Given Fleming’s love of travel and hotels, where would Bond be most comfortable now? There are few authentic contenders
Nigel West knows which hotels will leave you shaken and stirred, and which would appeal to that most refined of travellers, Ian Fleming himself
Ian Fleming would have been proud. As a Sunday Times travel writer and author of Thrilling Cites, his Bond books are still in print and the movies are the second most successful franchise in cinematic history, only eclipsed by Harry Potter. The latest contribution, Skyfall, is the first film not to adopt one of the original Fleming story titles, and is the twenty-third in the series. It has also broken all box-office records as the highest-grossing British film of all time.
Clearly 007 is a compelling brand, and conjures up images of suave, very British sophistication and, very specifically, foreign travel to unusual and sometime exotic destinations. Fleming himself had been educated at the Tennerhof in Kitzbühel, where he had developed a love of Austria and Alpine sports, and in Geneva where he had perfected the language skills which gave him fluency in French and German, characteristics that he shared with Bond.
He adopted Jamaica, where he built his beloved retreat Goldeneye, and the Caribbean is mentioned, one way or another, in most of his dozen books and two volumes of short stories. He enjoyed the Bahamas, loathed the stifling insularity of Bermuda and gave his Jamaican mistress a boat named Octopussy. In short, Fleming return ed to themes with which he was familiar and, for all the excesses and contradictions, there is a certain verisimilitude to be found in his writing.
So, given Fleming’s love of travel and hotels, where would Bond be most comfortable now? There are few authentic contenders.
Corinthia Hotel, London
Espionage tradecraft dictates that the professional case officer prefers to hold a discreet rendezvous in a hotel with two entrances, and where better than the brand-new Corinthia (pictured below), the grandest of grand hotels on Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place?
Once the Metropole Hotel, the wartime requisitioned offices which accommodated several of Whitehall’s secret organizations, including MI-9, the Escape and Evasion Service, the rebuilt Corinthia now hosts the Northall, a sumptuous bar overlooking the Thames embankment, and the opulent Masimo’s, an oyster bar restaurant helpfully furnished with booths and banquettes, both discreet eateries which make ideal locations for confidential conversations.
The ownership has been murky (with Libyan connections) but the quality of service is unsurpassed anywhere else in the capital. The spacious riverside rooms are unsurpassed in the West End and combine modern elegance with a Bond sophistication in an atmosphere where even the most hardened Smersh adversary would not fail to succumb to Bond’s charms.
Tresanton Hotel, St Mawes
An undiscovered treasure, the Tresanton is precisely the isolated Cornish hideaway that Bond would choose for a romantic tryst. With a restaurant offering every kind of local fish and crustaceans, the hotel offers guests the use of its own yacht, the eight-metre, Italian-built Pinuccia. Located on a series of terraces with views across the Percuil river estuary, the Tresanton (pictured below) is like no other West county hostelry, and the three suites in Rock Cottage offer modern luxury and independence.
Fleming did not include any British hotels in his dozen novels and two collections of short stories, and only the improbable plot of Moonraker is set entirely in England, with Sir Hugo Drax based at his mysterious research facility in Kent, the county in which Fleming lived for many years, in St Margaret’s Bay and then in the Bishop’s Palace in Canterbury. However, in the modern era there are only a handful of hostelries that Bond would have approved of, and the Tresanton is sufficiently unusual, accomplishing the very highest standards in cuisine and accommodation, to qualify as premises where 007 would have been entirely at home.
The one hotel most closely associated with the Bond movies, having been featured in From Russia with Love, Moonraker and Casino Royale, the Danieli (pictured below) is unquestionably one of the world’s greatest. A short walk from St Mark’s Square, the hotel also has two entrances, one for pedestrians overlooking the entrance to the Grand Canal, and the other tucked away on a side canal for access by boat or gondola.
Bond was the most discerning of travelers, and there is nothing much glamourous about queuing at tedious check-in desks and ubiquitous security checkpoints, but to arrive at Venice airport and immediately step into a fast motorboat for the half-hour ride into city is definitely a truly Bond experience.
Stepping from the boat into arguably the most ornate and celebrated lobbies anywhere on the globe is mandatory, and top of of list of those things to do before being liquidated by an assassin with a license to kill. From his introduction to Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Bond has women on his mind, and seduction of the senses is impossible to avoid at the Danieli.
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