With an impending trip to Barcelona, (who could resist $199 round trip airfare!) I found myself re-reading Dan Brown’s Origins, and looking back on the coincidental collection of other “Dan Brown book haunting grounds” I have been fortunate enough to have visited.
Paris’s Louvre Museum- The DaVinci Code
July of 2017 I found myself benefiting from my other half’s good bonus year, and was whisked away to Paris’s West End Hotel with its balcony views of the top of the Eiffel tower if you were lucky enough to have a room on one of the upper floors (like we did). Located about half way between the Eiffel and the Arc, we had easy access to the Bastille Day fireworks and military parade- though as Americans we were a bit wary of the large crowds that assembled and the large police presence with their automatic weapons. We explored the Louvre on two of our days there, and still didn’t have enough time- but did manage to see The Mona Lisa and The Virgin of the Rocks, as well as the glass pyramid as described so astutely by Brown in his book.
Not to be missed, should you find yourself in Paris, are a boat ride on the Seine to view beautiful bridges (Pont Alexandre III was my favorite!) and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Montmartre had much to see with its carousel, stairways, artists, and sidewalk cafes, and the catacombs provide something for those who aren’t afraid…of climbing a LOT of stairs back up to street level at the end! If you happen to visit and can make it over to the Normandy Beaches, there’s a beautiful place called Chateau la Cheneviere where we stayed, and Bayeux was a fun little town to walk around and explore- its cathedral rivaled those of Paris!
Geneva’s CERN- Angels and Demons
Tagging along on a business trip to Geneva for a conference in April of 2018, I got to experience the CERN campus, an important backdrop in Angels and Demons. While they are not in the business of creating anti-matter that could blow us all to bits as Brown would have us believe, scientists at CERN were responsible for the birth of the World Wide Web and they have giant particle accelerators there which you can tour.
If you are able to travel to this classic city be sure to plan some time at the Jet d’eau where Lake Geneva and the Rhone meet, a visit to tour the United Nations, and perhaps an excursion to nearby Chamonix in France to ascend Aiguille du Midi with its thin air and breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the Alps as they stretch into four different countries.
Since reading Inferno, I’ve felt a sense of urgency around visiting Venice before it sinks below the water in, as I imagine it, Atlantis-like fashion. Yet Venice is relatively far from other highly sought after destinations in Italy and seems to add several days and hundreds of dollars to typical Italy tours. But it turns out that there is an airline named Easyjet that got us to Venice and back during our Geneva trip for $80 round trip! We’re talking the canals, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto, and the Bridge of Sighs from the painting hanging in my bathroom for ten years- in real life!
It sounds like a fairy tale, but from the first morning, we woke to the sound of church bells and birdsong. We learned later that every time you cross a footbridge, you are accessing a separate island, and in days gone by, disconnected, each island needed its own church. We did all of the things- the Bellinis, the prosciutto, the olive oil, bread and wine, the gondola ride- expensive and cliche, yes, but the gondolier sang and whistled and told us more about the city than we would have otherwise been able to learn on our own. I left after two days of exploring those twisting alleyways- a surprise around every corner- with Venetian masks and a Venetian red sunburn as souvenirs, and another Dan Brown destination under my belt. -A