Only moments after entering the unexpectedly simple, white stucco
house I encountered the desk. Lacking the clutter of most hectic
workplaces, the handsome old writing table had a raffia blotter,
reproduced newspaper clippings from the 1950s and a book, “How to
Write a Best Seller.”
It was the kind of desk that one might happily discover at a garage
sale. But for anyone with more than a passing interest in
characters with names like Blofeld and Miss Moneypenny, this
furniture serves as a kind of Holy Grail. It was here and at a
smaller built-in desk in the master bedroom that Ian Fleming sat
down in 1952 and wrote “Casino Royale,” the first of 13 books
featuring a hero named after an obscure ornithologist, James Bond.
Located about 10 miles east of Ocho Rios, the Fleming House isn’t
part of a dusty museum. Instead, Goldeneye as the estate was named
now lives as a discrete inn for well-healed explorers seeking a
slice of both Jamaica’s history and its local culture. And a bit of
secret agent panache.
Fleming owned the 15-acre property from 1946 until his death in
1964, writing all of the 007 books here. Chris Blackwell bought
Goldeneye in 1977 and initially used it as a place for entertaining
friends. In 1997, Goldeneye was folded into the Island Outpost
collection of unique hotels (now four in Jamaica, one in the
Bahamas), and additional guest cottages were built.
For the three-bedroom Fleming House a pool was added, plus outdoor
bathrooms with claw- foot tubs and big-headed rain showers. The
garage was converted into a media room with a futon mattress large
enough for 12. The four newer units range one to three bedrooms,
and each of the bedrooms named after Bond girls is disconnected
from the others in its cluster, creating a hamlet of independent
wood cottages that sits along the sea. Privacy is created with
thick tropical vegetation and bamboo fences, and outdoor showers
adjoin most of the bedrooms.
Inside, the look is rustic chic, with batik and other Asian
accents. The overall design is courtesy of Ann Hodges, probably the
island’s most influential architect, and she also has a taste for
colorful patinas on wood, jalousie shutters, creaking floorboards
and hovering mosquito nets. The bedrooms each have their own
minibars, CD and DVD players. (A diverse library is at the hotel’s
front desk.) Plus each of the villas has a kitchen guests can
arrange for meals to be served at their villa and a media room with
plasma screen TV.
But Goldeneye is not about being obviously entertained, especially
in the evening. There’s no live band or bar scene not even a shop
to invest in logo merchandise. Instead, Goldeneye seems to be
designed to create a space for guests to entertain themselves,
effortlessly. So, comfortable chairs are positioned to maximize
sunset views, and hundreds of candles illuminate the walkways and
bedrooms, setting a highly seductive mood.
Walking the grounds at any time of day I almost always felt like I
had the property to myself (two of the other four units were
occupied during my two-night visit) staff seemed to come and go
invisibly, allowing me to admire the gardens of African tulip and
cannonball trees. It was only at the dining gazebo where I
interacted with the other guests, which included a vacationing
family and a honeymooning couple.
Dining offers an array of Jamaican specialties, dressed up modestly
for visitors. It’s not flashy cuisine, but it’s satisfying and most
of it locally sourced.
Pretty much any of the services one would expect at a high-end
resort were available. Massage? How about a treatment on the dock
fronting my room. Watersports? A fast-paced Jet-Ski excursion down
the coast was put together on a few minutes’ notice. Sightseeing? I
could travel to privately owned Laughing Waters, the beach where
Ursula Andress made her unforgettable entrance in “Dr. No,” or stop
by Noel Coward’s house Firefly, also owned by Blackwell.
That celebrity cache definitely has its hooks into Goldeneye.
Fleming’s original callers included Elizabeth Taylor and Errol
Flynn; more recent lodgers include Martha Stewart, Johnny Depp and
Harrison Ford. The latter I know because guests are invited to make
a donation to the Island Sport Trust and plant a tree their names
and many others are on plaques at the base of the trees, sprinkled
throughout the property.
Although bedrooms are air conditioned, one of Fleming’s touches in
the original house was distinctly Jamaican: Jalousie shutters on
the windows, allowing the breeze to flow through. It’s said Fleming
would close them when writing, so as not to be distracted by the
That’s understandable. But I didn’t have a spy novel to write, and
as a temporary guest, I loved allowing the outside in.
Rates for two start at $750 low season, $950 high (Dec. 19-Apr.18)
for the one-bedroom villa, including all meals and drinks, taxes
and service charges. The three-bedroom Fleming House is $2,800 low
season, $3,800 high season.