“What is this gramping about?” my father asks on our way to the Ridgeback Lodge on Kingston Peninsula in New Brunswick.
“Dad, it’s called glaaammping, “I pronounce loudly and slowly so that hopefully this time he’ll get it correct, “it’s luxury camping.” I reply.
I’ve decided to take my parents on a road trip holiday in New Brunswick Canada. I booked us a night at Ridgeback Lodge, a glamping site on the scenic Kingston Peninsula. My parents love the outdoors; they honeymooned camping on Pike’s Peak 55 year ago. At 78 years old, I thought introducing them to glamping might be a good way for them to enjoy the outdoors and not have to put up a tent or sleep on the ground. However, I hadn’t considered how hard it would be to add a new word to their vocabulary.
Dad, This is Why it’s Called Glamping
It feels 5-star, complete with memory foam beds, 500 thread count sheets, a beautiful private view, comfortable chairs that you sink into, stacks of current magazines for your lazy viewing pleasure, and a personal hot tub. Harpers Bazaar Singapore even includes it as one of their top 5-star travel experiences. But look closely at the Ridgeback Lodge Dream Domes; you won’t find fancy soaps or shampoos, no room service, you’ll have to start your own fire to keep warm, and you’ll dine outside on a picnic table. This isn’t a typical 5-star experience – it’s glamping.
We arrived and met Christel and Robert, the architects of the Dream Domes, and immediately fell in love with their passion for these unique accommodations as well as their passion for the outdoors. Christel explained that they tried to strike a balance between real camping and luxury. The goal is to appreciate and intermix with nature, not view it from a distance. They purposefully didn’t provide too much of a ‘hotel’ experience and wanted to keep it more like a true camping experience. Therefore, you bring your own food with you to cook as there are no stores or restaurants nearby, and you eat outside on the picnic table. However, with all of the nice comfortable touches, it’s easy to get lulled into thinking this is a hotel experience – but it’s not. There’s no WiFi and they don’t furnish a hair dryer or little shampoos – you must bring your own just as if you were camping.
We reserved a dome (which only sleeps 2 people) and a cabin so that we all had a place to sleep. Each dome is located in the forest away from the cabins and has it’s own private view surrounded by evergreen trees. The dome included a bathroom with shower, kitchenette, king sized bed, and a couple of lounge chairs.
We settled into our new glamping surroundings and my mom and I decided to share the dome, while my dad was happy in the cabin. The dome’s interior design was a modern twist to cabin living. The décor of the ‘living area’ was designed in taupe and muted gray colors so that it didn’t overshadow the real décor – a giant spherical picture window looking out onto the green forest. The window was a perfect way to showcase Mother Nature’s masterpiece. The lamps and light fixtures were sleek stainless steel, which blended with the octagonal bars of the dome. There were two Scandinavian looking chairs to sit back and relax with a stack of current magazines to suit anyone’s taste. Big fuzzy blankets abound making the whole dome ooze comfort.
The one solid wall that created the divider for the bathroom, living area, and kitchen was a simple nod to rustic cabin life. The wall, which also formed the ‘headboard’ for the bed, was made of unfinished wood planks. The kind you would use for the walls of a cabin. As perfect and impeccable as the rest of the dome was, the wood planks were uneven, rough, and raw. I loved the juxtaposition of the unfinished cabin wall among the slick, sleek, modern dome. The living area also contained a wood stove for cold winter days and nights.
The small, bright kitchen was simple yet modern – and it has everything you would need for basic cooking. The colorful Tomodachi knife set was the only real splash of color in the whole dome. The stove top was an induction unit providing energy efficient cooking without creating a lot of extra heat in the little dome. However, if you prefer the real camping experience, a small outdoor grill was also provided with each dome. There was not a real dining area inside the dome, which encouraged you to sit outside at the picnic table mimicking a typical camping experience.
A Hot Tub Fired by Nature
Christel took us out back to show us how to use our dome’s personal hot tub. The little Japanese style wooden tub is not only really cool, but it’s also a giant science project! As she explained how the wood fired hot tub worked it made me delve back into scientific principles that I had long shelved in the back of my brain. Water temperatures, rising, falling, air flow – yikes! The system is similar to a boiler system; the ‘furnace’ has a water jacket and heats up and forces out the hot water back into the tub.
“You have one chance, don’t overshoot it, else you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to use it.” she instructed as she talked about how to get the temperature just right with the wood fire.
I looked at my dad and said, ”This is your job.” My father is the fire starter and maintainer – not me. My dad was never really a water person so he was much happier building the fire rather than sitting in the hot tub. My mom and I instead enjoyed his fire building work while we soaked in our hot tub among the trees. Sure, the hot tub required a little work, but it was totally worth it. And the wood fire stayed true to the camping theme.
No Sleeping Bags Required
Normally camping means a poor nights sleep for me, but not in the dome. We woke up the next morning to “pitter patter, pitter patter” – it was lightly raining outside. Surprisingly there was not a feeling of dread that you normally have when you realize it’s raining and you are camping out in the forest. Instead, I felt happy to be in a beautiful tented dome among the pine trees in New Brunswick Canada. Rain while glamping is soothing.
My mother declared, “That was the nicest bed I’ve ever slept in!” And I had to agree with her. The sheets were like silk, and the mattress like a cloud you slowly sink into. It’s such a good mattress you don’t even notice there’s another person in bed with you! As the other person moves there is not a single reverberation of movement on my side of the mattress. This was sleeping heaven.
Celebrate The Outdoors
The Ridgeback Lodge property is full of options for the outdoor lover. You can hike up to the pond and go swimming or have a picnic, rent a canoe on the Kingston Creek, hike the trails on the property or venture out onto the Kingston Peninsula for more hiking. At night you can keep your camping experience going with a bonfire – don’t forget to bring your own marshmallows!
However I was pretty happy just watching the rain droplets roll down the dome’s window. I wrapped myself in a little blanket reading a magazine while my parents putzed around. “I like this gramping, do you think they have this in the US?” my mom asked.
I sighed, rolled my eyes, and decided to give up with the vocabulary lessons. “Yes mom, they have glamping in the US, you should try it there too!” I replied.
So I clearly wasn’t the only one who fell in love with the domes, my parents are now gramping fans. And I have now decided that ‘gramping’ is the senior citizen version of glamping. Maybe I should start a website I muse to myself.
Christel and Robert don’t care what you call it – glamping, gramping, or 5-star – the main thing is that you still get close to nature as if you were camping. They managed to create an environment that was spot on – the right balance of camping to glamour.