More than forty years after the first James Bond film, Dr. No, interest in the world’s favorite secret agent shows no sign of abating. The twentieth 007 movie, Die Another Day, claimed top draw at the box office immediately after its release.
It is more than 50 years since Ian Fleming introduced James Bond in his book Casino Royale. Anyone keen to spy on 007 should visit Britain where Bond followers can see several of the film locations and places linked with Fleming, whose experiences in naval intelligence helped to create the fictional special agent.
Bond’s sleek grey Aston Martin DB5 is front and center in Bond James Bond, a special exhibition at London’s Science Museum until spring 2003. It is the archetypal Bond car, the one driven by James Bond in Goldeneye. Together with a video of the dramatic race with Xenia Onatopp’s Ferrari en route to Monte Carlo, it forms the introduction to the exhibition.
Over in the New Forest, 150 kilometers from London, the National Motor Museum is showing off memorable Bond boats until the end of 2003. Visitors can see the world record-holding speedboat from Live and Let Die, the Q “road boat” from The World Is Not Enough, and the “bath-o-sub” used by Blofeld in Diamonds are Forever.
Bond buffs can easily fill in several days on a self-guided tour following in the footsteps of the storied spy’s creator, Ian Fleming, who bore more than a few of the traits of his alter ego.
Fans of the books can plot a route around their hero’s movements: visit the Ritz Hotel where he stayed, and eat at his favorite restaurant – Scotts – although admittedly the experience would not be completely authentic as it has moved from its former Coventry Street location to Mount Street. In London, a blue plaque marks Fleming’s home in 22 Ebury Street, near Victoria, but, in the 1950’s, he also lived in Carlyle Mansions when he finished Casino Royale.
His offices can be visited, one in 4 Mitre Court where he worked after leaving his job as Foreign Manager of Kelmsley Newspapers. A favorite watering hole of the author’s, El Vino Wine Bar, is just around the corner in Fleet Street. Then on to the Admiralty and the heart of British government in Whitehall. Here, Commander Ian Fleming served as Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence throughout the war. You can only walk by as it’s not open to the public, but Fleming worked in Room 39 on the ground floor (now renumbered 52), overlooking Horse Guards’ Parade where the Trooping of the Colour takes place.
Further afield is Eton, near Windsor, the school where Fleming studied, along with many other literary luminaries, from Henry Fielding to George Orwell. Another master of the spy fiction genre, John Le Carre (as David Cornwell) taught there for a time. There are regular tours of the school, which is also interesting for its extensive wood-carved graffiti.
If so inclined, one could take a trip to Kent to play a round of golf where Fleming did, at Royal St Mark’s course in Sandwich.
As for the films, the high-speed boat chase in The World is Not Enough is one of the most memorable Bond scenes. You can see the locations along the River Thames: from the real MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall eastwards to the Tower of London, Tobacco Dock and the Millennium Dome. Settings for the new Bond film, Die Another Day, include Buckingham Palace, where arch villain Gustav Graves arrives for a press conference – by parachute. The sands of Holywell Bay, near Newquay, south-west England, appear as a North Korean battlefield. But most spectacularly, the Eden Project – a much acclaimed “indoor tropical rainforest,” also in Cornwall – plays a prominent role as the villain’s lair.
Perhaps the climax of any Bond/Fleming anniversary excursion would be to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a popular new musical at the London Palladium. What is the connection? Ian Fleming wrote the children’s story on which it is based.