Darryl Marsch reports on his recent assignment to Goldeneye Resort in Jamaica.
The Boeing 737-800 touched down at Sangster International Airport at precisely 2:17 p.m., local time. My eyes glanced away from the dark-brown dial of my Seamaster Diver and fixed on the azure-blue sky above Montego Bay that peeked between the airport’s boxy terminal buildings and the metal tube’s rounded window. Inside, I silently cheered for blue skies to provide the prevailing forecast, even as two swipes on my phone cast the gloomy spectre of rain and thundershowers. Just then, the flight attendant cracked open the aircraft’s thick, hinged door, and the stale air-conditioned cabin air rushed out, allowing the first tropical breeze to fill my nostrils with scented air, a compound of sea and trees.
James Bond had travelled to Jamaica many times. For him, Jamaica was often intended as a respite after a particularly demanding mission or a personal tragedy: poisoning from Rosa Klebb’s boot-knives (FRWL/DN), Tracy’s murder (a month after OHMSS), and Bond’s capture, torture, and brainwashing at the hands of the KGB (YOLT/TMWTGG). But Jamaica rarely proved a respite, not in the conventional sense, for Bond. His trips to the island almost invariably concealed a plot of excitement and danger, and that was what ultimately restored him there. What awaited me, I wondered?
My attention snapped back to reality, as my traveling companion stretched to retrieve a leatherette overnight bag from the overhead bin. Navy knit fabric happily strained across the curves of her fine figure, when I offered, “Let me help with that.” Then, I slung my black Cordura go bag across my back, and we quickly deplaned and made our way uneventfully through Immigration and baggage claim. Just outside, our driver, Oniel, greeted us with a broad smile and a placard bearing the word “Goldeneye.”
As you undoubtedly know, Goldeneye was the home of Ian Fleming, where he authored the James Bond novels and short stories, and it is now a private resort consisting of his former residence, approximately twenty-five beach and lagoon-side villas, and assorted huts on Oracabessa Bay. The resort, owned by Chris Blackwell, sits on a small peninsula, approximately ten miles east of the Jamaican north-coast town of Ocho Rios (“Ochi” to the locals).
Oniel, who to my mind had already assumed the role of Quarrel (LALD/DN), hefted our luggage into one of the ubiquitous Toyota passenger vans, and we set out along the North Shore highway east from MoBay towards Goldeneye. Oniel provided us with Red Stripe beer to keep our mood light in the face of snarling traffic along our journey. Noticeably, the Toyota’s information screen displayed in Japanese. Oniel told me that he operated the system despite knowing nothing of the language. Along our route, Oniel pointed out objects of interest, such as the bauxite loading dock seen in Dr No or Cinnamon Hill Golf Course from Live and Let Die. Intermittently, Oniel took a call in Patois on his AirBuds, further immersing us in island atmosphere.
The landscape offered a bounty of breadfruit, mango, and banana trees. Flashes of Flames of the Forest, bougainvillea, and oleander, adorned the landscape. Along the roadside, women baked caramel puddings in discarded wheel rims filled with charcoal fires.
We arrived at a gate, unmarked, save for the words, PRIVATE PROPERTY. Oniel remarked, “Welcome to paradise.” Once though, Jamila, our receptionist, whisked us into the the Fleming Room, which displayed vintage photographs of a jocular Ian Fleming in his element, fishing or boating, or at least knee-deep in the sea. The largest photograph was a black and white of Fleming and Sean Connery, no doubt discussing Dr No, or even more likely, a woman. Jamila offered us a cocktail, the eponymous Goldeneye, consisting of Blackwell rum and pineapple juice.
With a change of clothes in Villa 18 along Low Cay Beach, we set out to Bizot Bar, not twenty meters away. A reggae artist sang and strummed soulfully for the assembled diners. We ate a delicious meal of grilled fish topped with escabeche, an incendiary relish of pickled onions, carrots, and Scotch Bonnets. More Blackwell rum flowed, this time the darker 007 variant, on the rocks. Smooth and bourbon-like, the rum quelled the fiery feast.
Words and photos copyright Darryl Marsch. Look out for part 2 – coming soon!
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