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Glamping for First-Timers



I’ve never been an outdoorswoman. Though I’m from Texas, spent pivotal teenage years in Kentucky and grew up around hunters and farmers, there’s a difference between spending time outside and living, cooking and sleeping with nature.

Giselle Burgess, a mother of five and a Girl Scout troop leader whom I met while researching a book about a troop that started in a homeless shelter, helped me with my first camping trip in 2017. She loves camping, loves the lingering scent of campfire smoke in her clothes and even prides herself on locating, pinching and plucking ticks. Staying at Camp Kaufmann, the sprawling campground owned by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, I had the right gear thanks to Giselle, but I slept in a bed and was allowed to shower.

I’m not above sleeping outside, and because of my reporting, I never forget that thousands of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness call the city’s streets home. But camping in wooded areas, in a tent? I was scared. All I could imagine was a bear tearing into my tent because a graham cracker crumb from a s’more had followed me.

What’s scarier, more dangerous and more likely than bears this year? The coronavirus.

The thought of the virus creeping through the H.V.A.C. systems of hotels and restaurants has paralyzed me. I refuse to even enter grocery stores, opting instead for deliveries, open-air farmers’ markets and a co-op in my neighborhood that only allows one customer at a time every 15 minutes. And while cheap flights keep calling my name, enticing me to travel to a faraway locale, I would spend the entire time worried about other passengers.

All my fears meant the only vacation possible this summer would have to involve the outdoors and camping. But stretching a blue tarp between trees the way Giselle expertly shields a campsite from rain was not happening. First, everyone else in the United States seems to be camping. The best equipment was sold out or appeared to be back-ordered for months. So I opted for a little more comfort and plunged into the no-muss, no-fuss world of glamping.

My partner and I planned three glamping trips: to Maine, the Finger Lakes and the Hudson Valley. All were within driving distance of my Manhattan apartment and all the sites had new virus-related health and safety measures in place. Altogether, we spent nine nights sleeping under the stars. Sort of.

While the options for “glamorous camping” have expanded at a rapid pace in recent years, glamping can mean staying in anything from a cabin or a tiny house or a yurt. The only consistency we discovered is that some type of shelter has been pitched for you. We encountered tents. At Sandy Pines campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, it was a tented hotel room with a chandelier made of oyster shells, complete with air conditioning and a mini-fridge. At Firelight Camps in Ithaca, N.Y., the tent had fans and a private balcony. (Out of my three destinations, Firelight had the most comfortable bed, though all of the beds were better than a sleeping bag on the ground.)

At Gatherwild Ranch in Germantown, N.Y., we had a small, round tent that was chic, with premium sheets and beautiful rugs. The view was scenic as the single tent sat in the middle of an old apple orchard. It had no electricity, forcing me to rely on a solar-powered lantern and solar twinkle lights that made it feel like we were sleeping with the stars inside the tent.

As for camping gear, in Maine I swapped out my poncho and backpack for a beach umbrella and bag. But in all three places I always carried bug spray and the Go-Sun solar panel, to power my cellphone and computer. We also took a projector to the Finger Lakes that allowed us to turn a wall inside the tent into a movie screen for late-night horror movies. (That wasn’t so easy in the Hudson Valley, because the glamping site requires guests to unplug by cutting off Wi-Fi.)

I saw complaints online that the grounds at Firelight did not feel remote enough, but a rabbit greeted me when we arrived and on my last day, no fewer than 10 rabbits had surrounded the perimeter of our tent. It would have been worrisome had they not all had white cottontails.

Since glamping can mean remote or semi-remote, I packed food and snacks. Though we planned to eat out occasionally, I also wanted to grill and brought chicken, ribs and sausages, which I marinated and kept in a small cooler.

In Maine, friends told me to be prepared to eat lots of lobster. Kennebunkport also boasts some great restaurants with outdoor seating, like Earth at Hidden Pond and Pearl Kennebunk. I also picked up haddock to grill at Free Range Fish & Lobster, and an assortment of local cheeses at The Cheese Shop of Portland. The food from home included pizza dough, which we cooked on a small grill, in a flat cast-iron pan that we placed atop the firepit. It made for great, wood-fired pizza.

At Firelight, before the pandemic, a breakfast buffet would have been offered to guests. Now we were offered a choice of continental breakfast in a personal cooler each morning. I chose a boiled egg, berries, granola and yogurt.

Another big concern for me, even before the virus, was bathroom facilities. The campgrounds in Ithaca and Kennebunkport had shared bathrooms with running water, so I had to have faith that other campers were wearing their masks as directed by staffers and posted signs. While Sandy Pines had small, all-in-one bathrooms with sinks, toilets and showers, Firelight had separate showers and a shared area with toilets and sinks. Every other sink at Firelight was covered in red tape that formed X’s to encourage social distancing. There were signs telling guests to wear masks, but they weren’t always followed. A father showed up with his young daughter who had on a mask. He did not — though he was telling her how to best wash her hands, singing the alphabet song (a little too fast for my taste).

But at Gatherwild, I had my very own bathroom a short walk away: an outhouse with a compost toilet. A chalkboard sign read, “Hi Potty Friends, All paper products go INTO the potty. Generous scoop of wood chips when done. Seat down & Thanks!” I shared an outdoor shower with two other tents. Well-placed bushes made me feel more comfortable, but I could see Pickles and Mama Goaty Sophia, the resident goats, staring at me.

I’m not the only one who decided to let go of things we think we can’t live without, like privacy and indoor plumbing, to get a change of scenery.

Gatherwild’s seven tents and tiny houses were at 99 percent capacity, Laura Sink, the owner, told me as we sat in a barn, six feet apart, which also housed a vintage store. (I bought four lovely scarves there and picked flowers from an adjacent garden before I left.)

“This year it’s off the charts,” said Robert Frisch, the owner of Firelight and its 19 safari tents. “We’re full every night. Every tent.”

At Firelight, the guests looked very different from the campground’s Instagram page, which shows millennial couples kissing in front of their stylish tents and beneath waterfalls. During my stay, babies cried and children screeched in delight or in disappointment. The camp had become more about the fam’ than the ‘gram. But I welcomed the chatter of children who were obviously thirsting for fresh air. They touched the leaves of trees and pushed each other in a swing. They climbed into hammocks. They played red light, green light in an area that once offered cornhole — gone now to encourage social distancing and discourage group play.

Firelight used to be much more adult, and much more communal, with people gathering each night around a single firepit. Mandated social distancing required the camp to increase the number of firepits: When I arrived in August, there were 10, and some nights I could see the disappointment in the faces of families when they failed to score a firepit. The camp also has grills that took some timing and maneuvering to use.

At Gatherwild, Ms. Sink will take orders for groceries and deliver them to your tent, where a large cooler can keep them from spoiling.

The camp had to invest in these coolers, as well as picnic tables, umbrellas and firepits for every tent, yurt and tiny house at the camp. Because of increased demand and the necessary deep cleaning of tents, pricing looks very different than in the past. I booked Gatherwild for $130 a night, but Ms. Sink said she is now charging no less than $175 a night and guests must book two nights. At Sandy Pines, cleanings of the tents and shared areas were also increased. Rules, such as no-touch check-in and check-out, and capacity restrictions at the pool and general store, were implemented to adhere to social distancing.

From my adventures this summer, I must admit that I’d prefer a flushing toilet, a hot shower, Wi-Fi and a refrigerator. So maybe a cabin and a cottage with lots of windows would be my best bet.

But if I go glamping again, I would pack less. I would leave behind those just-in-case-I-go-to-a-nice-restaurant dresses and pack another sweatsuit. There’s a lot of sitting around at camp once night falls, and it gets cold. You want to stay up to enjoy the fire and night sky.

Relaxing in my own space without worrying whether I was six feet away from someone, however, was rejuvenating. At Sandy Pines, I went to a beach and fell asleep on a blanket one afternoon. At Firelight, I took a walk around the property and then followed a trail into nearby Buttermilk Falls State Park. I rode one of the bikes that Gatherwild has available to meander around its old apple orchard. And those starry nights with no face mask in sight were worth a cold shower in front of some goats.

By: Nikita Stewart
Title: Glamping for First-Timers
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Published Date: Thu, 03 Sep 2020 13:59:14 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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