“We were supposed to be going to the beach!”

It’s “I Have a Dream” weekend 2013 and LivingSocial has once again selected our destination!  After Paris and Amsterdam we had been longing for a warm weather getaway and doing some research on Turks & Caicos.  But it was the LivingSocial deal for the Ice Hotel in Quebec City that caught our eye.  So rather than lounging in the Caribbean sea, we found ourselves chilling in the hot tub in -24C!  Yikes!

But true to form IHAD2013 was an experience for the books (for my new followers, my friends and I take off each year for the Martin Luther King holiday for our “I Have a Dream” getaway – we visit a place where we haven’t been or long to go back to and jumpstart the new year with an adventure).  I’ll tell you more about the “Hotel de Glace” in my next post but, as usual, we landed and hit the ground running.

We made an impression immediately.  The four of us each stood before one of the four immigration officers at the airport who all asked us where we would be staying in Quebec.  When we told them the Ice Hotel, without exception they all responded, “That will be cold”.  You know you’re in trouble when even the locals raise their eyebrows.  The trouble continued as the taxi drivers stood perplexed wondering how to get all four of us and our suitcases into one small sedan.  It was never clear why the mini-van a few vehicles back was not available to us.  As we left the airport looking like a bunch of clowns, we learned that the Ice Hotel is actually located on the site of the old zoo.  So actually, we were staying in the zoo, which seemed appropriate.

After checking into the hotel and assessing the lay of the snow, we were glad that we had made a dinner reservation at a nice warm restaurant in Old Quebec!  Panache is located in the old port area and actually situated in an old riverside warehouse.  The restaurant décor is built around the structure rather than vice versa.  That means the old stone walls are proudly exposed and the tables are fit in around the lofty wooden beams and the staircase that leads to a second level of the restaurant.  Honestly, we would have been happy with just a nice fireplace and a full bodied red to warm our bellies.  What we got was one of the most exceptional dinners any of us had ever had (and yes, in case you’re wondering, I have been to Per Se).

Throughout the Quebecois province, the food is very local.  They are proud of their gaming and fishing history and put what they call a “quebecois” twist on all their dishes.  At Panache that meant pine needles with the Nova Scotia lobster and a blueberry glaze on the Saint Apollinaire duckling.  They are not looking to follow the latest trend, they celebrate their region’s traditions.

I’m sure when we sat down the waiter was expecting this table of four professional women to be high maintenance – sharing entrees, splitting the bill, etc.  What he got was cocktails before the meal, a bottle of red and a bottle of white since we had ordered practically one of everything on the menu and needed both for appropriate pairings, ice wine for dessert along with a brilliant negotiation to purchase four of the custom Panache wine glasses (which, by the way, are not for sale).  I think ultimately they really just took pity on us for the fact that we were soon to be heading back to the Ice Hotel to freeze our tooshes off all evening.  No one missed an opportunity to remind us that it was the coldest night of the year so far!

We finally pulled ourselves away from our warm, cozy table and the four of us, with our four wine glasses, headed back to the Hotel de Glace.

The adventure will continue in the next post!

There’s Fluffy!

Mission Accomplished!  I have seen a Polar Bear.  Ever since my early days at the Buffalo  Zoo I have LOVED  Polar Bears!  And then there was the infamous Gund stuffed Polar Bear – when my apartment was on fire, when Toni was grabbing our most valued possessions, she grabbed my polar bear!

So coming to the Arctic to find see them in the flesh was somewhat of a lifelong journey for me.  To actually get this close, was amazing (no worries, I was using a zoom lens, I wasn’t exactly this close).  But they are amazing creatures.  And no matter what potsmoker says, they are finding it harder and harder to find food.  So next time you get in your car (or cab), or leave a light on when you leave a room or skip the recycling, think of Fluffy, and think twice.

By the way, Fluffy was the name coined by the Expedition Leader of our boat, I just thought it was funny!

I have TONS more pics, and when I get home they will all be available in my album section – not to toot my horn, but they’re pretty cool 🙂

Where’s Fluffy?

Well, looks like he was here.  But no more.

We find ourselves living in a consumer world.  Not that we don’t all work hard and have a desire to do good, be contributing members of society and leave the world a better place (well, at least everyone I know personally).  But no matter how open-minded, caring and compassionate we all are, we all have to come to a point where we know what we want and we think we know how to get it – for the most part, we do and we can.

For that very reason, I do not find much enjoyment in vacationing in places such as Disneyland, which only feed these misconceptions.  Spend a day (or perhaps a week, it remains to be seen) in nature, looking for real wildlife and you will find yourself completely lacking control.  Only such a situation could leave almost one hundred generally educated, successful people standing out in the freezing cold staring at a blank, white landscape hoping to catch a glimpse of a polar bear.

While I find all the global warming naysayers woefully out of touch (I mean really, even if today’s lifestyle’s are not leading to catastrophe, what is the harm in turning out the lights and driving less?) i have not yet found evidence here that the polar bears are desperately seeking nourishment.  If they were, I assure you, we all would have been more than happy to throw them some food from the ship (or perhaps even a few annoying passengers!).

And while there is a part of me that is rooting for the polar bear not catering to our every consumer driven whim, I do hope to have a polar bear pic to share before the week is over!

More Bars in More Places

All of you who know me (which, unfortunately is probably anyone reading this) I’m sure you assume I’m talking about the kind of bar that you belly up to.  Well, I sort of am, hence the picture of the nicely appointed bar aboard the Antarctic Dream.  Although, being here without my beloved husband, I will probably not spend as much time there as you all would expect.  However, I am also referring to my amazement that I actually do still have mobile service at 78 degrees N (ie. about as close to the North Pole as one can get).  And no, this is not a shameless plug for AT&T (Lisa & Renee, nudge, nudge) but yet another example of, as I always say, it IS a great time to be alive.

Now I know there are many of you who think that it actually signals the end of the world as we know it.  The fact that there appears to be nowhere in the world anymore that one can truly “unplug” and get away from it all.  But having the benefit of having been essentially unplugged for the past six months, I have learned that escaping from the stresses of the world, of work or even family is not necessarily about removing oneself from the situation.  It is actually about allowing yourself to be truly in the situation, focussing on it and only it, dealing with it as it occurs and then moving on.  The reason stress is so hard to relieve is that we allow it to linger rather than accepting whatever is occurring now that is causing our stress, determining the course of action to deal with it, and then accepting the outcome, whatever that may be.

I am about as remote as you can get in this world, and even moreso as the entire ship (save the crew) has left to go explore the amazing scenery surrounding us.  And yes, I can pick up my mobile phone and call anyone in the world right now, I think that’s great – but I will not, I will enjoy the peace and serenity that I can only experience right now and know that that is the choice I have the luxury to make.

Ice Cream in the Arctic

Two little boys enjoying their first ice cream of the summer – even if summer means 8 degrees (Celsius) vs. 20 below.  What a great lesson in enjoying life for what it has to offer.  The Arctic Circle proves to be one of the unique places on earth.  The fact that over 2000 people have chosen to call this home is fascinating.  They choose to endure months of darkness, even the 3 or 4 hours a day of “daylight” can be greeted with heavy clouds and darkness.  For surviving all of that, you are rewarded with non-stop brightness for 3 or 4 months.  It conjures up images of people staying awake for days on end just to soak up the light (and Vitamin D).

But it can all be seen in the faces of these little boys, who attack their ice cream cones with same reverence and joy as we did as kids – even bundled up in their winter coats and hats.  I will think of these kids next time I complain about the pool being less than 80 degress (Fahrenheit) or my coffee going cold.

My Itinerary

January 8  12:50 Korean Air #82 New York JFK – Seoul

January 9  19:05 Korean Air #129 Seoul – Auckland (arrive 10:25 January 10th)

January 18 New Zealand Air Auckland – Queenstown

January 22 New Zealand Air Queenstown – Auckland

January 23 18:50 Emirates #407 Auckland – Melbourne

January 29 12:10 JetAir #610 Melbourne – Sydney

February 3 – 5 Byron Bay

February 12 15:40 Malaysian Air #122 Sydney – Kuala Lumpur

February 12 23:25 Malaysian Air #20 Kuala Lumpur (arrive 6:05 February 13th)

February 13 – 21 – Beth & Terry through Benelux

February 22 – February 28 – Beth & Barb/Switzerland (skiing maybe?)

March 1 – March 31 – Beth @ Institut de Francais/Villefranche-sur-mer

April 1 10:30 KLM Royal Dutch # 1230 Paris – Amsterdam

April 1 13:30 KLM Royal Dutch #641 Amsterdam – New York JFK (arrive 15:25 April 1)