I’ve always wanted to visit Washington, D.C. as it features in so many films and TV shows. I even set a scene in my thriller, Ark of Blood, at the George Washington monument (they have a replica Ark), but I had never visited — until now.
On this long weekend, I enjoyed the classical architecture of the government buildings, the ecclesiastical grandeur of the Basilica and the cathedral, and discovered the beautiful Library of Congress.
In February 2023, I managed a long weekend before speaking at a conference in Colorado Springs. It was an unseasonal cold snap, so I was freezing but the sky was blue, and I spent days walking the city, which was really empty as it was off-season. Here are some of the places I visited and would recommend to others.
Walk the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial and back along to the museums
While you can get the metro/taxis, I found Washington was lovely to walk around. It was fascinating how much of the architecture is so European.
The Lincoln Memorial itself is reminiscent of a Roman temple, with Lincoln seated as a god/Emperor.
I walked back along Constitution Avenue. The photo below is the National Archives, with a classical facade of Corinthian columns, seen from the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Art. I instantly recognized the sculpture as one of the series of spiders from Louise Bourgeois, the most famous of which is outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Again, very European!
I continued walking on to the Capitol.
Then around the back of the Capitol to the Supreme Court, which was much smaller than I expected. Once again, more classical architecture and Corinthian columns.
This is the view back to the Capitol from the steps.
This is looking up at the detail of the ceiling amongst the columns.
I had booked a slot to visit the Library of Congress. It’s free but you still need a time slot, so arrange that in advance. It has a particularly beautiful ceiling.
This is one of the corridors. There are pithy quotes and sayings inscribed above every pillar, and images of famous literary personalities.
This is one of the murals on the stairs to overlook the main domed library.
You can view the main domed library from a balcony high up.
I was looking for a link to Austria for my next ARKANE novel and I found it in this Gutenberg Bible, which was once held at the monastery of St Blasius and St Paul in Austria. I seem to always find the story links I need when I go looking …
I was pretty tired after such a big day, but it was glorious in the sun, so I walked back to the hotel. I stayed at the Citizen M, Washington DC Capitol, 550 School St SW, Washington, DC 20024.
It was centrally located so I could walk most places. It’s also close to the L’Enfant Plaza metro station which connects to Washington Dulles Airport on the Silver Line, so it was really easy to get to. I was impressed by the metro in general. It was clean, cheap, and regular, so I used it for the weekend instead of using Uber.
Museum of the Bible
I really wanted to like the museum but it leaned too heavily on multi-media experiences, so it was too noisy for this introvert. Even the incredible display of manuscripts and Bibles from all over the world had video characters popping up and talking all the time.
It’s designed more for families with kids than for thriller writers looking for religious conspiracies!
I also visited a few other museums, but none of them lived up to the British Museum or other museums in London, so I didn’t stay long.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
This was one of the most beautiful places of worship I have visited and it was a real surprise to discover it, when hardly anyone recommended it to me. I love ecclesiastical architecture and the Basilica is up there with some of the best to visit, whether you are a person of faith, or just a fan of beautiful buildings and art.
I particularly loved the sculpture of Angels Unawares that stands outside the Basilica. Each refugee is carefully depicted and in the middle, a pair of wings marks out the angel in their midst.
Inside, the extravagant mosaics and murals cover every inch of the ceiling.
It’s reminiscent of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice which has the Pentecost dome with the Apostles, whereas this has many more modern figures from church history.
I liked this hand of God with Adam and Eve mosaic.
Just across the road from the Basilica is Busboys and Poets, a wonderful cafe and bookstore as well as events space. Recommended for lunch. You can get the metro, Brookland-CUA, and walk a little way to the Basilica.
Washington National Cathedral
This was also a surprise as it could have been a picture from England, especially with the stormy skies behind. I felt quite at home!
There are Gothic elements to the architecture and also some nods to American culture, including a Darth Vader gargoyle, which I couldn’t spot from the ground, and a stained glass window with moon rock in it.
I really enjoyed my weekend in Washington D.C. and would definitely recommend a trip. I’ll include it in my next ARKANE thriller!