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book coverWalking the Da Vinci Code in Paris

Book Review
Excerpt 2
Continued from: Excerpt 1

The Arc de Triomphe

"As Langdon and Sophie drive around the Arc de Triomphe, the time is exactly 2:51am; 2:50 is a well-known clock setting to watch sellers. If a watch is set at 10 minutes to 3, the hands form the shape of a smile, and the watch face looks friendly. This is a subliminal way to make the watch seem more attractive. But for Brown there is another meaning; not only does the shape make the form of the chalice he and Sophie are seeking, but as it is 2:51, the numbers add up to 8, the symbolic number of superperfection. The watch is a Disney timepiece featuring Mickey Mouse. Dan Brown mentions that Disney made much use of symbolism in films, drawing parallels between the Little Mermaid and Mary Magdalene. The initials of Mickey Mouse need no comment.

"The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 as a symbol of the honor of the French Army. The architect who won the commission was Jean Chalgrin, who was the man who finished St-Sulpice. A recent guidebook to Paris describes the monument as Napoleon's magical temple consecrated to the gods of war. Grand Master Victor Hugo's catafalque was placed under the Arc de Triomphe for one night, while a circle of 40 poets stood vigil. As the funeral cortège wended its way to the Pantheon, two million people crowded the streets waving banners inscribed with the name of his works. The flame of remembrance on the tomb of the unknown soldier was first lit here on November 11, 1923. At exactly 7:30am on August 7, 1919, Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane, with a wingspan of 8.22 meters, through the 14-meter-wide opening.This was a symbolic act drawing attention to the plight of pilots at the end of the war. Several famous pilots had considered the stunt, including aviator Roland Garros, but balked at the attempt, believing it was too dangerous.

"To visit the arch, take the underpass at the top right hand of the Champs-Élysées. Climb to the top--the view is superb."

- Walking the Da Vinci Code in Paris, by Peter Caine

Next page: Excerpt 3 - Sophie's world: Sandrine Bieil