“The thing about France is that the French aren’t great at building bike routes, but they don’t need to be because there are endless stunning roads with no traffic – and what little traffic there is, is considerate towards cyclists.”
France is a dream for cycling, after all, it is where the Tour De France was born. With its wealth of virtually car-less backroads, the option of a challenging climb for the sports enthusiasts or a gentle pootle between pretty villages for the more laid-back, freewheeling in France is a joy.
Purpose-built routes allow you to cycle the length of the Loire all the way to the Atlantic, making it irresistibly tempting to hop on a bike and discover a different perspective to this beautiful country. But it’s the locals that really know how to work this wonderful landscape and create epic cycle-routes that show off historical sites and jaw-dropping views. We asked four of our Owners to share with us their favourite routes leaving straight from their front door.
Being pioneers of Special Places, the Sawday’s office is always full of chatter about weekend plans and wanderlust. With the Easter bank holiday looming, we asked for some inspiration on where to escape – being an eclectic bunch this post takes you from Edinburgh to Milan so buckle up your seatbelt (or tighten your walking boots) and get some inspiration for your next adventure…
Are we not all seduced by historic buildings? Only exceptionally are they not beautiful. We rarely retain memory of a 60s tower block, or a commercial warehouse, or a shopping centre. So historic buildings are precious, to be dignified with our respect. It is for the old historic centres that we love a city, never for the modern accretions. Continue Reading…
No one should run a B&B unless they LOVE hosting. Many forget this very simple rule, seduced more by the money than the prospect of welcoming strangers. Lucy and Tim are born hosts – generous-spirited, easy company and with a genuine love of sharing their home with others. And they’ve had the courage really to keep it home, rather than an ‘enterprise’. A B&B as it should be.
A dream – this place demonstrates perfectly how the world of B&Bs is now aeons away from the musty, fusty formality of yore. Simple, laid-back and with a touch of funk, Lucy’s set-up defies categorisation. Breakfast isn’t served, it’s delivered on a tractor to be eaten whenever you like. And you’ve not a bedroom in a house, but the run of a whole barn set in the grounds. It’s a touch pricier than usual, but then you have so much more than just a bed and a breakfast.
We support and celebrate small businesses that are different. We believe in authenticity (as opposed to tourist tat), transparency, fairness and integrity. Our use of the word ‘special’ embraces all those things. Ask a dozen people what they mean by ‘special’, and you will get a dozen answers. Nevertheless, I wanted to try and explain what it is we mean by ‘special’ at Sawday’s. We have a personal, subjective approach, but it has won us devoted readers. Our likes and dislikes, and our style, have served us well.
Somewhere particularly special I discovered not long ago in Wales. I arrived exhausted from a long cycle ride, clad unattractively in Lycra and a sweaty tee-shirt. I was asked what I most wanted, and the answer was “a cup of tea and a piece of cake by the fire in your kitchen.” The result was just that – in the most chaotic kitchen imaginable, with no space to put the cup down. The cake had come recently from the oven, and was delicious. I was as happy as a knackered cyclist could be. No matter about the chaos; it was actually rather intimate and satisfying, and I was no beauty anyway. Note, too, that this kitchen is usually not seen by guests. It just produces great food.
I had been a last-minute booking at The Old Store House, and had been told that I would be squeezed in somewhere, somehow, as long as I was ‘flexible’. The squeezing was to be in the old canal-boat at the bottom of the garden – in the canal. “Damn, I didn’t get round to hoovering, but the sheets are good.” Indeed, the place was littered with leaves, but the bunk was clean and the sheets of the highest quality cotton. I borrowed Peter’s own bathroom for a long soak, a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other. The bathroom was shambolic, but I was lucky to be there given that there was technically ‘no room’. We lit a fire in the wee boat-stove and settled to another drink a few inches above water-level.
Supper was with Peter: baked beans and scrambled eggs, just as he had kindly offered when we told him we were too tired to pedal out for supper. We slept like angels, in nature’s nocturnal silence. Boats chugging past awoke us to a sunny day and a sun-drenched breakfast in the conservatory with the other guests, all of whom had slept soundly in beautiful, book-filled, rooms. Chickens strutted under the breakfast table as dish after dish emerged, each one exquisite, all served with the informality and ease that mark the whole house. The plates and cups were antique or plain old, a welcome change from Ikea’s best. Peter wandered in and out, chatting amiably and interestingly.
I was so grateful for the generosity of the welcome that I sent Peter a case of my favourite bio-dynamic wine. He consumed it all within days, largely with the help of his guests, to whom he offered it freely and with the accompaniment, I heard, of laughter and good conversation. Now that is what I call ‘hospitality’.
SO – WHAT IS ‘SPECIAL’?
The following words spring to mind: beauty, character, colour, craftsmanship, kindness, spontaneity, eccentricity, individuality, surprise, history, books, generosity, silence, views, nature, environmental sensitivity, organic, great food, a sense of fun, a home from home….Few places can tick all those boxes, but most of ours tick most of them, and our sheer eclecticism is exhilarating.
There is no model bedroom or bathroom. For bedrooms, I love original artwork, good books, a few antique pieces of furniture and good light to read by. I prefer ‘interesting’ to ‘luxurious’ in bathrooms, such as the Irish bathroom I stayed in with a giant bath in the middle of the room, or the one in Devon with a blazing fire next to the bath. Many bathrooms are now much the same, so it is good to come across some character and a touch of fun.
The most important thing for me is the people who run a B&B – finding people who genuinely like having visitors. They enjoy a chat but know when to leave you in peace. They make you feel part of the home. They do things their own way, with their own taste. They are fun, enjoy flights of imagination, bizarre and sometimes dotty ideas. They ‘do’ random acts of kindness, uncalled-for generosity – those moments of inspiration that set us all alight.
Another key part of special is the food – simple and honest, ideally organic – or perhaps even orgiastic. It is always memorable and right for the moment. Give me, when I am tired, a bowl of soup and some good cheeses rather than a 5-course dinner; an omelette in the kitchen rather than a hushed affair in the dining room. Home-baked bread, and home-made everything, matter to us. No tiny tables set too close together, no long life milk or instant coffee, no catering sausages or tinned tomatoes, no musak, no junk food and packaging, no pretentiousness or pomposity and no standing on ceremony. If we like a place, you can be sure that it is somewhere special and that is why people come to Sawday’s.
Do you have a story of a truly special B&B that you’ve discovered? We have teamed up with Dorset Cereals to recognize the best B&Bs across the country – have your say on what makes a special B&B by nominating on their website.
For a truly special stay, plan your next trip with Sawday’s.