Saturday, March 1, 2014

Quebec shenanigans and surviving the ice hotel (part 2)

By: Janine

The ice hotel:

The four of us arrived at the ice hotel a little before 5. There is a non-ice building in front that looks something like the inside of a train station with a restroom, gift shop, a ticket booth, and some benches. The first thing we noticed was that the tube slide was closed "due to the warm weather." Now it was only 30 degrees that day, but I guess that's a little too warm for the people of Quebec. Nevertheless, the check-in went smoothly and we were able to join the last English speaking tour at 5pm.
There they showed us the ice lobby, the ice bar, a few themed rooms, and the wedding chapel (yes, people do really get married in there! They even make them special bridal jackets to wear on the special day. brrrrr) It is absolutely amazing to see the intricate detail they carved in the ice in only 6 weeks time, a real work of art. There is also a little shop that sells maple sugar pops at the hotel. For $3, you get a Popsicle stick and they pour the maple sugar across the snow, which you then use the stick to roll it up into a sorta lollipop. It was tasty but messy.
Hotel De Glace ice chandelier in the main lobby
Chandelier in the main lobby

Hotel De Glace ice lobby
Ice Lobby - The real check in area was where the lockers were, called Celsius Pavilion 
Hotel De Glace ice bar
Ice Bar- Sponsored by Heineken

Hotel De Glace devil eyes
One of the themed rooms- would you sleep in here?
Hotel De Glace ice suite
Another suite - they had fireplaces that don't emit heat

Hotel De Glace ice chapel
Ice alter for a cool wedding ceremony....
Quebec maple syrup candy
Rolling a maple syrup lollipop in the snow
By the time the tour was over, we were starving, so we went to locate one of the supposed "many" restaurants the tour guide told us about. There were no restaurants to be found, unless you count subway and similar fast food. We finally gave up on finding a nice place and ate a local fast food chicken place...

When we got back to the hotel, we spent about 20 minutes or so taking pictures of the suites they didn't show us on the tour before we had to attend a mandatory meeting on how to use the sleeping bag/sleep at 8:15. It was pretty basic stuff for the most part. The sleeping bag can withstand -20 degree weather while it was about 23 in the ice hotel, and it comes with an additional liner that we were told to step into before we got inside the sleeping bag. They also mentioned it was very important to keep our feet dry and recommended bringing an extra pair of socks. Our phone and camera was able to come with us and should be kept inside the sleeping bag. They finished the meeting by warning us to use the bathroom before going to bed because getting up in the middle of the night to pee was the worst possible thing... You can guess what happened to me at 2am...

Hotel De Glace ice bed
Our room for the night. Sleeping bags not pictured

Before going to bed, we went to the ice bar to use our free drink voucher. The drink was tasty but weak, and it was hard to hold the ice glass with my gloves on. We contemplated staying a while and ordering another drink, but at $12.50 for a shot sized drink, we decided to head to the hot tubs instead. Now, the hot tubs were amazing. There is something about being surrounded by a big building of snow and ice that just adds to the experience of sitting in a hot tub. It also had an adjustable temperature gauge so we could make sure we were warm and toasty the whole time. After our soak, we went to dry off in the sauna, then walked back to the locker room in our robes as if it wasn't 20 degrees outside. I guess raising our body temperatures actually worked. However, by the time we got changed and used some free wifi all the benefit of the hot tub had worn off and we started to get cold again.

Ice bar free drink in our ice glasses

We settled into our sleeping bags exactly as instructed and tried to sleep. We wore base layers to bed, hats, warm socks, and I wore a hoodie over my thermal shirt while Brian stayed in just his thermal. The first thing I noticed was that my hat kept slipping off and my ears were cold. I remembered I had a hood, and that mostly fixed that problem. Then my nose froze. It was hard to warm up my face in general because we were told not to sleep entirely under the sleeping bag as our breath would freeze and make us colder. I really struggled getting comfortable because of this. I fell asleep for about an hour before I woke up and had to pee. I cursed my horrible luck and proceeded to get out of the warm sleeping bag and walk down the now super creepy dark ice hotel hallway to the locker area to use the bathroom. When I got back I struggled to get comfortable again and now was really cold. I wore gloves for a while until my body warmed up, and eventually went to sleep somewhere around 3ish. In total I would say I got about 4 hours sleep.

Hotel De Glace ice hallway
Walking the ice halls at 2am was eerily quiet and sorta creepy
 At 7am we woke up and went to breakfast. Trip advisor is spot on with their reviews, the breakfast is terrible. It was some sort of eggs benedict, sausage that looked like uncooked hot dogs, and empty crepes. The only thing that was good was the home fries, which we all ended up eating an entire plate of for lack of better choice. There were surprisingly not that many people in the breakfast area or in the showers. I'm not sure if they were still sleeping (you have until 8:30 to wake up and vacate the room), if they had already left, or if they hadn't survived the night and retreated to the warm Sheraton hotel that was included in some people's packages.

hotel de glace ice slide
We took one last spin on the ice slide after breakfast for good measure

Overall, we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I wouldn't say we would do it again, but it was exactly what we expected it to be. So stop reading and start planning your trip to Hotel-De-Glace !

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