Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday, October 25th

Saturday was dedicated to touring the Biltmore Mansion,  the largest residential architectural structure in the United States with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces and more than 4 acres of floor space.  There are 250 rooms, total, in the home.  I would certainly not want to be the housekeeper here!!  The estate includes 8000 acres today and that is after George Biltmore's widow, Edith, sold 87,000 acres to the US Forest service for $5 an acre after George's death.

This place is truly amazing and definitely worth touring, although it is somewhat exhausting because to really see the place in its entirety takes a whole day.  We arrived at the estate to begin our tour at 10:30 am.  JC, the beer savior (from our Brews Cruise tour) had suggested that we pay the extra $10 to get the device that included the audio tour in order to get the most out of the tour.  We did this and I must say, that I am truly glad that we did.  Kathi and I are both complete nerds when it comes to this kind of thing because we love to learn as much as we can about any place that we are visiting.  With the audio tour, instead of just walking around and looking at everything, you learn the story behind many of things you are looking at.  Who the painter was, who the sculptor was, where the tapestries came from, what day to day life on the estate were like.  Makes the entire experience so much richer.

We were joined for the days' events by the sisters-in-law, two of whom were in wheelchairs.  Natalie has chronic nerve pain in one leg that makes it difficult for her to do extensive walking and Sheila suffered a knee injury in a fall just a few days prior to making this trip that made it difficult for her to walk for very long or very far, too, so we traveled to the estate in 2 separate vehicles since the addition of 2 wheelchairs to Ingrid's car made it impossible for all 6 of us to fit. This made the day a bit more challenging, mainly because of the huge number of people that were there to tour the place.  Seriously!!  It felt a bit like Disneyland there were so many people.  I was not expecting such a large crowd.  In addition, there were 3 weddings taking place on the estate, too, while all this touring was going on.  It was kind of crazy.

One is not supposed to take pictures while in the Biltmore Mansion, but Kathi, being the rule breaker that she sometimes is, did manage to take a few pics.
the formal dining room
the breakfast "nook"
Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom
This tour was amazing and interesting, but exhausting!!  We toured 3 floors, then decided to have lunch before touring the basement, because we had already been at it for 2 hours or so and needed sustenance to continue.  The old stable and the outdoor area around it have been converted to a food court of sorts with a fairly wide variety of options for lunch.  Most of us opted for some form of sandwich and we all seemed to be satisfied with our choices.  There are also a few shops in the old stable, so we did a little shopping before completing our tour of the house.  The basement housed the servants and kitchen and also proved to be quite amazing, though not as elegant as the family living quarters.  The basement also includes the two lane bowling alley and indoor swimming pool.  No joke. Just a side note, the estate is still owned and operated by George and Edith Biltmore's descendants.  They decided to open it up to the public for tours in 1930 (during the Depression) to boost the economy of the area as well as to help with the enormous expense involved in the upkeep of the home.  None of the descendants actually live on the property anymore.

the view from the loggia of the house
Lori on the loggia overlooking the view

Once we were done with the house tour, we drove through the gardens and to another portion of the estate called Antler Hill Village.  This was reminiscent of a ski village, with small shops and restaurants located around a central village green where there was a bandstand where there was, indeed a live band playing music.  This is also the area in which the old dairy barn has been converted into a winery.  Included with our tickets was a tour of the winery and some wine tasting of the wines produced on the estate as well as some produced under the Biltmore name in other parts of the country.

We began the wine tour in back of the wine shop where we learned the story of how George's great grandson, William Cecil, decided to turn the dairy into a winery and started growing grapes on the property.  Apparently the first harvest and first wines produced were not very good, so Mr. Cecil went to France and hired a winemaster to assist in running the winemaking operation, which proved to be a good decision.

I lost track of how many wines we all tasted.  Just know that we had a good time tasting and chatting with our very knowledgeable wine server, Skyler.

Once we were done with the wine tasting, we did a little shopping in the wine shop.  Kathi bought a nice bottle of wine to take home and share with Eric.  We all hopped into our cars and headed back toward the cabins.  Kathi and I went straight back to the cabin, while the sisters stopped for dinner at Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack. Kathi and decided that we would just eat some of the leftovers that we had in our refrigerator and settle in for the evening, Kathi to get some homework done and me, to work on this blog!! We did go over to the sisters' cabin for a bit for a nightcap and hear about their meal at the Chicken Shack, which I guess was some pretty hot barbecue.  Neither one of us lasted too long because the day had been quite exhausting with all the walking around that we had done touring the house.  Tomorrow we plan on breakfast with the sisters, then going into town to do some shopping at the cute shops there.

Once we got back to the cabin, we did toss the states and got it down to 2!!  Nebraska and Virginia.

Until next time!!

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