Yes, I still have all of my fingers and my toes. The tip of my nose may never be warm again, but that is the price you pay for staying overnight in a hotel made completely out of ice and snow. I thought growing up with lots of lake effect snow from Lake Erie and spending the last 6 years here in Boston would have prepared me for a long weekend in Québec... it did not.
Last October, I purchased a Groupon for a night in the Hôtel de Glace. I did not go for the exclusive package (extra night, dinner, etc etc), I just had the bare bones package including Saturday night in the ice hotel, a welcome drink, and breakfast the next morning. The following evening I was booked a room at the Four Points Sheraton down the road from the Ice Hotel. I thought being nearby would be a good idea and thought it was fairly close if I wanted to explore centre-ville. Up until a few days before the trip, I did not even consider having a spare room for Saturday night. My traveling companion did not appreciate this plan and booked the additional night at the Sheraton (just in case).
|Centre-ville, Québec City|
I arrived within the walled city with just enough time for my 2:30 walking food tour with Tours Voir Québec. Though a bit pricey at nearly $43 a person, the tour was very informative and a lot of fun. Coincidentally, there were no other people booked on the tour either, so it ended up being a private tour. We stopped at several locations as our guide gave us some history of Québec City. Some of our stops included small wine and food tastings at three different restaurants, an introduction to maple liquor at the SAQ, and stops for cheese, chocolate, and maple product tastings at Maple Delights.
|Part of the wall surrounding the city|
The tour ran for 2.5 hours and I was back on a cab headed to the hotel at 5pm to prepare for my very cold night ahead. I would recommend this tour, or at least this tour company, if you are trying to get a quick history of the city and don't have a lot of time. We spent a lot of time outside, so be prepared with lots of layers and some good boots.
When I got to the Sheraton I warmed up a little and started packing for the night. The following items went in my overnight bag: Two extra pairs of socks, a pair of synthetic leggings to sleep in, a moisture wicking long sleeve shirt to sleep in, a swim suit, camera, cell phone, extra gloves, and an extra hat. The following items did not go into my overnight bag, but should have: a pair of flip flops, more socks, feet warmers, even more socks. Can you figure out which part of my body was the coldest?
|The deluxe suite|
After my sub-par dinner of a cold ham and cheese panini (I do not recommend eating here), I made my way back into the hotel for some drinks at the bar. My package came with one free drink in a souvenir ice glass. If you keep your glass, any additional drinks are discounted by $2. The drinks run from about $8 to $15 depending on the liquor. In reality, the ice glass only holds about as much liquid as a shooter. A $15 shooter is pretty expensive.
|Another beautiful suite|
|The bar area|
|In the bar drinking from an ice glass|
I uncurled my sleeping bag, quickly took off my jacket and snow pants, and changed into my sleeping socks. After zipping myself into the mummy style sleeping bag, I spent the next several hours thinking about how cold my feet and nose were and trying to will myself to sleep. The people who say they had the best sleep of their life here are either A) lying or B) sleep in very uncomfortable beds at home. Fortunately, I did not have to get up to use the restroom in the middle of the night, but I do feel bad for anyone who does. I doubt I would not be able to go back into that sleeping bag after warming up in the heated building during the night.
I got up very early the next morning and made my way back to the heated suite at the Sheraton and napped for a while. Around 12PM, I had to grudgingly put my snow clothes back for a 1pm dog sledding ride in Stoneham with Aventures Nord-Bec. The Hôtel de Glace has a package that includes this option, but I booked my experience separately. It just made better sense to me to plan my activities on my own. The drive took about 30 minutes from the hotel (again, in the snow) to the chalet in the middle of the woods.
|My room for the night|
|Sledding through the snow|
All in all, I have the following recommendations if you are planning a trip to Québec City and the Hôtel de Glace...
- Make sure your car has 4 wheel drive and other appropriate snow gear...check the weather in advance!
- If you are even the slightest bit hesitant about staying the night in the Hôtel de Glace due to claustrophobia, cold feet (literally), or are prone to crankiness with a lack of sleep, don't do it. Be sure to visit as it is incredible to see, but enjoy a warm night in the comfortable of a real bed.
- If you do stay the night, pack lots of socks, flip flops, and a hair dryer.
- If you want to explore the walled part of Québec City, book a hotel closer to centre-ville, not the Sheraton.
- Lastly... make sure you have some serious winter gear (coat, gloves, boots, etc).
A thing worth noting: Québec City is a french city, so if you don't understand French, you may find it a bit frustrating. Most people can speak English to a certain degree, but many other people (especially outside of the tourist zones) do not. Be prepared.