How I Spent My Spy Vacation

“I have made up my mind. I am going to live the rest of my life in Jamaica.” – Ian Fleming

Author Ian Fleming sought a place of peace and quiet before writing his James Bond series, a desire that led him to purchase land in scenic Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica. It proved a fruitful decision: Fleming wrote all 14 of his Bond novels there. The 52-acre estate, which he dubbed Goldeneye, may be visually familiar to Bond film fans, since scenes of Dr. No and Live and Let Die were shot in the area. After Fleming’s death in 1964, the author’s family sold the land to legendary reggae artist Bob Marley. One year later, Marley sold the property to record producer Chris Blackwell, who subsequently turned it into a resort.

Today, the Jamaican estate serves as a destination for travelers from around the world: The Goldeneye Hotel and Resort. They host an array of typical tropical tourist events, such as the New Years Revolution Retreat and the NyamJam Music Festival. Bond enthusiasts willing to shell out can even stay in one of the bedrooms at Fleming’s original villa. Tying in Jamaican culture to the Bond theme allows for a diverse stay that has drawn in many tourists.

For travelers who seek a spy experience that’s more hands-on–and doesn’t require flying to Jamaica–there are plenty of other opportunities around the states. New York City bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is a secret meeting spot hidden behind a hot dog joint. In order to enter, patrons have to call the hostess from a designated phone booth. The lounge inside is perfect for ordering drinks shaken, not stirred.

Another bar and lounge fit for a secret agent is the Safe House, located in significantly less conspicuous Milwaukee. This meeting ground for would-be spies has been around for almost 50 years, serving anyone who knows the secret password, which can be found easily with some research. Beyond just the method of entry, the Safe House features trick doors, secret passageways, themed drinks, and gadgets galore. Patrons can even reserve the place for parties, where groups can take on special missions.

For female operatives who find themselves in New York or Las Vegas, the Stiletto Spy School is a women’s-only secret agent academy designed to help enrollees feel “strong, empowered, and sexy.” For $450 per person, this one-day academy provides physical and mental training through lessons in areas like knife fighting and poker. This spy school is perfect for girls ready to run the world.

Photo courtesy of Powhusku.

Of course, the nation’s capital doesn’t want to miss out on the spy game either. The highly successful International Spy Museum features the long history of espionage, both in fiction and real life. Tours of the museum involve minor spy stunts, such as interrogating suspects, sneaking past guards, and other activities. To tie in with the Daniel Craig films, the museum is also currently featuring an exhibit on Bond villains. Later this month, it will be exciting to see if Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser character will take his place among this legendary rogue’s gallery.

A more recent espionage-themed trend is the Escape the Room game, where rooms are designed as interactive puzzles. Spy hopefuls must find hidden objects and solve clues to break out of a secret base. What’s more, these events have been spreading, with Escape the Room locations installed in assorted American cities, including New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Though a number of the most famous spy missions use a lone operative, attendees are highly encouraged to bring friends and escape together.

The same could be said for all of these attractions. Opportunities to step into the loafers of James Bond or learn the sly tricks of spies with friends and family are more accessible than you may think. If you’ve ever wanted a taste of what it might be like to be a secret agent, then there’s no better time to try these experiences.

Photo courtesy of John Goode.