When I think of an ice hotel, the first thing that comes to mind is any residence where I stayed with my ex. Then, along the edge of Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau, sits a man-made feast for the eyes -- the Snow Village. It's an interconnected palace of neon lights, 40,000 cubic metres of snow and 30 guest suites of carved ice.
On this particular night, I will sleep here in a sort of ice pod, on a fur-lined bed as an official reviewer (thanks to Tourism Montreal) and as an unofficial previewer of my possible future foray into the world of cryogenics.
"Bonjour," says the clerk at the front desk. "Oh, hi ..umm, how are you?" I reply with the kind of alien shame any anglophone feels in Montreal, as if we're visiting from a faraway tribe in New Guinea.
Much to my excitement, as I approach the lobby of the hotel, a DJ spins against a flashing backdrop. At this moment, it's a track from Grammy-winner Deadmau5 (pronounced Deadmau5), ironic given those touring the facility at the time probably think Deadmau5 is something their eight cats bring to them.
The internal architecture is striking with meticulously carved doorways, extravagantly decorated pillars, protruding wall art and ice benches, which have about a four-minute time limit until you permanently become the new arm rest. A wedding is unfolding in the 30-person ice chapel. The bride wore white -- icicles. On her chin.
Given the external temperature is -22 C on this particular day, dinner in the hotel's Pommery Ice restaurant is a relative slice of Club Med. A gourmet, very satisfying, three-course meal runs $69 a person. I amateurishly eat too slowly, watching my maplewood trout entree transform into an ice fossil. Dessert was an enticing plate of caramelized cakes with pecan, caramel and chocolate sauce, but after 90 minutes this meal comes with a side order of the early stages of shrinkage.
At 9 p.m., we are given an orientation by our ambassador, Dave, who teaches us how to use our sleeping bag, noting it is most important that we do not breathe in the sleeping bag as the condensation creates a cold damp environment. Frankly, I'll take brain damage over hypothermia any day of the week.
My room, labelled -14 C, is circular in shape with red and blue lighting and the comforting company of a wide mouthed shark. Once inside the sleeping bag, temperature is a non-factor and I'm as toasty as a pig in a blanket.
At 4 a.m., my bladder is near bursting and I scan the room for a pot or a new age ice catheter.
All in all, the Snow Village is a magical haven and a bucket-list tale for the grandkids. But, unless you're a polar bear, I wouldn't bank on any romance while staying overnight.