Fodor's Guide to The Da Vinci Code

Summer 2006 CSANews Issue 59  |  Posted date : May 28, 2007.Back to list

First there was The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's runaway best seller, a publishing phenomenon; then, the court case in which Brown was finally acquitted of plagiarism. Now, the blockbuster movie starring Tom Hanks and to add to the hype, Fodor's (the travel folks) have produced a fully illustrated companion guide to The Da Vinci Code.

Would you believe it? A travel guide to a popular novel.

This guide book is a fascinating, irreverent, historical tour of Paris, Rome and London. We dash around Europe following clues with symbology scholar Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, his cryptologist sidekick. Their quest is to unravel a centuries-old religious cover-up that, theoretically, could shatter some basic tenets of Christianity. Go to page 74 in Fodors's Guide for more details of the so-called Merovingian dynasty (the blood line of Jesus) and other fables which the guide calls "Holy Hokum."

As for the Opus Dei controversy, you won't find Silas the albino monk at Opus Dei's London headquarters, but visitors are politely invited into 4 Orme Court and given a basic rundown on the group's activities.

The guide uses actual text from The Da Vinci Code to keep the reader oriented and there are wonderful photographs and maps. I found the floor plans particularly helpful when reading about the history and treasures of the museums and churches involved in the story.

This book is certainly a guide with a difference. I've walked through Westminster Abbey with guide book in hand, but was never advised to "Keep an eye open for St. Wilgofort, who was so concerned about protecting her chastity that she prayed to God for help, and woke up one morning with a full beard." There's a whole section, "Bones & Stones: Who's Buried in the Abbey."

The chapter "Leonardo; Renaissance Man" is more than a biography of Leonardo da Vinci. It is literally a remarkable history of art between the mid-14th and 16th centuries. Da Vinci's "code" was probably the fact that he wrote from right to left in a "lefthanded manner...which could only be read easily by means of a large mirror."

So many questions are addressed in the clever, lively essays included in the guide. What was Mona Lisa's secret? Is there a secret chamber below Rosslyn Chapel? Do cryptexes really exist?

If you're inspired to see the sights for yourself, Fodor's Guide to the Da Vinci Code includes a complete 10-day itinerary to code-related places. There's information on where to stay (addresses, prices and phone numbers), shopping info, and where to eat and what to order.

In Paris, do go to the Café Marley in the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre. The ambience is "chic, unique," but just order morning coffee or evening apertifs, because the food is mediocre and expensive. To really eat, go to Restaurant Le Meurice, for crunchy veal sweetbreads with risotto and tarragon sauce. In Rome, have cherry octopus soup at Clemente alta Maddalena and in London, go to the Savoy Hotel, where the burgers come with pear chutney.

On the other hand, you could just put your feet up, enjoy Fodor's Guide to The Da Vinci Code as a fascinating read, and travel vicariously.