Monday, December 27, 2010

Quebec's Ice Hotel


Canada's Ice Hotel just seven minutes from downtown Quebec city, looms like an exotic igloo in a world of snow and ice.

Proving to be a popular venue on Quebec's tourist circuit in Canada, North America's only ice hotel, open for business from January 7th to March 27th, ensures a winter experience unlike any other. Since its inception in 2001, over half a million visitors have marvelled at a structure built of 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice.  Each year the hotel is re-built, each year the decor is different.

Quebec's palace of ice
Powdered with snowflakes drifting from a sky that melds absolutely with a pristine earth, it is like another world. Inside, sculpted ice pillars give it the appearance of a palace for a snow queen. Artworks abound: ice sculptures, intricate ice carvings on the walls, ornate alcoves and a massive ice chandelier that changes colour continuously.

At the ABSOLUT Ice Bar, guests clad in furs, ski jackets, toques, gloves, boots and thick socks, puff clouds of vapor each time they speak. Vodka served in ice glasses is the drink of choice, but for a unique Absolut experience order a 'Sensual Confusion' (Absolut vanilla, orange juice and grenadine) or an 'Earth Juice' (Absolut lemon, curacao and lime juice).

Sadly for light-fingered wayfarers though, absconding with a souvenir glass will bring but brief pleasure. The slightest rise in temperature, and the souvenir, like a face of wax in front of a warming fire, is soon just a puddle.

Canada's ice hotel for a most unusual "I do"
There is a thriving business here for unusual marriage ceremonies in a chapel with low, skin -covered ice pews. A stained glass window in a stark white setting is a foil for a transparent ice altar set back in an arched alcove. When the chill becomes excessive, the marriage officer has been known to wear a fur musquash hat.

The dragon bed in the Ice Hotel's Chinese suite
Along frosty passageways with subdued lighting, doors lead into bedrooms where everything including the beds are ice – some elaborately ornate. My favourite when I visited was the Chinese suite where a double bed rested in the icy coils of a dragon. A creature of fire, the dragon's head reared above plumped pillows with its fire-blowing mouth belching forth icy flames into a hole in the ceiling.

Prior to a night in this wintry B&B, a romantic soak in the hot tub under a starry Quebec sky (or maybe a gentle snowfall) does act as a warm-up. From there guests are advised to strip down to the barest minimum, envelop themselves in a giant shawl and wriggle into a sub-arctic sleeping bag. Trussed like mummies in the tombs of ancient Egypt, hardy visitors then settle for the night on beds of ice, covered with animal skins.

With such an elaborate getting-ready-for-bed ritual it would be foolhardy to drink anything for at least a couple of hours before retiring (and this may be difficult if you have spent the evening at the bar). Exiting your cosy cocoon, then having to dress completely for a visit to the 'facilities' (not ice), is certain to intrude rudely upon your sleep.

Those less adventurous will be pleased to hear that a room at the nearby Four Points by Sheraton is part of the Ice Hotel deal. Guests have the option of enduring the 4 am chill to reach a conventional bed in the Sheraton.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Monday, 27th December, 2010


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