I first became acquainted with the owners of Cinnamon Stays, Manish and Shilpi, through Twitter. Ever the marketer, Manish was hoping to attract my attention toward his new hospitality endeavor. As a wandering tourist of India, I’m always seeking new and uniquely exciting places to lay my head for a night. In the case of Cinnamon Stays, a family guest house located in Gurgaon just outside of Delhi, I had a hunch this young family’s foray into the travel industry was a diamond in the rough. Intrigued by our short snippets of communication, I kept in touch throughout the year emailing possible dates of arrival until finally my feet were firmly nestled under the covers inside the “Bollywood Room” in January 2012.
My plan was to stay two nights at Cinnamon Stays while I showed a friend the sights and sounds of Delhi before moving onward. Getting to Gurgaon via Indira Gandhi International Airport involved taking a prepaid cab or hiring a car and driver, either of which Manish cheerfully offered to assist in organizing. As promised and right on schedule my travel partner and I were greeted outside the airport for a ride straight away to our awaiting room. Late-night intakes are handled by friendly staff members. Years ago I learned that owners of Indian guest homes must not get caught up in the erratic hours of tourists and thus was not surprised, actually grateful, when neither Manish or Shilpi greeted us upon arrival. After 30 hours of travel to get to Cinnamon Stays I was fixed on testing their beds without diversion.
Cinnamon Stays is spread across several two-story brick homes which line a series of narrow streets inside a gated enclave called Eldeco Mansionz in Sector 48 of Gurgaon. It’s sleepy residential location invokes images of Norman Rockwell gone Indian. A lack of street signage is a thoughtful act by the owners to keep neighbors happy with the burgeoning business while also allowing a hassle free stay for all guests. The community is just blocks from Gurgaon’s expressway to Delhi, yet green grass and branched foliage filter out the city’s noisy draw of traffic and construction. Early risers or late enders can take fitness by walking the square grid of streets within the gated community where any number of fellow neighbors can be seen on foot or bicycle with their dogs.
Each home run as part of Cinnamon Stays is comprised of 3 rooms, two on the main floor and 1 additional on the upper level, all with ensuite bathrooms. Guest rooms are fitted with LCD flat screen TV’s with cable, free WiFi, full time running water and use of the common family and dining areas on the main floor. A fitness room located in a community building reachable by short walk can also be used by guests. Meals are served family style for all guests around the dining table inside each home. Specific times can be requested for meal service, albeit the concept is for multiple guests to share in the chance to interact with one another during breakfast. I welcomed this opportunity to get to know our housemates, two Indian men both lodging long-term at Cinnamon Stays for work reasons. A Continental offering of eggs, toast, juice, and coffee is standard, however, Indian fare is available upon request one day prior which brings elation from the mostly Indian male staff. TIP: Do try the Indian breakfast option as it is well done for first time or returning tourist’s taste levels.
I finally met Manish in person just minutes before departing for a full day of Delhi sightseeing. His tall, thin and charmingly boyish good looks will win him nothing but fans from female travelers while his humorous yet no nonsense answers put me at ease immediately. Manish was a sounding board of suggestions for my already packed itinerary, and his enthusiasm for each told me they were worthwhile activities. He also put a bug in my ear about a local performance show near Cinnamon Stays while extending an offer to have dinner in-house if our day proved too long.
We decided to return for the show and dinner that evening, energized but tired from Delhi. One phone call to Manish secured show times and a back-up plan if those times didn’t work. When in fact they didn’t meet our timeline, we arranged for a full evening meal back at our home. And as the meal wrapped up between my travel partner, myself, and our two housemates, Manish came to recap our day’s activities. His intoxicating passion and energy left us chatting well into the night about travel, politics, and a fair wage for working class Indians. With the next morning came a hearty Indian breakfast of parantha, curd, juice, and chai. It also involved a cheerful Manish checking we had everything we needed to ensure another successful day of sightseeing. I’ll certainly be back to reconnect with new found friends whenever Delhi beckons me.
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