Thursday, January 08, 2004

Paris and The Da Vinci Code

As I had mentioned before, this was the third time I've been to Paris. The previous two times had been for business, but I had still done many of the touristy things in the evenings. This time we were able to spend all day out without anything to worry about except the cold and our health. I've been in Paris enough to have a visual memory of many of the places throughout the city including the crepe stands I like as well as the shops with the best souvenir prices.

So reading The Da Vinci Code was interesting since much of it is set in Paris. Throughout many parts of the novel, you can find exacting details about specific spots in Paris. I only began reading the novel after we had already left Paris for our driving trip around France and Switzerland, but I remembered enough to visualize the spots and try to double check whether the author was referring to spots correctly.

Other than the Paris connection, The Da Vinci Code is a pretty engrossing novel. It's far from the "great literature of our times", but it keeps you interested. I suspect much of the popularity of this work arises from its fact-based criticality of the Catholic Church and its opression of women. Now, I don't know how much of the history presented about the Church in this novel is exactly true and how much is "based on a true story" (the forward mentions that all of the information is factual), but just the idea that so much effort could be put into hiding facts so that The Church can retain its power is quite intriguing. I'm sure every other reader has been engrossed by this as well. And depending on one's ties, reading the novel means getting all worked up about its blasephemous nature, getting all excited to see a "scientific" and historic approach to debunking the Church, or it means shurgging with a little smirk. I was of the smirking kind while reading. Interesting stuff, but I don't have much vested interest in either debunking the Church or supporting it. I am always intrigued by historical/factual connections to religious texts so The Holy Grail is usually something I'll perk up for, but in the end I don't really care either way about what it means for "believers"

In any case, it's quite easy to see why this novel has been so popular. Religious controversy, a romantic city, and "made for movies" style of writing.

As for Paris, well, we were able to get one day of sun when we returned to Paris after our driving trip. It was nice to see the streets lit up by a warming sun. It was also nice to see many streets decked out in Christmas lights the whole time we were there. Even though I'm not Christian, I still find that the holiday festivities bring a smile to my face.

As for our antics in Paris? Well, we were pretty tame while in the City of Lights. I think we were so busy doing the touristy things that we were too tired at the end of the day to really get into any trouble - even going to the Buddha Bar was a very chill experience. The real antics started when we got in the car (a phat Mercedes M-Class) and we had time to let our feet rest and our mouths run (after 5 days of it, we got pretty good at ghetto-speak). But while in Paris, I think we were all just trying to take in the romantic mood. Our friends got engaged on our first day there - a proposal on a walking bridge spanning the Seine and scheming by the group took the proposee by surprise. We still don't know what exactly she said, but we do know there was much crying and putting-on-of-ring. If that didn't make the rest of the time in Paris romantic, I don't know what could.

Of course, those romantic times were filled with wind chill, runny noses, smelly metro tunnels, lots of hot chocolate, and strong cafe creme. Romantic indeed.

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