Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Biltmore Estate

A grand old house, just a little country estate called Biltmore, built for George Washington Vanderbilt, a modest 250 rooms and 8,000 acres around the house. That was our destination today. This has been on my "must see" list for many years, so I was excited to experience this adventure.

Pictures seldom capture the reality of what we see, and in this instance, that's especially true. The scope of this castle is beyond any picture, it has to be seen in person.

If you can see the tiny specks on the lawn and in front of the house, those are people. There is a large bus in the lower right of the picture, maybe that will provide some sense of scale.

Here I am by one of the lions at the entrance to the Biltmore house:

This is looking up at one of the windows:

Once inside the house, pictures are not allowed, unfortunately. There is a short slide show on the Biltmore website which shows several rooms, as well as many more other pictures and lots of information.

We purchased the audio tour option which provided us with a player and headphones. In each room, we just punched in the room number and heard a narration about that room. This was a great way to enjoy the house at our own pace.

Of 250 rooms, the basic tour includes 62 rooms. We saw the Winter Garden, Billiard Room, Banquet Hall, Breakfast Room, Salon, Music Room, Tapestry Gallery, and Library, and that was just a portion of the first floor! The library contains over 10,000 volumes. Mr. Vanderbilt was an avid reader. By the time he died, he'd read over 3,000 books. His entire collection was over 23,000 books. The last stop on the first floor was the Grand Staicase, lit by a 4 story iron chandlier that weighs 1,700 pounds.

The upper floors include the Vanderbilts' bedrooms, as well as several sitting rooms and guest rooms. The staff is beginning to decorate for the Christmas season, so we got to see that process going on. I think there will be at least one Christmas tree in every room that is open to the public. On that subject, there are additional tours that can be purchased that take visitors behind the scenes and to areas not generally available with "general admission". The most expensive one I saw was having your own personal tour guide, at the cost of $150 per person, in addition to the admission cost to the estate.

Our tour took us up four levels and then all the way down to the basement, where we saw a bowling alley, swimming pool, gym and the kitchen and laundry areas.

After we'd gone through the house, we took a short break before continuing on to the gardens and grounds.

This is the bass pond on the estate:

We visited the winery for a tour and tasting. While we were in the wine and gift shop, we also got to sample several goodies, including wassail and different kinds of cheese dips.

The flowers are still blooming around the winery. I got a lucky shot of a butterfly gathering pollen:

The bees were also busy visiting the flowers:

There is even a working farm on the estate - River Bend Farm. This fall display greeted us as we visited this area.
By the time we'd walked around the farm's display areas and yet one more little shop, we were done in. Time to head back to the rv park.

These new neighbors at the pond greeted us. There was only one Canadian Goose here until today:

Dortha fixed a quick pan of chicken enchiladas with a Weight Watcher's recipe and I threw together a salad. A great end to a perfectly amazing day.


Joe and Sherri said...

When Sherri and I went to Ashville we had three small children and a tour of the Biltmore was not on our radar...if you know what I mean. We have always wanted to go back and will one day. We have many friends in NC and someday will return to see all the sights we missed and visit with friends. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

Joe and Sherri

Randy and Terry said...

We were overwhelmed by the vast beauty of the Biltmore, too. It was a great tour!

Jim and Dee said...

We love the Biltmore, whenever people come to visit, we go up there. We need to go up for the Christmas showing it's fabulous, (so they say). I'm glad you went.