The trip was fantastic overall, yet it was not without its bloopers. :D
The first mishap was when my sister got stuck in customs. (This is the sister I'd like to call "momsis" in order to distinguish her from my other sister, whom I'd like to call "divasis").
My dad made the hotel reservations and arranged to fetch people at the airport. Naturally momsis had asked him what she needed to do to get through customs, and Mom and Dad told her that she didn't need to do anything, just go through and someone would be waiting for her on the other side. This advice kind of left something to be desired...
customs agent: Where are you staying in Scotland?
momsis: I don't know. Somebody's meeting me here at the airport.
customs agent: Who?
momsis: I don't know. I'm going to a wedding.
customs agent: When's the wedding?
momsis: I don't know.
It turns out that's the wrong answer. Luckily my dad was in the airport and they paged him to clear everything up.
I hope momsis doesn't get annoyed with me for posting this story. I'm not doing it justice -- it was hilarious the way she told it!!! Everyone in this whole family is a jokemeister. Well, my siblings anyway -- my parents are kind of boring. (Kidding!!! Don't tell them I said that...)
I, on the other hand, was sooooooo organized!!! I printed out two copies each of my flight itinerary and my hotel reservation -- one set for my checked baggage and one set for my backpack. I did this because I'm a flake and always lose things and then I obsessively over-compensate, and then I manage to screw it up anyway.
So near the end of the trip, when my dad offered to arrange everyone's taxis back to the airport, I told him the time I remembered as my departure time (without double-checking), and I didn't bother to check again until it was time to go to the taxi. Then I got up early and hung out with my family and waited around for hours until it was time to go to the airport and just barely miss catching my flight by a few minutes...
Of course the lady at the airport was able to book me an alternate flight itinerary, but since it was a non-changeable ticket, the error cost me 139 euros and left me with an extra few hours to sit around the airport and ponder how very, very stupid I am.
I think I would have just blown it off if the problem had been caused by someone else's stupidity, but the fact that it was my own made me really stress out about it. I could at least chalk it up as some sort of learning experience if only it were the first time I've made this exact mistake...
So to take my mind off it, I decided to spend my extra airport time reading The Da Vinci Code. A bunch of my friends have read it, and their review can be summed up in three words:
Stupidest. Book. Ever.
They basically said the book is constantly insulting your intelligence from start to finish, so -- considering my predicament -- I figured it was just what the doctor ordered.
Now I know I vowed here that I would no longer be reading any books by dead or excessively famous authors -- and normally I would stick to that vow -- but this was an emergency.
The trouble with these really extreme reviews though is that no work can ever live up to them. So as I was reading, I was thinking "Okay, it's stupid, but is it really the stupidest book ever?"
Actually I found it kind of entertaining. My favorite part is right at the beginning where this guy has been shot and is dying yet he manages to use his last few minutes of life to go get a black-light pen and wander all around the room planting a bunch of cryptic clues everywhere. I'm just waiting to find out that it turns out he's not really dead and actually just staged the whole thing to test whether Robert and Sophie are worthy to learn the deeeeeeeep, dark secrets.
(By the way, if that's what really happens, please don't tell me because I seriously have only read two-thirds of the book, and I'm planning to finish it later when I have some free time...)
My assessment so far is that the little points of real-world evidence the author sets up for his alternate view of Christian history are intriguing enough to be entertaining, but not much more. I give him points for structure and pacing: he creates an elaborate web of plot elements and arranges them to fall together and build on each other at a constant rate that maintains a consistent tone of light entertainment.
Now some of you may recall that in my review of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy I listed it as a shortcoming when the author failed to vary the tone because (in my opinion) it limited the character development somewhat. But keep in mind that Pullman's trilogy was sold to me as serious, award-winning literature, whereas Brown's was sold as fluffy mind-candy, so obviously I'm holding Pullman's work up to a higher standard.
If there's anyone out there who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code yet: Just do it. You know you want to. ;-)