Many moviegoers who have seen the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and the sequel, the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have been intrigued by the charming story of a quirky boutique hotel located in a tropical country and run by Indians. Amid the heat and palm trees, an ensemble of slightly eccentric geriatrics interact with each other and with the locals. Of course, that’s only Hollywood. Places like that don’t really exist. If they did, they’d be bought out by a Motel 6 or torn down to make condos. Well, as it happens, there is a similar sort of place, actually a rented mansion, in Jaipur, India and the BBC has a TV series about a group of older Brits who go there to try it out as a retirement home, just like in the movie. Needless to say, confusion and hilarity ensues. But other than this somewhat contrived situation, there is no real Exotic Marigold Hotel.
So on a recent trip to Saint Maarten in the Caribbean, of all places, it came as a surprise to stumble on the Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House in the capitol of Phillipsburg.
The Pasanggrahan, which has served as the governor’s house and part time home of the queen of the Netherlands, is set back from a busy shopping street in the front, and the beach in the back. There is a wide veranda in the front where residents congregate and watch the world go by. The guests at the Pasanggrhan., like those at the Best Exotic Marigold, are mostly seniors, and although none of them are actually retiring to the Pasanggraham, many of them have been returning annually for over 30 years.
Inside, the first floor area is not air conditioned, but is open to the sea breezes. The lobby features pictures of the Dutch Royal family and furniture straight from the British Raj.
The residents were friendly and all sang the praises of the place. It wasn’t clear exactly what they all did all day, but they had shopping on one side and a great beach on the other, In addition, the rest of the island was only a taxi ride away.
We had lunch in the dining room overlooking a tropical terrace that in turn overlooked the beach. The menu featured an assortment of curries and Caribbean dishes. Several of the residents were there as well, casually munching away and scanning the local newspapers.
All in all, the experience was mellow and just a tad exotic. So I hereby award the Pasanggraham Guest House in Saint Maarten the honorary title of Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.