[an error occurred while processing this directive] Ellen McBreen, who runs private tours of Paris art museums, kept hearing the same question on her Louvre walkabouts: "Is this where the curator was murdered?" The curator in question, Jacques Saunière, is a fictional character in Dan Brown's ubiquitous best seller The Da Vinci Code, but her clients' interest was real and surprisingly keen. Some of the novel's "hard-core followers," McBreen remembers, came to the Louvre equipped with highlighted passages and well-researched questions.
McBreen sensed a business opportunity for her tour company, Paris Muse. In February, she started to offer Cracking the Da Vinci Code tours: 2 1/2 hour sessions exploring the numerous (and sometimes misleading, McBreen points out) Louvre references in the novel. The business exploded, and Paris Muse, tel: (33-6) 7377 3352, now books about 100 Da Vinci Code tours a month roughly half the company's business at $133 per person. "This guy has miraculously gotten people interested in topics that academics haven't been able to for centuries," says McBreen.
Brown's Midas touch stretches well beyond the Louvre. Rosslyn Chapel outside Edinburgh welcomed twice as many tourists in July as last year, and predicts its yearly numbers will increase by at least 25%. General Tours, a U.S.-based travel company, is offering an all-inclusive eight-day travel "adventure" this month in the footsteps of Robert Langdon, the book's protagonist, visiting sites in France, England and Scotland. Cost: $2,900 to $3,800, including airfare, tel: (1-603) 357 5033. "A lot of this is simply clever entrepreneurialism," says Stuart Beattie, Rosslyn's project director. Not that he intends to miss the rush: joining the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the association which in the novel guards the secret of the Holy Grail, is open to all, Beattie says for a donation of $9, that is.