So, you’ve done the “Palace and Castle” tours of France, England and Italy and you can’t imagine anything more spectacular than those. Well, Friends, prepare to have your socks knocked off!
The Biltmore has always been one of the top places on my list of things I really, really have always wanted to see, and thanks to my BFF’s and travel buddies, Kay and Tom, my wish was fulfilled a few weeks ago. After several years of planning a road trip through the Smoky Mountains, we finally set a date and made our reservations. Flying into the Raleigh Airport in North Carolina, we joined up with our friend, Gayle, rented a car and headed for Asheville and my dream destination, the Biltmore!
ASHEVILLE, NO. CAROLINA
Asheville is gorgeous. One of the top producers of American made furniture, it is easy to see why. The quaint town is in the midst of hundreds of miles of lush, green forests so thick it’s a wonder the first pioneers ever found their way through them. George Vanderbilt so loved this area that he decided to build a home here to take in the spectacular views. The result is one of the most beautiful homes I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some of the best.
There is so many positive things to say about
the Biltmore that I could gush on and on for hours, however I will spare you that agony and encourage you to
read the links I have provided at the end of this blog to give you more
detailed information. I will say this: I could live there for the rest of my life and the next one. Happily. It would like being on a perpetual episode of Downton Abbey complete with all the upstairs, downstairs drama. I
could easily imagine what it must have been like at the turn of the 20th
century, filled with laughing and lighthearted guests and family coming and
going after playing golf or riding the trails on horse back or just taking a
stroll through 75 acres of exotic gardens…because this 250-room home was built by
George Vanderbilt expressly for the pleasure of his family and guests.
The thrills begin at the main gatehouse just outside downtown Asheville. George Vanderbilt hired one of the best landscape architects in America, Frederick Olmsted, (who designed Central Park in New York) to transform hundreds of acres of worn-out farm land into a paradise of natural beauty. Olmsted designed a three-mile entry road that would leisurely take Vanderbilt’s guests up to the home. On the way the guests could admire the beauty of the carefully cultivated landscape thick with flowering rhododendron, azaleas, evergreens and countless natural plants. It was designed to hide the house from view by the vegetation until at the very end of the road where it is suddenly revealed…and the effect is stunning! Built in the style of a French chateau, it rises out of the landscape like the jewel it is. It literally took my breath away.
As we passed through the huge ornate doors of the main entrance, we were welcomed into a spacious light-filled entry hall, but our attention was immediately drawn to the Winter Garden on our right. If I lived here, I would never leave this space. Chocked full of tropical and flowering plants (all grown in the Estate’s gardens and greenhouses), it is softly lit by an immense skylight. Scattered around the tiled floor are comfortable seating areas, perfect for curling up with a good book.
The home is decorated with the
finest antiques and furnishings which Vanderbilt spent months shopping for all
over the world. Yet for all of its luxury, it feels like a comfortable home.
First of all, it is built with large windows everywhere in order to take in the
spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance and the carefully planned panoramas of the surrounding landscape. The rooms are spacious, each
opening up to the other giving one the feel of a wonderful, light-filled space.
To the right of the Winter Garden is the jaw-dropping main dining room. Designed to be able to seat dozens of people or serve an intimate dinner in front of the fire, it is impressive for its size and appointments. At one end is a pipe organ whose workings take up an entire room in the basement.
Antique mantle and print in the music room.