During their drive through France to Switzerland in the novel of Goldfinger (1959), both James Bond and Auric Goldfinger stop overnight in Orléans. Goldfinger stays at the Arcades, a luxury hotel overlooking the Loire, but if Goldfinger had not stayed there, Bond supposes that it would have been the Moderne.
The Moderne still exists but is now the Best Western Hotel d’Arc. It is located at the north end of Rue République, a principal avenue for shoppers. The entrance is discreet, but its 40-odd rooms extend above several retail units. Looking up from the street, the words ‘Hotel Moderne’ can still be made out above the stone arch that frames the external façade of the upper floors and gives today’s hotel its name.
In the 1950s, the hotel’s original name would have seemed entirely justified, as its rooms boasted a comprehensive range of mod-cons: central heating, a phone with an external line, a bathroom and lavatory, a private shower, and a bidet with running water.
The Moderne was classed by the Michelin Guide as a good, but average hotel, one step below the Arcades. The best rooms cost 1800 francs, representing something in the economy class for Goldfinger. Today, it is a four-star hotel, and during my road-trip during the summer retracing Bond’s route, I treated myself to a night at the hotel (the Arcades having long closed down) to sample the Goldfinger lifestyle.
While the bedrooms have been modernised – the bathrooms are state-of-the-art and there is no sign of the bidet with running water – much of the hotel retains its original features. With its Art-deco appearance, the lobby is straight out of an Agatha Christie film. The old-fashioned cage elevator that runs up and down the spine of the spiral staircase, which to Bond fans will inevitably bring to mind the brutal ‘cage fight’ between James Bond and Peter Franks in the film of Diamonds Are Forever, charmingly displays its original operational instructions.
Guests, take note, however: just like in 1958, the hotel has no restaurant, although a selection of ‘meal-in-a-jar’ dinners is available with room service; at the time of writing, options included pavé de saumon, blanquette de volaille and tomate farcie.
Speaking of dinner, a question remains about where Goldfinger eats. His hotel, the Arcades, had no restaurant. If Bond is right about Goldfinger’s tastes – he imagines that Goldfinger would be dining on fillet of sole and roast chicken – then Goldfinger, presumably climbing back into the Rolls to look elsewhere for his dinner, might have pulled up outside the Jeanne d’Arc on Place du Martroi. This restaurant was given a three-fork-and-spoon rating (very comfortable) by Michelin and its specialities were coq au vin and fillets of sole.
The restaurant has long gone, but a brasserie, Le Grand Martroi, sits in its place. There is, however, no place for the old specialities on its varied menu.