Saturday, 1 August 2015

On the trail of Goldfinger - Mâcon

Ian Fleming's Goldfinger contains one of the most memorable road trips in fiction - James Bond's pursuit of Auric Goldfinger through France and into Switzerland, Bond in an Aston Martin DBIII, Goldfinger in a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

It's a journey I've fancied doing myself, preferably in an Aston Martin, but have not had the opportunity. While planning a drive to the south of France for a family holiday, however, I was glad to discover that my route intersected Bond's route at Mâcon, giving me the chance to experience Fleming's great literary journey at one place. Alas, I could not visit Mâcon in an Aston Martin, but at least my Vauxhall Corsa was silver (or, rather, battleship grey, as I try to convince myself).

James Bond approaches Mâcon from the west, and follows Goldfinger on Rue Rambuteau, a major thoroughfare that runs east-west through the city. I came in from the north, exiting the A6 autoroute to enter the city on the E62, which runs alongside the river Saône. I therefore missed Rue Rambuteau, but picked up Bond's route at the old bridge on the west bank of river. Now hot on the heels of Bond and Goldfinger, I crossed the bridge over the river and entered the suburb of St-Laurent-sur-Saône.
View over the bridge from St Laurent

Fleming mentions a butcher's shop with a golden head of a calf hanging over the pavement. I didn't see this (if it indeed existed), and in any case had stopped earlier at a supermarket on the outskirts of Mâcon for the same items. I confess I saved the wine for later; I don't have Bond's ability to consume large quantities of alcohol and stay sober enough to drive.
My Bondian lunch

I left the trail of Bond and Goldfinger at this point. They continue east on the road out of St-Laurent-sur-Saône towards Bourg-en-Bresse and ultimately Geneva. I, on the other hand, headed back over the river and then south to Lyon.
Bond's route out of St Laurent

That wasn't the end of my Bondian experience, however. Going out to for dinner in Lyon, I noticed quenelles de brochet, a mousse-like dumpling of pike, on the menu of a restaurant near the station. Before reaching Mâcon, Bond skirts around Orleans, and as he does so, daydreams about eating quenelles de brochet. He doesn't get the chance, but I took the opportunity to eat the dish on his behalf.

That was the end of my Bondian trail. As short as it was, it demonstrated once again that Ian Fleming wrote with authority about the places Bond visits, and with descriptions based presumably on first-hand knowledge.

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