Travel Tips & Features

James Bond Crush – Goldeneye, Jamaica

Written by DeborahThompson
The History Behind Goldeneye:
As part of our Bond Crush travels, visiting the birthplace of the world’s most famous spy was high on our list of locations to visit.  Luckily for us, this meant a visit to Jamaica was in order!  Our visit to Goldeneye would serve two purposes – we would not only be able to stay on the hallowed grounds of the esteemed author Ian Fleming, but we would also be able to see some of the locations used in the filming for two great Bond movies, “Dr. No”, and “Live and Let Die”. 
 
 
Anyone who has explored Jamaica will instantly recognize the distinctive and very sexy landscape when watching these movies.  They will remember the lush Blue Mountains, alive with the sounds of exotic bird-calls, the rushing waterfalls, and the thud of ripe mango’s the size of watermelons as they drop from the trees.  They will remember streets filled with tropical color as women balance baskets of fruit or laundry on their heads as they watch the children run and play with abandon.  And they will remember the haunting medley of ska, reggae and calypso that can be heard on every corner, distinctive beats mingling with the familiar chords of old Jamaican folk songs, one of them in particular featured in a very famous scene in Dr. No.
 
Just about everyone out there has either seen or heard of this famous scene, where “Honey Ryder” (Ursula Andress) is spotted by Bond as she rises out of the water in her white bikini, flaunting her killer bod as she examines the conch shells she has collected.  She is singing “Underneath the Mango Tree, Me Honey & Me, Come Watch for de Moon”, a beloved Jamaican folk song.  She is very adept at handling the knife that is handily tucked into a belt on her bikini, much to Bond’s fascination, just as future generations of Bond girls would demonstrate prowess with other “weapons”. But back to Goldeneye itself…..
 
Goldeneye was named by Ian Fleming, who purchased this large parcel of land on the north side of Jamaica as his winter escape.  He’d fallen in love with Jamaica while assigned there as a member of British Naval Intelligence to monitor U-Boat activity, in an operation code-named “Goldeneye” during WWII.  Oracabessa (which means Golden Head) where Goldeneye is located, was then a port for shipping bananas, once a mainstay of the Jamaican economy, and Fleming no doubt appreciated the untouched beauty and slow pace of life.  He built his home on a coral bluff, and called it “Goldeneye”.  It turned out to be the perfect place to pen a spy novel or two.
 
As he was searching for a good, solid name for a British spy, Fleming, an avid birdwatcher, came upon a book called “The Birds of theWest Indies”, authored by James Bond .  What an excellent name.  And so Goldeneye and Ian Fleming and James Bond  became irrevocably entwined, much to the delight of millions of 007 fans, now spanning three generations.
 
Enter Chris Blackwell, Music Producer
Ian Fleming passed away in 1964, but another famous name was soon to become part of the history of Goldeneye.  Chris Blackwell, one of the most influential and famous music producers of all time, grew up in Jamaica and became involved with Ian Fleming when he was engaged as a location scout & production assistant for Dr. No in 1962.  And although there were more opportunities presented to him in the movie industry after filming was complete, his first love was the music industry and the music of Jamaica.  By 1964 he was in the midst of taking the world by storm by promoting unknown Jamaican musicians, most notably gifting the world with “His Reggaeness” Bob Marley.
 
Chris Blackwell states that he had originally persuaded Bob to buy Goldeneye, but when Bob backed out he decided to purchase it himself.   After modernizing the original Fleming Residence, Blackwell added a number of beach and lagoon-side cottages to Goldeneye, which would become one of his numerous low-key luxury  “Island Outpost” residences, popular with stars in the recording industry as well as those with a budget for upscale travel.
 
If you’ve read my previous Chapters of James Bond Crush, you will know that, up to this point, we hadn’t been very lucky exploring our James Bond film locations.  Construction sites & typhoons had conspired against us in Nassau and Thailand, respectively.  I am glad to report we were to have a little more success with this adventure.
 
Goldeneye, The Experience
Only a long, low wall delineates the border of this estate, and for those who don’t know what to look for, the gate that allows access to this esteemed property might easily be passed by without notice.  But most guests, many of whom are passionate Ian Fleming fans, can’t help but experience a shiver of anticipation as the gate opens, and they gain admittance to the inner sanctum of an author who, though now deceased, continues to live on through the legendary and thrilling adventures of James Bond.
 
Our stay at Goldeneye was brief, but rewarding.  We’d already been in Jamaica for a week, arriving at Kingston (Norman Manley) Airport.  We’d had a driver pick us up and drive us through the beautiful vistas of the Blue Mountains, to our hotel located on the gorgeously wild side of Jamaica, the Port Antonio region.
 
Our arrival at Goldeneye was the stuff of dreams.  We were treated like royalty and offered a “Goldeneye Special”, a blend of rum and lime on ice that both perked us up and relaxed us at the same time!  We were awed by the beauty of the estate; the gardens, the beautiful crescent of white sand beach, the bridge to the private island….  All so spectacular.  We were taken to our one bedroom cottage on a turquoise lagoon, the interior a dreamscape of Caribbean perfection, and the best part – a bed with French louvered doors opening directly onto the pristine lagoon.
 
This was the perfect place to reflect on the wonders of the planet and acknowledge how lucky we felt to be able to experience this.   We could wait no longer, and before we even unpacked we were settling ourselves on our private little dock over the lagoon, bare toes wiggling in delight in the cool turquoise depths.  I was so excited to be here – we both were.  I imagined I could hear the clicking of Ian Fleming’s old Imperial typewriter in the distance, as he shaped and created the infamous Bond villains.   I don’t want to know how he came up with some of the methods used to torture poor James, (laser beams, stretching racks, being dunked into a pool of sharks), nor how he came up with the grisly ways of killing off most of Bond’s unfortunate love interests (suffocation by gold paint!).
 
GoldeneyeThe next day, our request for a brief tour of the Fleming Residence was graciously granted, as it was unoccupied.  Once again I counted my lucky stars at being able to experience this.  My anticipation was high, and I am happy to say I was not disappointed.
 
The Fleming Residence itself, although lovely, avoids the ostentatious flashiness that is often associated with celebrity owners.  It has the laid-back tropical feel of an island abode, and the term “understated elegance” would be a good way to describe it.  The focus for the eye is not on the interior, but to the sweeping views of the trees, grass, flowers and ocean beyond.  But this was not what I had come to see.  I wanted to see The Room Where It All Began.
 
Once inside the Fleming Room, I allowed my imagination to roam.  I gazed at the Imperial Typewriter, feeling the keys beneath my fingertips.  The warm mahogany wood, the louvered doors beyond the long settee, the cool vanilla walls of this room – what a clatter they must have witnessed as he lost himself in the adventures in his mind.  I could almost visualize him at work.  Facing away from the beauty just outside his door so that he could concentrate, the characters that lived inside his head would burst from his fingertips, escaping onto the white paper rolled so neatly into the typewriter in front of him.  Scaramanga would roll off the pages to taunt him from the corner by the window; Pussy Galore’s blue eyes would rebuke him from the settee, Solitaire would perch on the corner of his desk with her trembling pout…. And there, over in the corner by the door, Auric Goldfinger would fix him with a threatening glare….the world trembling on the brink of devastation!!!!!!  I forced myself to breathe normally as Steve looked over at me. The Fleming Room, I believe, may just be haunted with the ghosts of an imaginary spy.
 
Our three days at Goldeneye went much too quickly.  To wake up each morning to the gentle calls of early morning birds – bananaquits quarreling over ripe fruit, tanagers chirping in the treetops around the Lagoon, the shy peeping of tiny brown finches as they searched for small morsels of bread crumbs on the patio was sheer heaven.  Just sitting up in bed was a feast for the eyes, as you are able to look out over the blue lagoon to witness a bright sun chase the moon from the sky.
 
This is one of the few places that I actually would look forward to getting out of bed (as comfortable as it was), to go and sit on our lagoon-side dock overlooking our sliver of paradise and sip delicious Blue Mountain coffee.  Closing my eyes, I would remember our drive through theBlue Mountains– a staggeringly beautiful (although sometimes terrifying) journey.  Around each hair-raising curve a new vista would unfold before us, deep valleys of emerald green dotted with the vibrant exclamations of Jamaican flowers – fiery red & lemon yellow hibiscus, brilliant flames of Poinciana,  orange tongues of Heliconia, and towering masts of Blue Mahoe, the national tree of Jamaica…..  But keeping one’s eyes closed while staying at Goldeneye is not recommended, for there is so much beauty surrounding you.
 
A typical day at Goldeneye was spent walking around the estate and just drinking in the atmosphere.  An afternoon with Ramsey, who has been the gardener on the estate since Ian Fleming’s days here and is a wonderful, charismatic host, is a must.  The gardens are overflowing with humongous Banyan Trees, immense, flowering African Tulips, and Bottlebrush, a favorite of the resident Doctor Hummingbirds (also known as Swallow Tails), whose dazzling emerald breast, black-capped head and red beak make it impossible to miss as he buzzes by, his long, split-plumed tail streaming behind.   Our afternoons were spent floating lazily in the delightfully cool lagoon waters, and one afternoon we went out on the Goldeneye glass-bottom boat to snorkel amongst the colorful corals of the reef just off Goldeneye.  Being a passionate snorkeler, I was able to identify quite a few species of my favorite tropical fish here – including an impressive Queen Angel Fish, Butterfly Fish, a number of colorful Clown Fish, numerous grouper, and my favorite  fish of all – a Triggerfish.
 
In the evening, we looked forward to the great meals prepared by Chef  Conroy – a master at the art of Jamaican cuisine.  Their warm bread with Jerk Butter was amazing and so unique.  My favorite dishes were the Jerk Chicken, Callalloo Soup, Plantains and of course, the Rundown Shrimp.  Finishing off the evening with one last “Goldeneye Special” (rum & lime, a great combination!) was sheer perfection.  And while Bob Marley & the beloved reggae beat are the heart and soul of Jamaica, there is magical music on this island that has nothing to do with the human race, and Goldeneye is as good a place as any to hear the melody.  The tiny Caribbean Tree Frogs are an orchestra unto themselves, and as a rose-streaked sky announces the onset of another velvet evening beneath a canopy of stars, their song is impossible to ignore.  Soon it feels like it is a part of you – and you only really notice it when it stops abruptly, the silence assaulting your ears.  You are left to wonder what caused them to stop their song.
 
Above all, getting to know the local Jamaicans who work at Goldeneye is one of our favorite memories.  Because Chris Blackwell was brought up on this island and loves it, and the people, so much, visitors are encouraged to get to know Jamaica from a different perspective.  Not as just tourists but as guests who respect and are respected by the local community, and encouraged to give back by helping out at the Oracabessa Foundation.  Some of the activities that include volunteers are planting trees to revitalize the island, and helping to restore the coral reef  – the goal to plant 2,000 pieces of coral to strengthen the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary.  They are also strongly promoting physical activity in the village, including building a BMX Track for the youth population that is due to open in March of 2012.  Everything the Oracabessa Foundation does is geared towards improving the lives in this small but thriving village.
 
So finally, a thrillingly perfect James Bond Crush adventure in the most perfect of James Bond locations – his birthplace.  Ian Fleming has made the number 007 instantly identifiable throughout the world for at least the last two generations, and with the current popularity of the James Bond franchise with Daniel Craig filling out the black tuxedo very nicely, I’m pretty sure that the fascination for the charismatic spy will continue.  This is very good news for us, as we will have yet more James Bond Crush adventures to plan, and to blog about!
 
About Deborah Thompson
Deborah Thompson is Co-Founder of New Jetsetters with over 20 years experience writing about luxury travel. The first time Deb saw the turquoise blue waters surrounding Bermuda from the air as a child, she was smitten. Already in love with the written word and writing itself, a black leather-bound diary was soon filled with treasured memories of the charming island and her stay at the luxurious Elbow Beach Hotel. Since then she has travelled far and wide, and written dozens of stories and reviews on exotic locations from around the globe. Find out more about Deborah visit New Jetsetters.

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