Dancer Wayne Sleep returns for more Real Marigold adventures, sampling retired life in the Chinese city of Chengdu

After sampling retired life in far-flung places including India, Florida and Japan, the stars of The Real Marigold Hotel, including Wayne Sleep and Miriam Margolyes, are reuniting for more intrepid adventures, this time exploring China, Cuba, Thailand and Iceland.

The new four-part series, The Real Marigold On Tour, also sees the return of snooker legend Dennis Taylor, actor Paul Nicholas and singer Sheila Ferguson, but kicking things off are four of our favourite seasoned Marigolders.

Dancer Wayne Sleep, actress Miriam Margolyes, chef Rosemary Shrager and darts legend Bobby George head to the bustling capital of China’s Sichuan province, Chengdu, where high-speed transport and super-sized supermarkets cater for the world’s fastest ageing population.

But with a tough language barrier and regional cuisine leaving a bad taste for some, will the senior celebrities opt to live out their golden years in China?

We spoke to Wayne, 69, to find out more about The Real Marigold On Tour…

Hi Wayne! You headed to China this time, what was it like?

“We were staying in Chengdu, where the buildings are alarmingly large and the malls the size of dual carriageways. We went to one supermarket that could fit 22 Buckingham Palaces inside it! There was also a huge swimming pool inside so Miriam and I went for a dip. Well, Miriam went in up to her knees…”

What did you find was on offer for retirees?

“There were so many opportunities and we visited a university for the elderly, where you can study for a degree at the age of 70, which is fabulous!

“The temperature is so much warmer than in the UK, too, so retirees all meet in a city-centre park to exercise and socialize. I loved that they all think it’s never too late to sing, dance and maybe learn English. The show goes on!”

What activities did you take part in?

“Rosemary and I attended a traditional singing class at the university and learnt a Chinese song. The language is difficult though, and I found my ballet training came in handy as I had to mime a lot. We taught them Que Sera, Sera, too. We had so much fun!

“We also came across an orchestra in the park and joined in singing ancient Chinese songs. They even had a sound machine that measured decibels so you wouldn’t disturb others. How very civilized!”

Did you meet Chengdu’s famous giant pandas?

“Yes, we took the Bullet Train – which travelled at the speed of light! – out to the mountains and stayed in a traditional Chinese lodge. It was so soothing out there, like a form of meditation.

“Miriam became very emotional when we met the pandas. She’s usually the hardest of the group and suddenly she melted like wax. It was interesting to see.”

Could you see yourself living out there?

“Oh no! My stomach didn’t take to the food and you don’t know what you’re eating most of the time. They cook everything, too, and I mean everything. Although they do take the nails off a chicken’s foot before they chop it up, so that’s nice…”

You visit Cuba in episode two; did you prefer life there?

“I’ve been to Cuba four times already and love it. You won’t find retired people there sitting around wrapped up in blankets. They’re out doing yoga, exercises, playing dominoes or painting.

“I also danced in a carnival in a traditional Cuban outfit, which was very special for me. Life there just makes you smile.”

How did you get along with your fellow Marigolders this series?

“If you’re with the same people for 10 days there’s going to a bit of friction, but we know each other so well now, and I’d love to go on even more Marigold adventures.

“It’s essential for me to see as much of the world as possible before I kick the bucket!”

The Real Marigold On Tour airs on BBC1 on Monday 4th December at 9pm