Alastair Sawday

The publisher and founder of Special Places to Stay series of guidebooks, examines affordable accomodation options in India
Alastair Sawday dislikes airports and planes and is all praises for Kerala
Alastair Sawday dislikes airports and planes and is all praises for Kerala

OT How did &lsquoSpecial Places&rsquo take off
Alastair Sawday We began with French Bed and Breakfast &mdash and must have hit all the right buttons, for we sold out in six months. I suspect that people were longing for a way to be more independent as travellers.

OT What makes a stay special
Alastair Sawday It has to be unpretentious, genuine, either beautiful or interesting, and run by people who care about what they do. It is the owners who make all the difference. We reject ugliness, poor value for money, pure swankiness and anywhere that is purely commercial.

OT Have you considered doing just &lsquoSpecial Places&rsquo, rather than &lsquoSpecial Places to Stay&rsquo
Alastair Sawday Yes &mdash indeed we have We have published a beautiful book about pubs and inns, and await good new ideas. How about tea-rooms Venues

OT Do you still do a lot of the legwork
Alastair Sawday Less, perhaps, than I should. I dislike airports and planes, so my long-haul flight plans are much reduced. I do go to France (by train nowadays), Spain and Italy once a year if I can &mdash but seem to take most of my holidays in Britain now.

OT Is India finally offering stylish, eccentric and affordable accommodation
Alastair Sawday Certainly. The range of Special Places in India is astonishing you have so many that are uniquely Indian tented camps, palaces, hill-bungalows, heritage hotels, homestays, teak cabins, plantation houses, and other places that almost defy categorisation.

OT The most special place to stay in India
Alastair Sawday I dare not answer that question, for I don&rsquot know them all. But I am happy to praise Kerala to the skies and I had a wonderful week in Fort Cochin.

OT And your favourite English hideaway
Alastair Sawday That feels like a googly My favourite part of Britain is the area to the east of Land&rsquos End, the wild cliffs and bays of West Penrith.

OT You&rsquove done this for a decade. Are you moving on
Alastair Sawday I am only 61 &mdash still full of ideas and enthusiasms. But this is a fine little company that can function well without me. Perhaps I will take longer spells away and get stuck into some environmental projects &mdash for this planet needs a lot of help, urgently.

OT The one thing you always pack
Alastair Sawday A long piece of strong string &mdash versatile and always used. It can be a washing line, a strap, a tie for a door that won&rsquot shut, a belt, a shoelace &mdash and it can tie together the legs of two single beds to create a strong double.

OT Travel advice
Alastair Sawday Take as little as you dare, stay &mdash and eat &mdash with local people, read deeply before going, linger, open your mind and forget who you are. Above all, seek out people who are contributing to the welfare of the country &mdash and learn from them. One day spent in Chennai with the legendary Dr Muthu, the environmentalist and social reformer, was worth a week of general travel.

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