Sunday, 10/9/11 - We have thoroughly seen the Biltmore House and are dead tired....but a good tired. We had 2 great days roaming through the house, the gardens and other places on the estate. All I can say this place makes Hearst Castle look like a small second home!
We arrived this morning about 10 am as we had an 11 am Architectural Tour so in that hour prior to 11 am we went back into the house to wander around. First off, there were very few people on the property, the staff said Sunday mornings are usually the quietest. We had no audio head sets so we just wandered through the rooms and were able to notice so much more details on the ceilings, walls and furnishings.
Just before 11 am we went back to the main hallway where our tour was to assemble and all 14 of us on the tour were there so off we went. The Architectural Tour takes you into rooms not on the regular tour plus our guide pointed out many things on the outside of the house and told us what they represented. One thing we learned about today was "gargles" which are all kinds of different little figurines. She then took us out onto a patio on top of the roof, actually two of them, where the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, our 76 sunny degree weather from yesterday didn't follow us today. Note: the roof material was slate and copper and some of the copper actually had 24 carat gold oak leaves and EACH roof tile was tied on with copper wire. We also learned the house has 175,000 SQUARE FEET, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces with only 16 chimneys. Our favorite fact was Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom was 1,300 sq feet and Will's entire house in Tollhouse was 1,150.
After the tour, we went back down to the food court (formerly the stables of the house) and today we brought our own lunch and only bought cokes. After lunch we went down into the the beautiful gardens, that are located right beside the house. Lots of arbors with old, old vines growing, stairs every where, a tea house, Italian garden, a walled garden that was planted with lots of fall mums, yellow marigolds and in this garden they had planted a design with a peacock of flowers to tie in with the Tiffany Exhibition, it was amazing. We then walked through the rose garden, which was pretty much done for the year, but they had roses planted that you were to vote on....which smelled the best... to be the official rose of Biltmore. Of course I was smelling them all and the fragrances were something you just don't get in the "new" rose varieties.
We then headed into the Conservatory which consisted of many different sections of flowers and cactus's. My favorite was the orchid garden and our old favorite....the flower of Hawaii. How many pictures I took of flowers alone????there will have to be a big "delete" session with my camera. They change the flowers in the outside gardens with every season and I can't imagine what this place looks like in the spring.
After we left the House and gardens we drove back to Antler Hill Village as we realized we had missed the Winery tour and there was a lot to see there. We especially wanted to see the Vanderbilts' rare 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C-6 automobile, one of 10 in existence. To get to the Winery tasting room and where the car was you wandered through an amazing tunnel with displays of wine barrels, wine rooms, old pictures on the tunnel walls and then viola.....you came out into the tasting room which was jammed with people as the wine tasting is free! Of course you then exit into the room where you can purchase the wine and lots of other goodies.
We passed up the wine tasting (of course I did partake of the pretzels and tasting of the dips and sauces) the wine tour and headed out to see the car. After the winery we headed back to Cedric's Tavern (which was named after their favorite St Bernard....Cedric) to see pictures of Cedric, his collar - which is under glass and a statue of Cedric looking up at daughter Cornelia. The family had 6 St Bernard dogs but Cedric was the favorite and stayed in the house.
After we left Antler Village we headed for Deerpark Restaurant (still on the estate) where we heard they had a wonderful Southern buffet. Unfortunately, they closed at 3:00 pm and we arrived at 3:30, well maybe not to unfortunately, on Sunday they are only open for lunch and the cost is $27.00 each. We took a few pictures, wandered around this beautiful place and then headed off to the Barn where they keep the horses and carriages for carriage rides. We inquired about a carriage ride through the estate and found that for a 45 minute ride it was $35 for each person over the age of 5 years old. So again, we just looked at the horses and carriage, took a few more pictures and then decided it was time to bid farewell to the Vanderbilts' Biltmore Estate. It truly was a wonderful weekend here and we enjoyed everything we saw and did and would say this was definitely a highlight of the trip.
On our way home to Old Fort (gosh, I always want to write Old Fart) we stopped in the town next to us, Black Mountain and had dinner at a Denny's....you just can't beat a Grand Slam as far as I'm concerned & far less than $27. Afterwards, we headed across the street to a grocery store for a few needed items and then drove home.....thoroughly exhausted. It is now 7:30 pm and our goal is to try and stay awake until 9 pm. Much love to all our family and friends.