After a few days of getting pampered and rejuvenated in the Karlovy Vary region for Part One of our James Bond European Honeymoon adventure, it was time for Winston and me to move on to our next destination.
Winston and I decided to drive to the big city, Prague, to continue on our James Bond-themed adventure. A large percentage of foreign films are shot right here in Prague’s Film studios. Even in Casino Royale, most of the scenes that were supposed to be shot in Miami or elsewhere were shot right here in Prague.
Prague may be one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited in Europe and a lot of that was due to luck. Fortunately for Prague, it was one of the few cities in Europe spared from the bombings in World War II and because of that fact you can see centuries of different architectural styles as you scan the skyline. The most dominant feature of the city is Prague Castle, built in the 9th century, high on a hill towering over the city. It is the largest ancient castle in the world and at its center is a 14th-century Gothic church that is straight out of a fairytale. Everything has a rich history and you never know where the narrow, cobblestone streets will take you.
There are a series of 800-year-old bridges that cross the Vltava River and connect the different sides of the city to one another and there is even a section where it reminds you of Venice Italy, with narrow canals and quaint waterfront bistros.
The rooftop of the Aria Hotel is by far one of the best views in all of Prague. With almost 360 views of the city below, we decided to sip on champagne at Coda restaurant and do one of our James Bond fashion shoots here. Many scenes from James Bond were filmed across the city of Prague, so we had a guide walk us around to each of the locations. What was supposed to be the Venice Hotel in the movie, was actually the Prague National Museum and the Body Worlds exhibit scene in Miami was actually the Ministry of Transport Building here. The monument on Vitkov Hill and the tank are both statues from these locations, so it was fun to get a walking history tour of the city and still be visiting scenes from our favorite movie as well.
Prague’s version of the Sistine Chapel can be found at the famous Strahov Monastery. In the movie Casino Royale, it served as an interior committee room for London’s Parliament, but in real life, it is one of the most valuable and best preserved historical libraries in the world housing priceless books dating as far back as the 9th century. In 1794, Anton Maulbertsh painted the library ceiling with a theme “Journey of mankind to wisdom” giving it the feeling of walking into a sacred hall. It is hard to explain in words the beauty and experience of stepping foot in this library. NO ONE gets permission to actually walk inside this room, ever, except for Daniel Craig… and apparently Winston and I. Again, being Bond definitely has its perks!
Here in Prague, you can’t judge a building by its door, because behind it could be the most beautiful courtyard and landscaped garden you have ever seen. It is deceiving, but what gives Prague its mystery and charm and it was one of the reasons we loved our Hotel Aria. This contemporary boutique hotel (in a former theater) houses a secret. If you take an elevator to the bottom floor, guests can step outside into an 18th century Baroque garden called Vrtbovská Zahrada. The experience of stepping into the garden was sort of like falling through the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland because it is just so surreal and beautiful on the other side. Aria Hotel is the only hotel that has access to these gardens and it is hard to believe that such a vast, landscaped, quiet and serene place can exist right in the heart of the city!
Just a short 12-minute walk from Hotel Aria is their sister boutique hotel, The Golden Well, which also boasts a hidden elevator secret of their own. They, too, have a spectacular view of the city from their rooftop, but this hotel has an even bigger secret. It used to belong to the Roman Emperor and Bohemian King Rudolph II and was a royal residence in the 16th century. The secret passageway from the house to inside the castle walls above can now be accessed by the guest elevator inside of the Golden Well. Yep, one second you are in the lobby and then the elevator doors open up and you are inside of the castle walls. The magic of this city is never ending!
Just as nothing is as it seems here in Prague, Winston and I discovered that the main Casino scene filmed in the movie Casino Royale was actually the famous Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco! So it looked like Winston and I had to jump on a jet plane to the South of France to continue our adventure!
Monaco is such a strange place. It is its own country, like the Vatican, yet could fit entirely inside of Central Park in NYC. For being the second smallest country in the world, it manages much of the world’s wealth, and everywhere you look there are mega yachts worth over 100 million dollars and Lamborghinis and Ferraris zooming past you. You can never be too dressed up here, so it was the perfect place to slip on a tux and gown to go out for the night at the world-famous Café de Paris and the Monte Carlo Casino. I was wearing a gold sequined gown, so I wanted the casino lights to sparkle off of it and the deep blue of the twilight sky to contrast with it, so we waited until the perfect window of time to shoot just before dinner. I feel like the whole trip was in preparation for this shot because let’s be honest, James Bond always seem to be his best in a tux.
Although we looked fabulous, security wouldn’t let us use a tripod here, so we had to enlist some tourists to help us take this shot. We chose the front of the casino since all of the luxury cars get lined up by the valet here. Monaco definitely is a rich man’s playground and we felt like celebrities for the night. Everyone was wondering who we were and afterward we celebrated with some martinis and gambling of course.
How do you end a fabulous James Bond-themed adventure? In the spirit of spontaneity, Winston and I had to ask ourselves, “What would Bond Do? The movie Casino Royale ended in Italy, so we thought we should do the same. Within an hour we had rented a car and were cruising along the Cote D’Azur from Monaco to the Italian Riviera. Not knowing our final destination, we ended up in Portofino, a tiny fishing village on the Italian Riviera coastline near Cinque Terre.
The windy, coastal road to get there went through quaint village after quaint village with pastel-colored houses, high-end boutiques and seafood restaurants overlooking the harbor lined with everything from fishing boats to super-yachts. We wanted to get the best view of the harbor which involved hiking up a shaded path leading from the Piazzetta to Castello Brown, a 16th-century fortress high on the rocky cliffs. Up here was where we found panoramic views of the town and the Ligurian Sea. This would be the final backdrop for our James Bond, Casino Royale-themed adventure across Europe, and quite possibly one of my favorites.
I don’t know what it is about Italy, but the atmosphere is so laid back and romantic. We spent our days lounging in our rooftop pool, indulging on fine wine and fresh seafood, and then strolling hand in hand through the villages along the water reminiscing about our journey. There were floating docks you could swim out to and get an even more beautiful view from the water of the many castle ruins and magnificent Italian villas. We truly lived the James Bond experience on this trip from the outfits to the locations, to the lifestyle and of course, the romance. What a spontaneous adventure it was and as we lazily watched the boats sail by, we started brainstorming what our next sexy adventure would be. Which movie would we pick next?