Be sure to also check out this earlier article on Station B, in which John Surles reported on Nassau’s James Bond sites in March 2005.
Written by John Surles
NASSAU, The Bahamas – It had been two long years since the last visit to Nassau, but the need to escape our winter weather and my continuing desire to explore Bond-related locations resulted in a recent trip to Paradise Island with my lovely wife. I am filing this report regarding my visits to sites associated with the literary and cinematic James Bond.
My report from Station B two years ago indicated that there were some reasons for concern about the preservation of the Bond locations that can be easily visited in the area. I can happily report that there are new locations to visit, and that there is also some good news about a particularly significant structure.
A stroll around the marina at Atlantis Resort lead to an area containing shops and restaurants, including the reincarnation of Cafe Martinique. As many Bond fans know, Cafe Martinique was an open-air restaurant on Paradise Island that was converted into the Kiss-Kiss Club for the movie Thunderball. The old restaurant was destroyed during an expansion of the resort. The new version bears little resemblance to the old beyond its name, but the new Cafe Martinique is quite a spectacular restaurant on its own. A visit there with my lovely bride turned up a friendly, welcoming staff, a wonderful atmosphere, good food and…yes, they make an excellent vodka martini, shaken not stirred. Prices are in line with high-end restaurants elsewhere on the Atlantis Resort (entrees for $28-$42). Cafe Martinique is an excellent choice for dining even without the Bond connection.
After dining, we lingered in the marina area and were treated to a small version of a Junkanoo Parade. This apparently is an occasional event. There were perhaps 50-60 costumed parade participants, and the music was loud and wonderful! I could almost envision Sean Connery running through the parade, being pursued by Luciana Paluzzi and the other SPECTRE henchmen.
I was determined to carry out a reconnaissance mission of The One and Only Beach Club while in the area. It is an exclusive, private resort on the north shore of Paradise Island that was a significant site in Casino Royale, and is a place that seems to take its security seriously. This may have been due to the fact that Anna Nicole Smith’s mother is in residence at the resort, and my visit coincided with much of the activity surrounding legal proceedings regarding Anna Nicole’s death and burial site. Not to be deterred, I formulated my plan of attack. A beachfront assault was out of the question, as I was seriously outmanned; a sneak attack from land seemed the wiser route. After a chat with a willing taxi driver, and the negotiated exchange of some currency, the mission to smuggle me onto the grounds proceeded. I concealed myself in the back of the taxi and we were off to our target. I spied a few glimpses of the beautiful grounds before resuming my concealment as we approached the guards at the gate. There was a challenge… would my taxi driver give me up? My cohort chatted up the guards, and soon we were allowed to proceed. A few tense moments later I found myself standing in the very spot where Daniel Craig and Caterina Murino got into the Aston Martin DB5.
I spent a few moments touring the grounds, looking for scenes that seemed familiar from the film. The resort is quite picturesque, but I was mildly disappointed to find that they do not have the security office in which I could view video of my arrival! Nor did I see that beautiful lady at the reception desk who greeted Daniel Craig, although the people who were working the reception desk were quite lovely. My mission was a success!
Later, a walk along the beach past Atlantis Resort brought me to the breakwater that was used in Thunderball. It sits along the north shore of Paradise Island adjacent to the beach for the Atlantis guests. Each day, hundreds of people lie in the sand and swim in the water next to this Bond site without the slightest idea of its significance. While there, I was approached by a young woman who asked what the breakwater was used for. I explained that it protected an inlet from the ocean into the old marina, but did not relate the association with Thunderball. There seems to be little or no effort to preserve the breakwater; the electrical conduit that is seen in the picture along the overhang has succumbed to the ravages of the elements and has fallen for most of its length.
One update from my last report regarding the house known locally as Rock Point, but is better known to Thunderball fans as Palmyra, Largo’s estate with the two pools. At that time, I reported that the house (including the shark pool) had suffered severe storm damage, and part of the seawall and structure were crumbling and falling into the sea. An inspection during my return to the Nassau airport revealed that the seawall damage had been repaired, although the extent of repairs to the shark pool and other portions of the property could not be quickly ascertained. An article appearing shortly after my last report indicated that Rock Point’s owner, Mr. Mosco, was not interested in the house’s significance to Bond fans, and he planned to have the house demolished after his death. Perhaps the repair of this seawall is a hopeful sign that there has been a change of plans, and that “Palmyra” will remain with us for some time.
A visit to Bay Street in downtown Nassau confirmed that the Pipe Of Peace shop is still open. With just a little imagination, I could see Fleming’s Domino climbing out of her sapphire blue MG in her short skirt (without opening the door), enroute to her first encounter with James Bond. Little has changed along Bay Street since my last trip. It is difficult to imagine the force of the explosion that destroyed the Disco Volante, blowing out windows along Bay Street from several miles away. It must have been an exciting time in Nassau while Thunderball was being filmed, as I am certain it was during the filming of Casino Royale and so many other Bond films in between.
I regret to report that I did not visit the site of the construction scene from Casino Royale this time. On an earlier trip several years ago, I went to the very site of the abandoned, partially-constructed hotel that sits next to the entrance to the headquarters of the Royal Bahamian Navy. Not knowing that it would later be a film site, I visited because it was located in the development known as Coral Harbour–which is where Sean Connery asked Claudine Auger’s Domino to take him in her boat after his “conked out”. The opportunity to re-visit this and explore other Bond sites will bring me back to Nassau many times in the future. No place, save for London, seems to provide such fertile ground for visiting easily-accessible Bond locations.
If you feel the need to connect to your inner Bond with visits similar to mine, I recommend a trip to Nassau–you will not be disappointed.
This concludes my report from Station B.
Your faithful servant,