When Andy Warhol famously said "I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic," he was obviously referring to the City of Angels' longstanding fascination with artifice. So is it any surprise that in the city where everything is possible and the realms of fantasy and reality merge the very notion of camping would be turned glamorously on its head?
To be honest, I've never been a big fan of camping. In fact, I've never quite gotten the whole idea of "roughing it" because it has always seemed a contrary notion to me. Sacrificing modern conveniences that have been designed to make life easier in order to return to some vaguely romanticized idea of a simpler life has never quite jived with my own reality. But glamping, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
Unlike camping, glamping brings the outdoors...indoors, which makes infinitely more sense because rather than taking something away, it actually brings more to the party. So a few weeks ago, when I was invited to do a bit of glamping in downtown Los Angeles at The Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC), I was mildly frightened but absolutely amenable to the idea.
At LAAC, the glamping experience is called "Urban Camping" and it is pretty fabulously over-the-top, particularly given that it is set smack-dab in the middle of the hustle, bustle and grit of downtown Los Angeles. My glamping experience began the minute I first set foot in my suite, where the smell of warming chocolate permeated the air. Immediately, I eyed a number of fresh floral arrangements, a bottle of chilled Champagne and all sorts of goodies that inspired a desire in me to camp that had never existed before. This kind of camping could work for me, I thought to myself.
As promised the specialty package gives "city folks the chance to answer a different type of call of the wild" by offering a taste of camping with all the amenities of a sophisticated, contemporary hotel. Set in a perfectly lovely two-room suite, the package includes a luxury campsite with a designer tented bed complete with ornate, remote controlled light fixtures that resemble flickering candles. There's kitschy camp decor at every turn including a rocking horse, old leather saddles, animal throws, custom cowpoke art and a teepee draped with lace and plush pillows that is so luxe, I dare anyone not to be enticed into it.
Urban Campers at the LAAC are also spoiled with an assortment of goodies from gourmet s'mores via an electric fondue set (hence that intoxicating scent of warm chocolate at the door), chocolate covered strawberries, and a luxury survival kit (including trail mix and beef jerky) to city bird guide books, LA hiking maps, and a selection of iconic camping DVDs ranging from Friday the 13th to Brokeback Mountain. There's even a popcorn popper in the room so guests can make fresh popcorn to enjoy with movie night. Overnight parking, complimentary WiFi, a buffet breakfast and full use of the LAAC's 80,000 square foot athletic facility is also included in the package. Now I ask you...what's wrong with that picture? If loving glamping is wrong then I don't want to be right!
When you can check into a hotel, hop on WiFi without a hitch, check your email while sipping Champagne and nibbling strawberries, walk two blocks to a fab dinner (I recommend Bottega Louie, a downtown classic) and then come back to your "campsite" make a s'more, have more Champagne and watch Brokeback Mountain before settling into your glamorously tented bed to view the latest episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I'd say you might have had a pretty stellar afternoon and evening. Only in LA folks...only in LA.
For more information visit www.laac.com.
Follow Duane at www.theduanewells.com and on Twitter @theduanewells.
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