The Ice Hotel has wireless Internet. That is nowhere near the most amazing thing about this place, but I can hardly believe that I’m uploading this post via my iBook as I lounge on a blonde pine bed, while deep piles of snow lie heaped on the ground outside my windows. Wireless Internet in the Arctic Circle! Somebody pinch me!
Excuse me if I sound giddy; it’s only because I am. I haven’t slept in nearly two days, and I just spent the past few hours wandering through rooms carved out of ice, each one designed by a different artist around a distinctive theme. Waterfalls. Angels. Time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s been a very long day. Our flight was scheduled to leave Heathrow at 7:00 am this morning; before we went to bed last night, we set the cell phone alarm for 4:15. But we had spent a lovely evening laughing our heads off with a group of artists over Indian food at a restaurant near Hyde Park; we didn’t get to back to our room until after midnight, and frankly – why bother trying to fall asleep when you’ll only get to stay that way for a couple of hours? And besides: we were still on San Francisco time.
We managed to stay awake until 4:00, and then we stuffed our things back in our bags and phoned a taxi. The flight from London to Stockholm lasted about two hours. In Stockholm, we retrieved our bags and dragged them back through customs. Finally, around noon, we boarded a flight for Kiruna.
From the air, an hour and a half later, it appeared that we had reached the edge of civilization. The landscape was a stage set of ice and snow, punctuated with the sharp tips of treetops; the effect from several thousand feet was of grains of pepper sprinkled on a sea of cream. There were no familiar latticeworks of roads and bridges; we tried unsuccessfully to find a single building; we couldn’t even see the runway lights until we were nearly on the ground.
The tiny Kiruna airport is painted a bright cherry red. Representatives from the Ice Hotel stood beneath a large banner, and we joined a line to sign in. Once we retrieved our baggage, we schlepped out to a huge tour bus, which brought us here, to the first, original Ice Hotel.
We’re sleeping in the Warm Side tonight. Tomorrow we’ll move into the Cold, where we will sleep in a room made of snow on a bed of ice. Even on this side, it’s very, very cold. Somewhere between -20 and -28. Way, way, way below freezing. I’m wearing heavy jeans on top of wool thermals; my feet are swaddled with thick socks and boots; I’ve got three layers on top, plus a coat, a scarf and a hat; my bony fingers are hiding inside not one but two pair of gloves. When we got back to the room a few minutes ago, I looked in the mirror and realized that my mascara had abandoned my eyelashes and is now decorating my eyelids. I look like a raccoon.
A very happy, tired raccoon. But I’m not going to sleep anytime soon. We have dinner reservations in 30 minutes, and I can’t wait to see what’s on the menu.