Ultimate James Bond travel adventure
Fifty years since his screen debut, James Bond's return in “Skyfall” is already being hailed by critics as one of the spy's better recent escapades in a series with more ups and downs than Roger Moore's eyebrows.
In celebration, we've dreamed up the perfect Bondian adventure, taking in some of the classic European locations featured in 007's half-century career.
Stoke Poges, England
'What's your game, Mister Bond?'
Your mission begins west of London at the Stoke Park Country Club, the genteel setting for Sean Connery's ungentlemanly round of golf with his eponymous nemesis in “Goldfinger.” Just keep an eye on the caddy if he's wearing a bowler hat.
Stoke Park Country Club; Stoke Park Park Road, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4PG; +44 1753 717171; rooms from £266 (US$425), green fees from £85; www.stokepark.com
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'Ejector seat? You're joking!'
From there, head south to Britain's National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, another lavish estate that currently houses “Bond in Motion,” an exhibition featuring the world's largest collection of Bond vehicles, including Connery's Aston Martin DB5 and Moore's amphibious Lotus Esprit S1.
Bond in Motion; John Montagu Building, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7ZN; +44 1590 612345; www.beaulieu.co.uk
'Good evening, Moneypenny.'
Back in London, report to M16 headquarters on the south side of Vauxhall Bridge, a regular fixture in the series since the Pierce Brosnan era.
From nearby Embankment Pier hire a Bond-themed Ribcraft ride –- dubbed the fastest boats on the Thames -- and relive the thrilling chase downriver in “The World Is Not Enough.”
The Ultimate Spy Experience; +44 20 3 245 1177; 60-minute charter for £450; www.thamesribexperience.com
Saving the world has always featured pretty highly in Bond's job description, but it's hard to imagine the jet-setting agent ever going green to save the planet, or slumming it with the wedding anniversary weekenders and language students on the Eurostar.
So make for City Airport and charter a private jet for the flight south to the Cote d'Azur, swooping low over the Eiffel Tower, scene of the 50-something Moore's memorably labored pursuit of Grace Jones in “A View to a Kill.”
altitudeprivatejet.com; +44 20 3151 0988
'Vodka martini. Shaken not stirred.'
A palm tree-studded tax haven for the languid super-rich and an unabashed symbol of Eurotrash chic, Monaco has all the trappings of a classic Bond location.
Yet, apart from an appearance in “Never Say Never Again” (Connery's non-canonical remake of "Thunderball"), the principality had to wait until 1995's “Goldeneye” for its starring role.
Monte Carlo's iconic casino served as the backdrop for a smoldering game of baccarat between Pierce Brosnan and Famke Janssen's Xenia Onatopp.
Don your tuxedo for an evening of Chemin de Fer -- minimum stake €500 (US$652) per game -- in one of its salons privés.
Monte Carlo Casino; Escalier du Casino, 98000 Monaco; +377 98 06 21 21 www.casinomontecarlo.com
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'You don't look like the sort of girl who should be ditched.'
Blow your winnings on a private helicopter for a speedy transfer to another regular Bond playground: the Swiss Alps.
Get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin V8 Vantage S –- ejector seat not included -- for a high-octane ride through sweeping alpine scenery including the Furka Pass, the setting for the cat-and-mouse duel between Connery's DB5 and Tania Mallet's Ford Mustang in “Goldfinger.”
Ultimate Drives James Bond Aston Martin Driving Break; +41 43 542 0867; from €1,813 (US$2,344) per person; www.ultimatedrives.net
'I've ordered you a steak.'
Another nearby landmark is Piz Gloria, the rotating restaurant atop the 2,970-meter (9,745-feet) Schilthorn summit, which served as Blofeld's lair in “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” -- Australian George Lazenby's underrated sole outing as a kilt-wearing 007 in 1969 –- and now serves Bond-themed buffet breakfasts and nerve-calming vodka martinis to skiers about to tackle the “Inferno,” a 14.9 kilometer (9.2 mile) run dropping almost 2,000 meters (6,560 feet).
Piz Gloria; Höheweg 2, 3800 Interlaken, Switzerland; +41 33 856 21 56
Continuing the winter sports theme, and with a Bondian disregard for strict geographical continuity, your next move takes you to Cortina D'Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomites.
'Come on, let's go watch him shoot.'
Few Englishmen have carried off skiwear with as much panache as Roger Moore and never more so than in the set-piece chase in “For Your Eyes Only” that saw Bond pursued down the former Olympic resort's ski jump and bobsleigh run by nefarious East German biathlon champion-turned-assassin Eric Kriegler.
To hone your own sharpshooting skills on skis, head north to nearby Antholz-Anterselva, which offers more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) of cross-country trails, a biathlon school and a regular round of the Biathlon World Cup each January.
Anterselva Biathlon Centre; +39 0474 492390
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From the Dolomites, it's a short run to the Adriatic coast for a stopover in Venice, whose waterways were first visited by Bond in “From Russia With Love” and most recently in “Casino Royale.”
'Dr. Goodhead! You're staying at the Danieli?'
Few scenes have stretched the credibility of the Bond franchise closer to breaking point than the sight of Moore piloting a hover-gondola past bemused pigeons in St. Mark's Square in the preposterous “Moonraker.”
Still, at least the elegant 14th-century Hotel Danieli, where Bond seduces Holly Goodhead, emerges with its dignity intact.
Hotel Danieli; Riva degli Schiavoni 4196, 30122 Province of Venice;+39 41 522 6480; rooms from €380 (US$491)
'You are in the Balkans now, Mr. Bond.'
If this trip so far has indulged the glamorous side of life as a secret agent, then things are about to get a lot less comfortable.
No Bond adventure would be complete without an epic train ride, but even the most fiendish villain would be hard pressed to devise a plot as complex as a Balkan railway timetable to stop our hero in his tracks.
Getting from Venice to your final destination is going to require sharp wits and stamina as you train hop across the disjointed networks of the former Yugoslavia.
If you can reach Belgrade, crossing the old Iron Curtain at Trieste and slipping eastwards through Ljubljana and Zagreb, there's a chance you'll make the overnight train to Sofia.
From there, the Balkan Express will take you as far as the Turkish border and finally by bus to Istanbul, retracing in reverse Connery's steps in “From Russia With Love.”
'You've never been to Istanbul? Where the moonlight on the Bosphorus is irresistible?'
Like Venice, Istanbul has benefited from Bond's habit of returning to his old haunts, ever since atmospheric scenes in "From Russia With Love" were shot inside Byzantine landmarks including Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern.
Since then, Pierce Brosnan has saved the Turkish city from nuclear annihilation in “The World Is Not Enough,” while the ornate Grand Bazaar now gets the Bond treatment in the spectacularly destructive opening salvo in "Skyfall."
Let's just say that Daniel Craig doesn't go home with a carpet.
Do you have any favorite Bond locations, experiences or dodgy one-liners?
Let us know in the comments section below.
(Article tease and thumbnail image © 2012 - Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved)