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Da Vinci Code

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Dan Brown's novel Da Vinci Code hit the best-seller list when it was released and just stayed there. It has sold over 40 million copies and has been translated into forty-four languages. The story has become a topic of hot discussion and the follow-up movie, starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and directed by Ron Howard, is about to be released. Getaway decided to re-cap the Da Vinci story we showed in 2005 and we invite you to join us on a journey of the locations.

The thrilling tale begins with a phone call to Robert Langdon at Paris' Hotel Ritz. He is summoned to the Louvre Museum where an elderly curator has been murdered, and the mystery of a cryptic code left beside his body.

Robert learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion, an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Once an 18th century residence in one of the mot beautiful squares in Paris, César Ritz opened his hotel in 1898 with dream of luxury and opulence. The 133 rooms and 42 suites offer old-world traditions, exceptional service and European grandeur.

The story moves to the Louvre Museum where curator Jacques Saunière is found murdered. He has sacrificed his life to protect the Priory's most sacred trust — the location of a vastly important religious relic which has been hidden for centuries.

The first Louvre was built in the early 13th century as a fortress while defending Paris from invading Normans and English. It was embellished and enlarged in the 14th century and sacrificed in the 16th century to make room for a Renaissance structure. The west wing and part of the south wing, decorated with sculptures by Jean Goujon, were the only parts completed.

Catherine de Médici built a little chateau in a neighbouring field in 1564 and named it The Tuileries. A grandiose royal residence followed, created by joining The Louvre and the Palais des Tuileries by a series of buildings. The most important is the Grand Galerie which was built along the Seine during Henry IV's reign.

Despite much protest and resentment, architect IM Pei's glass pyramid was built in the 1980s. It has become a well-loved and successful addition to The Louvre which houses some of the world's most precious works of art.

Robert Langdon has linked up with Sophie Neveu, granddaughter of Sauniere and noted cryptographer. They flee The Louvre in a Smart Car, ending up at Gare Saint-Lazare where they board a train for Lille. That station and the Eiffel Tower were built in the late 1880s for Paris's 1889 Universal Expo.

Robert and Sophie drive through the 865 hectares of woods on Paris's western edge, a 19th century park fashionable with walkers, cyclists and horse riders. They head to the Depository Bank of Zurich at 24 rue Haxo. (The author has used some poetic licence here — there is such a street, but there is no 24 and no bank.)

Enter Silas, the albino monk and Opus Dei devotee. Saunière had revealed to him at gunpoint that the crucial keystone was buried at the church beneath an obelisk lying along the Rose Line.

Erection of the church began in 1646, and it took 134 years to complete. Its interior is in Jesuit style, and its facade is classical Italian. The interior is 121 metres long, 57 metres wide and 30 metres high. It has fresco festooned walls, many painted by Delacroix, two giant seashells used as holy water vessels and Europe's largest organ. A metal strip known as The Rose Line marks zero-longitude, used to calculate world time. It passed through Paris before being moved to Greenwich.

Home of Grail expert, Sir Leigh Teabing, the chateau is 30 minutes from Paris, close to Chateau Versailles. It was built in 1668 for the Count of Aufflay on 97 hectares in the Morvan Hills.

It has eighteen guest rooms and is furnished in keeping within its period and design. There are fine collectibles, antique furniture, tapestries and works of art to admire. Meals are prepared in a 16th century kitchen and served by candlelight in a grand dining room. (The Chateau opens its doors to overnight guests.)

Once again on the run, Robert and Sophie flee across the Channel and land at Biggin Hill Airport on London's outskirts and head to Fleet Street.

Once home to the British print media, Fleet Street is still the generic term used to describe the press. It follows the course of The Fleet, one of London's ghost rivers, which still flows and is a sanctioned section of London's sewer system.

Robert and Sophie's trail took them to Temple Church, a house of worship famed for its rare circular nave. It was built in the 12th century by the Knights Templar, an order of crusading monks. The Red Knights, who wore red crosses, held secret initiation rites in the crypt.

It was consecrated in 1185 by the patriarch of Jerusalem, designed to recall the holiest place of the Crusaders' world, the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

King's College, one of the oldest and largest colleges of the University of London, has a vast religious research library. Robert and Sophie went there to seek information on a knight's tomb. London has thousands of such tombs, and in their efforts to search for the grail, Robert and Sophie realised they needed to see the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton.

This is the scene for a nefarious meeting between The Teacher and Rémy Legaludec. The Teacher is a shadowy figure who drives the plot of the story. He knows about the plight of Opus Dei as well as the identities of the four leaders of the Priory of Sion, who in turn know the location of the keystone. Remy is manservant and chauffeur to Sir Leigh, but is secretly working for The Teacher.

St James's is one of London's Royal Parks, bordered by Buckingham Palace, St James and Westminster Palaces. Its lake has two islands — Duck and West — and is one of the city's most beautiful parks.

St James's Park, Hyde Park, Green Park and Kensington Gardens form an unbroken line of greenery stretching almost five kilometres from the Houses of Parliament to Olympia.

One of the most sacred, symbolic and visited churches in England, this beautiful building is a fine example of early English Gothic architecture. It is full of elaborate tombs of royalty, statesmen, poets, scientists, warriors and musicians and has many small chapels.

The 13th to 16th century architectural masterpiece has been the venue for coronations and many other royal occasions.

With some help from Sir Isaac Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey, Robert broke the second cryptex code, which meant he and Sophie's next destination was Scotland.

Roslin is a pretty little miners' village in Edinburgh. It has rows of stone-built terraced cottages and is famous for the Rosslyn Chapel, conceived in the 15th century and dedicated to St Matthew in 1446. It has attracted attention for centuries because of its links to the shadowy Knights Templar, the supposed protectors of the Holy Grail. Many believe it is buried there.

Radar has revealed the presence of a massive subterranean chamber, much larger than the above-ground chapel, but with no obvious entrance or exit. Archaeologists wanted to blast through the bedrock, but the Rosslyn Trust put a stop to any excavation.

This is as far as we will go with the story so as not to spoil the end if you've not read the book and are waiting for the film to be released. There's no doubt it's intriguing and thought-provoking, and you can't help but wonder if there will ever be a solution.


Paris, London and Edinburgh.


Chateau Villette five night packages start at around $6490 per person. The entire chateau can be rented from around $10,800 a day.

Da Vinci Tours in London are around $125 per person based on four people. They are three hours in duration.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

For further information

Chateau Villette
Ph: 0011 415 435 1600
Fax: 0011 415 383 1258

Da Vinci Tours in London
Ph: 0011 44 20 7734 8734

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