Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, Qubec-- The Ice Hotel first manifested its strange power well before my stay there, when my wife awoke from her night's sleep, waking me, too, and said, "I dreamed I was at the Ice Hotel." I asked what she'd done there. "I went to the bar for a drink." My Mormon wife never boozes, but the concept of vodka served in vessels of ice kind of grabs you.
The Ice Hotel's next section, a roomy hall, featured that gorgeous curving bar of my wife's dream. Little cubbies, furnished with tables and benches, were sculpted into the walls for those who sought intimacy while sipping vodka from their big, blocky ice glasses. A free-standing fireplace and a crackling wood fire generated the irony that, in 27,000 square feet of Ice Hotel, the only two sources of warmth were available in the bar. And another irony: Provincial code required a fire extinguisher within the bartender's reach, as if anything much could have burned.
Eventually, a French-accented voice in the doorway called, "It's seven o'clock. Hot chocolat at the bar." I poked my head out into the cold. Wan daylight penetrated the chamber, and I beheld the gigantic carving in the wall to my right: a relief representation of Lucifer himself, pellucid as all get-out and grinning sickeningly, his wingspan measuring a full fifteen feet. This image, I was told, was reproduced from the label of another of the microbrewer's products. If they kept this up, they were sure to remain micro.