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The Spy Who Loved Me

He arrived in Sardinia by boat, having survived several assassination attempts. The agency found him a white Lotus Espirit to drive around in.

I arrive in Sardinia on British Airways flight 608, having survived a two hour scrum at Heathrow. The rental agency gives me the last remaining car on their lot, a blue Hyundai barely larger than a golf cart. My luggage arrives two days later.

He was Roger Moore, and Sardinia was the location for some of the most iconic scenes in the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Having collected his Lotus Espirit, Bond checks in to the Hotel Cala di Volpe with his love interest, the Soviet Triple X spy Olga Asmovo.

I too arrive at the Hotel Cala di Volpe. There are no Russians in sight. The oligarchs have left. The only visible Russian presence is Irena Abramovich’s divorce settlement which occupies a healthy chunk of real estate across the water from the hotel.

The main restaurant at the hotel offers a three course lunch for €200 per person. It’s served buffet style. For that kind of money I expect a personal butler. The view is lovely. The waiters are surly. The food and drink are decent, but expensive. A common or garden Bellini cost €35. Bond was obviously on expenses.

Costa Smerelda, the Emerald Coast of Sardinia was “discovered” by the Agha Khan in 1960. With a group of his wealthy friends he bought up a swathe of land, arranged for water and power supplies, and created a playground for the glamorous. Back then you could actually do something useful as a religious leader. When he died 72 virgins of the black eyed-kind were waiting for him upstairs.

Sardinia has a number of ancient historical sites, but they arebarely worth the visit unless you are an archeology buff. You travel for hours in 40 degree heat (40 celsius – about 100 Fahrenheit) and arrive at a pile of rocks or a bat infested cave. Once the obligatory photographs are taken there is very little to do. There were few tourists, most of whom preferred to hang by the coast looking glamorous.

There’s wealth on display, even if the Russians are missing. The Billionaire Club and A feature lots of glamorous looking “influencers”. There are no billionaires at the Billionaire Club, just people who wish they were, and are willing to pay €10K for a table to breathe what they believe to be rarified air. I watched a group of overgrown American frat boys celebrating a night out away from their wives. A waitress was sent to fetch a nebudezzar of champagne. It was warm, but the boys didn’t care. They were keen to influence a group of expensive looking women who had the bored look of influencers who were used to better. “Wow, you bought us champagne. Where’s the private jet boys? And do you actually own any yachts or do you rent everything by the hour? God, I miss the Russians.”

But there is a reason why the Agha Khan dropped anchor here. The coastline is beautiful. Away from Porto Cervo, with its glamorous yachts and branded boutiques there are a myriad little coves and beaches to explore, all of them achingly beautiful.

We discovered the divine little port of Rafael (Porto Rafael) in an exclusive enclave along the emerald coast. There’s a tiny 6 room boutique hotel, a couple of restaurants and some boutiques. Nothing is cheap, but it has a marvellously laid back chic.

Most of the better restaurants are closed for lunch (it’s too hot). We wondered through San Pantaleo where much of street scenes and car chases in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me was shot. The square is lovely – and buzzing at 11pm with even a little travelling circus/gymnast/clown act going on. In the corner of the square the chicest restaurant appears to be the Ristorante Giagoni. We couldn’t score a table on the square, eating in the cute back garden instead. The food was exceptional – I had a pigeon starter and a anchovy risotto. The risotto was made with Carnaroli rice – considered to be the caviar of risotto rices.

This place is beautiful. Next time I will come by boat.

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