Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Awesome Biltmore House, Asheville, N.C.

Saturday, 10/8/11 - We have been waiting along time to see the Biltmore House and today is the day! Saturday is the busiest day of the week so they give you a timed entry for an self guided tour of the house that they say takes about 1 1/2 hours to see. Our entry time was 12 noon so we left our house about 9 am as our RV park is about 25 miles from Asheville and they told us the traffic around the Biltmore is "heavy" and God forbid we would be late.

Girlfriend, GPS took us right to the front entrance of Biltmore about 10 am and we headed up the long, beautiful road along side a river and breathtaking scenery in search of the ticket office. Fortunately, it is a one way road going in and the signage is excellent. We picked up our tickets, that I had purchased on the phone the day before while driving to our RV park. They have so many different "ticket packages" you can purchase and the price just gets higher and higher. We finally decided on a 2 day entry (Saturday & Sunday) into the Biltmore, with a 1 hour guided architectural tour at 11 am Sunday. This tour takes you into rooms that are not open to the public and goes up onto the roof with a 360 degree view and at this time of the should be spectacular.

The timing was perfect, we arrived at the House by shuttle bus from parking lot C and they drop you off right at the front door. That first sight of the House from outside is absolutely breathtaking, it's hard to even imagine all that you are seeing. We walked around outside and I took a few pictures and then we headed into the food court to eat lunch and I had a delicious slice of vegetarian pizza and of course a diet coke. We met a nice couple, Violet and husband (name escapes me) from Michigan and got another lead on a RV park near Tampa. It was soon time to line up for our 12 noon entry.

This amazing house took 5 years to build and was officially opened Christmas Eve 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt. The wonderful part of this story, Georges grandfather, Corneluis Vanderbilt at the age of 16 borrowed $100 from his mother and bought a boat and charged to go between Staten Island and New York City. His father, Jan was a farmer on Staten Island and Corneluis has no education just a lot of ambition. Corneluis sold his shipping interest for 1 million dollars and started building railroads across the USA and became the richest man in America. George on the other hand didn't seem to ever have a job he just travelled, spent money and took care of his ill mother at the Biltmore Three years later he brought his bride, Edith to Biltmore and in 1900, their only child Cornelia was born here. Today, Biltmore still remains a family business and employs over 1800 employees.

Upon entering the House we purchased an audio tour so that we could learn more about each of the rooms and the items we were seeing. They really have the tour down to a science, there are velvet ropes and you just keep strolling in a forward motion going into the rooms, one after another and up three floors. They give you a booklet that tells a brief description of each room and also the number so you can press the audio and hear the story. I loved having the audio as it gave you so much wonderful information on the family, the people and the rooms.

The bottom floor consisted of the entrance hall, winter garden, billiard room, banquet hall with an organ loft, breakfast room, salon, music room, tapestry gallery, library. The second floor was a temporary exhibition, If These Walls Could Talk, Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom, oak sitting room, Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom. The third floor was a living hall where diplomats, politicians and others were entertained while staying at the House. Oh and by the way they have 33 guest bedrooms. The third floor consisted of a third floor hallway, Louis XV hallway, Damask room, Claude room, named for French painter Claude Lorrain, one of George's favorite artist and his prints are everywhere. We then started back down the grand staircase to the basement and recreation areas where we saw the stone hallway, halloween room (doesn't everyone have a halloween room?) bowling alley (2 lanes) dressing rooms, a 70,000-gallon indoor pool, gymnasium. On this level we went into the many different kinds of pantries, walk-in refrigerators, servants' bedrooms, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, main kitchen, kitchen pantry, servants' dining room and entrance, main laundry and drying room plus a laundry for fine hand washable clothing & linens. A bachelor's wing consisted of a smoking room and gun room. I have listed all these rooms that we viewed because it's hard to believe they had all this in 1895.......The house alone covers - 4 acres with 250 rooms.

Words really can't describe this place it is something you have to see and experience. We were also amazed at how busy and crowded this place was. While walking in the parking lot we spotted license plates from all over the country. Before leaving the property we drove down to Antler Hill Village which consist of a winery with tasting room, restaurants, shops and the special exhibition going on till October 23rd, a large Tiffany display. We finally left there to return to the RV park about 4 pm thoroughly exhausted but anxious to return tomorrow for our tour and to see the extensive gardens and grounds. We were so lucky as the weather was beautiful, sunny and about 75 degrees....just a perfect day. Much love to all our family and friends. Oh a PS to the end of the day story, we stopped at a gas station in our town Old Fort and while talking to the cashier she said she has lived here for 25 years and has NEVER seen the Biltmore and I am remined I can count on one hand how many times I have been to Yosemite......such is life.

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