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Baby, It’s Cold Inside: My Night in the Ice Hotel

December 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Baby, It’s Cold Inside: My Night in the Ice Hotel 

“YOU are going to sleep in a hotel made of ice,” questioned my friend Colleen?  “But, you’re always cold, even here in Florida.”

 

Icy-Bed in Hotel de Glace

Icy-Bed in Hotel de Glace

“True,” I said. I never wear shorts to the movies and always carry a sweater into the grocery store so I don’t shiver in the frozen food aisle. But, I’ve become quite an adventurer and staying in Quebec’s Ice Hotel sounded like a challenge.

 

I arrived at the Hotel de Glace (as say the French speaking Canadians), a 44-room “icetablishment”, along with three others at 8:45 p.m. Not a time I would ordinarily check-in at a hotel, but rooms don’t open for overnight guests until 9 pm.  In retrospect, why sit around a frosty 10-15 degree Fahrenheit bedroom?

 

Ice-Chapel

Ice-Chapel

My group decided to explore the annually constructed attraction on the grounds of Quebec City’s former zoo. Construction takes a team of 50 people working day and night for six weeks. They start by making 15,000 tons of snow and laying the foundation. Then, snow is blown around arched or dome shaped metal molds. After three days the molds are removed. Finally, 500 tons of crystalline ice blocks arrive to be carved into furniture, columns and sculptures.

 

We meandered around and soon discovered a vaulted chapel with a stained ice-glass window and etched ice altar. Apparently some die-hard brides get married inside the frozen sanctuary, arriving like the Snow Queen on a sleigh pulled by white horses. Might be picturesque, but shivering through vows doesn’t sound like a good start.

Next, we hit the disco and bar where pulsating music and neon lights bounced around the snow encrusted walls. A glass enclosed fireplace flickered near the corner drawing me to the flames like a true thin-blooded Floridian. But, I realized it didn’t emit any heat. Of course not, the bar would melt if wood burning embers produced warming rays.

 

Ice-Hotel-Bartender

Ice-Hotel-Bartender

Bartenders in fur hats served drinks in oversized ice cube glasses with holes drilled three-quarters through the center. I ordered a Nordique – a combination of vodka, blue Curacao and lime juice. The glass chilled my already numbed and gloved fingers and proved awkward to sip, but the libation slid a welcoming blaze down my throat. I could have sipped another, but I was going to sleep in a room more comfortable to a polar bear than human. I didn’t want to leave my sleeping bag for a bathroom call.

Ice-Drink

Around 11 pm, we attended a training class, a requirement for all overnight guests held in Celsius, the hotel’s heated lobby, locker room and dining facilities. The instructor explained the secret to staying warm was to start warm. I was told to take a 15-20 minute hot tub (in an outdoor spa, no less) and then dash into a dry sauna. This two-step process would warm my body before donning sleepwear and hopping into a specialized sleeping bag as quick as possible.

 

Hot-Tub-and-Sauna

Hot-Tub and Sauna

Easier said that done. “Make sure you are very dry before putting on your PJ’s,” she coached. I used the locker room blow dryer to thoroughly dry my piggys before putting on high-tech fiber socks. The hotel sends notice to bring breathable synthetic fabric clothing and emphasized a no cotton rule because damp cotton would freeze.

 

Once clad in my outfit, I threw on my jacket and boots and raced down the snow carpeted pathway to my room- at the opposite end of the complex.  I entered an alabaster world; a white arched ceiling and open space dominated by a bed of ice. The bed was topped with a thin piece of plywood, a small mattress and brown fuzzy bedspread. The mattress added some softness but felt stiff from the below freezing temperatures. So, how did I survive?

My Ice-Bed

My Ice-Bed

Guests receive sleeping bags which contain a liner made from material resembling eyeglass cleaning cloths. You finagle your way into this thin shroud before getting into the mummy shaped outer bag. The process is tricky because you must stand on the bed or your stocking feet will get wet from the floor. Once in, you pull the liner up and tighten the sleeping bag’s face straps to completely encase your body.

 

I tugged and twisted but couldn’t get the straps snug against my head, so I put on my spare ski hat with ear flaps and tied it under my chin. The only thing exposed to the arctic air was my face.

 

And, baby it was cold. I’m sure my schnoze looked like Rudolph’s with frostbite. I tried to add a scarf around my eyes and upper nose for warmth, but it kept falling off. The North Pole like air chapped my skin and I fought with myself to relax and go to sleep.

 

So, I lay still and tried slow meditative breathing. However, lying in this inhospitable dark environment made me feel very alone, an emotion magnified by my recent divorce. “Debi,” I thought to myself, “you must be strong and tenacious.” Eventually I ignored the discomfort, managed to let go and nodded off.

 

Who knows what time it was when I awoke in total darkness. I could see nothing. Had I freed my cocooned arm, I could have turned on the one light bulb in the room. But, I knew I was in snow cave. I had no need to see. Instead, I hummed a song that came into my head, that rather annoying tune from The Poseidon Adventure: There’s Got to be a Morning After.”

 

Ice-Hotel-Hallway

Ice-Hotel-Hallway

The next time I awoke I questioned hallucinations. I swear sunlight was creeping into my room. How could that be? My room had no windows. I rolled from a side lying fetal position onto my back and looked up. There, off to the right side of the bed, gapped a hole in the roof. Snow was gently falling as if Tinkerbelle was shaking fairy dust down the opening. The sight was mesmerizingly beautiful, but only for a minute. I was chilled and my bladder was full.

 

Alas, a thought occurred to me as I scampered back to warmth; I’d slept the night in the Ice Hotel. I survived persistent cold and raw aloneness and if I could withstand that, I must be resilient. What next?

www.hoteldeglace-canada.com

Shopping in Quebec City

Shopping in Quebec City

The Historic Gettysburg Hotel

October 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on The Historic Gettysburg Hotel 

A Hotel Review: Gettysburg Hotel

While visiting Pennsylvania,  my grandchildren and I stayed at the recently renovated Gettysburg Hotel.  Talk about a strategic location, this hotel is the epicenter of downtown and right in the middle of the action.  We could walk all to sites of interest, restaurants, tours or shops.  The only time a car is needed is if you choose to drive to distant battlefields and the National Military Park Headquarters.

The Gettysburg Hotel

The Gettysburg Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Gettysburg Hotel has a delightful new Tavern/restaurant where we ended up grabbing a quick bite before a ghost tour. The food was far above tavern quality, including a hand-made hamburger patty and delicious made from scratch soup. We sat at a high top table in the bar area and received prompt, friendly service.

 

Gettysburg-Hotel-Pancakes

Pancakes at One Lincoln restaurant in the Gettysburg Hotel

Breakfast the next morning at One Lincoln (within the hotel) was worthy of praise.The decor included wallpaper with graphic lettering from the Gettysburg Address and the ceiling is copper penny colored pressed-tin  My grandson’s order of pancakes could have fed a whole battalion. I chose Eggs Benedict and the poached eggs were done to perfection- still gooey in the middle but not undercooked.

 

Eggs Benedict at One Lincoln in the Gettysburg Hotel

Our rooms were airy and spacious, beautifully color coordinated with lots of light blue and grey, and a bathroom that allowed us to spread out. My room had a microwave and mini refrigerator, ideal for the traveler. I appreciated the complimentary high-speed Internet service in my room and throughout the hotel

 

 

 

 

 

The history of this hotel is fascinating; it was established in 1797 as the Scott Tavern. In 1809, William McClellan purchased the inn and changed the name to Indian Queen.

 

During the Civil War, the Tenth New York Calvary wintered in Gettysburg and the Quartermaster took a room at the hotel which he used for the transaction of business. After the battle, the hotel parlors were turned over to the Sisters of Charity who  nursed the wounded soldiers.

 

As the town prepared for the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery  in November 18, 1863, every hotel was filled to capacity. The Gettysburg Hotel was so full that people had to sleep in the lobbies and the bar. President Lincoln stayed in the David Wills House directly across the street from the hotel.

One of the stylish lobbies in the Gettysburg Hotel

Today the Gettysburg Hotel is owned by Gettysburg College and operated by the Waterford Hotel Group.  The facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. I highly recommend this hotel for fine lodging in the town of Gettysburg. More information at: www.hotelgettysburg.com

 

Disclosure:  Thanks to the  Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Gettysburg Hotel for my visit.

Amenities Add Up for St. Francis Inn Guests in St. Augustine, Florida

July 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Amenities Add Up for St. Francis Inn Guests in St. Augustine, Florida 

St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, FL

St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, FL

 

A Hotel Review: St. Francis Inn

 

St. Francis of Assisi gave up all the trappings of a privileged lifestyle to follow God. Not necessary for guests at the St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine, Florida. In fact, the St. Francis Inn lavishes lodgers with more amenities than one might pray for.

 

The cozy Bed and Breakfast, located in the oldest section of America’s oldest city, offers a bountiful breakfast buffet for a few hours each morning (time depends of day of the week).  Guests do not need to sit and eat with others in the dining room unless they choose to. Lodgers have the option of using a tray to take their breakfast goodies out to the courtyard, into their room, or for that matter anywhere they choose.

Full Breakfast Buffet

Full Breakfast Buffet

 

Afternoon snacks include hearty hors d’oeurves plus wine, beer, ice tea, soda or flavored water. Cucumber and melon flavored water were beautiful displayed in glass containers when I visited. Complimentary non-alcoholic drinks remain available throughout the day.

 

Room at the St. Francis Inn

Room at the St. Francis Inn

Desserts are offered each evening from 8:00 – 9:30pm.  The scrumptious baked items are masterful homemade creations by Janice, the chef at the Inn. She makes special birthday, anniversary or other occasion delights upon request. Her chocolate covered strawberries are some of the best I have ever tasted.  And, late night snackers may help themselves to chips and soda.

The St. Francis Inn Beach Cottage

St. Francis Inn Beach Cottage

But St. Francis extras don’t stop with food.  Guests at the historic area inn are offered the option of exploring St. Augustine Beach, about 8 miles away, with access to reserved parking, beach chairs and full bath/shower facilities. This is a real plus in my mind because beach parking can be difficult. The Inn also offers beach sleeping options. Reserve their Beach Cottage and you’ll get 2 bedrooms, full kitchen, living and dining room, plus indoor Jacuzzi.

 

Complimentary high speed WiFi runs throughout the inn and the St. Francis has their own solar heated swimming pool. Guests also have complimentary use of bicycles in the Old City, free tickets to the Lighthouse and 50% off discounts for tours of the Oldest House.

 

A special promotion in 2013 gives Inn guests who stay for two nights Sunday thru Thursday at regular rates a complimentary admission (valued at $59 plus tax per person) for a two-hour Segway Through History ride. Advance reservations are required but this is a way cool way to see America’s oldest city.

 

Innkeepers Joe and Margaret Finnegan maintain a generous spirit and like to spoil their guests with abundance. Guests clearly feel welcome and many find they simply must return to re-experience the charm of the St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine.

 

Cozy Room of the St. Francis Inn

Cozy Room of the St. Francis Inn

279 Saint George St, St. Augustine, Florida 32084
Toll-free: 1-800-824-6062
Tel: (904) 824-6068 • Fax: (904) 810-5525
Email: info@stfrancisinn.com
Mobile Site: stfrancisinn.mobi

 

My stay at the St. Francis Inn Beach Cottage arranged by Leigh Cort Publicity.

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