I love watching James Bond movies on a wet winter afternoon. The exotic locations always make me feel warmer while the exciting action and stupendous stunts keep me engaged. They are also so British, as are the actors who play Bond, all except the Australian, George Lazenby, who featured in just one film – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I’m surprised to learn that many of the scenes were shot in Portugal and I find myself on location with Bond.
Cascais was once a fishing village but is now a popular holiday resort due to its proximity with the capital city. I stop briefly to enjoy the sea vies and stumble upon an interesting 19th century house which is now open to the public and, even better, free entry. There are some interesting paintings and pieces of furniture, including a large red organ. The room which houses it was specially adapted so it would fit.
Just along the coast is the big brash resort of Estoril with a grand casino and several golf courses. In 1941 Ian Fleming, like many other intelligence officers (spies), was stationed here. The casino is said to have inspired his novel “Casino Royal” and the Palacio Hotel nearby featured in the 1969 film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, as well as accommodating the cast and crew during filming.
The opening sequence of the film was shot on the road between Cabo da Roca and Guincho Beach and it’s at Guincho that Bond dives into the sea to rescue Tracy. It’s a beautiful windswept place with high dunes which can be surveyed in greater detail from a boardwalk path. The coast road is dotted with expensive seafood restaurants and immense car parks which remain empty at this time of year. Cabo da Roca would also be a rather desolate place if it were not for the coachloads of tourists who arrive to see the most westerly point in Europe. The staff of the tourist office tell me that the Asian visitors are often reduced to tears if they are unable to get the €11 certificate which proves they have been there.
Although Lisbon itself doesn’t feature in the film, the iconic red suspension bridge which spans the Tagus River does. Bond, having been captured and restrained by two thugs, is driven across the bridge.
A few days later, I find myself driving along the winding mountain road of the Serra de Arrabida which features in the final scene of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. The scenery passes easily for a Mediterranean landscape with pine-clad slopes dropping off into the sea. I pass by the now-empty Franciscan Convent of Arrabida, and stop at a spot which offers views up to the green mountains, down to the sandy beaches and across to the Troia Peninsula. This is a rather unique landmark which clearly identifies the location where newlywed Tracy dies in the arms of Bond, having been shot by the villainous Blofeld. Although I don’t think the high rise hotels and apartments existed in 1969!