Throughout our travels many people have asked where we're headed. Whenever we've mentioned that Asheville was on our agenda everyone - and we mean everyone - told us "You must go to the Biltmore!" So, today's Asheville adventures took us to the 8,000 acre Biltmore Estate. The centerpiece of this picturesque estate is Biltmore House, a 175,000 square foot, 250 room French Renaissance-style mansion. Opened Christmas Eve in 1895, this architectural masterpiece was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II. Today it is known simply as "America's Castle".
We could not have asked for a better tour day. After a chilly night, today brought bright sunshine and very pleasant temperatures. On this early November Wednesday the crowds were quite manageable. And, something very special was going on at the house this morning.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were at the doorway to greet us. So, we knew something was up. Holiday preparations at the house are in full swing, as "Christmas at Biltmore" kicks off this weekend. The couple in the red suits were here today to oversee the delivery of the Biltmore's Christmas Tree, which arrived this morning. The 40-foot Douglas Fir was erected in the banquet hall as we walked in, and a busy crew of elves went straight to work draping the tree in white lights. By Friday it will be covered with ornaments and surrounded by gifts.
With our audio tours (a must have) in tow, and our cameras not allowed, we took the self-guided trip through 50-some rooms from the basement to the fourth floor. Each room has been painstakingly preserved to reflect life in the house for George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith, their daughter Cornelia, household staff and frequent guests. This time of year each room also features Christmas decorations in keeping with each room's purpose and decor. It was all very grand, and still amazingly comfortable.
The loggia, just off the tapestry room on the first floor, was one area where cameras were allowed. What a marvelous place to spend an afternoon.
Even though it is past its autumnal peak, the forest of trees on the estate is still quite striking.
After our two-hour tour inside we roamed around the grounds soaking in the sights and the sun. This is part of the roof of the carriage house.
This is an exterior view of the home's grand staircase. Suspended from the center of this light-filled space inside is a four-story iron chandelier.
Here we are on the steps "out back". Paul has really enjoyed wearing Kansas attire here in North Carolina! (And, as always, shorts everyday.)
The grandeur of the house is matched by the surrounding Biltmore Gardens, designed by Central Park landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The four-acre walled garden, bursting with colorful chrysanthemums, sits just above the glass-roofed conservatory, which is filled with exotics and flowers and plants for the house.
After being shuttled back to the Jeep, we began our three-mile road trip off the estate. Even on the way out, the beauty of Biltmore continued to wow us. During this special week between Autumn and Christmas at Biltmore, we enjoyed the very best of two colorful seasons.
Now that we've seen this magnificent place, we'll join the throngs of people who encourage all who are headed to Asheville. You must go to the Biltmore!
We're sure glad we did.