Operation: Union Jack

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This adventure starts with a late night flight leaving Chicago on a Friday, that landed in London Saturday morning.

Blake Powers, Agent 00280

This adventure starts with a late night flight leaving Chicago on a Friday, that landed in London Saturday morning. One could cut the tension with a knife during the silent taxi ride from the airport to the St. James area hotel, this OO’s excitement for the adventure to come growing with every passing moment. A solo trip to London. Five days to see as many James Bond related locations as possible… could it be done?!

I did not sleep much during the 7.5 hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe it was the excitement, or maybe the battle over the armrest. Either way I knew that upon landing at 10:30 in the morning I was planning on hitting the ground running, not letting a moment go to waste. Maneuvering through the airport and finding a taxi was quite easy, of course benefitting from the language being English even in a “foreign land”. 

The St. James area hotel was a bit of a drive from the airport, but I selected the location due to it being centrally located to the majority of Bond locations, as well as it having a continental breakfast included! Once I arrived at the hotel I checked in and dropped my bags off. From there I was ready to go, as I wore some casual 00 attire: soft cotton polo, khaki chino pants, chukka boots, and a light jacket to fit in with the rest of the city.

And So It Begins

First stop?! Or so I thought, MI6 headquarters. Of course, 00280 had to “report for duty”. While walking to the MI6 Headquarters from my hotel I accidentally came across MI5, the first surprise of the trip! The best location to truly get a look at the MI6 headquarters is from across the river or the bridge next to it, from the front entrance side it is mostly gates. However, if you cross the river to the front you will be able to walk passed Hampton House on your walk towards Lazenby’s Lamp Post. As you walk down the river walk one gets a great view of the Westminster Palace and Big Ben. 

If you continue to follow the river walk you come across Lazenby’s Lamp Post. There are MANY tourists here taking their photos of Big Ben in the background, but not the same picture that us 00’s are after. The trickiest part if you are adventuring solo, aside from finding someone that looks capable and trustworthy to snap a good photo of you, is to find someone that speaks the same language as you. I found having Lazenby’s picture at the ready to show my photographer what I was attempting to achieve came in handy!

A quick walk to the to the other side of the road, one will find a door as you get to the start of Westminster Bridge. This door is the “secret entrance” Brosnan uses to enter MI6 in Die Another Day.  If you continue across Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben, you’ll be walking across the bridge opposite to how Craig walks at the end of Spectre. 

Once you get to the other side of the bridge, this is where things get interesting. To the untrained eye, one might think you are just simply a tourist taking in all of the beautiful sites and historical buildings, but 00’s know better. 00’s know these buildings for the additional stories they tell: HM Treasury, Westminster Tube Station staircase, Old War Office, Malaysia House, Buckingham Palace, Reform Club, Somerset House, and Embankment Station to name a few!

In this area along Whitehall Ct. you’ll find the Ministry of Defense. This street and building most familiar to 00’s for Bond’s return to London in No Time To Die, as he parks the Aston Martin, walks down the road and directly into the Ministry of Defence building. I did not have an Aston Martin for my visit to Whitehall Ct. but I was assisted by a perfectly placed construction barrier to hold my phone and give me a timeless memory walking in the footsteps of Bond!

Taking in More Sights

A short walk and a tube ride to the eastside of London, Canary Wharf to be exact. This day’s agenda was filled with several London Bond locations, regular London site seeing, and some places portrayed as other countries in Bond films… without having to clear customs another time to get there! 

Starting with the O2 Dome, the future home of the Q the Music show upcoming in October 2023. Formerly known as the Millennium Dome, if you look close enough you might be able to see Bond falling on the roof. The Virgin Active gym on the other side of Canary Wharf is the actual location of the swimming pool we see Bond swim in while in Shanghai in Skyfall. If you time this visit right, they might allow you to check out the pool. If you time it poorly, there might be an aerobics class in progress. 

Following the river walk westbound will guide you to the Tobacco Dock and Ornamental Canal, which is a beautiful walk to enjoy, and is the setting for part of the boat chase in The World Is Not Enough.

When you follow the canal to its end you will only be a few blocks away from Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and London Bridge, not Bond related locations, but must see’s nonetheless! 

A few blocks up the hill, and you will find yourself at Trinity Square. The setting for the iconic run through London in Skyfall as Bond runs into save M from Silva. The building Bond runs into is actually a hotel and not a government building. 

If you walk back towards the river you get to Millennium bridge, which is also very close to Castle Baynard Tunnel seen in Spectre. 

Walking north from here a 00 will recognize other Bond locations such as: the College of Arms, Drapers hall ( the street is closed to the public), and the Barbican Centre. 

To cap the day off, a walk to Broadgate Tower, which is another London location dubbed as Bond in Shanghai, remembered for the iconic tower fight scene between Bond and Patrice!

Shopping like Bond

What’s a Bond adventure without some luxury Bond brands? 

The day started with a simple walk to the National Art Gallery where Bond meets with Q in Skyfall. It wasn’t exactly Christmas, but it was still an amazing visit for any Bond fan even if you are not too fond of artwork. 

Throughout the gallery are priceless and timeless pieces of artwork displaying hundreds and hundreds of years of history. Personally, I am not a huge fan of artwork but was still quite enamored with the talent shown in those paintings. The gallery has done some rearranging of artwork recently but in room 34, one can find The Fighting Temeraire the “bloody big ship”, in a different location from what is seen in the film. The two paintings seen behind Bond and the bench he sat on were in different locations as well but still easy to identify once I went looking. 

From the gallery it was time to do some shopping! A short walk led me to Picadilly Circus and Burlington Arcade. One suggestion if you’re going to be shopping Bond brands is to have good discipline not to spend your life spending on Bond’s full wardrobe!

Several noteable Bond brands with shops in a few block radius are: Bollinger, Orelebar Brown, N. Peal, Turnball & Asser, Lock & Hatter Co. and Sotheby’s auction house, well known to 00’s for the role it plays in Octopussy. For the Kingsman film fans, Huntsman Tailor shop is near by as well and certainly worth a visit! And lastly but certainly not least, for the Mason & Sons fans, The Ocularium, which is a glasses shop is only a few blocks away as well!

Drink before dinner: Very Strong, and Very Large

As you walk down the street to Duke’s Hotel (Duke’s Bar is inside), a Bond fan might get a surreal feeling, the entrance appears like something out of a movie, the red brick front, iconic signage and Union Jack flying proudly above the door. Unless you’re a guest at the hotel your best bet at getting a table is to pull a Fleming and have a drink before dinner. As Fleming said, he liked to have one drink before dinner, very cold, very strong, and very large. Well if that isn’t a Vesper martini served at Duke’s I don’t know what is! 

I arrived at 4 in the afternoon and received the last remaining open table. I myself am not normally a martini drinker, they tend to be too strong and not smooth enough for my enjoyment. However, I flew all the way to London, to try a Vesper martini from Duke’s! And I can honestly say, the way it was prepared, how chilled it was, made it quick delicious. About half way through I actually caught myself that I should probably sip it a little slower with my intentions of walking to dinner later. 

For those that have already had a Vesper and are interested in something different, Duke’s offers two other Bond related martini’s a Tiger Tanaka and a Le Chiffe. They also offer an assortment of wines, champagnes, and other beverages for your personal liking.

BOND-ing

The last full day was equally as eventful as the rest of the trip. In the morning there was a 00 meet up! 0093 and I coordinated for coffee, Very Black of course. We were able to have an enjoyable meeting, while walking through several additional hidden Bond gems, such as the Hildebrandt Safe House from Spectre. 

After the 00 meeting it was back to business on the location hunt. Another quick tube ride, one train swap got me to the Hammersmith Bridge, recognized for M and Bond’s meeting in No Time To Die. Here, if you wait long enough you will find a nice local resident willing to take a picture of you with the bridge in the background. They enjoyed being reminded that they did in fact film a Bond scene at that exact location, and were nice enough to relay to me that the pub right next to the Bond location was in the film Bohemian Rhapsody! ( Rutland Arms to be exact ). I would recommend them for both food and drinks!

Another short tube ride to Kings Cross Station, portrayed as a train station in St. Petersburg in Goldeneye. Fun fact, it is also the station seen in Harry Potter, the iconic Platform 9 ¾ to the Hogwarts train!

The location hunting ended at Regent’s Park. Not seen in any Bond films, but still iconic for the literary Bond fans for several reasons. In Fleming’s Bond novels it is often mentioned that the MI6 offices had a view of Regent’s Park. The rose garden within Regent’s Park was also mentioned specifically in You Only Live Twice. I’ll admit, not the most exciting place to visit in the middle of April, as the roses had not blossomed. But still a beautiful park nonetheless! 

Operation Union Jack by the Numbers

005 days, 62 miles walked, 56 Bond specific locations visited, 1 great Bond Community meet up, and countless memories to last a lifetime!

Last modified: 3 January 2024