For anyone who is a fan of the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, a pilgrimage to the spot where Fleming wrote the books is high atop the wish list.
At least it was for me.
After many years of thinking about it, I decided to do it. There was a lot happening in my life at the moment, and an escape to wander in the paths that Ian Fleming himself walked and lived seemed like the ideal way to find my own direction. I’m close to the age that Fleming was when he was writing the books, living in Jamaica for two months a year, and this seemed the perfect time to take the plunge and really immerse myself in finding out what appealed so much to him, and if it would give me similar inspiration.
Arriving at the Goldeneye Resort after a two-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport, you wonder if you’re even in the right spot. There is no sign out front announcing the resort, just a simple gate. It’s later explained to me that because of the celebrities who come here, any little bit to throw off the paparazzi is attempted.
A gracious welcome in the Ian Fleming lounge is the first stop, a simple room much in the feel of the original Goldeneye house, with open, windows and familiar, black-and-white images of Fleming adorning the walls. (Most of these images can be found in Matthew Parker’s excellent book.)
My stay was not in the actual Goldeneye house (Referred to as the Fleming Villa on site) but instead in one of the new beach cottages recently added to the resort. The next afternoon I would have a chance to visit the Fleming Villa.
Just coming here was something of a risk, as I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to go to the house. I was informed ahead of time that if there were guests staying in the villa, obviously I would not be able to tour the house. As it was the off-season, the house was empty, and with wild anticipation, I was brought up to the house that Ian Fleming built.
The villa is fenced in for privacy, so as I stepped through the gate I caught my first glimpse of Goldeneye, I saw only the roof and top of the walls over the tropical bushes, but recognized the building immediately. I walked along the side path and through the side entrance of the house. It opens into the living area, where there are a few bits of furniture set around a glass-topped table and a large day bed. While not quite as spartan as when Fleming lived there, the house remains simple. No television, no clocks or other visible electronics, save a speaker in the bedroom.
The wide windows with the opened shutters and broad sills had me imagining the people sitting in this room over the years and the conversations that were held here. The cocktails. The meals served by Violet. They took place in this very room.
Moving through this large room, I stopped briefly at the door in the front of the house to admire Fleming’s sunken garden, where they would sit and read in the tropical sunshine, and where Ann would be painting.
Turning back into the room, you see the door leading into a bedroom with a desk set into the corner. This is where Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels. I nervously ask the guide if I may sit at the desk, she says “of course.” It is the original desk, and from all the photos I can find, this is the original chair as well. I sit in the chair, at the desk, and gaze out the window. Fleming would close the shutters on these windows when he was working, and then throw them open when he was done for the day and head down to the water.
What a moment.
I took a little bit to just absorb the moment. To reflect on the history here. Events 60 years ago in this very structure. It was actually pretty humbling.
Out the side door of Fleming’s bedroom led to a path down to the cliff side, and down the stairs that have been built into the cliff. Not the original stairs, but heading down them was still another thrill. There was the private beach. About the size of a cricket pitch, with the large rock about 10 feet out.
Another moment to pause and think of the hours Fleming spent exploring the waters here.
After a few minutes, it’s back up another set of stairs in the cliff which bring you up to the other side of the property. Getting more of a frontal view of the house allows you to get the measure of it. Back near the gate where I came in, I pause to look at a disheveled looking sign on a tree. This is the tree planted by the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden during his 1956 stay at Goldeneye to recuperate from Suez.
It’s one of the last things I see as I exit Goldeneye.
But I will certainly never forget this visit to the spot where it all began for James Bond.
(Stay tuned for more of my tour of the North coast of Jamaica, seeking out Fleming/Bond connected locations.)