Real Marigold Hotel's Amanda Barrie and Lionel Blair 'hated India at first, then fell in love with it'

lionel blair
(Image credit: BBC/TwoFour/Ali Harshad/Papaya M)

After living in India for a month for the second series of BBC1's The Real Marigold Hotel, former Coronation Street star Amanda Barrie and dance legend Lionel Blair reveal why they won’t be enjoying a retirement there…

What's On TV caught up with both Lionel, 87, and Amanda, 82, on their return from filming the Real Marigold Hotel to chat about their incredible experiences there...

What surprised you most about staying in Kochi, India, for this series of The Real Marigold Hotel? Amanda: "Some places were rather run down and dilapidated, which shocked me. The humidity there is so great and I suppose that affects the look of the buildings. The house we all stayed in though was lovely and very stylish. It had a garden and a swimming pool and we had a spacious room each." Lionel: "What I found interesting was that I hated it there to start with – I felt that outside the house was like a shanty town - then I fell in love with place. I made a ‘journey’ and that thrilled me because the experience got better and better. My son had been on a gap year in India a long while ago and told me how wonderful it was."

During the series we’ll see you in traditional Indian outfits, for a wedding. What was that like? Amanda: "Oh they had to staple me into a sari! I had a terrible time in it and it didn’t suit me. Rustie Lee was brilliant in hers, I was a disaster…"

amanda barrie

(Image credit: BBC/TwoFour/Ali Harshad/Papaya M)


What unusual things did you discover about India? Lionel: "Every public toilet had a little hose and a tap so you can wash your botty while you’re sitting on the toilet. I thought that was wonderful because cleanliness is so important to me. I’m very hygienic!"

The Real Marigold bunch this time (from left)... Amanda Barrie, Paul Nicholas, Bill Oddie, Lionel Blair, Dr Miriam Stoppard, Dennis Taylor, Rusie Lee, Sheila Ferguson

The Real Marigold bunch this time (from left)... Amanda Barrie, Paul Nicholas, Bill Oddie, Lionel Blair, Dr Miriam Stoppard, Dennis Taylor, Rusie Lee, Sheila Ferguson (Image credit: BBC/Twofour/Papaya 2016)


Could you see yourself living out in India when you retire? Amanda: "I couldn’t do it because of the climate. I just couldn’t be wet through from morning till night. I’ve got homes in London and Somerset, and both offer me a great deal more than I’d have in India." Lionel: "I probably couldn’t either, but doing this show has made me think, 'Oh my god there’s so much more to see'. I’d love to take my wife Susan next time."

 What did you miss most from home? Amanda: "Well apart from my partner Hillary, my family and my dog, I missed television, especially watching sport and football on TV. I support Manchester City and I watch a lot of horse racing, too." Lionel: "I missed my wife terribly. Any time I thought about her I’d well up. I’ve got three grandchildren too, and I just have to see them!"

*The Real Marigold Hotel premieres on BBC1, on Wednesday February 15 at 9pm


Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.