For another Bond experience, we stopped at the funky outdoor Cigar Room upstairs at the May Fair Hotel to sample their signature martinis while a few in our group exotically puffed on the hand-rolled cigars.
We also browsed in Floris, in business since 1730 (and which holds two royal warrants), where fragrance No. 89, launched in 1951 and a favorite of Fleming's that featured in "Dr. No," is still popular with Bond enthusiasts.
Another stop was the famed Turnbull & Asser (in business since 1885), where Fleming was a customer and which has made custom shirts for all the Bond actors. Signed celebrity photos line the walls, including one from Prince Charles and others from Brosnan and Craig. There are also three framed ties from the Bond movies.
"Daniel Craig is a very nice guy and has eyes to die for, the most piercing blue eyes," noted David Gale, master shirt-maker here for nearly 40 years.
It takes about an hour to make a pattern and then some three weeks for the shirt. The price is about $350 each, with a minimum order of six.
"We made 80 shirts for Pierce Brosnan and another 80 for his stuntman," a staff member told me.
Later our group met Fleming's niece, Kate Grimond, who joined us for tea at Fortnum & Mason's. She noted that her famed uncle "would be amazed to see how James Bond has outlived him; he never thought it would go on like this. I think there's been a global interest for a long time."
At the Beaulieu National Motor Museum in Hampshire, the largest collection of original Bond vehicles is on display until the end of the year, including three (two motorbikes and a Land Rover) used in "Skyfall."
"When I ask visitors what their favorite Bond car is, it's either the Lotus Esprit 'Wet Nellie' or the Aston Martin DB5 'Goldfinger' car," noted guide James Ellis.
As visitors snapped photos, nearby film clips showed the Bond cars in action. One of the most amazing was of the AMC Hornet from "The Man With the Golden Gun."
A stuntman drove it over a 40-foot river in Thailand; it did a 360-degree midair barrel turn in one take, as eight cameras simultaneously captured the action. In the film it was shown in slow motion for more dramatic effect.
Besides the recent release of several new Bond-related books, there's also a documentary, "Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007" about the first 50 years of Bond films.
With "Skyfall" (the theme song is sung by Adele), "we've just tried to make the best movie we can," Craig recently said." "It's the 50th-year celebration and that's a bit of pressure, but a good kind of pressure."
After this whirlwind 007 tour I'm feeling more like a Bond Girl, after all. But I could use another martini — shaken, please, not stirred.
WHEN YOU GO
For more information: www.visitbritain.com/en/US, www.visitbritain.com/en/things-to-do/culture/live-like-james-bond.htm, www.visitbritainshop.com/usa/articles-and-features/ultimate-james-bond-experience-review.html
James Bond Tour of London: www.britmovietours.com/bookings/spy-movie-london-tour
Dukes Bar Martini Experience: www.luxurylifestyle.com/listings/view_article.cfm?articleID=1068&type=20, www.jamesbondlifestyle.com/news/dukes-bar-floris-unveil-no89-martini-fleming-89
May Fair Hotel Cigar Room: www.themayfairhotel.co.uk/the-cigar-room
Beaulieu National Motor Museum Bond in Motion Exhibit ("50 Vehicles, 50 Years" on display through 2012: www.beaulieu.co.uk/attractions/bond-in-motion
Ellenborough Park Hotel (where we stayed outside London): www.ellenboroughpark.com
British Airways offers nonstop service from several U.S. gateways: www.ba.com.
Sharon Whitley Larsen is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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