the lounge has a coffee machine which you will use heavily.  Trust me.
  • If you are like me and live in a climate where 50 degrees is considered cold, focus on your feet and hands when throwing your money away on clothing.  They are the first to suffer.
  • Bring lots of reading material or something to do.  You’ll get bored in the downtime, and going outside only entertains you for so long.
  • No more than a weekend is needed.  Less actually.  Get in in the late afternoon, leave early the next morning.
  • Yes, it’s worth doing.  This from a beach whore.

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