How to Vacation Like James Bond — From an Actual Bond Girl

How to Vacation Like James Bond — From an Actual Bond Girl

Think sexy, sophisticated, and slightly mysterious.

By Rachel Grant

It’s been a few years since James Bond wrapped his arms around me and kissed my neck, but the perks of being a Bond Girl stretch much further than three days on set in a bedroom with Pierce Brosnan. And it came with one invitation I simply couldn't refuse: a romantic stay at Goldeneye in Jamaica where every guest feels like a Bond Girl, or Mr Bond himself.

The instructions say to turn left out of Jamaica’s Montego Bay airport and drive straight for 90 minutes. Everything is blue — the sky, the sea, the distant misty mountains — but the music is feel-good radio reggae. I am cruising to a little port town on Jamaica’s north coast called Oracabessa or “Golden Head” with just a few clues to find the secluded spot. There are no signposts to Goldeneye, no bright lights, no name at its door, but I eventually spot the “two stone column gates” and turn into its hidden tropical gardens. It deserves background music — an accompanying score that suits an epic adventure.

Goldeneye is the former home of British writer Ian Fleming and the birthplace of the world's most well-known secret spy. It is where all 007 novels were written, spawning to the greatest ever film franchise that is Bond, James Bond. Now an exclusive luxury resort, guests even have the option to arrive at the adjacent Ian Fleming International Airport serving private and chartered flights only.

I am welcomed with a killer cocktail and surrender to the sublime view. Helping hands escort me across a state-of-the-art wooden bridge leading to a pretty beach beside my lagoon cottage adorned with ikat fabrics and white linen. It is complete with kitchen, Victorian-style tub, outdoor shower, and a shaded dining deck dropping out to the lagoon. The setting is surreal, serene — and apropros for a movie star. Too good to leave, I lounge on my deck before exploring the iconic grounds.

Goldeneye’s distinguished past is beautifully and subtly preserved for its impressive array of presidents, pop stars, writers, royalty, and everyone in-between. The 52-acre estate comprises a combo of cottages, colorful beach huts, private villas, and the Ian Fleming Villa centerpiece ranging to around $9,000 a night. The Fleming Villa comes with a personal butler, housekeeper and cook, your own private beach, your own pool, your own tropical garden... and you get to sit in the spot where Sting wrote "Every Breath You Take." Long owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, location scout for the first Bond film and the man who introduced Bob Marley to the world, Goldeneye is very hip and will certainly leave you breathless.

Supper at Goldeneye's beachside Bizot Bar features Jamaican “ital” (from vital) cuisine — otherwise known as Rastafarian food, the diet of Bob Marley. Ital cooking requires ingredients fresh from the sea or tree, devoid of chemicals, additives, coloring, flavoring, and preservatives — and here, much of it is exquisitely prepared from Goldeneye’s organic farm.

The following day, I make for the nearby town of Ocho Rios to climb the stunning terraces of Dunn’s River Waterfalls — one of the few waterfalls in the world to empty into the sea. It's a gorgeous scene, used in the first Bond film Dr No, and next door is Laughing Waters where one of cinema’s most iconic moments occurred: Bond Girl Honey Ryder emerged from the ocean in what is now the most famous bikini of all time. In Bondesque style I plunge into the waters for a snorkel prior to the mission of scaling the 1,000-foot giant waterfall staircase.

I venture on via jet ski to James Bond Beach, once part of the old banana port and used in Dr. No. It is beautiful, very clean, and visitors are offered the ultimate guided boat tour past notable spots and the famous Goldeneye.

The following morning I request the Jamaican national breakfast of ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a pod fruit and was banned in the United Sates for many years. First imported on slave ships, ackee is poisonous if eaten unripe or improperly prepared. My dish is salt cod sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, scotch bonnets, tomatoes, spices, and garnished with crispy bacon. It looks and tastes like scrambled eggs!

I survive to explore the leisurely lawned gardens of Goldeneye. Once a former donkey racetrack, they are now a treasure trove of exotic so-called “celebri-trees." This tree-planting tradition was started in 1957 by British Prime Minister Anthony Eden — aptly, for the first of the garden — and to name a few, President Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Michael Douglas, and Catherine Zeta Jones. Guests permitted to plant donate to the Oracabessa Foundation, a charity that educates and encourages sustainable development in the local community. In the middle of the garden, I spy a Julie Mango tree planted by James Bond himself — Pierce Bronson — who I appeared with in Die Another Day.

In the afternoon I head out for three hours along the coast to troll fish with someone rather special. Ramsey Dacosta, a great grandfather, once employed by Ian Fleming, continues to live and work at the property. Fishing with Ramsey is not what I expect. He is a bright, blue-eyed storyteller and catching dinner becomes the least of my interests. Ramsey laughs as he gestures to the spot when, as a boy, he first saw the naked white man Ian Fleming tanning on his beach. Years later he worked for the retired naval “Commander” (as he liked to be called), tending to his garden, fishing, climbing coconut trees, and cooking Jamaican rice and peas. Ramsey continues to ramble on as we trudge along the golden coast in his immaculate 30-year-old boat. He tells stories of smugglers’ planes crashing into the sea, the fabled Golden Table that emerges from the swamp every decade, and points out locations where he helped out on the first Bond film. “Commander really loved his Jamaica,” he says as we dock up to my lagoon cottage.

The final morning, I take a mini tour in Goldeneye's "Glass-Eye." It is a glass bottom boat, perhaps suggestive of the “glass-eyed” Bond villain Le Chiffre from Fleming's first novel Casino Royal, written on the premises in 1952. It takes me around the mangrove islets and to a hidden spa unit where I spend the next 90 minutes relinquishing myself to a Jamaican ginger and pimento warming massage. Surely Peaceful, the Bond masseuse and assassin I played, deserves her own relaxing treatment after such thrilling adventures on the island?

So if you've ever dreamed of being a Bond Girl, or Bond himself, fantasies can come true! It might mean an adventurous splurge into the chapters of a thrilling tale, but just remember, you only live once.

Editor's note: GoldenEye is one of three Island Outpost hotels in Jamaica; others include Strawberry Hill and The Caves, as well as private villas. To access GoldenEye, fly into Montego Bay airport about 73 miles away, from which the drive is both faster and more scenic than it is from Kingston, which is closer. Rates range from about $425 for a beach hut in the low season to $9,010 for the five-bedroom villa in high season.

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