Archive for March, 2019

So what pray tell is “glamping” ?  It must have an element of camping in it, and camping lost its appeal for me decades ago.  I am a product of Northern Ontario,  and my parents, who were passionate about fishing, took me out in a 12’ aluminum boat at 6 months of age.  My memories of lakes, rocks and pine trees are consistent over my early childhood and into my teenage years, and you know, those rocks and trees don’t change much over time.  Same green pine, same black water, same grey rock. 

But glamor? Well that is my passion. In accommodation of course. I have a Master’s degree in luxury, courtesy of an executive position with the platinum coated global company that is American Express.  My handsome husband thinks that I am spoiled in lodging specifically, and he is so right.  So how did my first adventure in “glamping” turn out?

Our first night at El Nidal evoked a strong, unexpected emotional response in me.  The smell of a campfire, listening to the crackle, watching the flames do their hypnotic dance, brought back memories of our family weekends at various lakes around my small home town of Atikokan (“cariboo bones” in Ojibwa) in northeastern Ontario. Half a century later, a whiff of smoke and I am instantly back in the Pre-Cambrian shield, roasting marshmallows, jostling with my cousins for space at the fire and comparing marshmallow readiness.   But no singalongs in my childhood, which is strange because my Dad had a beautiful voice. Before they put radios in cars, he would sing songs from the Kingston Trio as our car bumped along on the way to the Floodwaters, or whatever lake we were fishing in that weekend.  When we made camp, the first task that my brother and I would set ourselves to was finding long green branches to skewer hot dogs and most importantly, marshmallows. My dad would take his ever-present pocket knife and sharpen them to a fine point. I remember marshmallows:  a sweet sticky treat, perfect when golden brown, but never made inedible by burning black. You just gingerly removed the burnt skin, and started again.  

Glamping is an interesting concept, which could only be dreamed up in an age where adults are so divorced from the outdoors yet so committed to their comforts and novelty, that they would pay serious coin to sit in a clothing optional yurt, or safari like tent, or a restored Airstream for the very cool, all to watch the sun come up and go down.  Your choices at glampinghub.com range from a tiny treehouse to rustic reconstructions of five star hotel rooms complete with hot tubs.

El Nidal is the vision of new age, eco-entrepreneur, Marcello Castro Vera:  it is situated on over 50 hectares of  land that has been in the family for 50 years.  In addition to the compound of 8 “accommodation containers”, he has a farm with pigs, sheep, goats and chickens, a micro brewery, a mescaleria, a winery which uses technologies that the ancient Romans would recognize appreciate, and a vineyard which looks like it may take a decade to produce a single grape.  There were 8 couples booked in for 2 days and the container reminded me of an upmarket version of the camper my parents had in the 70’s except with a stylish decor, hot water, satellite TV, and comfy duvets. The event was described by organizer and the best food writer in San Miguel, Glenn Griffin (aka “Don Day”) as an adventure in eating, drinking, then eating drinking followed by more eating and drinking.  As he promised, the typical Mexican food was all cooked over open flames and it was robust, filling and delicious.  There was a smoker too, and the smoked charred beef ribs that came out of that contraption of rusted oil cans are the best BBQ that I have ever tasted.  Really.  

We did sing songs on our first night, led by Bob’s funky guitar playing and charming voice.  There were 8 couples there and I speculated about the possible bickering or blowouts that seem to happen whenever you get couples together out of their natural element and apply copious amounts of alcohol.  But the open air seems to have calmed whatever marital beasts there might be lurking within and conjeniality reigned.  It was a lovely group of people. On the last night, I was alone in the container and could not figure out how to use the “church key” (bottle opener for brown stubbies and now, cool micro brews):  apparently,  I have been out of the North for too long. 

How did I like glamping?  Well, honestly, I missed some of the fun:  I decided that I was going to taste a bit of everything on offer, mescals, gin, grappa, and just a thimbleful each mind you.  But after 2 years of taking only an occasional sip of a special wine from my husband’s glass, I got a little tipsy and needed to retreat to my bed.  Never even made the visit to the ale house. So I missed the competitive bocci ball, and something called “corn in the hole”, and the ride up the mountain to see the sunset.  Ben & I did get to meet some interesting new folks and we had some quiet fireside chats that would not have happened back in San Miguel, with its frenetic socializing. We had intermittent wifi, but no CNN or phone, so the world went on without us for a few days.  The chill on our bones from being 8,000 above sea level gave us plenty to talk about in the morning, comparing strategies for keeping warm and for finding coffee making implements.  The experience was relaxed and friendly, it was certainly a change of pace, and an unexpected benefit:   in one inhale of smoke, I was transported to a favourite time and place that had been on the fringes of my subconscious, but no longer.


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