It seemed that wherever you went over the Christmas holidays, people had their noses buried in a copy of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. It is certainly one of those can't-put-it-down books and has become a topic of hot discussion around the world. Getaway followed in the footsteps of the characters to celebrate the one millionth sale of the book in Australia.
The author, 41-year-old American Dan Brown, was once an English teacher. His interest in code-breaking and covert government agencies is apparent in his novels. His father was an award-winning professor of mathematics and his mother a professional sacred musician, so his home environment was full of the paradoxical philosophies of science and religion. Da Vinci Code has skyrocketed Brown to international fame. His novel is a superb blend of fiction, fact, murder, romance and intrigue.
To whet your appetite if you haven't read the book: the thrilling tale begins with a phone call to Robert Langdon in his bed at Paris's legendary Ritz Hotel. He is summoned to the Louvre museum, where an elderly curator has been murdered. The mystery of a cryptic code left beside his body sparks off the ripping story.
Now join us on a journey to the locations used in the book, starting at the famous five-star Ritz Hotel.
César Ritz opened his hotel, once an 18th-century residence in one of Paris's most beautiful squares, in 1898 with huge dreams of luxury and opulence. It was home to Coco Chanel and is said to have provided inspiration to Proust. It has always provided a blend of joie de vivre and elegance, offering 133 rooms and 42 suites. It has recently undergone state-of-the-art renovations, but its old-world traditions have been retained and the service is exceptional, evoking European grandeur.
The story moves to the Louvre, a must-see for all visitors to Paris. In the story this is where curator Jacques Sauniere is found murdered in the Grand Gallery.
The first Louvre was built in the early 13th century as a fortress for defending the Seine 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 château 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 Grande Galerie, built along the Seine during Henry IV's reign.
In the 1980s an aggressive program of renovation and expansion commenced. Despite much protest and resentment against architect IM Pei's proposed glass pyramid, the new structure has proven to be well loved and a successful addition to the Louvre.
The museum has rooms of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, objets d'art, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, oriental antiques and a wonderful collection of artworks from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. It is fair to say the museum's two most popular residents are ladies Venus de Milo and the enigmatic Mona Lisa.
In the story, Robert Langdon has now linked up with Sophie Neveu and they flee the Louvre in a Smart car, a wonderful way to get around any large city. The tiny car, produced by DaimlerChrysler, carries just two people. It is easy to manoeuvre, as well as being fuel-efficient. They race down Boulevard Malesherbes and head to Gare Saint-Lazare to take a train to Lille. The station was built in the late 1880s for travellers to Paris’s Universal Expo in 1889 and its architecture is very grand. The Eiffel Tower was built for the same event.
Ritz Hotel rooms start at around $1030 a night.
Louvre entry is around $15. It is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am to 9.30pm and Thursday to Sunday from 9am to 6pm. It is closed on January 1, May 1, November 11 and December 25.
Smart car hire can be done through Avis. They cost around $450 for three days, the minimum rental period.
Globus has a 14-day Secrets of Da Vinci tour leaving Rome on July 3, 2005. It includes some meals, twin-share accommodation, transport and tours for $3999 per person. Its itinerary takes in Rome, Milan, the Lake Geneva area, Geneva, Paris, London and finishing in Edinburgh. Tours can be booked through Flight Centre.
British Airways flies daily to Europe.
Flight Centre has return economy airfares to Rome, Paris and London starting at $1646 per person, plus taxes.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
The Ritz Hotel
15 Place Vendome
75041 Paris 1 France
Ph: 33 1 43 16 30 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Louvre Museum
Rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris France
Ph: 01 40 20 53 17www.louvre.fr