For the second series of The Real Marigold Hotel, eight celebrities have flown five thousand miles to Kerala in southwest India.
Lionel Blair, Bill Oddie, soul singer Sheila Ferguson, agony aunt Miriam Stoppard and four other fairly well known faces are finding out what it would be like to retire in the city of Kochi.
If you’d quite like to spend a month there yourself, the good news is their colonial mansion is not usually a retirement home for elderly celebrities. It’s one of Kochi’s most luxurious hotels: Le Colonial.
Lionel Blair clearly approves of his retirement home if not the neighbourhood
Le Colonial dates back to 1506 and is one of India’s oldest colonial houses, possibly the oldest. For its first 150 years, it was home of the Portuguese Governor and it was one of the few houses not to be destroyed when the Dutch conquered Fort Kochi. After that, it was the home of the Dutch governors for another century and a half before it was sold to the British in 1795. It ended up being owned by English tea trader J Thomas.
Nowadays its eight rooms are kitted out with private bathrooms, air-conditioning, four-poster beds and wifi.
Bill Oddie tries to chill out by the pool
So how much does it cost? The Real Marigold Hotel informs viewers that the rent for a three-bedroom family house in Fort Kochi is just over £30 per week. Sadly Le Colonial is a little pricier. On Booking.com (which awards it a “superb” score of 9.3) the cost of a room at Le Colonial is currently £179 per night, which includes half-board.
Lionel Blair might not have been initially impressed with his new neighbourhood, but Fort Kochi is one of the nicest areas of Kochi to hang out. As well as boutique hotels, there’s a lively art scene, excellent seafood and dilapidated colonial buildings that have been given a new lease of life as antiques-stuffed cafés.
Le Colonial is right next to one of Fort Kochi’s most famous sights: Chinese fishing nets. In this traditional method of fishing, nets are strung from huge curved bamboo and teak poles that are operated from the shore. Legend has it that they were introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century.
Kochi is a major port city in the state of Kerala, which stretches along the Arabian Sea coast. Kerala is famous for its beaches, serene backwaters (lagoons), lush mountains, coconut curries and laidback attitude.
For more information: le-colonial.neemranahotels.com
Radio Times Travel holidays:
South India and the backwaters of Kerala, 13 nights from £1,799pp. A comprehensive tour of India’s southern states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, discovering their remarkable cities, thought-provoking temples and astonishing natural wonders. Click here for the full itinerary
Tigers and the Taj Mahal, 8 nights from £1,099pp. This superb-value tour of northern India features the three great cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and the opportunity to spend some time ‘on safari’ in beautiful Ranthambhore Park. Once the hunting ground of Indian princes, this park stands atop a hill range of grasslands, streams, lakes and old ruins, and is the home of the legendary Tigers of Ranthambhore. Click here for the full itinerary