In a shameless attempt to capitalize on the publicity whirlwind surrounding the release of The DaVinci Code, I have dramatized the events surrounding my family vacation to France to mirror events in the book. At the time of our trip, DVC was just another poorly-written conspiracy-ridden thriller and not the phenomenon it would eventually become. I read the book after our trip and only then realized how many brushes we had with the cheesy potboiler. All links are to photos from my Flickr site that were taken during the trip. No stock photos or “borrowed” internet images are used. But judging from the fuzziness of the pictures, you would have figured that out.
In December of 2003 I was given a secret message that I was to fly to Paris and search for the Holy Grail. I had no idea what I was looking for or where to find it, but that had never stopped me before. I assembled my crack team, which included My Wife and My Son and we flew on the custom Delta jet sent just for us and 400 hundred other people wanting to fly to Europe on Christmas Eve.
We arrived Christmas morning and checked into our base of operations in the Seventh Arrondissement. Knowing that most things would be closed, we decided to use the day to reconnoiter. We went three blocks over to find that the Eiffel Tower was open. It gave a good overview of the entire area. We walked down from the middle level and I inspected the base for hidden compartments. Then we took a tourist bateau down the Seine and around Île de la Cité. Having gotten a good look at the terrain and obstacles we would face, we found an open bistro and prepared for the next day of heavy investigation.
We knew that on this search we could leave no museum untouched. We headed over to the Hotel des Invalides for Napoleons Tomb and the Army Museum. We breezed through the medieval armor to get to the main exhibit, the history of French participation in World War II. From the exhibit you would barely know they lost. But this was not getting us to the Grail.
Maybe the Grail was a sculpture. We checked the Rodin Museum for grails. A Thinker or two, some Burghers of Calais, the Gates of Hell, but no Grail. Musee d’Orsay was the next suspect sight. We flashed our Super Secret Museum Passes and walked right past the line of peons not on important missions. A thorough search revealed Whistler’s Mother, some Renoirs and lots of other Impressionists, but no religious artifacts. We dined there to refresh our energy and then moved on to our best shot: The Louvre.
At the Louvre we knew we only had a short period of time and three checkpoints to clear. We had mapped out a plan of attack with the French military precision we had learned of earlier in the day. The first checkpoint was some painting an Italian guy called DaVinci had made. This Lisa lady (first name Mona) had to be a clue. Our spy cameras were not allowed in the gallery so all we could document was the sign to the Gallery.
This Mona lady may have known the code, but her sly smile said she wasn’t telling. Huge crowds gathered in front of her and we were only given a minute or two to survey the scene, but her eyes haunted us even more than the smile. We then rushed through two buildings and half the museum to get to our next clue. Venus De Milo should have helped us but she refused to give us a hand. In fact, she was completely unarmed. This left only Winged Victory, but that clue was stone cold as well.
As we left through the lobby under the huge I. M. Pei pyramid we felt we were close to something important, but we couldn’t quite tell why. Maybe if we had read the dossier prepared by Dan Brown, we would have known.
Dusk was faling, so we used another line of logic. Grails hold liquids and perfumes are liquids. We went through the Tuileries Garden and Place de la Concorde then past the Obélisk de Luxor to the Champs Elysées and checked out the Sephora store. We found plenty of expensive liquids, but no Grail. Returning to our base by the Eiffel Tower, we set out to dine and rest for the night. Tomorrow we would have to widen the perimeter.
See Part 2 for a continuation of our heart-pounding adventure.