|Entrance to Biltmore Estate - Note: in all of these posts click on the photos to enlarge.|
"I'm old and I already have way too much emotional baggage I've been lugging around after Jess's death. I don't want to play tourist! That place is huge and my knees hurt me and I can't even think about walking around in all that heat with no air conditioning. I don't think this is a good idea at all."
Poor Rob. I can be a whiny handful sometimes, but other times, like cloud times, I can be fun and funny and lighthearted. He's so very wise. He knows better than I do what's good for me much of the time. He knows how to get me to lighthearted and I am a lucky girl.
"I want to make this a celebration of life," he said. "Not just an in and out fly-by weekend. I'm getting us tickets to the Biltmore on the way back home. If you don't want to go, we don't have to, but it's on our bucket list and I think we should."
"All right," I said, "but I hope I can get around enough for it to be worth the investment." I was totally dreading it. Before we went on our roadtrip I was feeling death heavily on my shoulder, and I'd already spent so much time trying to shake it off. We were facing the very first funeral after my daughter's, and I just didn't think I'd be up to sight seeing.
We drove to Asheville, and through the little archway that leads to the 3-mile driveway up to the largest home in America. 250 rooms. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. It draws over one million visitors a year.
It is the most exquisite place I have ever been. And that's saying a lot, since I've lived in Rome, seen Florence, Venice, lived in England and seen all the wondrous places of London, lived in Malaysia and seen jungles wilder and more beautiful than I ever imagined existed, lived on the West Coast of the U.S. and seen Native American museums holding artifacts that take your breath away. But I've never seen a place as absolutely magical as the Biltmore.
George Washington Vanderbilt II was/is a HAVE. Because he had a dream that continues to this day. His dream was to build a magical place that would nurture the hearts and souls of all who visited, worked, and lived there. He built a school for the staff members he hired, and as you'll see, their dining room was more sumptuous than many middle-class people across America have today. He built a railroad to carry in equipment and supplies. He created well-paying jobs for thousands of people. He paid the best of the best to design for him, architecturally, geographically, logistically. And you know what? This continues today, which I'll share a bit about when I tell you about the last "HAVE" I met in one of the gift stores. My Lord, what a joy and a blessing it would be to experience a life where you have the ability to sustain other lives to the extent that this man and his family have done.
Despite my initial rejection of the whole idea of visiting this place, I was enchanted from the moment we drove through the gate, and I will forever be enchanted that people like this are even on this planet, like water, bringing life to all those they encounter. And not stepping upon the backs of their employees while doing so. Nope, the employees are treated very, very well. It's something they're proud of at the Biltmore. They love it and it loves them back.
It loved me and I love it forever back. Rob and I walked for 5 and 1/2 hours. I took 586 photos. I fell in love for the first time on this leg of the trip (there is another love and I'll tell you about that towards the end). I was absolutely transported, not so much by the wealth, as the care and love and phenomenal good taste and education that was behind every single square inch of the Biltmore as well as its contents and grounds. And town. And city!
Well, here we go, take a gander at this:
|George hired the best of the best to design the landscape surrounding the Biltmore.|
|Magnificent bamboo along the beginning part of the driveway.|
|Open fields along the 3-mile driveway.|
|Thoughtfully planned and planted so that plants in front are low, |
with height gradually increasing behind them.
|Where town/city roads cross the estate, the bridges are beeautiful.|
|Even the freakin' McDonald's in town is adorable!|
|Two of these friendly guys greet us at the entrance to the house.|
|This fountain, from 1100 AD is ensconced in the entrance courtyard.|
|That is the "Winter Garden" created so that peeps could enjoy the sunshine when it was cold outside. |
I'd be there all year round of course. I so wanted to hop those velvet barriers.
|Look at that wrought iron, true artistry.|
|Gorgeous, eh? Let's go read a book or have some conversation....|
|All of the ceilings in the place are exquisite. |
He hired the best of the best architects.
|Helluva a candle holder, eh? |
There are many of these around the house, though it had electricity.
|How's this for an intimate dinner by the fire? They ate here when there weren't hundreds of guests. |
A rare interlude for the family I'm sure.
|Even the animal heads were immaculate. There are many in the house, |
as this was a hunting era, generally for dinner as well as sport.
|Just a little part of the Banquet Hall. Seats 68 or something. |
The tapestries were beautiful and there were flowers and plants throughout the house that were REAL.
Somebody gets paid to do that. Heck of a job!
|The pipe organ in the Banquet Hall and part of their collection of pewter. |
I was amazed at the woodwork and friezes. Wow.
|The Breakfast Room|
|How's that for a ceiling? Wowzers.|
|There was a display case in the room, full of enchanting objects. |
I love this little guy with his rabbit.
The place was set up to be self-sufficient, with forests for firewood, cows, sheep, horses, and all the amenities anyone could imagine even for today's standards. It feels so good to see a place thriving, and this place is thriving, even today, because of the family's business acumen, and their ability to adapt and grow in the face of changes in the machinations of society, over a period of over 100 years.
Every. Single. Thing. Was polished and shining. Most of the plants were REAL. The place was absolutely full of love, everywhere! Peeps were so proud to work there, as they had been from its inception. Tourist peeps around us, like us, were so awed by its beauty and the vibrancy of it. All we heard going through was "Oh wow! Oh my god. Awesome!" And the vibes every single place we went were of life. It wasn't a forgotten place. It wasn't a bunch of dusty things in decline. It was a celebration the likes of nothing I've ever seen!
|I took a photo of this wall sconce to capture the detail in the sconce itself |
as well as the exquisite wallpaper,
which was immaculate throughout the home.
Being much removed from the highways and bustle of society, the sounds that we heard going through the home were soothing, birdsong from the many open windows, the oohs and aaahs of fellow tourists, and sometimes the voices of the tour guides as they told the stories and history of the house and its inhabitants and visitors.
The furniture, every single piece, was exquisite. Look at the carving on this piece - someone got paid to do that. THAT'S ART. That's what's possible. That's beauty. That's love. Where the heck are our attentions now and who's usurping them? We have the same 24 hours per day that these people had. What has happened to us?
|Exquisite detail in works that take a long time and |
much applied effort to accomplish. Very impressive.
|The ink drawings and block prints were stunning.|
|The music room, let's dance...|
|There were many ornately carved chests |
to hold their belongings in the course of travel.
|Each piece has a story. A true artist behind its creation. A purpose.|
|These are the 12 Disciples, exquisitely depicted in porcelain, |
each with its matching candle holder.
|And, blow me away, this is an original Albrecht Durer over the fireplace. Check out that frame. |
Oh, money is gooooood. And education and intelligence to know what to do with it are gooooood.
I have to do another post for this because the photos are weighing it down, tune in for some more gorgeousness.