Be Your Own James Bond In London, England
If you’ve ever dreamed of walking in the wingtips of the world’s sexiest super spy–or tottering along in the sky-high stilettos of a Bond babe–read on for a list of Great Britain’s most 007-worthy adventures. Whether you’re burning up the road in an Aston Martin—or burning big bucks on London’s aptly-named Bond Street–these top six tips will leave you feeling more stirred than shaken.
Up at the O2
With the worldwide release of Spectre, let the wave of Bond mania sweep you up (52 meters or 170 feet up, actually) to the top of London’s O2 arena. That’s where I found myself one chilly morning strapped into a crotch-hugging harness, having signed my life away for an “Up at the O2” tour.
Whereas a cinematic heroine like Ursula Andress would have made my unwieldy yoke seem ravishing paired with a skintight bikini, I was zipped up in a puffy blue jumpsuit looking like the love child of Smurfette and the Michelin Man. But at least I could console myself with the knowledge that Bond himself, in the lithe form of Pierce Brosnan, rolled down this very dome in The World is Not Enough.
The 360-degree views of London from the summit are breathtaking, and in truth, scaling the outside of the Thames-side events arena isn’t even vaguely terrifying. It’s like climbing up a tilted trampoline—albeit one that ascends to vertiginous heights–while securely clipped onto a metal cable, with nary a megalomaniacal villain in sight.
Take a Spin
Want to learn how to handle an Aston Martin as well as Bond—or perhaps a bit better, considering how many he usually wrecks in the course of a film? Sign up for a daylong class at Millbrook Proving Ground.
Although I’ve lived in London for eight years, I’ve only driven once—and that was literally around the corner (unless you count bumper cars at the fairgrounds…which you probably don’t). Now my fearless instructor, Nev Foster, encourages me to “just give the pedal a little squeeze” as I bring this growling beast to life.
I push the “sports mode” button (or “rocket mode,” as Foster likes to call it), and he rolls down the windows so that I can hear the V-8 4.7 liter engine roar to life, eating the asphalt like a cheetah devours an impala.
My hands are shaking, my palms are sweating, and my throat has gone dry as a bone.
But there’s no denying the need for speed, and I admit, I like the almost gravity defying, G-force launch.
Aston Martin offers the ultimate in customization for interested buyers, even matching the paint color to a necktie or lipstick. But for driver’s-side missiles and ejector seats, you’ll have to consult Q.
Whizz up the Thames
In the opening scene of The World is Not Enough, Bond races up the Thames in a speedboat. London RIB Voyages offers up the next best thing to having 007 at the helm, with a fast and furious, white-knuckle “License to Thrill” ride past the city’s most famous landmarks aboard a 10-meter Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) powered by 630 horsepower of throbbing engine.
Throughout it all, the guides—comedians and West End actors—offer up the sort of witty one-liners that would have made Roger Moore proud.
For an overview of James Bond’s London, I book a mini-coach excursion with Brit Movie Tours. Over the course of three hours, we visit about a dozen Bond film locations and pass by Great Britain’s espionage headquarters for MI5, which protects the UK against threats to national security, and MI6 (Bond’s branch), which keeps a watchful eye on international threats. MI6 came under attack, at least on celluloid, in The World is Not Enough and in 2012’s Skyfall.
A brief stop at a fictional “secret” entrance to MI6—an unassuming door beneath a stone lion on the south side of Westminster Bridge–produces the most Bond-worthy moment on our tour, though. As we huddle near the entrance, I spy (ahem) a man mumbling into a walkie-talkie as another fellow, clad in riot-gear, storms by with a metal suitcase emblazoned with the ominous words “Box will activate if stolen.”
Bond might have given chase. I decide it’s best to “die another day.”
Take a Shot
Of course, it’s not just the cool cars and clever inventions that define 007. It’s the way he handles his, er, weapon.
The Guns & Roses Experience in the picturesque Cotwolds offers lessons in clay pigeon shooting, combined with…flower arranging. (Yes, you read that right).
Before you dismiss the idea of James Bond or his creator, Ian Fleming, messing about with rosebuds and baby’s breath, consider this:
The Bond novel “You Only Live Twice” contains a chapter entitled “Slay it with Flowers”—and, at Fleming’s insistence, the book features a single blossom (albeit atop a toad) prominently on the cover.
Dress the Part
The most dangerous part of your mission, however, may be navigating the posh shops of Mayfair and St. James, where you can savage your credit rating with the single swipe of a card. John Lobb Ltd. shod Daniel Craig for Casino Royale—and if you have the patience (and sufficiently deep pockets) to wait nine months for a pair of £2,860 ($4,577) custom wingtips, you can literally walk in Bond’s shoes.
Complete your bespoke bondage with a shirt and suit from Turnbull & Asser, the legendary Jermyn Street shop that has served as Bond’s tailor ever since Sean Connery debuted in Dr. No.
David Gale, who has been with the company since 1974, has measured everyone from David Niven to Judi Dench, as well as Daniel Craig. Wisely, he refuses to dish and dirt on 007. “He’s a heck of a nice guy,” Gale insists—although he does reveal Craig’s secret weapon. “He has eyes to die for.”
IF YOU GO
Where to stay: Dukes. It was in the hotel bar that Ian Fleming coined the phrase “shaken, not stirred.” Try the Vesper martini, a combination of gin and vodka created by Fleming. www.dukeshotel.com
Four Seasons Canary Wharf. Room 712 served as a suite in Shanghai in Skyfall, and Craig dons his trunks for a dip in the hotel swimming pool. www.fourseasons.com/canarywharf
What to read: Bond on Bond by Roger Moore; Ian Fleming: The Bibliography by Jon Gilbert