Its day 4 and after a hectic time in Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal we arrive at Fort Madhogarth, a heritage citadel set on a hill which is owned by the Maharajah of Rajasthan, aka….. ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’. At our disposal we have a very efficient manager, 3 men in dhotis and turbans cooking and serving our food and drink, an artist in residence and by the looks of the handful of droppings scattered under our bed, we may well have some rodent friends sharing our bedroom! Although the room is charming and has semi restored paintwork and original 5 foot sandalwood doors, we decide to sleep in our sleeping bag liner just in case our rodent friends have been nibbling the bedding!
There is a photo of Prince Charles and Lady Diana meeting the Maharajah in the narrow hall to our bedroom. In contrast our guide tells us that when the ramped entrance was built to the fort nearly 400 years ago, it was built in a curve to prevent the enemies elephants from charging the door…. its eccentric, but quaint and just a little bit magical. We go for a walk in the local village. The poverty of the people living in the village is a stark contrast to our home for the night, but the warmth of our welcome is extraordinary. The children are just arriving home from school and are keen to have their photo taken and look at them on our phones and cameras. There are smiles, hello’s, hand shakes and high fives. Some try to ask our names and proudly tell us theirs. There is a wedding going on in the village and the local band are waiting in the boogie bus… a brightly decorated truck with plenty horns and drums. The bride, dressed in her gold sari waves to us as she gets ready for the wedding and the wedding procession moves off ….. Indian drum and base goes on long into the night. We retire back to our castle for a gin and soda (no tonic to be had!) on the roof and watch the sun set before we are served dinner under the stars. The Real Marigold Hotel is working its magic on the 12 strangers who met 4 days ago in Dehli and we eat, drink and chat long into the night, everyone of us feeling just how lucky we are to be here.