The second instalment of Darryl Marsch’s report on his recent assignment to Goldeneye Resort.
The next morning, we returned and breakfasted on ackee and salt fish, which may be the national dish of Jamaica. It was a favorite of Fleming’s, and I speculate so because it tastes of spicy scrambled eggs and contains a deadly secret not often disclosed lest it frighten tourists. Ackee, not unlike Fugu fish, is poisonous if not prepared properly. The fruit must fully ripen, be cleaned thoroughly, and with membrane and seeds removed, boiled in salted water, otherwise sickness and vomiting ensues. If untreated, death arrives in twenty-four hours.
Having deliciously survived breakfast, we chatted with new friends and swam in warm waters that shimmered like a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. In the distance, the sea plunged into the most royal of blues.
At three o’clock, following another excellent meal, we met Adrian for a guided snorkeling adventure. Snorkeling was one of Fleming’s great passions in Jamaica, and pulling on a mask and fins in his home waters evoked a feeling of kinship that I hoped would endure. More enduring, however, was the hopeful but cautionary tale that the reef told.
Decades of garbage thrown into the nearby river had ravaged much of the reef. The Goldeneye Foundation is rehabilitating the reef, replanting corals grown in a nursery that we snorkeled through. Sea life was budding in the crystal-clear waters, and we spied a large grouper, two lion fish, innumerable reef fish, and as if from a scene in Thunderball, a 33-inch barracuda:
Clean and straight and malevolent, it [was] all hostile weapon, from the long snarling mouth in the cruel jaw that can open like a rattlesnake’s to an angle of ninety degrees, along the blue and silver steel of the body to the lazy power of the tail fin that helps to make this fish one of the five fastest sprinters in the sea.
The barracuda flashed a terrible smile of razor teeth, the sharpest in the ocean. We wisely gave the sinister fish a wide berth and paddled back to shore.
After a secluded outdoor shower by the red hibiscus, we readied for a poolside dinner, a Jamaican barbecue of pork, chicken, and fish and a dizzying table of desserts that included key lime pie, German Black Forest Cake, and the most luscious vanilla cake that we had ever tasted.
A sound sleep under the charming, but unnecessary, mosquito netting that covered our comfy bed, prepared us for the day ahead. We tried our hand at kayaking and paddle boarding at Button Beach, where we spied the ship where Felix Leiter was murdered in No Time to Die. Then, we kayaked up the lagoon, a calm, clear ribbon of water that snakes up from Button Beach, past the guest villas, toward the Fleming Villa where it twists to rejoin the sea. Fleming’s Villa sits alone high above the shore of its private beach.
After a lunch of charcoal-grilled wings and fresh fish we ventured to Field Spa for our prearranged couples’ massage. I slipped bare under the sheet, face down, remembering my SPECTRE prop-replica ring, with its seven-limbed cephalopod insignia showing palm-up toward the masseuse. Would this unspoken passcode be met with entrée into a secret lair or a dagger at the throat? Or would I be bashed about and nearly murdered, as James Bond was on “The Rack” at Shrublands. It was none of the above, but rather an indulgent massage with unctuous emoluments scented with ginger and pimento grown on site or at Blackwell’s Pantrepant Farm.
Relaxed, we returned to Button Beach for drinks, an afternoon of backgammon on the second-floor balcony, and then a grilled mackerel dinner at the Gazebo. We sipped Bollinger champagne and talked about Goldeneye’s reputation as a cure for writer’s block. Sting wrote Every Breath You Take in the Fleming Villa, and he famously insists that it is a sinister song about surveillance and Big Brother. The lyric “I’ll be watching you…” certainly evokes the image of a spy that Sting must have contemplated at Goldeneye. More champagne, and we resolve to follow Fleming’s lead and write our own novels, spy or otherwise.
Dream of staying at Goldeneye? Check out prices and availability: Goldeneye Resort
Words and photos copyright Darryl Marsch. Part 1 here – part 3 coming soon!
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