Monday 23 March 2020

Le Touquet: The final model for Royale-les-Eaux

Back in 2015, I explored the possible inspirations for the fictional seaside resort of Royale-les-Eaux, introduced in the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale (1953) and revisited in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963). I noted that the location had shifted between novels, being first on the Côte Picarde on the south side of the Somme estuary before moving north to the Côte d'Opale in Pas-de-Calais.

A trip last year to explore the French locations in Goldfinger (1959) took me first to Le Touquet, from where James Bond begins his pursuit of the gold-obsessed villain. The idea that Royale-les-Eaux is based, at least in part, on Le Touquet is not new. Jon Gilbert, for example, suggests as much in his 2012 volume, Ian Fleming: The Bibliography. However, a few days on Le Touquet's beach brought home to me just how closely some aspects of the fictional town, as described in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, were modelled on the French resort. 

Take the swimming pool mentioned by Ian Fleming in the opening chapter of the novel: 'Music, one of those lilting accordion waltzes, blared from the loudspeakers around the Olympic-sized piscine.' Le Touquet's beach-side piscine was certainly large enough to qualify as 'Olympic-sized' and could well have been what Fleming (a frequent visitor to the resort) had in mind as he wrote those words. 

The swimming pool, Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, in 1965

Ian Fleming then descibes three childrens' play areas on the beach of Royale-les-Eaux: Joie de Vivre, Helio and Azur. Today, there are six children's play areas on Paris-Plage, among them Joie de Vivre and Helio Plage. Whether these existed in Fleming's day, I can't be certain, but clearly Fleming had not conjured up the names purely from his own imagination.

Then there is the length of the promenade at Royale-les-Eaux: a full five miles, which is pretty much the length of the beach of Le Touquet-Paris Plage. 

While Ian Fleming did not base Royale-les-Eaux entirely on Le Touquet (Trouville and Forges-les-Eaux, I think, were equally important sources of inspiration), the descriptions of the fictional town, in its later incarnation, owed much to the resort. If you were to look at images of Le Touquet in the 1960s, then you could well be looking at how Ian Fleming pictured his creation and the opening scenes of one his finest novels.     

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