Bond voyage — London 007-style
My name isn’t Bond.
And, I’ll probably never own an Aston Martin — but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the same luxuries and adventures London offers its legendary secret agent.
Ever since Daniel Craig’s 007 and the Queen came parachuting into the Olympic stadium, he’s become the talk of the town and, with the recent celebration of five decades of the debonair spy — and the release of Skyfall — London is abuzz with all things Bond.
Even the storefront windows of Harrod’s were decorated in scenes featuring Britain’s favourite secret agent.
While you can’t get dropped from an exploding hot-air balloon onto the roof of the O2 Arena, as Bond did in The World is Not Enough, you can scale that same roof strapped into a climbing harness in Up At the O2, the city’s newest adventure attraction.
“It’s a great event for group bonding,” said our guide Gary Day, as we zipped ourselves into the specially designed one-piece suits and strapped on climbing harnesses.
The 90-minute trek requires a moderate level of fitness, as the incline at both start and finish is a 30-degree angle.
The viewing platform at the top, however, makes the climb worth it as it provides a 365-degree panorama of the city.
The roof is like a giant canvas tent and the walkway, designed to cross up and over the top, feels almost like walking on a trampoline — especially when you get a large group travelling together.
Thankfully, you’re safely clipped on with a carabineer so you’re not going to go rolling down the side the way Pierce Brosnan did.
There’s a height restriction. You must be at least four feet tall and not so wide you can’t fit into the climbing suit but, other than that, it’s something the entire family can do.
The day we were there, a visually impaired girl in the group behind us was clearly enjoying the sensation of bouncing her way up the roof.
Getting to the O2 can be half the fun, either by travelling on the KPMG Thames Clipper or the Emirates Air Line.
The Clipper is like a bus on water, with stops at all the major attractions in London, starting at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, then travelling on to the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Covent Gardens, Tower Bridge and many more, including the North Greenwich Pier, where we landed close to the base of the O2 Arena.
You can pick up one of the Clipper’s Daily River Roamer tickets that lets you have unlimited on and off stops on the full route for the day for $21.35, or get the family pass for two adults and three children for $46.32.
Travelling up the Thames is truly a great way to see London’s most famous landmarks.
More information is online here.
Without a doubt, the most uplifting way to travel across the Thames is the new Emirates Air Line. It’s a cable-car ride that connects across the Thames right near the base of the O2.
The latest addition to London’s transportation system, it’s not only functional, but offers a breathtaking view as it climbs to heights of 90 metres during the 1.1-kilometre route.
The cost is about $6.75 for a single crossing.
For those who love the Bond cars, the biggest exhibition ever of Bond-mobiles is on display in the National Motor Museum, located in Beaulieu, about a two-hour drive out of London.
You’ll find the famous underwater car used in Diamonds Are Forever, the Aston Martins and BMWs and even the jet pack, motorcycles and miniature helicopters.
Adding to it all, the Union Jack parachute used in The Spy Who Loved Me hangs from the ceiling.
You could easily spend the whole day in Beaulieu, as the National Motor Car Museum is located on the same grounds as the Beaulieu Abbey and Palace House.
The great abbey was completed in the 14th century and parts of the Beaulieu Parish Church date back to the 13th century.
For those who love to shop, you can shop Bond-style by taking a stroll through the St. James district, where you can have your own perfume created at Floris, creators of James Bond’s perfume 89, or drop in to Turnbull & Asser, where they make shirts and ties for the stars, including Daniel Craig’s Bond.
You can have a pair of shoes created just for your feet at John Lobb or get one of the world’s best cigars at Davidoff.
Ever wonder about the phrase, shaken, not stirred?
Then, a trip to Duke’s is in order, the bar where Bond’s creator, author Ian Fleming, used to frequent to drink martinis — and they were made only to the highest standards.
Located just off St. James Street, there’s an old-boys club feel to Duke’s, where the term understated elegance best describes its decor.
With complimentary olives, a bowl of nuts and some crackers to nibble on, you can watch as they make your martini right in front of you.
We ordered the classic James Bond Vesper.
On the lower level of Duke’s, you’ll find the elegant, upscale dining room, Thirty Six, where presentation is only eclipsed by taste, and upstairs they have the boutique-style Duke’s Hotel.
From the new cigar lounge at the Mayfair Hotel to sparkling Bond women-style jewels at Nigel Milne jewelry store, London’s St. James district is ready to offer you a truly ‘Bond Voyage.’
If you go:
• Air Canada offers direct flights to London from several major Canadian cities including Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto
• The Mayfair Hotel features elegant rooms, large by London standards, in the heart of the St. James District, rooms starting at about $380.
• Tickets for Up At the O2 climb start at about $34.54.
• For more information on Beaulieu, go here.