Cardella: Let’s Go Glamping

I never attended summer camp as a kid. It’s not that my parents deprived me of the opportunity. I never showed any interest in camping. Never joined the Boy Scouts. The closest I came to the Scouts was when I purchased Girl Scout cookies. I liked the “Samoas” because I imagined I was in the central South Pacific when I ate one.

I joined the Air Force Reserve instead of the Army so I wouldn’t have to “rough it.”

Never had to sleep overnight in the field when I proudly wore Air Force blue. Roughing it in the Air Force was sleeping in dormitory-style rooms and singing OFF WE GO INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER. Call me a namby-pamby or a “sissy,” I wear the label proudly. Sleeping outdoors was never for me. You can have the experience of snoozing in a sleeping bag or in a tent, I’ll take sleeping on my Sealy Posturepedic in an air-conditioned room with a roof over my head. You like gazing at the stars. Me? I’ll take the Planetarium on a Sunday afternoon. But I just learned about “Glamping,” and it sounds like more my style.

Glamping is a synthesis of “glamour camping.” It’s defined as camping with amenities, as paradoxical as that sounds. As long as the emphasis is on amenities and less so on camping, I could become a big fan. Glamping normally involves resort-style services not usually associated with traditional camping. For instance, breakfast in bed is not unknown when glamping. And even the Air Force doesn’t serve its airmen breakfast in bed.

Camping is one area where I’m not a traditionalist. WIKIPEDIA states that glamping has become particularly popular with 21st-century tourists seeking the luxuries of hotel accommodations alongside the escapism and adventurous recreation of camping. Hello AC and a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice and good-bye, mosquitoes and stray bears foraging too close to your campsite.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea of toasting marshmallows over an open fire. My problem is when I rub two sticks together, nothing ever happens. Believe me — if all cavemen (“cave people?”) had been like me, there would be no such thing as a hot meal today. When I think of glamping, I’m picturing room service in a five-star hotel serving me S’MORES on a silver tray. Who needs two sticks?

While glamping is a new word, the concept is not. The word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. One of the earliest examples of glamping occurred around the 16th century when a Scottish Earl (the one NOT played by Mel Gibson) treated King James V and his mother to a luxurious tent filled with all kinds of goodies (I’m assuming finnan haddie and butterscotch pudding were served with shots of Glenfiddich by waiters in kilts). However generous the set-up by the Scottish Earl (SOFTHEART?), it was like pork and beans compared to the menu at a legendary diplomatic summit in northern France around 1520.

That summit was called the FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD. The main attendees were Henry VIII of England (I think he left Anne Boleyn home) and Francis I of France (known today in my old neighborhood as “Frankie One”). It is said that the fountains ran with red wine.  Bet that got rather messy. I understand that Henry VIII did not take it well when poor Anne Boleyn couldn’t get the stains out of his tunic. And you know how that ended. A TIDE STAINSTICK might’ve saved Anne’s lovely head. Reports from YE OLDE (why do Brits always add an unnecessary letter at the end of familiar words?) LONDON TIMES claim that over 2,800 tents were erected that day. The tents bore the names of sponsors. Henry VIII is said to have consumed an entire leg of mutton in the GUINNESS TENT (another factor that doomed Ann Boleyn was her inability to properly cook mutton).

The Ottomans were not to be outdone. A familiar phrase at that time was “Keeping Up With the Ottomans,” not to be confused with my favorite pastime: keeping my legs up on an ottoman. The Ottomans insisted on having an entire team of artisans travel with their armies. These artisans were expected to maintain the imperial tents. One of their most arduous tasks was to carry heavy chairs with footstools, later to be called Ottomans. Ottomans loved to sit on Ottomans, while watching TV and eating pita chips.

Four centuries later, the British equivalent of APPLE TOURS (BIG BEN TOURS) sponsored many African safaris for wealthy British and American gentlemen (the “one-percenters,” as Bernie Sanders would call them). These “adventurers” wanted no part of sacrificing their luxurious living style, even when on a safari. The tour company obliged, providing electric generators, folding baths and cases of champagne while the aristocrats ruthlessly shot wild animals at close range for souvenirs (I can’t be certain, but it is rumored that relatives of our current president were frequent attendees on such safaris).

Today’s concept of glamping combines old-world amenities with today’s technology. Some of you sticklers will likely question whether sleeping under fresh linens and savoring pot de crème for dessert qualifies as adventure. Maybe not. But some of us have evolved as a species. Better to glamp than having to take a dump in the woods, I always say. ••

You can follow Tom Cardella on Facebook.