Have you ever thought about camping but decided that a weekend in the woods in a leaky tent that smells like plastic and mildew with absolutely no creature comforts and just the clothes on your back does not sound like a good time? Maybe you’re not really into eating just what you can carry on your back, hunt, or catch? Foraging for food and clean water, building a fire from twigs and rocks, and finding your way with a compass does not sound appealing? And you definitely draw the line at pooping behind a tree?
Do you crave a oneness with nature but are too afraid of literally becoming “one with nature” (as in becoming bear poop and decomposing under a pine tree) that you just take a pass?
Is this how you feel about camping?
Well, I have found the answer.
It's called "glamping."
Yes. You read that right: GLAMPING. As in Glamourous Camping.
Gone are the days where a campsite is simply a place to pitch a tent and dig a hole to poop in. These days, camping can mean plush bedding and gourmet food.
Glamping is not for the die-hard, freeze dried food eating, REI shopping, ultralight backpacking group of outdoors-people. No, glamping is for those of us who love nature, but do not love sleeping on the ground and trying to pee while holding oneself upright with a tree branch and praying you don’t dribble on your pants leg.
I have paid my dues. I have hiked 15 miles into the wild with a pack loaded with crap on my back in the snow with wet feet and blisters only to sleep on the ground with one eye open all night wondering if a bear was going to smell the cherry chapstick I forgot to take out of my pocket.
I learned the hard way that a two man pup tent does not come with two men. Or any puppies.
THIS is not fun:
Neither is this:
Okay, this is a little fun, but not when you are doing it because you are in so much pain that you decide 6 miles of drunk hiking is worth the risk:
I was ready for a different kind of camping experience.
Sleeping bags and granola bars are so 20th century.
Glamping is nature served on a silver platter.
Pack the fur throw and champagne, friends…..we’re going glamping!
For as long as I can remember, the Resort at Paws Up just east of Missoula, MT has been on my wish list. A ridiculously indulgent blend of unsurpassed luxury and pristine wilderness, this glamping resort offers guests a stay in a posh safari-style tent with jaw dropping views and a plethora of wilderness experiences, not to mention a private chef and butler to draw your bath in your outdoor copper bathtub and lay out the s’mores while they pour your wine.
Stolen Shamelessly from the Paws Up website
However, the $1800 a night price tag is likely to keep it on the wish list for a while.
So, imagine my delight when I discovered a glamping resort just 93 miles (as the crow flies) from home, thanks to JoAnn Antonelli and Rick Lucas, who have created a whimsical retreat in the north Georgia mountains called the Martyn House.
The Martyn House was born when JoAnn and Rick first stepped foot onto the 18 acre property in Ellijay, GA in 2007. The 1930’s farmhouse became their home. Later came Rick’s photography studio. Later came JoAnn’s art studio, lovingly built from the old barn that was in the final stages of collapse.
A trip to India provided the final inspiration, as Rick and JoAnn decided to bring their experience with the luxurious sleeping tents they stayed in in southern Rajistan to Georgia. Their bohemian chic tents are made from intricate Indian fabrics, with details like hand sewn mirrors and meticulous embroidery. The colors are bright and festive, giving an air of magic to each unique tent. Each tent is complete with antique furniture, cozy linens, working lights, bathrooms with on-demand hot showers and running water, a propane heater for extra cold nights, an in-room French press along with a supply of coffee and tea products, wine glasses and JoAnn’s handmade pottery mugs, and soaps that JoAnn makes herself. Each tent also has a covered front porch with twinkling string lights, perfect for curling up with a glass of wine at night or a hot cup of coffee on a chilly morning.
Rick and JoAnn are also amazing cooks and make incredible meals for guests, using many of the ingredients from their own garden.
I ran across the Martyn House totally by accident in my never ending search for “someplace new” on the interwebs. As soon as I saw the fairytale destination that Rick and JoAnn had created, I knew it was the perfect place to spend our 15th anniversary.
“We’re going GLAMPING!” I shouted enthusiastically at Matt as he came home one evening.
“For our anniversary. GLAMPING!”
He stared at me, obviously not comprehending how stupendously awesome this decision was.
I heard crickets.
“GLAMPING!” I said again, arms wide and waving with all the enthusiasm I was trying to shove from my brain into his brain.
It was like I was speaking Chinese.
“Fancy camping. We’re going fancy camping.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said as he went back to checking the mail.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t as inspired as I was, but that was just because he didn’t know yet.
Martyn House was going to be perfect.
The first thing I saw as we pulled down the driveway was the lion that was charging our vehicle.
“OH MY GOD!” I shouted to Matt. “Roll up the window!”
It was too late. Within minutes, I saw nothing but giant golden paws and fur and teeth mauling my husband of 15 years.
As I looked over at Matt’s grin, I remembered we were not, in fact, on our way to our Abercrombie & Kent campsite in the Serengeti, but were in Ellijay, GA and this was not a lion, but the biggest golden retriever in the universe with his wiggly body halfway inside our rental car while giving Matt a tongue bath.
We had just met Hank, the 91 lb. baby of the Martyn House family.
Just behind Hank were Maya, the yellow lab, and Grace, the black lab…just as wiggly and welcoming.
Off to the side, a flash of yellow caught my eye. No, not a tiger, but I don’t think he knows that.
Milo the cat was hiding in the grass watching from a distance.
Otis, the other cat, was not as shy and immediately came to say “hello.”
Throw in some heirloom chickens, one giant rooster, and a couple of unconventional artists and you have the wonderful cast that makes up the Martyn House.
It was the opening weekend of their glamping season and we were the only guests. We had the entire place to ourselves.
As Rick gave us the grand tour, a parade of dogs and cats trailing behind us….I knew this was going to be a wonderful weekend.
On the way to our tent, we stopped at Rick’s studio where he had Matt sample his new beer making project. As Matt two fisted some craft beer, I knew Matt thought this was going to be a wonderful weekend too.
Rick also gave us a tour of JoAnn's studio, where she makes pottery and handmade bath products, or whatever suits her creative fancy. The studio was warm and inviting. As it turns out, guests can even stay in the studio.
We also visited the chicken coop and the outdoor tent where JoAnn and Rick have created an amazing outdoor living space. They host many of their group dinners here. It had an outdoor bar, a dining area, a cozy hammock, and a living area with vintage pillows and throws. Next to it was a colorful fire pit for chilly nights.
Seriously, could this place be any more awesome?
Even the port-a-potties were cute. I never thought I'd find myself thinking the words, "I can't wait to use that outdoor toilet."
As we wandered down the wooded path away from the main house, I could see 4 tents scattered at a distance from each other in the woods. Each one was placed to allow it ample privacy from the others.
I immediately fell in love with our tent: Ridge Roost.
The gorgeous black and white striped tent stood in fanciful contrast to the early-April forest around it.
With a cozy porch, a king sized bed covered with beautiful linens, a free cat, a full bathroom with running water and a hot shower, and a jovial guard dog to keep the raccoons at bay…what more could we want?
How about an outdoor bathtub?
The spell was complete. We were enchanted. Even Matt was excited. Probably because he realized at some point I was going to take off my clothes and get in a bathtub in the woods…but whatever. He was excited.
Unable to tear ourselves away from our glampsite, we did nothing but chill out in our tent for a while.
No TV. No internet. No sound but the wind in the trees and an occasional bird.
It was perfect.
We were having dinner at the Martyn House that night, so we decided to grab lunch in the nearby town of Blue Ridge. We have eaten at Harvest on Main, a wonderful little restaurant there, on several occasions and always try to stop in when we are anywhere nearby.
Blue Ridge is a charming little mountain town. It’s adorable streets are lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and cafes.
Harvest on Main is a cozy, rustic restaurant that reminds me of something we’d find in Montana, not in north Georgia. The first things you smell when you walk inside are their house smoked meats. The scent mingles with the smell of fresh baked bread and creates the most welcoming atmosphere you can imagine.
We started off with their baked brie, blue crab, and cilantro casserole served with warm corn chips.
Just as we were licking the last of the warm, creamy melted sour cream, cream cheese, and brie from the dish, we were brought two house salads with their delightful pickled green beans.
For entrees, I had the amberjack over their house chickpea stew topped with sauteed spinach, and Matt had the local trout served on top of their house-made corned beef hash (house-smoked corned beef, sweet potatoes, & onions) and topped with lemon-pickled onions and arugula.
Just to make sure we didn’t leave before eating everything on the menu, we had the chocolate pudding cake with vanilla ice cream. The moist cake was layered with what tasted like a hazelnut cream cheese filling and topped with caramel drizzle and pecans.
Because a day of sloth and gluttony is best enjoyed with a glass of wine, we headed back to the Martyn House and took a take a pre-dinner walk down to Grace’s pond with a bottle of wine to find the “outdoor living room” Rick had told us about.
Rick and JoAnn have taken “creative loafing spaces” to an entirely new level. In every nook and cranny of their property, there is another cozy place to curl up with a glass of wine, a good book, or a wet dog as the case may be.
Maya was obviously embarrassed by her overly exuberant leap into the pond, so she put herself in time out in the corner until she was dry. Sweet Maya.
We had opted for a private dinner on the farm that night, but the weather forecast was calling for storms and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d get rained out. We pulled on the wellies, grabbed the umbrella, and hoped for the best.
We shouldn’t have worried. Rick and JoAnn had us set up in the dry on their porch, complete with vintage linens, a glowing chandelier, and the romantic flicker of candles.
The rain held off as we enjoyed a starter of roasted red eggplant with feta cheese. The eggplant was perfectly charred on the edge, soft in the center, and topped with savory cheese.
This was followed by what Matt referred to as “the best salad I’ve ever had.” The salad had pickled garlic, local smoked bacon, olives, goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and fresh green beans.
This is Matt’s “stop taking pictures of me while I eat” face:
For our main dish, Rick brought us a deliciously fried chicken breast on top of rustic mashed potatoes with roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
Dessert? Of course we did. A raspberry sorbet with chocolate.
As we scooped the last of the sorbet from our dishes, Rick was lighting a fire for us where we enjoyed champagne and roasted marshmallows as we watched the distant lightening grow closer and closer.
We ran back to the tent when the thunder started, wondering if we’d make it back before the storms. The tent looked even prettier at night.
We turned on our electric candles (because real candles and cotton tents go together like Kanye West and Taylor Swift) and climbed into the big, cozy bed. The sheets were soft and smelled like fresh laundry. The down pillows were perfectly plush. The tent had flaps that could be lowered with ropes and secured for windows and a door if we wanted the tent secured, but we wanted to feel the cool night air so we left them open, leaving a secure mesh screen to keep the bugs out.
When the rain started, I worried we might get blown away. This was no 10 minute rain shower. This was a full-on, raining-like-there-was-no-tomorrow downpour that lasted for hours with wind and thunder and lightning. We couldn’t have ordered a more magical experience if we’d had the weather gods on speed dial.
It was remarkable. The sound of the rain pounding on the roof of our tent and the fresh-electric smell of the storm outside while we were cozy and warm under piles of soft blankets was simply mind blowing.
The best part of glamping vs. camping in a rainstorm? The story doesn’t end with ….”and then the tent blew away.”
We were snug as two bugs in a rug.
We fell asleep to the sound of the rain beating rhythmically on the roof.
It was around 2:00 a.m. when I was awakened by a sound under the bed. My first thought was, “Rooby and Bella might need to go outside,” and then I remembered I wasn’t at home.
I was in a tent.
In the woods.
And something was thumping around under my bed.
It’s all fun and glamping until you wake up with a possum under your bed.
I did what any strong, modern, capable woman would do.
I woke Matt up.
“There is something under the bed,” I hissed, shoving the flashlight from my nightstand at him.
“What do you want ME to do about it?” he hissed back.
“Get it OUT,” I whispered.
As I sat holding my electric candle, prepared to beat something off his face should he come back up with fangs and claws attached to his skull, Matt peered cautiously over the edge of the bed.
“It’s Hank,” he said. “He must have snuck in after we went to sleep.”
I never thought I’d be happy to have a 91 lb. dog under my bed. At least I didn’t have to worry about possums.
The next morning was a chilly 48 degrees. We had slept with the windows open so that we could enjoy the cozy bed and the storm. The morning air was crisp and cool, so Matt fired up the heater. The tent was warm in minutes.
Our tent had an electric pot for heating water and a French press with coffee, hot teas, sugar, and creamer. We had coffee and cocoa on the front porch watching the sun peek out through the trees.
Breakfast is provided by Rick and JoAnn every morning, so we made our way to the farmhouse around 8:30. Because it was only the two of us, Rick served us breakfast on the cozy porch again.
He started us off with homemade smoothies and fresh fruit.
Then it was hot coffee and toasted English muffins with jam and butter.
Finally, he brought omelets made with cheddar cheese, spinach, and mushrooms and a platter of local bacon. There is no picture of the bacon because I ate it all.
I really like bacon.
We didn’t have a very ambitious itinerary, which was good because I was lethargic from all the bacon.
We strolled around the quaint town of Ellijay, checking out its cute shops.
There are a lot of things to do near Ellijay – countless wineries, farms, orchards, and scenic drives….but we managed not to do ANY of those things because we really just wanted to get back to the Martyn House.
There was an outdoor bathtub with my name on it.
But not before we had lunch. What? Do you think we are CRAZY?
We stopped in at 1907 for a wine-fueled lunch of smoked trout dip, a fried green tomato burger with bacon and pimento cheese, and apple crumble with salted caramel sauce. No, that was not shared. That was just MY meal.
Matt had some more trout. I was starting to think he had a trout problem.
When in north GA.....have the trout?
This is the owner, Wayne Sloop. He came out to pose for a very enthusiastic photo.
I was worried that he knew I had stolen 10 of those delicious burgers and had them in my pocket.
Oh wait. That was only in my head. Kind of like when someone runs over you in the grocery store aisle and you cuss them out in your head but in reality you find yourself apologizing to them for being made of actual matter and for not being able to read their mind so that you wouldn't be standing where they wanted to walk without looking first.
All I really had in my pocket was my lens cap. Darn it.
When we got back to the Martyn House, the sun was shining on a beautiful 80 degree afternoon. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and just enjoyed our surroundings.
And then there was that bathtub.
I could not pass up the opportunity to take a bath in the woods.
Bathtub in the woods + bubble bath + champagne = best bath EVER
Seriously one of my favorite life experiences of all time. It was like skinny dipping, but with bubble bath and warm water. And without my irrational fear of leeches.
A couple of years ago, Rick and JoAnn bought an old building in downtown Ellijay that became one part coffee shop, one part art gallery, and one part live music venue. On Saturday nights, they host live music and dinner in their “listening room.” We had decided to have dinner there that night because it gave me a reason to pack boots with 4 inch heels on a camping trip.
Seriously, what's the point of glamping if you can't pack heels?????
In Towne, their coffee shop and bistro, was as charming and visually appealing as the Martyn House. Each space was unique and eclectic, filled with original art, their own special style, and a sprinkle of sunshine.
On Saturday nights, they offer a small menu for dinner to be served while you listen to a 2 hour live music show. It’s BYOB, so we were able to take our own wine for a modest $5 corking fee. We ordered at the counter in the coffee shop, dropped off our bottles of wine, grabbed some lemon infused water in colorful mason jars, and found our way to the cozy listening room. When we ordered, we were given a table number. The tables were covered in brown butcher paper with the numbers on top and warm, inviting candles beckoning us inside.
Still pretty full from that mammoth burger at 1907, I thought I was “ordering light” (yes, I know – Vicki Ordering Light is as much an oxymoron as Vegetarian McDonald’s) when I asked for the “fish stew.”
The hearty stew had 3 giant fillets of meaty fish in it and was topped off with a crazy good slab of buttery toasted bread.
That's when I remembered that eating light is for wimps.
So I ordered dessert.
Matt had the trout and double chocolate cake, but I didn’t get a picture because because all the trout was getting weird (and maybe because I had whipped cream all over my hands).
Nate Currin, the artist of the night, entertained us for two hours with his warm stories and wonderful music. Maybe it was the second bottle of wine talking, but we thought he was pretty darn good.
When we cozied in for the night in our tent, we decided to close the windows and zip the door because it was going down to 32 degrees. While we liked sleeping in the cool air, 32 degrees crossed the line from “cozy” to “crazy,” so we turned the heater on low enough to keep it cool, but ensure we didn’t wake up with icicles in our noses.
The zipped door kept Hank out, but it didn’t keep Otis out. Otis made it immediately clear that he'd be sleeping with us thankyouverymuch.
I guess he doesn’t like icicles in his nose either.
We woke to another perfectly beautiful day. Our days had been warm and sunny, our nights cold and crisp, perfect glamping weather!
Rick had breakfast waiting for us on the porch again.
More homemade smoothies:
Then it was stoneground grits, local sausage, focaccia bread, and scrambled eggs with avocados.
Martyn House had been everything I hoped for. It has been magical, fanciful, and enchanting. It had been luxurious and indulgent. It was romantic and private. We ate meals on a fantasy porch, we sipped wine in fairy tale tents, we snuggled under fur blankets while listening to the sound of the wind and rain whipping through the trees, we woke to the sounds of birds and had coffee with the forest, we followed paths to secret corners with tree stump tables and crystal chandeliers, we found our way home at night guided by twinkling string lights and the full moon.
I ate slowly, not wanting to break the spell.
It was almost midnight and my carriage was about to turn back into a pumpkin. A quick flight home would bring work and deadlines, a house that needed to be cleaned, and groceries to buy.
But it was still morning, and I was still Cinderella and I was going to live like there was no midnight.