Thursday, October 29, 2015

Autumn Colors and Biltmore House

The Colors of Autumn
Even though the rain was a nuisance, it did not dampen the glow of the orange, red and yellow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Autumn.  The colors, as I said in the last post, were spectacular - even through the rain!

Because of the rain, however, my wife Dianne and I decided that a little more indoor time might be appropriate. George Vanderbilt's Biltmore House proved the perfect escape from the tedious raindrops. 

First to impress was the massiveness of the estate itself. It is nestled amongst 8,000 acres (12.5 sq. miles) of some of the most picturesque landscape in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The original estate was a massive 125,000 acres (almost 200 sq. miles) but most of it was sold off for forestry and farming. It takes a - mostly uphill - three mile trek to get from the entrance gate to the Main House.

The landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the chief architect, Richard Morris Hunt, conspired to keep the French Chateau inspired house from view until a visitor was almost at its doorstep...this increasing the suspense and awe. It works!  You round the last turn, enter a portico and just off to the right is this magnificent "home".  Incidentally, it happens to be the largest privately owned residence in the US at 178,926 sq. ft. (16,623 sq. m).

Vanderbilt's Biltmore House
The mere size aside, this impressive example of what was called America's "Gilded Age" is still owned by Vanderbilt descendants today.

Biltmore has 252 rooms including 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces and three kitchens. The most impressive of these is the Banquet Hall.  It is seven stories tall, is lined with mid-1500's Flemish tapestries, has a triple fireplace (in which most people could easily stand, as long as there were no fire!) From about the third story, it is overlooked by an organ loft housing a 1916 Skinner Pipe Organ. (I'd love to show you some pictures of this but photos are not allowed in the house!)

The Gardens
I could spend pages describing some of the rooms in this palatial estate, but space and time (and probably a few copyrights) don't allow.  Suffice it to say that I have lived in houses smaller than Mr. Vanderbilt's bedroom! 

You have to see the house to fully appreciate it!

The Winery
Beyond the house itself, there are the gardens, hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, waterfalls, a winery, a couple of restaurants tucked away in the "Antler Hill Village" and souvenir shopping to your heart's content.

Our Winery Tasting Server
A word on the winery. They offer free wine tastings, and this is not to be missed. Our server, Herb Buder, graciously explained all of the selections available, gave us a chance to savor as many as we wanted (from a very nice Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc to a wide selection of reds (including a Malbec, a Syrah and a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon)!

Best advice: plan for at least a day at the Estate and the grounds. Heading into the holidays there are decorations (they were putting up the Christmas trees during our visit) and events to consider. Reservations are recommended.  For more information see the Biltmore web site

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