Photo : Awesome talent Lionel Blair | Credit : BBC/Twofour/Ali Harshad/Papaya Media

The multi award-winning travel documentary series The Real Marigold Hotel has returned with a new line-up of senior stars, for a brand new Indian adventure, this time on BBC One. Dancing legend, actor and entertainer Lionel Blair is one of the new stars. He came to the fore in the 1960s when, with his dance troupe, he appeared on television variety shows. He has appeared in a string of films, choreographed several films, written a musical, and hosted and appeared on a range of television programmes.

What were your first impressions of India?

My first impression, when we got to where we were staying, was shock and horror at the dirt and poverty. However after a few days I found it a wonderful place, the friendliness and happiness of the local people was infectious, and Dennis Taylor found a tailor who could copy a shirt or a pair of trousers in a day, which helped me with my shopping addiction!

“I was deeply moved by the 6am ritual at the sea shore, where the families and priests pray for their departed loved ones.”

Tell us about some of your favourite moments

The Indian wedding was fantastic. The music, decorations and excitement were all spectacular and we were made so welcome. We also went to a theatre performance with Indian actors which was amazing. On the way out I met an English couple who had come to India after seeing the Real Marigold Hotel series last year! I asked some ex-pats we met whether they thought of India now as home, or if ‘home’ was still England. They all told me that India is home for them now.

What did you learn from the experience?

All the different religions seem to live together in perfect peace and harmony. My favourite time was staying on a boat on Vembanad lake, it was so peaceful and quite beautiful. I was deeply moved by the 6am ritual at the sea shore, where the families and priests pray for their departed loved ones.

The cast of 2017 – Back row L-R: Dennis Taylor, Miriam Stoppard, Rustie Lee, Paul Nicholas, Sheila Ferguson and Bill Oddie. Front row (seated) L-R: Amanda Barrie and Lionel Blair | Credit : BBC/Twofour/Ali Harshad/Papaya Media

The Real Marigold Hotel airs on BBC One at 9pm on Wednesday evenings. There is four episodes in the series. You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.