Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Biltmore . . .

View from the garden area
The stables
. . . we went today.  Until you see it in real life you just cannot imagine how massive this castle is . . and it is a castle in all senses of the word, even though it is only 4 stories high, it covers 4 acres of land . .. that is just the house.  The exterior is more of a French style, whilst the inside is definitely British with dark heavily carved furniture, tapestry on the walls, mulititudes of photographs, and of course very high ceilings and a very grand staircase.  You are not allowed to take photos inside, so in a sense nothing has changed . . they are still robber barons!  (They want you to buy their books and things!!!) 

George Vanderbilt made his millions in railways . . . he inherited millions and doubled the size of the family fortune in a very short time.  He lived in the Gilded Age and his contemporaries were the Flaglers, the Astors and all the movers and shakers of the day.  

The stable area has now been turned into quite fine dining and I must say those horses had very posh surroundings.   I had the most delicious carrot and ginger soup along with fried green tomatoes.  Lynn had brie with ham, apples and caramel sauce.  The Estate has  always been self sustaining and that policy continues to this day.  Everything served is grown on the Estate, which is now only 8,000 acres . . I haven't figured out how many sections that is yet.

A lot of it is wooded, but it is still a working farm and hay bales were laying in the fields waiting to be picked up.  The windy trek up the mountain to the gates is 3 miles and very beautiful.  We were probably a week or two late to see the prime of the autumn colours, but there was still enough foliage left to get a general idea.

Peeking through the lattice work
The gardens are incredible and were designed by the same man who designed Central Park.  We only saw one of the gardens, and there are three or four more that one could visit, however I was doing well to cover what I did, considering that I still feel awful.

Frost has taken its toll and the mums and flowers were definitely past their prime . . .. I hear it is spectacular in the spring when the tulips are all blooming.  That would be a feast for the eyes.

The Conservatory

Being a self-sustaining Estate, they have their own greenhouses, or Conservatory as they call it.  We were very lucky and happened to see everything in readiness for Christmas . . .the grand unfolding to be Saturday, which in my mind would be a good day NOT to be there.  During the Christmas Season they also offer Candlelight tours which would be lovely.  

In the distance you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains

One could spend a very long time taking it all in . . . there was so much attention to detail and considering that it was finished in 1895, in a league of its own, and well ahead of its time, having 43 bathrooms at a time when most grand homes didn't have even one.

That is the Reader's Digest version of how we spent our day today.

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