Greetings from My Vacation


In my part of the world, winter means five months of frozen ground, almost no sunlight, no growth, no green, nothing to eat from the yard. It's tough for the gardeners to bear in good humor. So I generally don't and just get grouchier by the month, until by March, I can't look outside without grumbling, "It is not really snowing again, is it?"

Winter is a lot like aging. It happens, it has its downsides, but there's really nothing you can do about it. And if you try to resist it, you can waste almost half of your life in ill feeling.

So this year, a few months shy of my 50th birthday, I have decided to stop complaining about vast swaths of the calendar and just embrace the inevitable.  I've been running and snowshoeing outdoors in all weather.  And experiencing even a little weak sunlight really does make me cheerier, even with no gardening on the horizon.

But if you REALLY want to learn how to make the best of winter, you could do worse things than travel to Quebec, where the French Canadians do winter with brio. That's where I've been for the last week.


Here are photos from the ultimate in stylish wintering: the Hotel de Glace or ice hotel where my family and I spent a frigid, expensive, but fairly amazing night.  The barefoot run over frozen snow to the outdoor hottub will not soon be forgotten.  Neither will the clothes frozen stiff in our bags.

Above is the bar: chic but insane.


More frozen insanity.  The ice carvers, a pair of young guys exercising their creativity all over this ice building, were incredibly nice to my kids, answering at least half an hour of questions.

You cannot throw a stick in Quebec without hitting a skier, a dog-sledder, a snowshoer, an iceskater, or a tobogganer.  And this willingness to leave the hearth in favor of vigorous exercise in frozen temperatures seems not to end in youth, either.  There were 80 year-olds on the ski slopes at Mont-Sainte-Anne.

As my ski instructor there–the lovely, blue-eyed, 58 year-old Suzi–said, "Winter is hard, but it is LIFE."


  1. But they are equipped for the frozen stiff and have learned how to make the most of it. Some of us have to be smacked around a little to be convinced we even need cold weather clothes, tools, shoes and a proper state of mind.

  2. Me, to my husband, “Wait, I thought you said we were going to stay at a nice hotel, not an ice hotel!” Loooove it!

  3. Oh, awesome! I wish I had made it up there when I lived in Keene Valley. I’ve noticed, since moving south, that my blood has thinned CONSIDERABLY. I didn’t really mind it SO Much while I lived there, but now, I squeal if the temp goes below 30.

  4. I think that your body’s thermostat responds to temperature. I can remember a week of -40C on the Prairies (that is cold, it hurts to breathe)then on Christmas Day the temperatures rose to -10C. We walked over to a friend’s house, no toques, no mitts, jackets open, aaahh lovely balmy -10C.

  5. The ice hotel is beautiful.

    I agree with rainymountain! After a few days of highs hovering around 0 F, it didn’t seem so bad. I have also decided to cope with winter by going cross-country skiing. Last week the windchill was -1 F but I was comfortable and feeling very tough. Ironically, when I venture out again, the high in Minneapolis on Saturday will be 36 F!

  6. Oh wow, what an experience! Someday I would love to see those ice structures myself.

    Some of the things I do to feed my gardening urge in winter: starting seeds indoors, growing things in pots in the windowsils, picking up downed branches in the woods and using them to edge paths or build other things; shovel and stack snow to test out ideas for future paths and flower beds.

  7. i love quebec! we have visited the ice hotel and it is wonderful. eat some poutine while you are there and buy some liege waffles on the main street in the old town.

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