Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Glamping it up

British summertime ... the ultimate camper's dream
Camping at Glastonbury Festival a few weeks ago gave me a whole new taste for the great outdoors. Having not so much as unzipped a tent since Eurocamping with my parents in France aged 10, it was practically a brand new adventure for me.

Obviously, festivals are far from a perfect camping experience. Picking your way through haphazardly arranged tents in the sober light of day is no easy task, but drunk in the dark it is nigh-on impossible. Of course, it didn't take me long to have an unfortunate encounter with a stray guy rope whilst stumbling back one night - virtually pulling a toe out of its socket in the process and ending up with a wide array of cuts and bruises.

Being a lady who enjoys her home comforts, it only occured to me upon arrival that I'd have no access to electricity in a tent in the back of beyond. It wasn't until I'd bounded into the campsite with a smorgasbord of goodies wrapped up inside my brand new wicker hamper that I realised I was lacking an essential item: a fridge.

I found myself caught in a quandary: it was at least 100 degrees in my tent and, unfortunately, the majority of my food would only survive below zero. After much consideration, I had no option but to hold an emergency midnight feast on the first night to save my banquet from going to waste. So much for my healthy eating plans...it was a diet of pure fast food and carbonated drinks from then on.

The guy ropes and greasy food I could deal with. The toilets I could not. Pongy enough to have me retching from 50 yards away, the smell inside each cubicle was comparable only to the loos in the most downmarket Thai backpackers. With no showers to be seen, those who entered without a supply of toilet roll regretted it for the remainder of their stay. Those who had the stupidity to look down into the cesspit were probably put off food for life.

Needless to say, I ensured I was pretty sparing with the fluids to prevent making too many visits to the hateful portaloos.

Negative as the experience sounded, I packed away my tent feeling rather uplifted. I'd made it. I'd survived with just a sheet of canvas protecting me from the elements. I'd even managed to sleep using a grubby towel as a pillow. And it was a lovely feeling to peacefully drop off without the sound of sirens and the number 37 bus filling my ears.

Slumming it may not be my bag, but something was certainly drawing me to the idea of an English camping holiday instead of my usual stint on the coast of Spain. But of course I'd need running water. And a fridge. And maybe even a microwave...

Researching 'posh camping' on the internet, I realised there were plenty of options to match my crazy criteria. Yurts in Devon, 'ecopods' in Cornwall, safari tents in Scotland, teepees in Sussex and (my favourite of the lot!) revamped traditional gypsy caravans in East Lothian.

However, despite the plethora of posh camping venues, every single yurt and gypsy caravan I desperately wanted seemed to be fully booked. Glamping, it seems, is more popular than Saint Tropez.

Since the recession hit it's become all the rage with trendies across the nation. They're all doing it and, unlike a traditional camping trip, they aren't doing it on the cheap. These may be glorified tents but they certainly come at a  price - the cost of being at one with nature starts at 50 quid a night.

Looks like I might be booking that cheap last-minute deal to Spain after all...

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