The James Bond walking tour of London: On the 007 trail
The details being offered about the screen icon we’re exploring somehow do not seem right as we traipse around the streets on the James Bond Walking Tour of London. So much so, I begin to doubt the accuracy of our tour guide.
“James Bond’s favourite food was scrambled eggs – he loved them,” the tour guide Jeremiah announces. “In the original Ian Fleming books and then in a number of movies, James’ food of choice was eggs, with scrambled always his favourite.”
Surely nothing so simple in the culinary stakes for the style icon who liked his martinis shaken not stirred and loved driving an Aston Martin car all while wearing the best in designer duds? A few of us at the back of the group get busy googling the claim on our phones, and sure enough, Jeremiah is correct. We of such little faith!
The revelation was just one of many on this walking tour, which focusses primarily on such recent 007 screen adventures as Spectre and Skyfall. Jeremiah, a man well versed on all things in the 007 sphere, explains a common fallacy is that Bond has spent much of his time darting around London since the first 007 screen adventure Dr No debuted back in 1962. In reality, Bond – as Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan and a small galaxy of other star names – has spent more time racing across the globe, with such adventures as climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hanging off cable cars in Rio de Janeiro and doing battle on the streets of Hong Kong.
London has taken a far more central role in Spectre, Skyfall and the upcoming No Time To Die, due to be released in Australian cinemas on April 8. This is why, Jeremiah explains, this walking tour focuses on locations recent Bond devotees easily recognise. Forget the likes of Octopussy, License to Kill or The Man with the Golden Gun – the London streets we’re exploring are primarily the ones trodden by Daniel Craig.
It’s fitting that a tour focussed on Bond’s London adventures begins in one of the British capital’s greatest icons – the underground, at Charing Cross Station. This is where Skyfall’s Raoul Silva (Javier Bardain) unleashed a cat and mouse chase with Bond through the station tunnels. It’s pointed out the passageways they darted through and the steps they raced up and down. As Jeremiah holds up production stills from the movie, a collective response of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and lots of nodding ensues.
It’s a return to street level for a stroll of a couple of blocks to Maiden Lane at Covent Garden, to see Rules restaurant – famed as London’s oldest. But to the gathered Bond fans, it’s the location where MI6 members M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenney (Naomie Harris) met in Spectre for a high-level meeting about Bond’s future.
The theme of Bond going off the rails in Spectre is discussed on the walk through the streets of Westminster to the National Portrait Gallery at Trafalgar Square. In this movie, it looked like Bond’s time on Her Majesty’s Service was up, and Jeremiah explains film director Sam Mendes took a symbolic approach to the point of the story.“He set the scene of Q telling Bond his time in the service is over with the pair sitting in front of the artwork The Fighting Temeraire, which has been voted England’s favourite painting,” he says.
“The painting shows a battle-weary old warship being tugged away to be broken up. And just like the ship, Bond’s time was up. Well, for a short period anyway.”As the tour progresses, the 007 connection with other places in this area are pointed out – the safe house in Spring Lane where Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) darted out of in Spectre; Malaysia House on Trafalgar Square which stood in for the old MI6 headquarters in The Living Daylights; the Ministry of Defence which will be seen in No Time to Die; and 55 Whitehall, where Bond broodily looked out over the skyline at the end of Skyfall. Also passed by is the Old Admiralty Building on Whitehall where Ian Fleming worked during World War II, and no doubt encountered many scenarios that later became the basis of his 12 novels and two short-stories about Bond.
The final stop of the tour is by the River Thames, looking across at the real MI6 headquarters building, which was spectacularly blown up in Skyfall – well it was with the use of screen special effects. The real one, which looks like a series of stacked boxes, is still very much standing.
But it’s here Jeremiah finally reveals what I have been wondering all along. This tour attracts 007 devotees, and as Daniel Craig has played Bond for 14 years and announced No Time To Die will be his last, who do most people say is their favourite Bond?
“The overwhelming response is Daniel Craig,” Jeremiah says. “He’s followed by Sean Connery, and then all the others fall somewhere behind them. Personally, I think Timothy Dalton is the most overlooked – he was a great Bond.”Now he tells me! I completely agree – Dalton was indeed the best Bond of all. If I had known Jeremiah thought that in the first place, I would never have doubted his scrambled eggs claim for a moment!
James Bond Walking Tour of London
Operates Saturdays at 10.30am and runs for 2.5 hours. Cost is £12 ($24) for adults. britmovietours.com
Scoot Airlines flies from Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Perth into Singapore and then onto Berlin. Connect onto Easyjet for flights to London.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Chelsea has room rates from £99 ($195) per night. londonchelsea.doubletree.com
The writer travelled as a guest of Scoot Airlines, Doubletree by Hilton London – Chelsea and VisitBritain.