Tailing James Bond: 007 Destinations
(CNN) — We love James Bond films for so many reasons: the handsome men and beautiful women, the cool gadgets and outrageous villains, the amazing chases and death-defying stunts. And, of course, the travel tips.
Film after film, no one has given us more inspiration to travel the world than James Bond.
“We are always looking to offer the audience the ‘wow’ experience of something amazing and different,” said Callum McDougall, executive producer of the upcoming “Skyfall,” the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise. “I think everyone who goes to see a Bond movie expects to be impressed by the look and the locations chosen. Certainly I was when I grew up watching them, and I don’t think that’s changed in the last 50 years.”
There are two reasons to celebrate Mr. Bond in style: Global James Bond Day is October 5, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of “Dr. No,” starring Sean Connery as Agent 007. And November 9 is the U.S. premiere of “Skyfall,” starring the latest Bond, Daniel Craig. To mark both events, we give you (00)7 destinations where you can experience the world James Bond-style.
Several locations in Turkey are featured in “Skyfall.” “It is where East meets West, and the colors and vibrancy of Istanbul provided us with a great backdrop and such amazing locations as the Grand Bazaar,” McDougall said.
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has been a must-see since 1461. More than 550 years later, it attracts nearly a half-million visitors daily. Presumably few of them other than “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes envision its narrow, crowded aisles as a location for a high-speed chase. It is, however, an excellent place to purchase local handicrafts and to engage all your senses as you immerse yourself in the city.
Railway scenes for “Skyfall” were shot on and around Adana’s dizzying Varda Railway Bridge in southern Turkey, and beach scenes — including one that was meant to be in the Far East — were shot near Fethiye on the Mediterranean coast. “Turkey actually allowed us to combine our needs of four different looks in one country, quite remarkable,” McDougall added.
Key West, Florida
“Licence to Kill” (1989) kicks off with Timothy Dalton as Bond, parachuting in with his CIA pal Felix Leiter (David Hedison) to Felix’s wedding at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Key West after some insane aerial maneuvers.
Other scenes shot in the area include a car chase on Seven Mile Bridge, the segmented concrete (to make it hurricane-resistant) span you’ll cross if you’re driving to Key West, and a scene at the Ernest Hemingway Home in which M (Robert Brown) demands that Bond relinquish his “license to kill.”
Hemingway, also no slouch in the adventure department, moved to the 907 Whitehead St. house in 1931. A guided tour shows you his writing studio and introduces you to the descendants of Hemingway’s famous six-toed cats, who have unlimited license to roam the house and grounds.
Of Bond’s many visits to the Bahamas, the most memorable is Sean Connery’s 1965 “Thunderball” battle in the underwater caves of the Exuma Cays. They’ve been known ever since as the Thunderball Grotto. (Connery returned there in 1983 for “Never Say Never Again.”)
Several charter companies, including Four C’s Adventures and the Island Routes 007 Thunderball Luxury Tour, will take you out to the grotto by boat and guide you on a snorkeling route to the inside of the caves, where light seems to stream in directly from heaven and colorful fish dart about below the water’s surface. Some tours also include a visit to the nearby Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and a stop at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where you can dine or spend the night.
With an “I’m too old for this stuff” look on his face, Roger Moore as Bond chased Grace Jones as May Day up the steps of the Eiffel Tower in “A View to a Kill” (1985), only to watch her parachute off the top in one of the film’s more memorable scenes. (It was almost as unforgettable as Duran Duran’s video for the film’s theme song.)
On a tour of the tower, you’ll learn about Franz Reichfelt’s tragic demonstration of his “parachute suit” in 1912, which should convince you that parachuting is not the thing to do here. However, if you’re feeling fit, you can climb the 704 steps from the ground to the second floor. From there, you can catch the lift to the top, where you’ll find a Champagne bar with killer views of its own.
“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) took us to the mountaintop: the 2,970-meter-high Schilthorn in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, which George Lazenby as Bond skied down at breathtaking speed, with Telly Savalas as Blofeld in pursuit. It’s one of the great movie ski chase scenes, now documented in an exhibit at Piz Gloria, the world’s first revolving restaurant, which doubled as the Bleuchamp Institute for Allergy Research in the film.
Organized Bond-themed excursions that include a James Bond breakfast at Piz Gloria start from the car-free town of Mürren, or you can glide up the mountain yourself on a 32-minute aerial cable car trip that originates in Stechelberg. For more Bond-style adventure, ski the mountain’s 15.8 km mixed-terrain Inferno course. Experienced skiers usually cover it in about 45 minutes; competitors in the annual Inferno Race — the largest amateur ski race in the world — can do it in 15.
The James Bond producers were so impressed by the 2007 production of Tosca at the open-air Seebühne floating stage on Lake Constance (or Bodensee), they knew they had to work it into a film. That’s why in “Quantum of Solace” (2008), Daniel Craig finds himself chasing bad guys under the startling open-eye backdrop of the “Tosca” set designed by Johannes Leiacker.
The annual Bregenz Festival, approaching its 67th season, are only slightly less exciting. The next Opera on the Lake will be Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which opens July 17 and runs through the summer. Bregenz itself, in western Austria, is known for its contemporary architecture, such as the Festival House concert hall adjacent to the floating stage. Guided tours of both are conducted year-round.
Auyuittuq National Park, Canada
“Nobody Does it Better” than the opening sequence of “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), in which Roger Moore BASE jumps off the edge of a mountain and … whoosh! A Union Jack parachute opens and wafts him to safety. “No effects, all done in camera for real,” McDougall points out. (BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth, the four things you can jump from.)
The mountain, with its distinctive twin flat-topped peaks at 6,598 feet, is Mount Asgard in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island, Canada. Serious outdoors people find the 7,370-square-mile arctic park a haven of pristine beauty offering 24-hour daylight in summer.
Accessible via the Inuit hamlets of Pangnirtung and Qikiqtarjuaq, which can be reached only by small plane, the park requires that all visitors attend a safety orientation before they embark on their travels. For this level of adventure, only experienced wilderness travelers — and MI-6 agents — need apply.
By Leslie Gilbert Elman
Special to CNN
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