Updated: Dec 29, 2020
On the podcast, I'm the one who's new to Bond. I'm watching almost all of the films for the first time. What I'm not new to, however, is travelling. Or tenuous links, for that matter. Hence this list – in no particular order - of nine places around the world that I've been to, that James Bond has also been to.
Nassau, The Bahamas
Sun-drenched beaches, beautiful women and cocktail bars – of course James Bond visits The Bahamas, several times in fact. It's where Sean Connery tracks down SPECTRE number two Largo in Thunderball (1965). Then, 41 years later, it's where Daniel Craig reverses a Range Rover into some cars at a country club and wins his Aston Martin DB5 in a poker match in Casino Royale (2006). And unfortunately, it's where Sean Connery meets a flustered Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) after disembarking at the harbour in terrible Bond spinoff Never Say Never Again (1983).
More than 700 islands make up The Bahamas, most of which are uninhabited. On New Providence island you'll find Nassau, the political and tourism capital of the island group. It's a popular cruise ship stop-off (I visited on a three-day punk rock cruise hosted by Irish-American punks Flogging Molly) but it's also easily accessible by ferry from Florida, or by plane. The city itself feels very touristy – the minute you step onto the harbour you'll be deluged by locals selling you island tours, moped hire and an array of local souvenirs. So I'd recommend picking up some wheels (two or four – scooters are particularly popular) and hitting the coastal roads. A few miles west of the harbour you'll find Rock Point, which you'll recognise as Largo's 'Palmyra' villa from Thunderball. It's now privately owned but apparently, if you ring the bell and ask nicely, the owner might let you in for a look around. If you can't get in, climb the nearby reefs for a sneak peek from above – you can still see the (now empty) shark pool!
To the north of the harbour, take the bridge over to Paradise Island for the full Bond-winning-stuff-by-gambling experience. Here you'll find Café Martinique, where Bond beats Largo at Baccarat in Thunderball, and the Ocean Club where he takes a man's DB5 and his wife in Casino.
If exploring isn't your thing, then hit the beach. Rent some diving gear, or just a snorkel mask, and watch the tropical fish drift by the coral. Alternatively, pick up a bottle of rum, or a six-pack of beers from the Pirate Republic Brewing Company, and just chill.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil
It's obvious how the largest waterfall system in the world would be an attractive location for the Bond film makers. In Moonraker (1979) we see the return of Jaws, played by Richard Kiel, following his menacing first outing two years earlier in The Spy Who Loved Me. In this somewhat more comical turn, we see a number of henchmen chasing our plucky hero (Roger Moore in his fourth outing as Bond) along the Iguazu River that borders Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. And in true henchman form they miss every shot they take, before being spectacularly blown to pieces by some mines. But the tenacious Jaws continues after Bond, who straps on a helmet (safety first) and busts out the hang glider hidden inside his speedboat, prompting some hilarious confused-faces from Jaws as the steering wheel falls off his boat and he plummets over the edge.
There are two sides to Iguazu Falls, which are easily seen from Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil and Puerto Iguazú in Argentina. Staying on one side of the border and day-tripping to the other is easy by local bus. Just make sure you have a supply of both Brazilian Reais and Argentinian Pesos. The Brazilian side is a peaceful experience with epic, picturesque views across from and above the waterfalls. The Argentinian side, on the other hand, is more intense. You can get up close and personal with the falls with a very wet boat trip right up to the base of two sets of waterfalls, and walk up to the 'Devil's Throat', which feels like you're standing next to the earth's plughole with millions of tons of water cascading into it.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
As a successful gambler, it's understandable that Bond would be drawn to Earth's capital of debauchery. In Diamonds are Forever (1971) Sean Connery follows said diamonds to Las Vegas, where he ends up in a car chase with the local cops (watched by a huge crowd of what looks ordinary punters, unaware that a film is being made, just standing and watching). As you would expect, the police circle the world-famous Golden Nugget casino several times before crashing into each other in a car park.
Fremont Street, where the Golden Nugget still sits today, is the 'old town' of Vegas. It was where gamblers flocked to the slots before the emergence of the massive casino resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard. Spending a night on Fremont street is an intense sensory treat. Around you are all of the neon-lit buildings and signs that you'll recognise from countless old movies. Your soundtrack will most likely be an Elvis tribute act on stage at the Fremont Street Experience, best watched holding an enormous frozen cocktail from one of the many bars. Above you are two ziplines, which allow you to fly Superman-style 114 feet in the air at 35mph down the length of the street.
Returning to the strip, it's very easy to spend a great day casino-hopping. Marvel at the spectacular artwork and fake canals at The Venetian; explore the Grecian statues and water features at Caesar's Palace; ride the rooftop rollercoaster at New York New York; and take in the China-themed Bellagio, the sealife at The Flamingo, ancient Egypt at Luxor, and the fairytale castle that is Excalibur.
For a history of the famous Vegas neon signs, tour the Neon Museum just off Fremont Street. And of course, go and see a show. I would highly recommend Penn and Teller's magic show at their theatre at The Rio.
Key West, Florida, USA
In Licence to Kill (1989) Timothy Dalton goes rogue as James Bond when his best friend's wife is murdered on her wedding night by a drug lord. In a key showdown Bond is confronted by M (Robert Brown), who revokes Bond's licence to kill for disobeying orders. The showdown takes place at Hemingway's House in Key West, the southernmost tip of Florida. After refusing to hand over his gun, Bond leaps from a balcony to his escape amid gunfire from the famous Key West lighthouse.
A womaniser who loved drinking, had his own favourite cocktail, travelled the world and was injured in plane crashes, car crashes and skiing accidents...Ernest Hemmingway was a Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winning journalist and author who died in 1961. He was even (allegedly) a spy (for the KGB in 1941). His house in Key West can be visited for an affordable $16 (it's not clear from the film if Bond or M paid the entry fee - there are cheaper places to have a secret meeting). The tour of the house is fascinating: the knowledgeable guides go into great detail about Hemingway's time living in Key West, the women he went through and subsequently cheated on, his accident-prone nature, his drinking, as well as the work he actually put into his writing – it's where he wrote A Farewell To Arms.
The house is also currently home to between 40 and 50 cats, all of which are descended from Hemingway's original cat, and all of which have a rare "polydactyl" genetic mutation in their DNA meaning at least half of them have six toes. They're also all named after famous people, meaning it's not uncommon to hear a staff member shouting "Audrey Hepburn's pissed on the sofa!"
The lighthouse is also worth a visit if you find yourself in Key West. It's not as close to Hemingway's House as the film makes it appear, but you do get fantastic panoramic views from the top – on a clear day you can just about make out Cuba. And you can't go full Hemingway without a visit to Sloppy Joe's Bar for the famous sandwich of the same name, washed down with a daiquiri.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Once again Roger Moore is facing off against Jaws in Moonraker (1979), this time in the far more plausible setting of 'on top of a cable car' at Rio de Janeiro's Sugarloaf Mountain, accompanied by the appallingly-named Dr Holly Goodhead. After munching through a couple of inches of steel cable, Jaws climbs hand-over-hand towards Bond for a painfully slow fistfight that ends with Jaws being locked inside a cable car while Bond and Goodhead zipwire back down the mountain. The payoff is another hilarious shocked facial expression by Richard Kiel, as his cable car crashes at high speed into the cable car station (not only is he unscathed, he's rescued by a petite blond woman called Dolly, who becomes his girlfriend and they go into space together. Aww.)
Rio itself is one of the most vibrant, coolest cities on the planet. It's got an unfair reputation for crime – as with any major city, as long as you watch your belongings and don't go looking for trouble, it probably won't find you (hide your wallet, travel using Uber, don't wander down unlit streets at night). That cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the most popular attractions in Rio, so either get there very early or prepare to queue. For the ultimate Sugarloaf experience try and go either as the sun's rising, or just as it's going down. There's food and drink at the top, watching the sun set over Rio with a beer in your hand is one of life's greatest pleasures.
Bond arrives in Rio by Concorde before being chauffeur-driven along Avenue Atlântica, home to Copacabana Beach. It looks much the same today as it did in 1979, so you'll easily recognise the spot where Bond's car turns off the main road to escape the camera-wielding Manuela. Copacabana is packed full of tourists, but still somewhere worth spending a couple of hours. Preferably while sipping from a coconut.
From there, take an Uber to the iconic Cristo Redentor statue (better known to us as 'Christ the Redeemer'). As with Sugarloaf, get there early or prepare to queue – or even better, book your tickets online the night before. It's busy, but once again no visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without a selfie with Big Chris.
End your night at a Churrascaria, one of those Brazilian restaurants where they serve you unlimited quantities of meat - on swords. With a bowl of feijoada by your side and a caipirinha in your hand, it'll be one of the best meals you ever consume.
In one of the franchise's sweeter scenes, The Living Daylights (1987) sees Timothy Dalton's Bond actually taking a woman on a date - rather than just taking a woman in the middle of the bed/floor/field/barn/robotic iceberg with little more than a 'how do you do'. After Bond and Kara (Maryam d'Abo) jump off the back of a lorry in Vienna, they don't waste a second seeing the sights. They take a horse-and-cart ride, check into a swanky hotel (with Bond even asking for 'something with a second bedroom'), spend a night at the opera, then wind up at the funfair where they inevitably get it on at the top of a Ferris wheel. Unfortunately, while Bond and Kara are living the high life, Bond's MI6 contact is being killed by Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), accompanied as always by his own Walkman-based theme tune.
You can still take your significant other on pretty much the same date today. The horse and cart takes our romantic counterparts through the gardens of Belvedere Palace, which are free for anyone to enter. If you prefer your own two legs, you can casually stroll through the palace grounds rather than being pulled by a nag.
Bond and Kara watched a performance of Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro' at the Vienna Murikverein, the city's historic concert hall. It runs a full programme all year round of classical and operatic performances, many featuring the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Even if the music itself isn’t your thing, the tour of the hall is fantastic (it was only €6.50 when my wife and I visited). If you are flushed with cash then consider their New Year concert – tickets must be booked 10 months in advance and cost up to €1200!
Prater amusement park is in the centre of the city and its 212ft Ferris wheel is visible for miles – and unlike most theme parks, it's free to enter. You pay per ride, so you can pick and choose which of the waltzers, log flumes, haunted houses or big wheels you ride. Just watch out for suspicious blokes selling balloons...
Roger Moore was 58 when A View to a Kill was released in 1985. Despite his advancing years, he manages to chase the achingly-cool May Day (Grace Jones) from one of the Eiffel Tower's two restaurants, up the stairs, to around half-way up the iconic landmark before the villain takes a shortcut down using a cleverly concealed parachute. Bond is forced to take the lift (albeit in an unconventional fashion) before causing six-million Francs worth of damage by tearing through Paris in a stolen Renault 11. He takes it from a taxi driver who, by the way, is inexplicably drinking a glass of red wine when Bond pulls him from behind the wheel. He then shouts – in English, but with a French accent - "Oh! Oh! My car!".
The interior of the Eiffel Tower's Jules Verne restaurant looks a lot more modern today, but still has that stunning view over Paris. Dining there today is easier if you too have MI6 footing the bill – a three-course lunch will set you back €135. For a more affordable snack, there are 'buffet' restaurants on all three floors. Eating before you climb, or waiting until you get down again, is ultimately cheaper! The Tower itself is an essential stop if you're visiting Paris. The view alone is worth the entry fee. Taking the stairs is definitely tiring, particularly if like Roger Moore you're getting a little older, but it's cheaper and means you don't have to wait in the often lengthy queues for the first lift. To get right to the top, you have to take a second lift which costs a little more, but will give you the full Parisian experience. You can even celebrate your ascent with the most expensive glass of champagne you'll probably ever buy (prices start at €15).
Alternatively, you can admire the Tower from the Trocadéro, where that great opening shot is taken before we see Bond in the restaurant. It's probably the most popular photo spot in the whole city, so you'll have to hang around for a while if you want that iconic Paris tourist picture, particularly once the sun goes down and the Tower lights up. Just beware the tourist-tat sellers at the base of the Tower selling keyrings and bottles of water that look suspiciously as though they’ve already been opened.
You can also follow Bond's catastrophic tyre-marks along the River Seine on Port de la Bourdonnais, where his stolen car gets smaller and smaller. Shops and restaurants in the area (particularly on the Champs-Élysées) are really expensive, so for an affordable but tasty lunch (one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten) visit the snack stop in the Metro station under the Arc de Triomphe.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
We return to Sean Connery's final outing as Bond in Diamonds are Forever (1971), which begins with Bond hot on the heels of diamond smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson). Upon arrival in the Dutch capital in his yellow Triumph Stag, Bond beats the living daylights (ho ho) out of, then becomes, Franks by using his passport and thumbprint to steal his identity.
You can no longer take the Seaspeed hovercraft from Dover (hovering across the Channel was phased out around the year 2000), but the ferry from Newcastle is a suitable (and more comfortable) alternative. Amsterdam is yet another city with a wrongly blighted reputation. Yes, it's famous for that, and that, but there's so much more to it than coffee shops and red lights. Although if that's what you're into, it's there in abundance.
We get a glimpse of the Amsterdam tourist experience prior to Bond's elevator fight, as the scene begins on board a canal boat tour. There are loads of canal tour operators to choose from. Boats run every half-hour and tickets are around €16. You probably won't see a body being retrieved from the canal by the police, but you will see the bridges and buildings being pointed out by the film's tour guide. I recommend you take one as soon as you arrive: over the course of an hour, your guide will give you a thorough understanding of the city, providing you with your bearings for the rest of your trip. Or for a treat, spend a few extra Euros and take a night cruise. Amsterdam looks even better lit up, preferably accompanied by a bottle of prosecco.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
The did-they-didn't-they of the list! In the thrilling conclusion of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Pierce Brosnan's Bond teams up with Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) at her tech-laden apartment in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to track down a stealth boat belonging to evil media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). Following a slapstick fight involving everything in the apartment somehow being a weapon, the pair decide that the undetectable craft is probably hiding in the Vietnamese paradise of Halong Bay. The reality though, is slightly different.
Although the producers were originally granted permission to film in Vietnam, their visa was rescinded a couple of months later by the country's government. A Vietnamese government official is reported to have helpfully cited "many complicated reasons" for this; the Bond makers claim it was down to a disagreement over pyrotechnic equipment. As a result, the 'Saigon' scenes were actually filmed in Bangkok, Thailand. While there are rumours that filmmakers snuck across the border to film some of the Halong Bay scenes on location without permission, it's more widely believed that the Bay was substituted with the visually similar Phang Nga Bay, around 2000km away off the coast of the Thai island of Phuket. Phang Nga is also home to "James Bond Island" (Khao Phing Kan) where Roger Moore dueled with Christopher Lee's Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). It's now an incredibly popular tourist attraction in its own right.
I haven't been to Phang Nga Bay, or ventured any further into Bangkok than the airport. But I have been to the real Halong Bay. And it's one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I have ever visited. It's best summed up (by my wife) as being "defined by its innumerable islands, rising out of the sea like rocky icebergs flocked with green, each holding golden beaches, tropical forests and mystical caves. Beneath, above and between these spires there is only dreamy blue, creating an endless, surreal seascape that could ostensibly be Heaven." There are a number of cruise operators offering multi-day tours, mostly beginning with a minivan ride from Hanoi. There's almost too much to fit into this short, supposedly Bond-related paragraph – during our three-day cruise we kayaked around the very coves that Bond and Wai Lin purported to, washed up on deserted beaches, visited enormous caves that would make Ken Adam (designer of enormous Bond sets, including the volcano from You Only Live Twice) salivate, and ate our weight in seafood. It's also one of the best places on the planet to watch the sunset. Of all these locations, this is the one I would urge any travel-loving Bond aficionado to visit. Stealth-boat optional.