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DIY The Da Vinci Code Tour: London Part IV

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

London: Part IV

Another Cryptex, Another Clue

In The Da Vinci Code
Realizing that the clue to the cryptex might not be in France but in England, Langdon, Neveu, and Teabing board Teabing's private plane for London. In midair, the three manage to open the cryptex, but the contents, instead of revealing the secrets of the Grail, yield only another clue wrapped around yet another cryptex. Once on the ground, the threesome, hastily interpreting this latest clue, make a mad dash down Fleet Street to a Knights of the Templar fortress.

On Tour
Fleet Street. The famous London street follows the course of, and is named after, one of the city's ghost rivers. The Fleet, so called by the Anglo-Saxons, spent most of its centuries above ground as an open sewer, offending local nostrils until banished below in 1766. It still flows underfoot, now a sanctioned section of London's sewer system.
The street's sometime nickname, Street of Shame, has nothing to do with the stench. It refers to the trade that made the avenue famous: the press. Since the end of the 15th century, when Wynkyn de Worde set up England's first printing press here, and especially after 1702, when the first newspaper, the Daily Courant, moved in, the term "Fleet Street" has been synonymous with newspaper journalism. The papers themselves all moved out during the 1980s, but the British press is still collectively known as "Fleet Street." To find a relic from the old days, check out the black-glass-and-chrome art deco building that was once the hub for the Daily Express (the paper has since relocated to south of the river).
NEIGHBORHOOD: The City.
TUBE: Blackfriars or St. Paul's.

Temple Church. This house of worship, famed for "the Round," its rare circular nave, was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. The Red Knights (so called after the red crosses they wore; you can see them in effigy around the nave) held their secret initiation rites in the crypt here. Having started out poor, holy, and dedicated to the protection of pilgrims, they grew rich from showers of royal gifts, until in the 14th century they were charged with heresy, blasphemy, and sodomy, thrown into the Tower of London, and stripped of their wealth. You might suppose the church to be thickly atmospheric, but Victorian and postwar restorers have tamed its air of antique mystery. Still, it's a very fine Gothic-Romanesque church, whose chancel ("the Oblong," dating from 1240) has been accused of perfection.ADDRESS: Inner Temple Lane, off Fleet Street.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Bloomsbury.
TUBE: Temple.


Nefarious Doings in St. James's Park

In The Da Vinci Code
A character besotted with the Holy Grail has followed the trio to London, planning to usurp control of the secrets Langdon and Neveu continue to discover. Before he makes his move, though, he slips into St. James's Park to deal with an accomplice who has misbehaved.

On Tour
Horse Guards Parade. This square, on Horse Guards Road, at the east end of St. James's Park, is a fine place for mayhem. It was once the tiltyard of nearby Whitehall Palace, where jousting tournaments were held. The vast square is now notable mainly for the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremony. From Horse Guards Parade, one gets an untrammeled view of Saint James's Park, to which it's adjoined.

Saint James's Park. Three palaces border this gloriously green park: the ancient Palace of Westminster, now the Houses of Parliament; the Tudor St. James's Palace; and Buckingham Palace. Acclaimed as the most royal of the royal parks, Saint James's Park is also London's smallest, most ornamental park, as well as the oldest; it was acquired by Henry VIII in 1532 for a deer park. Henry VIII built the palace next to the park, which was used for hunting only (dueling and sword fights were forbidden). James I improved the land and installed an aviary and zoo, and Charles II laid out formal gardens. St. James's Park makes a spectacular frame for the towers of Westminster and Victoria -- especially at night, when the illuminated fountains play and the skyline beyond the trees looks like a floating fairyland.
ADDRESS: Middle Temple Lane.
NEIGHBORHOOD: St. James's.
TUBE: St. James's Park or Westminster.

To be continued...
posted by Ivan Choe, 12:41 pm

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