Aaaaa - le lu lia
Yes, the entire hotel is made of ice.
From the outside the hotel looks like a castle. As we entered, there was a reception area with an elaborate bar made of ice where drinks are served (in glasses also made of ice). The rooms (walls and ceiling), and spartan furniture (beds and shelves) in the rooms are all made of ice.
Backing up just a little bit, my good wife booked this hotel in the middle of February at Quebec in Canada and then jetted off to see her parents in the tropics (because of a family emergency). To make sure that the males in the family were on our best behavior, she also booked a room in the same hotel for our neighbors and their son. Our neighbors, uncertain about the circumstances they would find themselves in, had a backup plan. They booked an addtional room in a regular hotel within walking distance of the ice hotel.
We drove. I took a wrong turn near the hotel and paid a price for my error. When I realized my mistake and tried to turn the car around, the wheels of my alleged four wheel drive rental just spun in the ice. My neighbor got out and pushed while I stepped on the accelerator but we went nowhere.
To make a long story short, the hotel sent a French speaking helper with shovels…we essentially communicated in unconventional sign language…I lost the car key while shovelling, miraculously found it under snow I had shoveled…my neighbor gave the car a final heave with a dire warning…..”DO NOT STOP UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES UNTIL YOU REACH THE HOTEL.” And I was finally parked properly at the parking lot.
When checking us in to the Ice Hotel, the staff gave us sleeping gear and a lecture on our dress code for bed time. The bottom line was that if we over-dressed and perspired, our sweat was going to turn into ice.
The hotel looked stunningly beautiful in the evening light, with an arched entrance and a hallway with cathedral ceilings. To our left was the aforementioned bar, to our right were the rooms and straight ahead was a chapel of haunting beauty. Everything was made of solid ice. The lobby had a long twisting ice slide on which adults became kids.
‘Welcome drinks’ were served at the long ice bar. There was a slight problem which my neighbor’s wife rectified promptly. The orifices in the glasses in which drinks were served were kind of small. She found hot water, poured it in the ice glass, made the cavity in the ice glass bigger, and set the enlarged glass down on the bar with a thud for her next drink.
We took a tour of the rooms in the hotel. Some of the better ones reflected unadulterated gorgeous splendor, with arches, and coves and royal satin décor. While the reception area had electric lights, the rooms had candles. Doors were essentially non-existent. There were doorways with curtains.
Once settled in neighboring rooms, we decided to go for a dip in an outdoor jacuzzi. While I was slightly hesitant, my son wasted no time in putting on his swimming trunks. Shivering through the frozen hallways to the outdoor sauna and jacuzzi area, I tried both. My teeth clattering, we met a friendly family from Maryland already in the soaking tub, who gave us good advice on how much skin to expose to the air. The ambient temperature was 10 deg F (-12 deg C). The water and the bubbles were warm and I did not have trouble keeping my head above the water, as long as I kept my shoulders submerged. The Maryland family left and then it snowed lightly providing a sublime experience as we soaked.
(If only I could convince my better half to let me install an outdoor hot tub at our house! ‘Nope’ in all languages begins with an ‘N’).
I believe we spent more than an hour in the jacuzzi and then hightailed it back to our room to change. In a couple of hours, my swimming trunk was flat and frozen hard and I could swat my son with it.
After dinner, we lay a skin mattress on the ice bed, changed into loose clothing and zipped up the heavy-duty gear provided by the hotel. My son slept like a log while I watched the candle light flicker. Above my head was a tiny ventilation hole in the ceiling and I could see the frozen sky.
At around 1 am, my neighbor came in and asked me to keep an eye on his son sleeping in the next room. His wife was literally in tears at the prospect of spending the entire night on an ice bed and he was taking her to the regular hotel. The backup plan worked!
The overall experience was memorable, but not to be repeated. Been there, done that!
Incidentally, February is also the month during which nearby Quebec city hosts an Ice Carnaval. We have not only visited the festival a half dozen times, but have also dragged friends and family members there with us on three occassions. From my perspective the festival is a defiance of ice and snow. There are spectacular night-time parades, singing and dancing in front of an enormous outdoor stage through the late hours of the evening, dancing in bathing costumes, massive and exquisite ice sculptures representing the works of several nations, boat races across the frozen St. Lawrence river, all done with joyful exuberance accompanied by the blowing of frozen red trumpets by onlookers to cheer the participants on.
I did not have appropriate footwear on my first trip and realized it as I stood on the jam packed sidewalk waiting for the parade to come by. As the parade swung into view, I could not feel the big toe on my right foot any more although the other toes next to it were responding fine. My pea sized brain realized then that sneakers were not adequate footwear in Quebec in February. We watched the parade go by with the enthusiastic throngs and then I ran in to our hotel right behind me, put my foot in the tub in warm water and before long ran out on the streets again so as not to miss the songs and the dancing.
The Carnaval is a major tourist attraction, and the local businesses partake with small town seriousness, drawing out maple syrup on outdoor logs covered with ice (to be rolled up on sticks and consumed), serving french crepe and cuisine, pouring the local poison into hollow red walking sticks carried by merrymakers (to be consumed on the go), and offering up all kinds of local delicacies.
Quebec is a tiny town and we’ve stayed outside "city" limits and inside it for the Carnaval, during different years, and I vote strongly for the latter. (Bookings need to be done months in advance). Quebec is essentially a walking "city" wih a wall around it. The lower level, Petit Champlain, is as pretty as a postcard and a joy to walk around.