Before we traveled across the United States and back with a Jeep Wrangler and a tent, more than a few people expressed their opinions about our plans. Many of them were shocked that we even had it in us to do such a thing. After all, during the previous summer we had rented an apartment in Paris, living a month of the sweet life, indulging daily on cheese, wine, and baguettes. Some thought we were crazy and told us so, while others prayed for our safety and our marriage. These people were under some strange assumption that our less than luxurious L.L. Bean accommodations were immediately going to drive us apart just as soon as we left the driveway. There were one or two people who admired us; they wished that they had the time to take on such an adventurous trip.
In our experience, it seems that the word “camping” gets people talking. Everybody has an opinion, and, we’ve found, it’s rarely a positive one. But, we get it. On that trip across the country we had our moments of failure: our camp stove shot flames, Paul’s ankles were attacked by fire ants, sleep was limited, and some fellow campers were rowdy. Yet, the amazing moments, the ones that included sipping coffee on the rim of the Grand Canyon with just the elk for company, or eating dinner by moonlight at a perfectly set picnic table in the Great Smoky Mountains, could never have happened if it wasn’t for our willingness to sleep outside. Camping gave us memories that will last a lifetime.
Then, this summer, we added a new term to our travel plans: glamping. Glamping gets people talking too, but in an entirely different way. Glamping seems to be an intriguing concept, one that many seem to think they can get behind. “What is it?” they ask inquisitively. Glamorous camping with beds and hard wood floors, real pillows and sheets, a campfire you don’t have to build, and a bar. Did someone say there’s a bar?
If you haven’t already read about it in a travel magazine or on a blog, let me introduce you to the fabulous Firelight Camps in Ithaca, New York. We, or should I say, I, became slightly obsessed with the idea of glamping last summer when I discovered the Firelight Camps website. I had been scrolling and clicking around their site for quite some time, admiring the gorgeous photos of their glampground, and waiting for the perfect time for us to book a stay. That time came when the Canadian wedding invitations came in the mail, and I realized this summer was our opportunity to add our first glamping trip to our itinerary.
We were pleasantly surprised with how adorable the town of Ithaca is, with its little shops and plethora of restaurants. Firelight Camps is just a short drive from downtown, situated just below La Tourelle Resort and Spa. Wind your way down to the host tent, where you can check in, meet their amazingly friendly staff, and chat with fellow campers. Here you can find complimentary breakfast in the morning (with vegan options), as well as a local wine tasting at 5pm. You can even purchase a homemade smores kit to roast over the community campfire. Just a short walk from the host tent is the bathhouse, with real showers, freshly laundered towels, and clean toilets (every glamper’s dream come true).
Since we had my 83 year old mother-in-law along for the ride, it took her awhile to warm up to the idea of glamping. She didn’t quite understand why we were paying the cost of a stay in a hotel to sleep in a tent in the woods. She couldn’t quite grasp the sense in hiking to the bathroom at 2am, and she swore there was something clawing and sniffing at the canvas in the middle of the night. This was all forgotten when she tasted her first s’more. We are still wondering how she got to 83 without ever being introduced to the delicious combination of graham cracker, chocolate, and gooey roasted marshmallow.
I’m going to be honest. Glamping is still very much camping, but without the frustration of setting up, breaking down, building a fire, or sleeping on the ground. While the mesh entryway to your tent zips to the floor, there is still a good chance you’ll find a spider or two in your bed, or a curious squirrel at your door. You’ll hear things rustling in the woods, and you’ll need a lantern for your trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
But, would we do it again? In a heartbeat. It’s just different and fun, and so relaxing to sit on the balcony of your tent and rock in a chair. I bet it’s breathtaking in the fall, when the heat of the summer has died, and the glorious colors and smells of autumn fill the air. It’s the perfect escape for a writer and a photographer, or anybody who wants to get away from it all for just a little while. You can also explore nearby Upper Buttermilk Falls State Park. (We were unable to do this due to thunderstorms).
If you do reserve a glamping trip at Firelight, make sure to hit up Maxie’s Supper Club for dinner. We loved this oyster bar so much that we ate dinner there two nights in a row. To think we’d find such a delicious New Orlean’s themed oyster bar in the middle of Ithaca, New York! Along with their fresh raw oysters and their authentic New Orlean’s seafood dishes, their menu also included vegetarian options, such as a fried green tomato p o’boy, and vegetarian jambalaya. Thank you to the staff of Firelight Camps for providing us with such a tasty recommendation!
So the next time somebody shouts their opinion from the rooftops about the idea of camping, tell them to give glamping a try. And remind them of this quote, which you can find on the back of the Firelight foldable map…
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”-J. Muir