Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Wed November 04 2015

In the Footsteps of 007

Features & Advice | Charu Suri | November 04, 2015

In the Footsteps of 007

Photo courtesy of Madame Tussauds London

There are few names more synonymous with espionage than James Bond, whose magnetic presence on the silver screen has spurred many an itinerary, inspired hotel suites, made a rockstar out of martinis and left many (both men and women) wishing that they too, could up their suavite a notch or two.

My favorite Ian Fleming moment is not when Sean Connery gazes at Ursula Andress in the Bahamas in “Dr. No.” That moment (not unlike Goldfinger’s famous laser beam scene) has been replayed ad nauseam to the point that one would think there were no other Bond women or beaches fit to talk about.

It is actually a scene from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (yes, that lovely children’s novel that Fleming also wrote) when the car actually begins to fly, a moment which for me, illustrated Fleming’s creativity, ingenuity and I think also more than a slight preoccupation with space and flight.

His first Bond novel, “Casino Royale,” published in 1953, introduced Bond as an interesting conundrum: as someone who was both an amateur in espionage but clearly also a quick study. This fictitious hero was first and foremost credible in no small part because Fleming used personal experience to craft his hero’s mindset and plots.

Not surprisingly, travel plays a big role in Bond’s career (in the remake of “Casino Royale,” scenes shift rapidly from Lake Como, Czech Republic, Venice to the Bahamas). Subsequent movies are as much about the cinematography and location as they are about the plot and femme fatales. It is actually worth watching the many movies starring Sean Connery, Roger Moore and others for the scenery alone, marveling at the exotic setting of some (“Octopussy”’s scenes in Udaipur, India; “Skyfall”’s scenes in Istanbul) and the more popular landmarks mentioned in others (“Goldfinger”’s Fort Knox is the most memorable).

Fleming wrote all of his Bond novels on his estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica (the estate is now owned and operated by Chris Blackwell of Island records), inspired by the churning ocean he could see and sense from his wooden patio and jalousie windows. Wanderlust must have run in the family because Fleming’s elder brother, Peter, became a travel writer, who authored several books himself.

It should come as no surprise that the debut of “Spectre” this Friday has inspired a few travel-related promotions. A “Live Like Bond” package at the Mayfair hotel (coincidentally, the privileged area where Fleming was born and raised) can be yours for £1,610 (about $2,500) per night for a one-bedroom suite, and that includes accommodations, airport pickup in a Jaguar XJL, a personal bartender to make signature suite-side martinis, as well as a full English breakfast.

The Fleming Villa is now a destination unto itself, with the author’s original three-bedroom enclave that gazes upon a private beach. A new four-night package that showcases the island through the eyes of Fleming starts at $4,374 for travel through December 14, and includes a guided snorkeling tour of Fleming’s beloved reef, as well as movie nights and tours of Jamaica.

It’s worth noting that Chris Blackwell has been on a building spree, with 26 new octagonal beach huts debuting in the beginning of 2016. Ann Hodges, Jamaica’s leading architect who was behind GoldenEye’s original villa and cottage accommodations, blended the huts with the property’s existing footprint.

If I could mute an entire movie and watch it for the cinematography alone, I would choose the plot-poor “Quantum of Solace,” with its breathtaking, almost documentary-like views of Chile’s Atacama Desert (the movie notes that the location is Bolivia, which should irk some viewers who have actually visited this part of Chile). “Spectre” should prove equally breathtaking (here’s hoping the plot trumps “Quantum”’s) with scenes filmed in the famed Erfoud sand dunes in the Sahara, as well as Austria and Mexico City.

While Fleming may have inspired some fans to become inventors and sleuths, he certainly did more than create wanderlust for others. While he certainly raised the profile of the femme fatale (he did say “a woman should be an illusion,” after all), it’s a safe bet to say that the future Bond films will seek out even more inspired cinematography and more diverse locations, which is really, what quintessential armchair travel is all about. 

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