I never thought I would take a winter vacation, being a sun baby and one who is not at all fond of the cold. But with a friend from Montreal, the idea to head out to Quebec City in February 2009 for the annual Carnaval d’Hiver somehow didn’t seem like such a crazy one. It was an incredible 5-day adventure that I will not soon forget!
We decided to spend the first couple of days just outside of Quebec City at Station Touristique Duchesnay, home of Quebec City’s Ice Hotel! We were not able to make a reservation to stay in the ice hotel, but thought we would go anyway and tour the ice structure and stay at L’Auberge Duchesnay, next door. Connected to the hotel is spa, which we took full advantage of with a massage, body scrub, sauna and jacuzzi package. AMAZING!
We thought we would check out the bar in the ice hotel for a cocktail one evening, before it was closed off to the public for the hotel guests. Because it’s so cold at the Ice Hotel, they serve only hard liquor, as anything else would freeze due to the icy temperatures. To boot, all cocktails were served in glasses made of ice, eliminating any worry your drink getting warm!
For entertainment, they held an ice carving competition. I never imagined myself as an ice sculptor, but now was my opportunity to give it a shot. It turned out to be a fun, creative experience! The ice was fairly soft and easy to carve. Between myself and my travel partner, we carved the head of the Bonnehomme d’Hiver, the mascot for the Carnival. I carved the toque, while he carved the face.
We had such a great time in the Ice Hotel that evening that we tried our luck with the ice hotel reception desk to see if there happened to be any cancellations that night. We were in luck! We were even able to swing a themed room for the price of a regular room, and ended up with the Cathedral Room.
Again, let me stress to you how much I hate the cold… And I mean HATE THE COLD!!! So I’m really unsure what possessed me to agree to staying in a hotel with walls made of ice, floors of snow, a bed made of ice, and an average temperature of 4 degrees Celsius! I think I may have suffered from some form of temporary insanity at the time… But in the end it was a “cool” experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to do it!
The hotel provided us with North Face sleeping bags and a crash course on how to stay warm for the night. There were six hot tubs and a sauna at the Ice Hotel, to warm up before turning in to your COLD room for the night. They recommended to dry off COMPLETELY (including all your nooks and crannies) when leaving the changing area, as any moisture at all would be a risk of freezing and making your Ice Hotel experience a very unpleasant one. They provided blow dryers to help with this – not only for your hair, but your entire body!
Once in the room, we unpacked out sleeping bags and crawled in fully clothed, socks, toques and all! The bed frame was made of ice, but the mattress itself was foam covered with animal furs, which made things much more comfortable.
We survived the night right up to the 8am wake up call when they booted us out to prepare the hotel for the daily public tours. I had woken up maybe an hour prior to the wake up call and it was not until then that I started to feel cold and a bit uncomfortable. But I stuck it out, my sleeping bag was still the warmest place to be at that moment!
The best part about the stay at the Quebec City Ice Hotel is that you have the comfort of knowing that you have a room at the nice WARM L’Auberge Duchesnay, just up the hill included with your stay. So just in case you do get too cold and don’t think you will make it through the night at -4 Celsius, you are able to go to a nice warm bed! And after our wake up call, you can bet that I made a beeline for a nice, long, hot shower!
For more photos of the Quebec City Ice Hotel, please visit my Flickr page.