It used to be (and still is from time to time) that I would enjoy sleeping in a van down by the river, a pile of straw in a field, or even an abandoned truck in the middle of the Canadian prairie – but – while I can still appreciate the ability to snuggle down in a big soft pile of dirt when necessity requires it – I have to admit that I’ve become a bit spoiled. Actually, I’ve always been a bit spoiled – I mean for crying out loud, I lived in a beat up VW van that I bought for $125 – that sat just 10 feet off of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world at Kauai’s Blue Lagoon in Kapaa. I lived in another van next to spawning salmon and Alaskan waterfalls…so, in a way, I’ve always been living in a kind of quirky luxury.
When I use that term, I think people aren’t real sure what to think – so I thought it might be a good idea to explain it in this weeks Vagobond Travel Museum. Quirky luxury is that moment when you wake up and go “Holy shit, I’m so lucky to be here” (actually, I’m having that moment right now -read about my first impressions of Mama Shelter Marseille) I’m lying in a big fluffy bed with Looney Tunes Masks on the wall as one example. I used to have 400 thread count sheets in my $125 VW. I just came back from the Sahara where I slept in a Berber tent but dried my face with a fluffy white towel.
Luxury, to me, is something that is beyond just the essential but that adds to a feeling of comfort, harmony, and pleasure. Like the soft fluffy towel in the tent or the high thread count sheets in the van. Where the quirky comes in is in the incongruousness of the luxury in comparison to the setting – as the examples above. When I was homeless and backpacking – I devised a small French Press made from metal that I could make very nice coffee in each morning – that’s quirky luxury.
I remember back in the old days on Fairhaven Beach (Off the Leash Beach for those who remember) when we would sit around the fire with the bums and cook salmon on cedar shakes with capers and lemon butter – that’s quirky luxury. Those bums actually had it down perfectly when it came to the food and ingredients we would eat. It helped that the wilds of the Pacific Northwest are a cornucopia of gourmet ingredients and that the foodbank used to hand out leftover artisan loaves – but there it was. Nothing like a hobo pulling a pepper grinder from his grubby pocket to make you feel like you are living in a life of quirky luxury.
This year has been filled with quirky luxury – my life actually – is filled with it, by design. I’ve been fortunate however to be able to spend some serious time in wonderful places this year.
Staying in the five-star caves of Taskonaklar in Cappadocia where we were pampered and showered with delicious food, wine, and products. Sleeping in the treehouse rooms of Olympos (and this one too) or my recent stay in the luxury Berber tents of Cafe Tissardmine.
It doesn’t stop there though – living on a yacht in the Aegean is a way of roughing it and living high on the hog at the same time. And then there are the luxury luxury places I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this year – and yet each of them was really quite quirky in themselves.
Take for example, Tuvana Hotel in Antalya – this is a series of old Ottoman houses converted to modern luxury – jazz and Ottoman oddity and comfort – hand in hand.
In Bodrum, I was lucky enough to stay in the delightfully water themed Su Otel – where the owner didn’t want to pay for original art and painted it himself – only to discover he really is an artist. Just up the hill, the oddly nautical themed Antique Theatre Hotel offered a very different quirky vision of a very different quirky owner…
Which raises a point about quirkiness in general – it really is in the eye of the beholder. An example would be the Excelsior in Thessaloniki which is very much through and through a 5 star luxury hotel but that also happens to offer some quirkiness through the decor and the over the top art and luxury as well.
They’ve taken an art deco memory and incorporated it into a modern version, like a chef who does a gourmet take on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – that’s quirky.
Perhaps my favorite hotel this year has been Hotel Paradise in Bologna. With odd little hand written notes and craft projects from the staff – the circus theme and homey quality was in direct contrast to the ultra fluffy pillows and fine products provided in the lavatory. For that matter, the whole Blogville experience was an exercise in quirky luxury – though one which I chose to leave early in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Doe s that make it clear? Do you start to get a feel for what Quirky Luxury is now? Like a bum cooking salmon with capers on a fire or a luxury cave – quirky luxury is the unexpected and delightful. Five star treatment in a one star environment or home made notes in a five star environment. The common elements are delight and unexpected comfort.