What it’s really like to stay at Ian Fleming’s GoldenEye Resort
There is no sign at the entrance to Golden eye, the former home of Bond author Ian Fleming. Today it is Jamaica’s most famous upscale resort, a sprawling 52-acre estate that manages the delicate balance of elegant and relaxed luxury without ever straying from its destination identity. . Guests take a winding track surrounded by thick tropical wildlife to the informal and airy reception. Outside, a wooden suspension bridge, which spans the seawater lagoon, leads to the resort – a mix of photogenic villas, cottages, and beach huts. You have the impression of entering a fantastic island, but with a decidedly Jamaican energy.
It’s hard to talk about the allure of this idyllic retreat without delving deeper into its story and the characters behind it. Fleming’s love for Jamaica came in unexpected ways. Working for the British Naval Intelligence, Commander Fleming was sent to investigate rumors of Nazi submarines in the Caribbean in 1942 – an operation called Goldeneye. After falling in love with the aesthetic charms of the island, he returned four years later to purchase an abandoned donkey race track in the small but bustling banana port of Oracabessa Bay. On the promontory of his 15-acre lot, he built the house of his dreams – a spartan, yet bright house, almost entirely surrounded by tropical greenery, except for one side that faced the sea. over the ocean were glassless with only wooden shutters to avoid the occasional storm. With this in mind, Fleming sat down at his desk imagining what would become the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond. All 14 of the 007 books were written here.
Fleming escaped England’s dark winters at GoldenEye and in 1956 – much to his wife’s dismay – he met Blanche Blackwell, a Jamaican heiress with whom he ended up falling in love. To say that Blanche was only his muse undermines his influence (although she would have inspired Bond’s character, Pussy Galore), giving her a passive and subordinate role in the life of the writer. Tomboy with a strong spontaneous tendency, she also acted as his guide on the island, showing him the best coves for swimming and snorkelling and the most exciting places to climb, activities the two did. together. She also reportedly told him the story that inspired Quantum of Solace. When the author died of a heart attack in 1964, his Jamaican home was first purchased by Bob Marley and a year later by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell – on the bequest of his mother, Blanche, who – at this point – had too many happy memories there to let it slip away.
Although the property is far from its origins as a Fleming villa (now available for rent through Airbnb), she is no less impressive to visitors today than when the author hosted guests, such as Lucian Freud and Princess Margaret, in the 1940s and 1950s. The cast of No Time To Die posed for photos outside the property for one of the film’s first photocalls in 2019, and several scenes were filmed in nearby Port Antonio. Kate Moss, Grace Jones, and Pierce Brosnan all vacationed here. The property itself can accommodate 10 people in five bedrooms; three in the main house and two in self-catering cottages which flank a private pool and lush gardens. Guests also have access to a secluded beach – also known as Fleming Beach – via stone steps built into the headlands. Fleming’s original office is still in the same area as it was all those years ago.
For those with less cash to spend, Blackwell has expanded the estate to include whitewashed cottages and villas, all of which are steps away from a sandy shore or lagoon. The interior decoration is colorful, full of batik prints and bamboo lampshades. The beach cabanas are all built at varying heights around Snorkeler’s Cove and Button Beach, most of which have private verandas that overlook views worth telling anyone you know. These simple but well-designed octagonal spaces all have louvered windows so you can see the stars while you sleep.
GoldenEye has plenty of casual dining options if you don’t fancy the 10-minute drive to Oracabessa (and everyone should really try the Anthony Bourdain-approved Chris’ Cook Shop once). Choose Bizot for breakfast, lunch or dinner; Bamboo Bar for potent rum cocktails and great jerk chicken. You won’t find Michelin-starred food here, but rather authentic and tasty Jamaican dishes, as well as pastas and burgers for those less fond of spices. For a truly special experience, book a private candlelight dinner at the tip of the peninsula. Unsurprisingly from the man who gave Bob Marley a chance, Blackwell makes sure that only the best roots reggae is played in his restaurants. If there’s no time to hear Kingston’s audio systems firsthand, it’s the next best thing. The final point that indicates this retreat is truly awesome is how happy the staff seem – they have an easygoing and warm demeanor without any of the pomp or pretense associated with luxury hotels. Whether waitress, bartender or receptionist, everyone seems to genuinely enjoy working there; they dance to the tables, quietly sing Toots and the Maytals and laugh behind the bar. Everyone, everyone, raved about their boss, affectionately known in the team as Mr. B.
There are few hotels in the world that stay as true to its heritage as GoldenEye, a place with such a strong meaning without ever feeling cartoonish. It may be taller than Fleming could have imagined, but it is still a sanctuary for all – like him – in search of sun, nature and escape.
No Time To Die is now available in UK cinemas.
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