Wednesday, 15 October 2014

5 Reasons Why You Must Try Airbnb While Travelling is a huge success story in online travel. Yet many of us in India have either never heard of this sharing economy company or else never tried.

Since Shilpi and I (Manish) have been running Cinnamon Stays for the past 5 years and now Granny's Inn in Varanasi we have had the opportunity to use airbnb for getting guests at our place.

We also used airbnb extensively when we travelled to Europe this summer. Most places we visited, we booked the room / apartment through airbnb. 

It was a great experience. So, here we share why you must try this fascinating concept which is redefining stays & travel around the globe.

1. From hassle to play. In the pre-airbnb days, finding a room was a hassle, a task; but with the millions of beautifully curated pads around the world, searching a room/ apartment/ villa on airbnb is a playful, joyous activity. We found an artistic studio in Interlaken, Switzerland in June this year. These 2 nights spent there were infinitely better than a bland hotel room in our budget!

2. The wisdom & warmth of local hosts. To really know a place when time is at a premium you got to lean on the local hosts. And most are better than the majority of hotel employees. In our own trip, the airbnb hosts volunteered to pick us up from airports and tube stations. They took us out for authentic Italian meals; gave access to private beaches. Cooked for us. Helped plan a day shopping trip in Zurich. Even found us a Saravana Bhawan in Paris :-)
You can get tons of local tips - from bus and metro timings, to which restaurants to eat, the coolest pubs, where to shop for veggies and where to shop for moments and gifts! You get all this information and more over a beer or if you are lucky even a home cooked meal. 

 3. Having the flexibility to cook. With our non experimentative, almost vegetarian food habits, having access to a kitchen where we could make simple daal, rice every alternate day was a big boon:-) Sometimes after a tiring day, just the comfort of making maggi in your own apartment far outweighed meals in a fancy restaurant. Almost all the apartments had very clean kitchens with cooking utensils and cutlery. This made our trip very comfortable and enjoyable. 

4. Safe & convenient. As a first timer, we would recommend that you only book the place which has a few reviews. Airbnb reviews are invariably genuine and give you a fair idea of the place and the host.
Google maps gives you an accurate idea of how to reach the B&B. In fact in many listings, past guests mention bus and tube routes, landmarks and other tips which makes life a lot easier for travelers. 

5. Mobile app is awesome. The airbnb mobile app now makes it possible to book a room, apartment on the move. You can make a booking or accept one 
(if you are a host) on the go. Clean interface, intuitive navigation makes it a very friendly app! 

As hosts of B&B and avid travelers, we would urge you to try airbnb on your next vacation. We are convinced, like us you will get hooked onto this new way of booking a stay and traveling. You may never go back to the standardized and expensive hotels which have all the amenities but often lack soul and a story, essential to make travel memorable.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

7 Reasons Why Corporate Travelers Prefer A Homestay

Unlike in the past when company executives either stayed at a fancy but expensive hotel or a basic guest house with inconsistent service, today there is another option of a homestay / bed & breakfast.

And Tripadvisor makes it easy to find these special places hidden in a city's landscape. With ratings and detailed guest reviews you can be assured of a safe and comfortable stay at this non hotel option!

So why should a busy corporate traveller stay at a homestay. Here are 7 good reasons. 

1. Do you remember the last hotel room that you stayed in 5 years ago on a business trip? Most probably you don't.  But people who stay at a homestay/ bed & breakfast invariably remember, because their experience is so unique and special. You may be a busy executive, but you still remember the delicious home cooked food, the quirky room with some beautiful painting; the chat over breakfast on local city tips and much more.

2. The Warm Human Touch.  Unlike a B&B,  a hotel doesn't have hosts who blend the skills of a cook, waiter, tour guide, housekeeper, conversationalist and much more to make every guest's experience a delight.

3. For the budget conscious corporate traveller, the SME owner, the entrepreneur with a tight wallet, often the homestay works far economical than a hotel. The food costs are less and you avoid luxury tax.

4. Many a time the corporate traveller travels with his/ her spouse or family. In these cases, the home like environment of a B&B is much better than the confined space of a hotel room. 
Of course you need to check the reviews on Tripadvisor before you make the booking.
In the connected economy, the good places are easy to book and the bad places can't hide themselves!

5. If the stay is for more than a few days, hosts at a B&B can give valuable tips on shopping, eating out, the coolest cafes and pubs. These local tips are invaluable when you are in a  new city for a few days. It saves you valuable time and you gain from their expertise!

6. Hotel food, no matter how fancy can get on your nerves and palate after a while. Especially for the widely travelled corporate traveller, hotel food is no longer a big draw! But a well prepared, delicious home cooked meal at a homestay is a big hit with travelers. Often the odd pickle, a special recipe, a local sweet or ice-cream is a gentle balm for the wearied corporate traveller.

7. A homestay is also a place where you chance upon other interesting travelers. At Cinnamon Stays - we have hosted amazingly interesting people from almost 60 countries - artists, entrepreneurs, corporate honchos, VCs, musicians, social media gurus, NGO heads and even students in their gap year! 

The homestay with it's unassuming and open space allows corporates to mix and unwind with this diverse lot. The free flow of ideas and conversations is enriching for all. 

The world is opening up. Businesses like have made B&B accessible and available to all. Tripadvisor and guest reviews have made finding great non hotel places far easier. 

So, in case you have never tried a homestay / bed & breakfast  you may want to give them a try after reading this. Believe us; after 5 years of running Cinnamon, our lives have been transformed by this experience.

(The hosts and writers Manish and Shilpi have had a corporate career in media and HR respectively. They took the plunge 5 years back to create - the No.1 B&B in Gurgaon. They also manage the bookings and marketing for Granny's Inn - in Varanasi run by their aunt and mother!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

10 Reasons Why You Should Stay At The Granny's Inn, Varanasi

Varanasi, Banaras or Kashi is amongst the oldest living cities of the world - a holy city for the Hindus and a spiritual, music, sanskrit learning and yoga learning destination!

To experience the sights, sounds and the flavour of Banaras, one must ideally stay in a homestay. A standardized hotel - even a star one does not add much to the experience of Varanasi. Granny's Inn is one such comfortable homestay run by two feisty grannies in their 60's - Asha & Aruna. They started this homestay in December 2013 and in about 9 months, they are already No.10 on Tripadvisor amongst 140 odd B&B's & Guesthouses in Varanasi!

Here are 10 reasons why you must stay at the Granny's Inn 

1. If you are bored with the standardized and bland rooms of a hotel, the Granny's Inn offers double rooms with AC/ non AC options with character. Set in a house with old architecture and a courtyard, it will charm you with it's decor and quirkiness.

2. You get to sample authentic Indian vegetarian food. Prepared by the grannies and their man-friday - Kashi. Even though the street food in Varanasi is amazingly diverse and tasty; many of our guests still prefer the Granny's Inn meals.

3. The Grannies are obsessed about cleanliness. You will find the rooms very neat and clean. Besides all the rooms have en suite modern bathroom. 

4. You are less than 10 min walk from the main Kashi Vishwanath temple. 
This is a boon in the city of Banaras as you avoid the traffic and save time.
It's easy to do the early morning Mangla aarti at the temple!

5. The ghats are also a mere 10 min brisk walk from the Granny's Inn. It's very convenient to attend the evening aarti or the morning boat ride(must do's on the tourist/ pilgrim check-list)

6. The Grannies will also guide you in case you have a taste and the stomach for Banaras street food. It's tasty, unique and a riot of flavors. Dina Chat Bhandaar is the closest and quite good(although you may want to order and eat at the homestay). They will also tell you where to have pan, lassi and baati chokha. 

7. Banaras is known for it's intricate Banarasi silk sarees. The grannies will help you with tips on (a) where to buy, (b) the best shops to visit. You may persuade them to accompany you on a shopping spree. They love shopping!

8. The grannies make some amazing pickles - mango, chilly, lemon etc. 
Depending upon the season and what's available you can sample their finger-licking pickles. Difficult to find in any hotel or a standard guest house. 

9. Safety is a big concern for independent women travelers and senior citizens. This homestay is amongst the safest in the city. It's family run with trustworthy staff. One of the two grannies is always there to help and support. Women travelers feel very safe at our homestay. 

10. The Granny's Inn has loads of local Varanasi flavour. The furniture is made by the local Khadi Gram Udyog (cottage industry). Many of the artifacts, wooden mirrors and clothes hangars in the bathroom and are made by the local toy maker - Sharmaji. 

Whether you are a foreign tourist wanting to savor Varanasi in an authentic way, an Indian tourist with or without family, an elderly pilgrim, the granny's inn is a good option for experience Varanasi - very safe, cosy & delightfully homely. Drop us a mail at for booking or queries!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Khaike Paan Banaras Wala, Khul Jaye Band Akal Ka Taala

This famous song from the Amitabh Bachchan starrer - ‘Don’  has made the Banarasi paan a part of our national psyche. This betel leaf Banarsi wonder - Paan - is a trademark of the holy city of Varanasi.

One associates the ubiquitous paan with the brick-red stains that cover the facades of Banarsi structures—old and beautiful, modern and shiny.

But Paan is also associated with the best of Banaras—with musical sittings called baithaks - in which paan is offered graciously to listeners for aesthetic enhancement; with strolls at sunset by “Gangaji” and with family gatherings and festivals.

In Banaras the ‘paan’ is savoured as a treat at odd moments and often to mark even the smallest of special occasions. The Banarasi paan is inseparable from 'Banarasipan', which is the ethos that is associated with Banaras, a joie de vivre that the locals called mauj and masti or abandon and revelry.

For the people of the city, Banarasipan is embodied by a dip in the Ganga, a nap under a tree, an unannounced stop at a friend’s place, an open-air music session, a trip to a local saint’s tomb—or, indeed, savouring a paan.  

The Banarsi paan has many stories built into it. The elders say, in the decades before India’s independence, members of the Indian National Congress would secretly exchange messages hidden in the ubiquitous paan.

Bismillah Khan - the famous shehnai player who lived in Banaras, in the neighbourhood of Beniabagh used to relax at Chaurasiya paan bhandaar (in Chowk area). A simple, poor man, a pakka Banarasi. His biggest joys were playing his music and enjoying his paan.

The ingredients of a typical paan are :

8 beetle leaves (paan)

4 tsp small fennel seeds (saunf)

2 tsp betel nut slivers

2 tsp coloured sugar coated

1/4 tsp cardamoms powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg (jaiphal) powder

1/4 tsp cloves (laung / lavang) powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon (dalchini) powder

1 tsp grated dry coconut (kopra)

2 tsp tutti fruity 1/4 tsp menthol powder

1/4 tsp camphor powder

2 tsp gulkhand  

1/2 tsp slaked lime

Though we (at the Granny’s Inn) are still quite new to Banaras and therefore far from an expert on where to get the best paan. But would recommend paan at these two places. (a) Near Diamond hotel in Bhelupur and (b) the famous Prahlad Prasad Chaurasiya Pan Bhandaar at Chowk!

The blog post content has been excerpted from this Live Mint article

Friday, 13 June 2014

Mishika tells you why B&Bs are becoming popular in India.

Is it a home?

Mishika often longs for some  personal attention, home cooked food and the warmth of a family, during her thang frequent trips.

But hotels run a business and the model they follow is geared towards keeping it purely business be it with their guests or even their staff.

The very reason why B&B’s anywhere in the world is to create a non hotel space. A home away from home is what they offer to guests and are a big hit with travelers these days!

According to Mishika here are a few reasons why B&Bs 
are getting popular in India.

1. Personal touch: More than a business setup, it’s a home for both the guests and the staff. Most owners are usually at the properties and for them it is not just a business; it's a way of life for them. So they go out of their way to make sure guests feel at home. Because of their presence guests receive high quality service
and personal attention by the staff. All this creates a very warm, cosy Unhotel environment !

2. Affordable: It is an affordable option compared to expensive hotels. We all love to save up a few pennies during our trips but without compromising on comfort. B&B's let you have a budget friendly stay with a homely touch.

3. Food:  An unhappy tummy may turn your holiday into a disaster. Hygienic and healthy home cooked food is your answer to avoid such situations.Homestays understand the needs of a traveler and the families. 
Simple home cooked food is what frequent travellers are looking for these days!

4. The warmth of a home: The comforts of staying at a home are unexplainable. Stay with a family, sharing stories with like minded travellers , hear their stories, make friends and be at home during your travel.

5. Accessibility: Be it in a remote place or a city, homestays always have their doors open for their visitors.Hotels often struggle to set-up in a remote location, whereas homestays have their way around. The hosts with their local tips make a new city more accessible.

6. Insights to local culture: When in Rome, behave like a Roman is the saying. Staying at a homestay will help you know and learn about the local culture. See the place through the eyes of a local.

7. Good for large families and groups: When you are travelling in a large group and want many rooms,homestays many a time give you the option of renting the entire house . Most  homestays have about 5-6 rooms and often let you rent out the whole place for yourself. Hence, making your holiday an exclusive one and very affordable.

8. Safety: Can’t get safer than a home. The owners often go out of their way to keep their home and visitors safe by avoiding last minute check-ins etc..Especially important for single women travellers.

9. Peaceful: A good nights sleep is assured when you are staying in a nice homestay. The quiet, peace, warmth and coziness of a home is one of the pluses of staying in a homestay compared to a small, windowless hotel room.

10. Unique experience:  Hotel stays are often very boring and mundane. Whereas each day is a new experience at a home and this makes your stay and trip a unique one.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Granny's Inn - Warm bosom of an ​Indian h​ome

The Granny's Inn Banaras is not just a cosy homestay. It is the warm 
bosom of an Indian home. The selfless care and the doting love of two grannies, delicious home cooked food, laughter, sunshine and the simple good life of a large Indian family is what the Granny’s Inn is all about.

The concept of this homestay has brought meaning and purpose to the life of the feisty grannies and loads of self respect and dignity.  The Granny's Inn, Banaras is a cosy, clean and safe stay option for travelers especially women travelers from around the world.

A first of its kind in Banaras for a homestay to provide a window to the art and crafts of India. We want visitors at our inn to get to know about the delightful and intricate handicraft and art scene of Banaras. Through this we plan to promote the local artist and craftsmen. The design brief for the inn was to capture the soul of the Granny's Inn. The design - be it the day in the life of a granny- poster, the pickle making or the grannies at the market poster  - is very Indian in its sensibility.

Our creative inspiration comes from children's tales and rhymes- Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye, baaki jo bacha tha kale chor le gaye

And last but not the least , the rooms are all about the stories of women in our family who are important in our lives and have contributed in some way or the other to the making of the GI.

Over time we are sure our story will grow and we will have a range of merchandise, accessory and art around the Granny's Inn. 

In case you are interested in staying at the Granny's Inn or buying art from us or even starting a GI of your own  please drop a mail to