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July 5, 2006

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                    Da Vinci Code: Lincolnshire

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Cheers from England! We are here filming a pilot TV show following the path of Dan Brown’s novel (now a major motion picture), The Da Vinci Code (DVC). We began in Paris; last week we left off in London (here’s the link to the archives), and this week we travel north by train to locations in the English countryside. If you want to see some cool locales that have been in other movies, and a small Nantucket-like town, then log on. If you’re in a hurry or have ADD, don’t worry; there’s a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this week’s story.

We’re following the exact tour I took in March. For more detailed information on the places we’re visiting, here’s the link to the archive— they’re in the March and April stories of 2006. The only difference is that on this tour, two high definition cameras are following my every step. If the show gets picked up you’ll be among the first to find out. Keep your fingers crossed.

Lincoln, England is our next stop. It’s 135 miles north of London, and the best way to get there from the capital is by train. Departure is from King’s Cross Station, and a change in Newark is required. Total travel time is two hours. You can buy tickets from (TIP: On purchase a BritRail Pass. You can go all the way up to Edinburgh, or another place or two in the UK – a better deal than buying a point-to-point ticket).

Lincoln (here’s a map) is located in Britain’s fourth largest county, Lincolnshire (here’s another map). Lincolnshire, which has been visited by kings and poets, boasts ancient churches, country houses, lush farmlands and tradition. It’s also where Ron Howard filmed a good portion of the Da Vinci Code movie. When it was a bustling port and thriving commercial center, Lincoln was one of England’s largest cities. Long before that it was a Roman town (here’s a list of Roman sites), and a retirement community for Roman soldiers. Today Lincoln is a town of 86,000 people – about the size of Norwalk, Connecticut where I grew up. I mention this because Lincoln reminded me a lot of South Norwalk, probably for its energy as an up-and-coming town. When I arrived just after dark in March my first impression was of Nantucket (link to Nantucket story). I had no idea this place had cobblestone streets and so much charm. What a pleasant surprise!

Lincoln Cathedral was one of the main buildings used in the film, for the interior scenes of Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey rejected the film’s proposal, calling it "inappropriate." I’m sure director Ron Howard and company were bummed at first, but this is a perfect example of everything happening for the best. Had it not been for the rejection, most people (like me) might never have been exposed to this region, let alone visited it. That would be a shame, because this area is full of allure and good times. The Lincoln Cathedral is regarded as one of Europe's finest Gothic cathedrals. Its four massive transepts dominate the Lincoln skyline for miles around. The moment I stepped into the cathedral I had the same reaction as every first-time visitor: " Wow!" This 480-foot-long, brightly lit place is amazing. Be sure to go on a tour and look for the Lincoln Imp. Admission into the Cathedral: adults £4 ($7); children 5-12 £1 ($1.84). There is no additional charge for tower tours. The Lincoln Cathedral, 4 Priorygate, Lincoln; tel.: 1522-544544 (outside UK 44-1522-544544), email:

The White Hart Hotel has 48 rooms. It’s the best place to stay in Lincoln, and the location is probably why. It’s right between Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle (the two main attractions, each only a block away). This 3-star hotel sits on historic ground. King Richard II stayed in an earlier building on this site in 1372. If King Richard is not good enough for you, how about this: The Da Vinci Code movie cast stayed here for five nights last August. Tom Hanks and his family were in room 371. My brother and I were in room 320. We shared a large junior suite with twin beds, a spotless bathroom and a killer view of the Cathedral. The place was very cozy and old, and the creaky floorboards and musty smell reminded me of childhood vacations at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Rates begin at £55 ($101) and includes breakfast. White Hart Hotel, Bailgate, Lincoln, Lincolnshire; tel.: 1522-526-222 (outside UK 44-1522-526-222).

We needed to do a food segment for the show. I immediately thought of The Old Bakery, just a few blocks from the White Hart. The Old Bakery was a favorite of the film's stars, and I ate at this small, award-winning family run back in March. The chef/co-owner is Italian, but you won’t find a lot of pasta on the menu. Just good ol’ Mediterranean cuisine, and local dishes like roast "Lincoln Red" sirloin of beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. They also offer a variety of addictive homemade breads. Now that the weather is warmer they’ve opened up the patio, which makes a meal even better. If you’re looking for a reasonable place to stay, they also run a bed and breakfast. Rooms start at £50 ($92). The Old Bakery, 26/28 Burton Road, Lincoln; tel.: 1522-576057 (outside UK 44-1522-576057).

Surprisingly, Lincoln (and much of England for that matter) is full of great places to eat. I can’t list everywhere we ate, but two new spots are worth visiting. Lesley's Place (tel.: 01522-513703) is great for lunch – try the tasty sandwiches, scones and desserts. For a little spice, have dinner at Thailand NO1 (tel.: 01522-537000). Lincoln is a college town, so there are plenty of places to hit afterward for beer. Everyone is really friendly. You won’t run into many (if any) Americans, so you’ll really feel like you’re away from home.

Less than an hour’s drive on the other end of Lincolnshire (90 miles north of London) is Stamford’s Burghley House. This is another jaw-dropping location -- one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan Age. Built between 1555 and 1587, it features 35 major rooms on the ground and first floors. There are 80 more lesser rooms, as well as hallways, corridors, bathrooms and service areas. Talk about a pimp daddy house! I had no idea this is still a home. Lady Victoria Leatham, a direct descendant of the first Lord Burghley, looks after the place on behalf of the Burghley House Preservation Trust. She was kind enough to give us an interview and show us around the property – including the incredible views from the roof. If the place looks familiar, that’s because it was used in the recent remake of "Pride and Prejudice" (link to Pride And Prejudice info). The interiors were also featured in the Da Vinci Code movie as Castel Gandolfo (the Pope’s summer residence). Filming here took two weeks, and it’s worth a tour. Open daily except Fridays from April 1 to October 29. Admission: adults £9 ($16.60), children (5 to15) £4 ($7), families £22 ($40). The Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire; tel.: 1780-752451 (outside UK 44-1780-752451).

Before leaving Burghley, eat lunch at the Orangery Restaurant, a café on the property that serves great, reasonably priced food. Orangery Restaurant; tel.: 01780-752451 (outside UK 44-1780-752451).

Not in Lincolnshire, but a 30-minute drive from the Burghley House in nearby Leicestershire, is the Belvoir Castle. It’s pronounced Beaver Castle, but Belvoir dates from Norman times and means "beautiful view". Although only exterior (helicopter) shots of the castle were used for the movie trailer (they were not used for the actual movie), it’s worth a visit. My favorite moment -- besides interviewing the Duchess of Rutland (she lives in the north end of the castle, with her Duke husband and three children; it’s been an ancestral home for over 1,000 years) -- was the entrance, which is full of weapons. I also enjoyed the chapel and main gallery, including Pieter Coecke van Aelst’s "Last Supper" painting. Open April 1 to September; closed Mondays and Fridays. Admission: adults £10 ($18.40), students and senior citizens £9 ($16.60), families (two adults, three children) £26 ($48). Belvoir Castle, Grantham, Leicestershire, tel.: 1476-871000 (outside UK 44-1476-871000); e-mail:

Here’s a 2-minute Johnny Jet Video of last week’s trip to London, and this week’s to Lincolnshire. With high-speed the video takes about 1 minute to load; with dial-up, please allow up to three weeks.

Next week we travel to Scotland, then to a country I have never been to.

Happy Travels,
Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

The Trip


Train To Newark


Newark Station




Cobblestone Streets


Lincoln Cathedral


Inside The Cathedral


At Night


White Hart Hotel


My Room


Homemade Breads


Lesley's Place


Drive To Burghley


Stamford, England


Lady Victoria Leatham


Burghley House


Belvoir Sheep


Belvoir Chapel



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  • Thanks for the great newsletter on your Paris - London Eurostar trip. I did the same trip in April, London to Brussels. Dinner was served and it was exceptional for a travel meal and it looked much better than your breakfast meal....try the evening train next time. My daughter wants to know how she can get your job. Bob Patterson - Canton, Ohio
  • It's probably been two or three years since I read the DaVinci Code but as I recall the ending Opus Dei wasn't the real villain though the evil monk seemingly belonged to the organization. However, I have read two books in which the organization definitely was the main villain. One was a Stone Barrington novel set in New York which talked about the huge headquarters among other ideas. This I believe was by Oliver Wood. The other was a Bartholomew Gill novel set in Ireland and members of the organization there were killing people. I'm not writing this because I have anything particular against Opus Dei though it is a bit conservative for my own Catholicism but just as a note that Dan Brown isn't alone in aiming criticism at Opus Dei in fiction. I did take the Opus Dei tour in Paris in spring 2005. It was thoroughly enjoyable though I wished I had read the book closer to taking the tour. I may even reread Angels and Demons before I go to Rome for the eleventh time this fall and take that tour--if not this fall then 2007 when I will be there longer. Haven't seen the movie yet, but will if for nothing else (to see) Paris and London. Joan S – Rockford, Illinois

  • Just finished reading your article on Amelia Island and enjoyed it very much. Now I guess I'll actually have to go check at atlas to find out where the dickens it even is. Good luck on your future writing projects. You're doing great!! Chuck -
  • Wonderful!!!!!! Look forward to hearing about your next vacation spot. Encouraged me to go to Amelia Island. Thanks. Lynne O. - Sartell, Minnesota
  • Nice, & accurate! Marjorie Hewitt -
  • I LOVED your first newsletter! It made me want to visit Amelia Island (which I suppose is the point). One suggestion: take even more photos that include yourself and the people you meet (Theresa at Fairbanks House, your Segway guide, the Watsu experience). I’m looking forward to the next newsletter! A fellow Californian, Dave Citron
  • WOW, DEBBIE IS DELIGHTFUL. Have to say I have missed the woman's point of view since Amber Airplane left. Sal - S. California
  • Way cool! I'm definitely going to Amelia! Marcus Erlandson - Alexandria, VA
  • I enjoyed reading the article very much. I found it very realistic to what the trip actually was. It is difficult to get people to write honestly specially about trips like these. It definitely make me consider Amelia as a place I could visit in the near future. With such an oversaturation of places and information I believe we need to rediscover places like these but at the same time keep them hidden from large corporate companies that seek to destroy them for a hefty profit. Jorge C -

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