AMERICAN novelist Mark Twain wrote that rambling in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland was incomparable to any opiate, legal or otherwise. Imagine the rush, then, to be booming an Aston Martin V8 Vantage S round the picturesque, vertiginous Alpine passes, past crystal-clear glacier lakes and verdant valleys where cow bells jangle for miles.
I’ve been let loose at the wheel of the £110,000 supercar for a long weekend. With accommodation at some particularly grand hotels, I’m feeling a bit like a celebrity. Or, rather, agent 007, for I’m following in the wheel-marks of the world’s most famous secret agent on motoring travel company Ultimate Drives’ specially packaged trip.
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr No. With the latest production in the series not due for release until October next year, you can create your own 007 narrative in the meantime, with some epic scenery as your backdrop.
I begin my first mission in Zurich on a sun-kissed Friday morning. The details of the drive are discussed at a briefing with my drive concierge, “Q”, over al fresco pastries and coffee at the Dolder Grand, one of Europe’s most famous hotels.
Elegantly perched in the wooded hills overlooking Lake Zurich, staying at the fairytale 19th Century Zürichberg castle – which completed a four-year, Sir Norman Foster-designed make-over in 2008 – is an unmatchable experience. But dining in one of the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurants and relaxing in the five-star spa would come later. I was desperate to slip into, and rev, the cobalt grey Aston Martin which was waiting for me on the hotel’s forecourt.
Launched this year, the V8 Vantage S is the brand new sporty Aston, features the latest seven-speed sequential gearbox and can nudge a top speed of 189mph. And it is one of the slickest vehicles on the planet – a point proven by the admiring glances it received from dozens of the Dolder’s extremely well-heeled guests.
Espresso in hand, Q talks me through my drive missions, mapped out and meticulously pre-programmed into a Sat Nav device. It allows me to negotiate the snake-like Klausen, Wassen and Susten passes before taking me deep into the Jungfrau region of the Alps. A cable car carries me to the top of the 2,970m Schilthorn Ice Station, the location for the cat-stroking Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s revolving baddie lair in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Itching to burn rubber like Bond, I ease down the Dolder’s winding entrance and though Zurich’s streets before roaring south into the Alps. The 4.7-litre V8 S surpasses every expectation, sparking an electrifying “pinch-me, is this real?” sensation.
On day two, after staying at the exquisite four-star Cambrian Hotel, situated in Adelboden in the heart of the Bernese Oberland, I rose early, after an outdoor spa, to take on the Grimsel and Furka passes, where Tilly Masterson’s Ford Mustang chases Bond in Goldfinger. It is also where the looming Hotel Belvedere is found. We drove through before heading south towards Italy and through the canton of Ticino where the staggering 220m Verzasca Dam that Bond bungee-jumps off in Goldeneye is located.
After spending Saturday night back at the Dolder Grand, I complete the weekend’s driving by tripping around Wollerau, an elegant town in Schwyz canton whose residents include Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer. We take in some wonderful lakes, including the one that laps Lucerne – the so-called City of Lights – reckoned to be the most idyllic in Switzerland.
Almost 600km later, having completed all the missions successfully, I begrudgingly hand the V8 keys back to Q at Zurich Flughafen before catching my Swiss Air flight back to London, and back to reality.
If you have an urge to splash some of your bonus, you could do much worse than treating yourself and your Bond girl to what will be one of the most exhilarating 72-hour breaks of your life.
Packages cost from €1,995. For more info, go to www.ultimatedrives.net